4 Ways for Accountants to Build an Email List

dave coghlan experianThis post comes to you courtesy of Dave Coghlan, who’s currently working with Experian on list expansion and email marketing, among other things!


You can also read his follow up post – 4 Epic Pitfalls to Buying An Email List.

If your accountancy firm wants to start online marketing, having a decent ‘list’ of people to email, contact, get in touch with is critical. But how do you start?

Advice abounds. Make sure you are on social media! Write a blog every week! Connect your twitter feed to your website! Automate your marketing!

But what if you have the nagging thought, “What if no one is listening?” For most accounting firms, indeed for most small businesses, you don’t need to wonder. Nobody is listening to you, yet. You are on the marketing ship Nostromo and you’ve only got Jonesey for company.

If you are starting out on your marketing journey or even if you aren’t and you’re feeling a bit fed up that no-one seems to ‘get’ you, fear not. We’re all with you, we’re all in the same boat! But, if you get organised, have a plan and most importantly stick to it, many more people will say, “hmm interesting, tell me more.” They might even buy something from you.

So let’s get to work on that email list. Start by understanding your customers and prospects and what I mean here is really know them, who are they? How can you identify them? By size, turnover, sector? Where do they spend their time online? What do they talk about and who do they currently listen too? If you know the answers to these critical questions then you are probably ahead of 90% of businesses in the UK! Being very clear about who you want to speak to keeps your marketing activity focused, minimises wasted time and energy and fundamentally supports your business growth aspirations.

4 Ways to Grow Your Email List

Below are four ways to grow your list, they start easy and cheap and ramp up to potentially crazy and costly. You can choose which ones are most appropriate for your firm:

Don’t beat yourself up

Nike had it right. To achieve anything, first you must start. Just do it. Having an effective presence on social media and getting a stream of leads from your blog doesn’t happen overnight. If you commit to creating relevant and interesting content for your target audience then your list of followers, connections and subscribers will grow organically. You might not have a huge volume but if you consider that every contact is a potential customer and your average order value is £2000 then you don’t need a huge amount of those prospects to become customers to see a fairly significant increase in your revenues. Remember, it’s not the size that counts it’s what you do with it.

Phone a friend

This is a bit of a no brainer but it does go against our British mentality of asking for stuff and brazenly pushing ourselves out there. Simply ask or incentivise your existing list to tell other people about you.

I understand some nervousness around this approach as it might be the first test of just how good you really are and nobody likes rejection, but you should definitely ask. Of everyone on your email list or your twitter followers, how likely are they to actually say “hey, I know this person, they are good and I think you would like what they have to say.” The reality is probably not that many but its more people than you can potentially reach on your own. 6 degrees of separation in action people.

If you want a neat way to do this, then try pay with a tweet. You can put your highly valuable content behind a whizzy button that will tell all of their twitter followers what they’ve downloaded and expose your company to everyone they know, cool huh?
The obvious benefit is that you can potentially add more people to your list in a more leveraged manner, however there are other fringe benefits that you might not have considered. You might get a client saying they don’t want to refer you and even give you some reasons why. Maybe they aren’t 100% happy with one of your services or a grumpy staff member annoyed them. If the reasons are within your power to resolve then it’s a great opportunity to speak to that client, enhance their customer experience, improve your offering and potentially create a significant advocate more than happy to promote you and your firm purely because you have taken feedback and acted upon it. After all retention is easier and cheaper than acquisition.

Strategic partners

Finding a way to get high volumes of contacts on your email list is the real key to unlocking your digital marketing strategy. Like accountancy digital marketing is a numbers game, its right up your street! The only problem with these numbers is that they relate to real people who do and say weird things and the more of them you have on your list then the more that weirdness gets amplified. Before you go after huge volumes of new contacts make sure you have robust systems to handle any potential fall-out and also that you have a consistent and organised content and marketing plan. But of course, you’re already doing that right?
So how do you identify good strategic partners? Remember earlier I said about understanding where your audience hang out and who they listen to? Those are strategic partners. E.g. we really want to spend more time with the ICAEW as they are a great way for us to meet more of you lovely people.

Finding good strategic partners that want to work with you rely on two things:

  • Relevance of you to their audience
  • What’s in it for the partner

This is another leap of faith for you as you may get scrutinised by some big hitters in your target market that will assess how good you are in a fairly unequivocally manner. Again your chosen partners should reflect your business aspirations and the resources you have available. This is word of mouth marketing on steroids. If you get inundated with leads or enquiries all of sudden how will you serve them or your existing clients? There is a risk you could drown under a sea of prospects that you simply can’t serve.

Buy an email list

I was umming and arring about whether this should be 3 or 4 on my list based on the cost/crazy matrix I mentioned at the start. I’ve put it at 4 because even though it could a fairly easy low cost option it has the highest potential to fail if not executed well. (If you have even thought the words ‘mail blast’ then you need to stop reading now and revert back to points 1 and 2.)

Buying a good email list (or marketing list) comes right back full circle to your analysis and understanding of your target market. If you know who you want to speak to across a number of very specific criteria then you can build and buy a marketing list with laser precision that will give you the best chance of getting some new leads and new business.
Personally I think buying an email list is a little bit of a cop out if you haven’t gone through at least points 1 and 2 on here. You can’t be saying that much of interest to your target market if you can’t get at least a few yourself?

Buying an email list is however a quick way to reach a potentially huge volume of prospects and even by sheer luck if you bomb out an e-mail to 10,000 people you might get a few sales. But there are some epic pitfalls which I’ll try and cover off so you don’t get too badly burnt.

We’ll talk about those next week.