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Net firms count on accountants

Internet companies are turning to accountants to help them market both software and services.

Internet companies are turning to accountants to market both software and services, hoping small businesses will accept advice on crunching bits from the same people who crunch their numbers.

Microsoft (MSFT) has announced a program to turn CPAs into technology advisers for their small-business clients.

GlobalCenter too said it is targeting both accountants and lawyers as a marketing channel to small companies, working through online content providers for accounting and legal professionals.

But neither firm is ready to turn accountants into a direct sales channel, at least for now.

"The two most trusted, key advisers to small businesses are their accountant and their lawyer," said GlobalCenter's Tim Ganley, vice president for channel sales. "We think that if a small business hears from us and from their accountant or lawyer, we must be a trusted supplier."

Microsoft's Technology Advisor Program, announced in conjunction with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, is intended to help CPAs build a technology consulting practice, including Microsoft products, training, and technical support.

The program, now available through the accountants' trade group, is based on a Microsoft-AICPA alliance struck eight months ago. Accounting software firm Great Plains Software and others will also participate in the technology adviser program.

The program involves training on Microsoft applications and operating systems and recognition as "Microsoft Certified Professionals" for those who pass an exam. The program, handled through AICPA and an outside training firm, has an introductory price of $849.

GlobalCenter has teamed with AccountingNet, an online service for accountants, and Counsel Connect, a similar service for attorneys, to market products specifically to those professionals. The goal is to have those customers recommend Global Center products and services to their clients.

GlobalCenter bundles software, hardware, Web hosting, and Internet access to get small companies connected to the Internet. Its goal is to provide easy-to-use products that can get customers online within an hour.