Do I still need to do email marketing for my accounting firm? 

You’re feeling the overwhelm of trying to do “all the things” when it comes to your marketing strategy: blogs, social media, SEO work, industry events, and that’s all on top of your mountain of responsibilities as an accountant and business owner.

You’re looking for something to take off your plate, and you’re wondering if email is that thing. How effective a marketing tool is email really?

The short answer is: very. Incorporating email into your marketing strategy is a great way to build relationships with current clients and prospects alike, address specific concerns or questions within your audience and move leads along the buyer progression model. When done strategically, email marketing brings you more of the fulfilling, profitable leads you’re looking for.

Email marketing isn’t dead

In 1978, a man named Gary Thuerk sent the first ever marketing email to 400 recipients advertising a new computer his company was selling.

From this email alone, Gary reportedly generated over $13 million in sales. Not a bad ROI, huh?

Admittedly, a lot has changed since Gary sent that first marketing email over four decades ago. Receiving emails is no longer the novelty it was back then. No one gets a surge of excitement when a gmail notification pops up on their phone. A single email won’t use up all of your company’s disk space either, like one of the recipients of Gary’s email claimed.

But email is still an incredibly effective marketing tool. It’s so effective, in fact, a report in 2019 found it had a ROI of $42 for every dollar spent (that’s £34.25 for every 82 pence for our UK friends), up from $38 in 2018.

Email can help you:

  • Build relationships with potential and current clients
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Promote services and products
  • Automate steps in your internal processes, like pre-qualifying, onboarding and follow up
  • Keep your clients and prospects up to date on changes within your team, new offerings in your business, or exciting upcoming events
  • And keep you top of mind when prospects are ready to buy

Think about it: we’re all checking our emails constantly. First thing in the morning, after a meeting, during our lunch break, while we’re bored waiting for the tube. Email isn’t the only way to communicate, and it doesn’t stand alone. But it’s one of the ways to stay connected with your clients and prospects and demonstrate your value to them so that when (not if) a challenge arises, you’re who they think of to turn to for help.

That’s the buyer progression model in action.

Email moves prospects along the buyer progression model

The Buyer Progression Model is a process designed to build relationships and establish trust between you and your prospects.

Because trust is massive when it comes to choosing an accountant.

Your clients trust you with some of their most personal information, from their finances to their dreams, hopes and fears. It doesn’t make sense for someone who didn’t even know you existed yesterday, to suddenly decide to hand you all their trust, just like that. They need time, reassurance, and a chance to see your value.

They need to move along the Buyer Progression Model.

Emails are a great bridge between Free things and Small paid things. You start by giving out free, genuinely useful advice to clients and prospects, maintaining awareness from the first stage and improving your relationship with them as a trusted source.

Then, you can start alerting them to those smaller paid things they might be interested in as a result of all the free information you’ve given them thus far. A workshop on the transition to MTD. A health check of their books. A tax season prep call. Whatever it is, because you’ve consistently established yourself as an authority they connect to, your prospects are more likely to take the next step on their journey with you.

In order to make this happen, you need to build an email marketing strategy to help you speak to who you want to speak to, and share information they find genuinely useful.

How to use email marketing successfully

Send emails to people who really want to hear from you.

We’ve all gotten an email from some random online retailer and thought, “how on earth did I end up on their list?” We either send it straight to trash, mark it as spam or, if we can be bothered, go to unsubscribe from their emails without a single glance at what they have to say.

We didn’t want to hear from them.

Sending emails to people who don’t really want to hear from you is as effective as shouting in an empty room. The key to building your email list is to give people a chance to see the value you can bring them before you pop up in their inbox.

Giving things away is a great way to do this (pssst, buyer progression model! Free things!). You could give away free PDF guides, ebooks, short video webinars, anything useful to your ideal audience.

For example, I was looking for a customizable template for a novel structure the other week. After searching for a bit, I found one on another writer’s blog. All I had to do to get my free download was sign up to their weekly newsletter. If I didn’t end up liking it, I could unsubscribe any time.

The decision to give this writer my information was easy. I:

  1. Wanted the great information he was giving away for free and that brought me to his page in the first place
  2. Already had a sense of the value he could bring me with the template, and was curious what else he would share in his newsletters.

A minute later, I have my free template, he has my email, and I’m officially on the buyer progression model!

This writer also followed two super important rules of email marketing: they asked my permission before they contacted me, and they made it easy for me to unsubscribe. Don’t be sneaky or try to “trick” people into giving you their email: having five genuinely engaged, interested prospects who want to hear from you is better than 30 prospects who are gonna send your newsletter straight to spam.

If you want another example of this, look no further than right here! At PF, we give away free resources like our Buyer Progression Model Guide, Xero Marketer Guide and more. Even this marketing article you’re reading right this second is a free resource you can get straight to your inbox. Before we start sending emails to prospects, we make sure they’ve seen at least a bit of the value we can bring to them.

By giving away some free things, you’ve built a list of people who genuinely want to hear from you. But not every person on the list is going to be in the same stage of their relationship with you, at the same point on the buyer progression model, or have the same needs you’re trying to address.

It’s time to segment.

Segment, segment, segment

Segmenting is when you divide up your entire list of email subscribers into more targeted, personalised categories. In other words, you’re niching your niche.

You can divide your email list by who’s a prospect and who’s a current client, what industry they’re in, where they are geographically, what services they’ve signed up for already. Basically, anyway you can think of narrowing down your audience and addressing their very specific needs in a very specific email.

A great example of segmenting in action is Sephora, a makeup retailer. When you buy a product off of Sephora’s website, they calculate how long the product is expected to last. A tube of mascara, let’s say, is estimated to last for two months. Two months after your purchase, Sephora automatically sends you an email reminding you to restock the new mascara you’ve loved so much.

This is also a great example of email automation.

Simplify your processes with automation

As well as moving your clients and prospects along the buyer progression model, email can also simplify – or build out – different processes within your business, like prospecting, onboarding, and follow up.

Think back to the Sephora email: it’s their follow up process in action. They stay front of mind, being helpful and making it easy for their customers to make decisions and continue purchasing from them. Best of all, it’s entirely automated.

Take a look at your current systems: are there points that could be built out? Sticking points where you notice prospects more often drop off, or fail to respond as quickly as usual? Is there anything particularly time consuming for your team, like sending out individual Anti Money Laundering checks? These are all points where an automated email could make your system more efficient and more successful.

For example, one of our accountants, Starfish, noticed prospects who had been super responsive and engaged throughout the whole process would suddenly grow quiet once a proposal was sent. Georgi and Emma wanted a way to touch base and see if there was anything they could help with to get the process moving again.

Together, we created a blog about common reasons a prospect might not have signed their proposal yet. It covered things like having questions about the proposal’s content or being nervous about telling a previous accountant you were leaving. Then, we created a follow-up email which linked to the new blog and was automatically sent seven days after the proposal.

While this is a good sales tactic and can help prospects start working with you faster, it’s also a great example of the next most important part of a successful email marketing strategy: being genuinely helpful to your audience.

Remember your purpose: to help people

Right, you’ve got your list. You’ve segmented it into specific audiences. Now what the heck are you meant to write emails about?

Emails are like any other form of content marketing: they’re most effective when they’re done with the intention to help your audience, not only sell to them.

If you haven’t already, I recommend starting to collect and organise your content ideas so you always have a list of topics your audience is interested in. You can do this by paying attention to the questions they’re asking, what advice or information you find yourself giving to individual prospects again and again, or even asking yourself what you wish your audience knew. AKA, the thing they don’t even know they don’t know!

Once you have a solid list of content ideas, you can start planning how (and when) you’ll use email to share that content. For example:

Share blogs and other content marketing you’re already doing

Email is a great way to promote a piece of content marketing you’ve already worked hard on. If you’ve posted a blog, for example, you can send an email push with either the entire blog or a ‘TL DR’ (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version and a link to the full thing on your website.

Again, this article right here is an example of this strategy. While this will be posted, in full, on our website, we also send all our marketing articles as an email every Friday.

You work hard on your content. Give your audience as many opportunities to see and read it as possible!

Share “breaking” news

Writing an entire blog or filming a video can be time consuming. It takes planning and preparation, and there’s usually at least a few days (if not a week or a month) between when you decide on a topic and when the new piece of content marketing goes live on your website or social media.

Emails, on the other hand, are a great way to get relevant information out quickly. Think back to lockdown, for example. It seemed every day there was a new furlough scheme, an update to social distancing rules, or news about tax relief programs. Instead of taking a few days to plan, write and edit a long blog about each of these updates, why not send a quick email blast? Here’s what the change is and why it matters to you!

Email often feels more casual than a blog post, and so we’re less likely to agonise over every sentence. No need to carefully craft an introductory paragraph – say hey [blank!] and get to the point!

Create a short-term promotion campaign for a specific product, service or event

While the above methods are ways to incorporate email marketing into your long-term content marketing strategy, you can also use emails for short-term promotion.

For example, one of our accountants, Martin, had the idea to offer one-off tax planning meetings. He knew tax season caused a lot of stress and fear to his audience. They were anxious they were missing out on a way to save money or would make a mistake that could get them in trouble with the IRS. A one-off meeting to discuss money saving strategies and answer any questions they had, then, brings a lot of value.

With the support of his Client Marketing Manager (CMM), Jamie, Martin planned a series of emails to send out between November and the end of the year. While the emails talked about the benefits of a one-off tax planning meeting, they also shared useful information for free, like that IP PINs were now available to everyone to protect against identity theft, and not only those taxpayers who had been victims of fraud in the past.

With a few months of emails, Martin was:

  • Building his relationship with prospects and clients by staying present in their inbox and their minds with regular content
  • Providing free, relevant and genuinely helpful information to help prospects and clients see his value
  • Offering a small paid thing to help move prospects and clients forward on the buyer progression model

Win-win-win!

Trying to write a (or maybe your first ever!) marketing email? Here are some topics you could cover:

  • Brand announcements: I love writing brand announcements for our accountants after they’ve gone through a rebrand, but you don’t need to have gone through a massive transformation in order to give your prospects and current clients a chance to get to know you better. In this email, you could discuss your firm’s values, your mission, the type of people you love to work with and what you help them achieve. Remember, good marketing divides, so don’t be afraid to be honest about what you do and don’t do so your ideal clients see you’re the perfect fit.
  • Team introductions: people buy from humans, not faceless corporations. Whether you’re a team of two or 200, let your clients meet the kick-butt group of humans who will be supporting them if they work with you. Bonus: this is a great way to get your team involved in your marketing strategy. Have them write a short bio, or provide fun facts about themselves to include in your email!
  • Helpful resources: you don’t have to share only original content in your marketing emails. Have you come across a youtube video explaining MTD for landlords super well? Or an article with tips for business owners you think would connect with your audience? Send it out in an email. This not only sticks to your purpose of sharing genuinely helpful information, but proves to prospects and clients you’re not doing this merely for sales – you’re doing it to make a difference.
  • Client wins and case studies: your clients are doing awesome things, and you’ve been a huge part of their success. Take the time to highlight those wins in a case study. When a prospect sees you’ve helped another business owner overcome their challenges, especially if those challenges are the same or similar to the ones they’re facing, they’ll know you’re an authority they can trust to help them, too.

Measure your results – and adjust as needed

The best marketing strategy isn’t one including All The Things. It includes all the things that work. That’s why measuring your progress is so important. A few of the metrics you can use to measure your success with email marketing are:

  • Open rate – like the tin says, how many people open your emails when they land in their inbox
  • List growth rate – how fast your email list is growing
  • Email sharing or forwarding rate – how many people are forwarding or otherwise sharing your emails
  • Clickthrough rate – how many people click on a link in your email
  • Conversion rate – if your email includes a specific offer or action you want the recipient to take, like filling out a form or signing up for a webinar, your conversion rate tells you how many people actually followed through on this desired action

But remember: the success of your marketing strategy isn’t dependent on a single set of data. Measuring your results means looking at how ALL your marketing numbers work in tandem. Even if your email conversion rate isn’t through the roof, if you still have a regular drip feed of new leads or your prospects are taking less time to move along the buyer progression model, that’s a successful marketing strategy. Learn more about how you can measure your marketing progress, and what to do with that information, here.

Put it all together into one cohesive, successful marketing strategy

Email is only one of the twelve elements of content marketing covered, in depth, in the 12-week coaching group, Accelerator. These twelve elements are all most powerful and successful when they work in tandem with one another, from your brand to your social media, your website to campaigns.

To learn more about email, how it fits into your whole marketing strategy and to get the support and motivation of the PF team to put these lessons into action, sign up for Accelerator.