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The answer to “How long do I need to do content marketing before I see results?” (You may not like the answer)

Jun 23, 2017

content marketing duration

I’ve been asked this question, in varying forms, for years.

The answer has usually been somewhere between “it depends” and “longer than you think”.

But thanks to marketing and social media expert Mark W. Schaefer, a keynote speaker at the recent CMA Live event, I’ve now got the answer for you.

(You may not like this.)

The answer is…

30 months.

On average.

In case you were wishing that ‘months’ meant something else, that also translates as two and a half years.

Now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor and are back, let’s talk about what this means for you as an accountant – and why this is so much longer than you are wishing it would be.

Most people give up too early.

One of the points Mark made in his keynote was that most businesses who start on the content marketing journey do make a real concerted effort. Start blogging, get training, update the website, record a few videos, incorporate social media.

But most of them give up after about six months. Some might make it for a year.

And the people who are seeing the tide turn, and the leads pick up, and the enquiries get better and better, and the website traffic improve, and the social media efforts see more responses, are the ones who haven’t given up.

It’s the same concept as that of following up proposals. 90% of those who follow up a proposal or quote get in touch 2-3 times, and then give up. But your prospects need 8-10 touch points, at least, before they decide. So you think it’s not working, and you figure the prospect isn’t interested, but really you gave up too early. That’s why another accountant ended up getting them as a client instead of you.

Don’t be most people. Keep going.

Accountants particularly give up way too early.

In my experience working with accountants, you’re far more likely to give up even earlier than other businesses, because many of you are still facing the surprising fact that marketing has changed.

“Content marketing” is simply a definition of today’s marketing. You share helpful information, give away knowledge, create content based on your clients’ questions, and let your prospects come to you.

Yes, referrals and word of mouth are still key – but they incorporate all of your content more than you realise. According to Hinge, over 45% of your website visitors who have been referred to you leave without ever getting in touch.

It’s also a particular tendency of accountants to experience SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome). “Ooooh – Facebook ads! That’s the thing that will really get my marketing going!…hm, that didn’t work so well. Okay, never mind. I’m going to start blogging. I’ll write a few blog posts and…wait, this blog post isn’t quite right. Can I give that advice online? I better not. I’ll not publish that one. And those other two are outdated now so there’s no point. You know what? VIDEO. Everyone seems to be getting results from video. I’ll buy all this video equipment and…”

…and it goes on.

The problem is, you can’t evaluate any marketing element on its own anymore.

Those who are getting results from content marketing are seeing all the pieces fit together. They’re blogging consistently, and testing out Facebook ads, and recording video, and updating their website, and, and, and.

They’re using every tool in their marketing arsenal, combining them together and evaluating on the big picture, not one by one.

We’re back to the two-bucket principle of marketing. Combine all your marketing efforts, be consistent with them (for 30 months!), and stop looking to each individual item to bring you results. Look at the big picture. And keep going.

This makes it so much more important to start now.

If you’re still waiting to see how the content marketing thing works (or whether it does), I assure you with absolute confidence and 100% certainty that it does. We use it at the Profitable Firm, and it’s how we’ve built a business that draws in accountants to us every single day from we don’t even know what sources. People get in touch with us and we ask where they heard of us, and they can’t remember. “Was it that event I attended? A webinar? Someone mentioned you? Twitter? Not really sure – but when it comes to marketing for accountants, you are the people to talk to.”

That’s all content marketing. We don’t do adverts or pay-per-click or really any “paid marketing” at all. We haven’t done it for five years. We’ve simply shared helpful content relating to the issues and problems you face as accountants dealing with marketing, and oh look! You’re reading this article.

Our accountants are experiencing the same thing. Content marketing is enhanced massively with a niche. My Accountancy Place share consistent content for digital creative agencies. DBS focus all their content on dentists. Fresh Financials focuses on Xero bookkeeping.

It’s not only us, and it’s not only the accountants we’re working with. All sorts of businesses are seeing results from sharing helpful content – furniture businesses, jewellery businesses, recruitment agencies, pool companies…everyone and anyone.

But most of them started at least 30 months ago.

So I’d get going, if I were you.

Remember, you’re building trust. And that takes time.

As an accountant, you’re in an extremely privileged position when someone decides to work with you. It’s why word of mouth and referrals have always been so important to you – and will continue to be so.

But what if you could build that same level of trust that referrals give, without the referral?

Seriously guys. This is so important. I almost want to say it again. Actually, I think I’m going to.

What if you could build the same level of trust that referrals give, without the referral?

Content marketing does that.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have watched my videos, attended our webinars, read my marketing tips, and come to me saying that I’m their marketing hero. Or a marketing goddess. That they love me and love what I’m sharing and are so excited to work with us because we get accountants.

These are all people who until the moment they got in touch, had never met me before. Never spoken to me, never shook my hand.

Believe me, I get it. The goal is to get someone to have a meeting with you or talk to you on the phone. Absolutely.

Content marketing gets you that meeting. Gets you that phone call. Because over a period of time (oh, say, 30 months) it’s building trust. Slowly, steadily, consistently. And they get in touch because thanks to all your amazing content, they feel like they know you before they’ve even met you.

That’s the average.

Pressing on with content marketing for 30 months doesn’t mean that you get nothing at all for two and a half years.

You might see results instantly. I’ve had clients publish one LinkedIn pulse post and seeing someone get in touch, have a call, and sign up for accounting work at a thousand or so a month as a result. We’ve seen firms step up their social media and get three or four enquiries in the first month.

But remember: That’s the exception, not the rule.

You’ve got to be willing to go past the 30 month barrier. Recognise that it’s consistency and focus and drive that gets you there, pushes you past all those other accountants who gave up after a few months, or after a year.

And here’s the thing: it might take you longer than 30 months.

I know. That feels even more discouraging. But it’s critical to understand that it’s not merely “publishing something for 30 months” that works.

It’s having the right message, to the right people, consistently and steadily. If you’re publishing blogs and no one is reading them, you may need to step up your social media game. If you get an ebook created and no one downloads it, you either need to share it in more places, or make it more specific, or change the content. If you’re sending emails that no one reads or replies to, you might want to make them a bit more human, and relevant.

30 months is not a hard and fast rule. It’s an estimate.

It’s rather like that estimated time of arrival on Google maps. If you go the speed limit and don’t stop for coffee every hour, you’ll most likely arrive around that estimated time. If you zoom along and don’t even stop for a toilet break and use every shortcut available, you’ll most likely beat it. And if you dawdle and ponder and wonder and take side roads and get distracted and follow shiny objects, you’ll arrive way, way later than estimated.

(And unlike driving, with content marketing there’s no penalty for going above the speed limit. If you start publishing content daily instead of monthly, you aren’t breaking any content marketing law. Matter of fact, you might get a reward.)

So don’t give up.

Remember everyone is in the same boat.

And keep going, for 30 months at least.

See you on the other side.

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