Maybe some believe that they don’t need a Marketing Plan as most new clients seem to come by way of referral.
However, the digital age is here and the barriers for your competitors to market to your clients have gone. More businesses than ever before are seeking better services and products.
While digital marketing requires a new set of skills, the fundamentals are the same as in traditional marketing.
For us, marketing is simply the communication of information. That information needs to be credible and worthy of the reader’s time and attention.
Based on hundreds of interactions with our member firms here at The Gap, the three most common barriers to successful marketing for accounting firms are:
Some firms have overcome the above challenges by outsourcing key marketing tasks, either engaging a marketing agency or deploying offshored contractors. In addition, many firms now subscribe to ‘stock’ content solutions to ensure they can consistently roll out blogs and other educational content.
Watch our Outsourcing Your Marketing training video for comprehensive guidance on what and how to outsource these activities, as well as the activities that are better retained in-house.
Your brand includes your name, logo, vision, story, and client experience. It's all of these things and will help you attract and retain clients on factors other than price. Your brand positions your services to clients based on what they get, not what you do.
Start with why
Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, depicted above, makes it clear that you need to understand your 'why' before your ‘how’ and your ‘what’.
Before you consider your brand or a brand refresh, question your purpose. Why do you do what you do? Why does your business exist for your clients?
Next, develop your purpose statement
In as few words as possible (preferably 7 or less), define your why.
For example, Tesla’s why is ‘To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy’ and Zoom's is 'To make video communications frictionless and secure'.
Your purpose statement is crucial to attracting the right clients who will become advocates.
Now, define your ideal client
In marketing, we talk about defining your buyer personas. For example, you may decide that one of your personas is ‘Early-stage construction businesses’. Defining this persona helps you visualise a single person to represent that group of clients.
This becomes a strategy for connecting with your target audience. When you understand who you're talking to, you will be more targeted, persuasive and effective in your marketing.
For example, what are their typical challenges and how can you provide solutions in the form of services to overcome these? What are their interests and how can you engage with them and show that you ‘get’ them?
Lastly, build up your brand assets
Before you create content or engage a content writer, it’s important to establish your ‘digital voice’. Your digital voice needs to represent your brand, in both look and tone, so that your marketing messages are consistent.
To establish your digital voice, describe it in three words. For example, here at The Gap, we describe our digital voice as ‘fun, frank and modern'.
Your website is the virtual (or digital) door to your business. Marketing is about driving leads to your website, serving them up content of value, and engaging with them in a way that they simply want to do business with you.
Choose the right platform
Your website developer can help you decide on the right platform; having regard to cost, customisation, template options, and plugin needs (e.g. an event booking app).
Your web platform needs to enable your firm to edit and update content, so a simple content management system is important.
Your home page is important
Your welcome page is the welcome mat for your front door (your website). This is where you persuade future clients that they've come to the right place, through simple text that explains your ‘why’, an introduction to your people and services, and clever use of your logo and supporting imagery.
Keep your menu simple
Make your menu bar easy to navigate. More pages are great for SEO; however, it's a good idea to limit menu options to five key areas.
Make sure key messages are ‘above the fold’
According to some research, the average time spent on a website is just 15 seconds!
Your future clients need to be able to engage with your main messages straight away, without scrolling down for ages. This is even more important if they're viewing on a mobile device.
Include testimonials or case studies
Testimonials can be short or long. They should be written in your client’s own voice, not rewritten in yours. This ensures they remain unscripted and authentic. One technique to use when creating a testimonial is the ‘reverse testimonial’ process. Start by asking about the challenges or obstacles they overcame in deciding to sign up for your service. There will always be obstacles to overcome, e.g., price or energy and time needed to implement.
For more information on building great testimonials, download our Guide to Utilising Client Feedback for Testimonials.
Make sure calls to action are clear
Do you want them to download a guide, sign up for your monthly newsletter, sign up for a free trial, or register for an educational webinar? Make it super clear!
Be mobile responsive
A mobile responsive site adjusts to the size of the window it's viewed on, so your content looks good on mobile as well as desktop. Google ranks your mobile version first, so optimising for mobile is essential.
Content marketing is simply the strategy of providing future clients with regular, informative, educational, and sometimes entertaining, content for free. Examples deployed in the accounting industry include:
Some of this content can be ‘gated’ (visitors must provide their details before they can access the content). Don’t gate all of your content. For example, it doesn’t make sense to gate blogs and articles.
Content marketing works because it:
Content marketing is an important tool to attract, engage and delight future clients because it works on the basis of providing value before you try to extract value. This is well depicted in HubSpot’s Marketing Flywheel.
Developing content ‘pathways’
Creating a series of articles under one topic, and driving readers to an event, can be an effective way of taking future clients on a content journey, engaging them at a deeper level.
For example, your lead article might be ‘Seven Causes of Poor Cashflow’. Your next seven articles drill into each of those seven causes, creating a pathway to unlock content of value and allowing them to choose the content most relevant to their business. These articles could drive readers to attend an upcoming cashflow management webinar or seminar.
Repurposing your content
Publish your content in multiple places - on your website, in social posts, in online community groups, or as additional links in blogs and articles.
Subscribing to ‘stock’ content solutions
Writing blogs and articles from scratch takes time. One solution is to subscribe to a quality content provider, such as The Gap’s Premium Content Library.
The great thing about subscribing to great stock content is that the content tends to be evergreen in nature, so it won’t date.
You can mix stock content up with your original ‘in the moment’ pieces. If you’re worried about being in a ‘sea of content sameness’ when using stock content, customise the content to reflect your brand and voice.
You can take the time, cost and complexity out of customising and posting content by subscribing to a fit for purpose marketing platform, enabling you to change images and tweak titles and text.
We recommend the BOMA marketing platform. Check out the BOMA ROI Calculator here to work out how much time and money you could save by using a digital marketing solution.
Specialist education marketing is a subset of content marketing; however, it can be so successful in generating new business for accounting firms that it deserves a section of its own in this article.
Education marketing is simply the process of educating your existing and future clients, rather than pitching to them. It works on the basis of providing value to clients before you extract value from them. It also earns people’s attention, rather than forcing it. It's at the cornerstone of Ethical Marketing and Sales.
2020 and the impacts of Covid-19 created an ideal platform for accountants to deliver meaningful webinars to clients. In fact, there has been a Sudden Shift to Education Marketing via the webinar.
Educational webinars are one of the smartest marketing strategies for accountants today because they:
Your webinar content
The education possibilities are endless. Consider developing or subscribing to webinar content within the following business categories:
Mastering the call to action
To increase your ROI from education marketing, ensure the content links to services you offer. Then, present a call to action that makes it easy for clients to buy those services.
You don’t want to come across as being salesy, so offer three options: a complimentary option, e.g., a guide, so they can self-serve; a low-cost option, e.g., a worksheet they complete with a short review meeting; and a full-service option, e.g., a Business Planning session.
Plenty of clients will take the complimentary service option. That’s good marketing. They’ll think highly of you, they’ll keep consuming your content, and they're likely to refer new business.
Repurposing your webinar content
Every time you create an education piece you also create a marketing asset. The key is to repurpose those assets so you get maximum outcome for minimum effort.
Here are six examples:
Always add lead capture forms to downloadable content to maximise lead generation.
And remember - the best marketing is education.
For comprehensive advice on managing webinars, download our FREE Webinar Management Process Guide below.
Experiencing webinar presentation anxiety? We understand. Watch our Webinar Presentation Training Video. It’s not hard to present at a webinar. In fact, it’s the introverted presenter’s paradise!
Email is a highly effective way to engage your clients in marketing campaigns. It has a higher average read rate than most other forms of marketing. The stats say that 72% of us prefer to get messages delivered to us by email over any other channel.
There are three essential steps in email marketing:
If you send quality marketing emails that include content of value, you'll be able to build your email list.
Make it easy to sign up by adding a sign-up button or registration form on your website’s main pages and other social channels. Be clear about what leads can expect from you - what sort of content and how often.
Make sure that it’s just as easy to opt-out by adding an ‘unsubscribe’ button to your email communications.
Your content needs to serve your clients’ needs. Their needs might be existing needs (an important change to legislation), or a need that you create (to take steps to improve their cashflow, for example).
Here are some content categories to consider. Don’t focus on just one - mix them up.
Social media marketing is a must-have for all businesses these days. That includes accounting firms. In fact, most accounting firms today have a dedicated in-house resource to manage their social platforms, even if it’s just one hour per week.
There are a number of platforms to consider, including:
Which platforms you use depends very much on the profile of your clients and where they hang out.
Social media platforms are more immediate and therefore less static than your website, so the key is to keep posting, constantly and consistently. You can share an expert advisory piece on LinkedIn, an industry comment on Twitter, and more of your firm’s personality and team news on Facebook.
If your posts are liked and shared, they are amplified, and you benefit from the word of mouth.
SEO is the art of being found online. There are more than 200 factors that affect how your website ranks. This makes it impossible for us (or for you) to be experts on SEO.
To gain a better understanding of the factors that impact SEO, read the brief SEO chapter in our Digital Marketing for Accountants and Bookkeepers eBook, co-authored with BOMA Marketing.
Digital marketing, unlike traditional marketing, is measurable.
Analytics you should set KPIs around (and measure actual performance) include:
Digital marketing, in particular content marketing, is a long-term process of raising your brand’s profile and demonstrating value to your audience.
It’s important to PLAY THE LONG GAME!
Written by: Viv Brownrigg, FCA | Co-founder and Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships