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Stokes & Company

In one sense, we don’t build websites for our clients. We build websites for our clients’ clients.

When we create a website or a digital marketing campaign, we are always working in the best interest of the person who hired us—finding ways to attract new customers, sell more products, tell their story, or whatever it is their business needs for new growth. But in order to do that, we have to develop content and design strategy that speaks directly to the customers (our client’s client)—even if it’s not initially what the client was expecting.

The Situation

This was the case when we rebuilt the website for Stokes & Company CPAs. When our long-time client Stephen Stokes asked us to redesign his company’s site, we knew we didn’t want to do what his competition was doing.

Many accounting websites look and feel exactly the same—in fact, it looks like many of them use the same site template and just switch out a color or two.

The content is usually pretty uniform as well, its main characteristic being that it sounds like it’s written by accountants for accountants. It’s overly formal, throws around a lot of jargon and colorless buzzwords, and may include dry descriptions of company history or other things that are irrelevant to the customer.

And we suspected that if that kind of content made our eyes glaze over, it was probably just as boring to the firms’ potential clients.

Here was a case in which bucking the norm was definitely in our client’s best interest.

Down-to-Earth Content

We approached the site content from the point of view of our “client’s clients”: the small business owners Stokes & Company wanted to reach. What do they care about? How do we show that Stokes and his team understand the world of small business finance?

First off, we rejected the jargon and the stiff “suit-and-tie” feel. The team at Stokes & Company aren’t stiff and formal themselves, so why should they sound that way on their website?

Instead we went for a very approachable, customer-friendly, plain-English approach. The main headline is simple and direct: “We help business owners do what they love.” It taps into a common frustration of small business owners—they started their business because they love cooking or fixing cars or cutting hair, but now they spend much of their time on spreadsheets and taxes.

We then explain in a few words how Stokes & Company help business owners navigate the world of finance, and handles things like payroll and accounting so entrepreneurs can get back to the part of business that they enjoy most.

Throughout the rest of the site, the content remains oriented to the customer’s perspective, not the CPA’s.

Design & Photography

The site’s design supports the customer-centered content. The homepage layout treats the messaging as a narrative, illustrating concepts with relevant graphics and photography.

Speaking of photography, we ditched the traditional CPA suit-and-tie photos, opting instead for large images that feature actual business clients of Stokes & Company. The business owners are central in the photos with the firm’s president, Stephen Stokes, in a supporting role—which is exactly the idea we’re trying to communicate.

Business cards

stokes_bcard_photoIn today’s digital world, business cards aren’t as essential as they used to be—after all, if someone wants to contact you, they can probably find your information online. But business cards are important for making a good first impression.

Our design team created a business card for Stokes & Company employees that is professional, but also memorable. We combined a dark, sophisticated color palette with a spot-gloss that creates an eye-catching texture. On the back of the card, we included graphics from the website and a tagline: “Do what you love. We’ll crunch the numbers.”

The goal was to create a card that communicates that Stokes CPAs know what they’re doing, plus looks distinctive enough that it won’t get lost in the shuffle.


Initially, the clients were a bit nervous about the approach. They agreed that it was friendly and easy to read and represented the firm’s attitudes well, but they felt it was too out-of-the-box when they compared them to their competitor’s sites. Shouldn’t the tone be more formal? Should it really feel so friendly? It didn’t feel like a CPA site.

However, Stephen Stokes decided to trust our judgment when we explained our reasons for breaking with convention, and we launched the site.

The new approach has been immediately successful. Stephen Stokes regularly gets positive comments about his cards during meetings and networking events. And the website is supporting his efforts to attract clients who are the right fit for Stokes & Company. The firm had best year ever in 2014, and 2015 is off to a great start as well.

Just wanted to let you know I just signed up a big accounting and payroll client as a direct result from her finding us through the website. Thank you!
—Stephen Stokes