Your accounting firm’s success in marketing is directly relatable to the involvement of your team with that marketing.
But what if your team isn’t really keen on actually writing (or creating) content?
Blog posts. Social media. Recording videos.
What if it’s not their skill area? What if they just don’t feel like it? What if they grumble or moan or drag their feet?
Depending on the journey your firm has taken, it’s possible some (or all) members of your team didn’t join an accounting firm either with these skills, or with any desire or intention to do so.
They thought they would be doing… accounting work.
Sit at the office, send emails, work on software, maybe a phone call or video call now and then.
And now the firm is Doing Marketing, and you’ve realised how important it is to create good content. You know doing this will bring you a better quality client.
You’ve read the stories of firms who have been blogging and recording video and posting on social and creating onboarding pages… and you want those results, too. You realise by identifying the questions your clients and prospects are asking, and answering them via content, it will save you time – and it will save your team time, too.
You’ve told the team how exciting this is. Perhaps you joined the Accelerator and got all enthused. You ran a “They ask you answer” session with the team. You figure if one team member writes a blog every week, it spreads out the work and it’s ALL GO!
But they’re not too keen.
One or two of them started, but got busy.
Someone started a blog, but you reviewed the draft and felt it wasn’t quite a fit with the firm’s style and tone of voice. You need to make changes, but you’re pretty busy too – so it never got published.
A few are interested, but really nervous. They don’t know where to begin or how to write, or they know writing isn’t their core skill. They feel like this will take hours and hours they don’t have, and they aren’t sure where the priority level is. (You said content is important, but if they don’t finish the accounting tasks that week, clients won’t get their accounts on time, or their VAT return or tax return.) So they default to accounting work, because it’s what they know and what you hired them to do.
Some point blank said they don’t want to, and don’t think it’s their job.
What do you do?
Are they right?
Is it that important to get them involved? Can you just outsource it?
This is a BIG, big question. You are absolutely right to be considering it, and to want to solve it.
Marketing is a reflection of who you are. What you stand for, what you care about, who you serve, how you do things. It’s a reflection of the owners and founders, your location, the work you do – and your team.
So the more involved your team are in this marketing, the more accurate that reflection is.
The less involved they are, the less accurate it is.
I’m writing this tip from the perspective of a creative agency who exists exclusively to provide outsourced content marketing to accounting firms. You’d think I would say “nope, it doesn’t matter, let the accountants do their accounting thing, have our team create the content for you”.
And whilst getting help with having your unique content created is a good thing, the only way it truly delivers results for your firm is when you and your team are involved. In partnership.
Years ago, we tried working with firms who simply “wanted marketing done”. They had plenty to do, and didn’t feel they were that creative or that good at writing, and that’s why they wanted to hire PF. But we swiftly realised successful marketing absolutely MUST have input from you and your team – and the more input, the better.
Because otherwise, despite great effort, it’s still…slightly…general. Not enough specifics from how you do things. Not enough feedback about words you use and don’t use in the team. No stories about how you did this last week and this is how it was so great.
We can still help, if you’d like: but whether you get PF to support you, or you do it yourself with some training, the team have to be involved.
After all, your team (and you) are the ones talking to the clients. They’re doing the work, onboarding clients, getting forms signed, listening to problems and issues. Soothing troubled clients, rejoicing with excited clients, helping clients with concerns.
That’s at the heart of your marketing.
Helping prospective clients to buy into how good you are at all of these things. To buy into the attitude and style and framework by which you do it.
And after all, for some firms, the same is true for accounting. One client asked us, “How do I get the whole team involved in marketing, like we would want our clients’ team to be involved in accounting?”
They recognised accounting works best when the clients’ team (where applicable) know how to log into software, or submit expenses, or work with your payroll team, or whatever.
So, okay. We still agree with you that the team must be involved. Here’s how you start:
1. Recognise this is change management, and you need a plan.
In most cases, you’re literally changing the role they signed on for. You’re probably changing the entire firm, as well.
You’re reviewing branding – changing the company name, colours, logo, style (or all of the above).
You have a new recruiting process. It’s based on values as well as skills, and you want a different breed of accountant – one who engages with people and is learning marketing!
(If you’ve been hiring the ‘new breed’ of accountant, then the change isn’t so massive. Marketing – and writing – becomes just another arm to the video/people/software/apps skills your accountants need to have.)
So, put together a plan. At a minimum this needs to include an initial discussion on how content marketing works, and then you can do all the other things noted below.
2. Accept it will take a long time.
It will probably take upwards of 2-3 years before the team are fully engaged, consistently part of the marketing (even in small ways), getting training and continually learning about how marketing impacts their job.
The firms who follow the Marketing Map – and are seeing the results they wanted – usually find this process takes about that long before they’re regularly getting a drip feed of the right kind of leads. They get results faster than that, but to fully involve the team means the long term game.
And you will definitely need that length of time to teach them – and yourself – about what good writing is. (I recommend the book “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley.)
3. Start small, start safe
In any change management situation, flinging people into the deep end rarely works. With accountants facing new skills like content writing, it almost never works. Matter of fact it could backfire a bit, causing you to lose team members you didn’t have to lose, because they got overwhelmed and scared (instead of feeling safe and excited).
Starting small, starting safe means:
- Training so they understand the “why”
- Brainstorming on things to write about with the whole team
- Starting a list of content topics everyone has access to (such as a Gsheet)
- Asking team members to share bullet points/notes relating to content topics
- Setting up an email address to be BCC’d in to emails sent to clients (ie firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
- Inviting team members into marketing training or webinars or workshops you participate in
4. Invest in regular marketing training so your team feel confident
This is a new skill, so it needs new training.
You could send one (or all) of your team on the Accelerator: that’s the 12 week “how does marketing work for accounting firms, anyway?” course run by PF. Your team will get to learn all about marketing as it applies to accountants, but in a low-pressure environment where they can begin to contribute, or just listen. (You also get ‘forever access’ to all the recordings, so you can share with new team members when they join, or have them attend a live course.)
There are loads of other marketing trainings available, and if you’re not sure where to start, just ask. We’ll give you our honest opinion as to whether we believe it’s useful and helpful for an accountant who is learning what marketing skills apply to them.
Whatever training you choose, please make sure to attend the training with them. If you fling them onto the training and hope it goes well, they’ll take in a little and eventually stop showing up and go right back to the way they normally do things.
However when you join them in the training, discuss it with them, ask what they learned and for their opinion about how this applies to your firm, you build safety as well as loyalty and enthusiasm.
5. Run regular TAYA workshops (“They ask, you answer”) to build a list of topics your team can write about
These are actually quite easy and fun workshops to run. PF can facilitate one of these for you, but you can do it yourself as well – and we suggest you do it regularly.
All you’re doing is asking the team to share questions their clients have asked in the past week or month (or whenever). You could talk a little about the answers, and you could talk about which questions you feel are really urgent in terms of priority, but in the first workshop you just want a big brainstorm of all the questions asked to your team.
I guarantee you will find multiple team members have been asked the same question over and over: but you’ll find each one answers it just slightly differently. And when you show them how a blog post or video could save them anywhere from 1-10 minutes per question, and remind them that’s how they contribute to marketing…they’ll really start getting excited. (They’ll get even more excited when they begin to save those few minutes, over and over and over again.)
Here’s how you can run a TAYA workshop for your team.
6. Get a brand book designed so your brand, style, and tone of voice are consistent across the whole team
This is actually one of the most important things you can do. We’ve indicated the other items first because they are preparatory tasks…but as soon as you start getting anywhere near actual writing and content creation, you’ve got to be sure the team knows the brand guidelines to follow.
They’re still accountants at the end of the day. Whilst marketing is different from accounting in the sense that there’s not a specific, box-ticking project management process you can follow to the letter, there are still areas that have to be considered every time.
Brand guidelines include things like:
- Target audience: Who are you writing to, and why?
- Style: what kind of approach do you take in your writing?
- Tone of voice: Authoritative, calm, reassuring, motivating? First person or third person?
- Imagery: Where do you source images and
- …and then all the detail about your visual brand, including logo and colours and fonts
At PF, a different member of the team writes a blog post each week. These are fairly intensive writing exercises: we don’t just throw together a few ideas on a topic, but we research it and discuss with the whole team and make sure it’s a practical “tip” you can get value from even if you never work with us. (That’s one of our pillars – generosity. We want to be of value to you regardless of what you decide. So our content needs to be practical and useful even if you’re not a client.)
I write one myself every two months on the rotation (and I wrote this one), and I still review the team’s marketing tips every week. Not because they can’t publish it without my input, but because after many months of reviewing their blogs, I started to notice there were some items I was mentioning over and over. I’d say it to this team member, but that one wouldn’t know about it and they’d do the same thing. So I created a “PF Marketing Tip Guide Notes” document, with great detail about how we write, and don’t write. What we say, and don’t say. How we choose a topic. When the first draft content needs to be written. Words we use and don’t use. How we live up to our pillars, and our internal values within our writing.
All of that comes from our brand, but even our brand guidelines don’t go into that high level of detail: so we went next level. That’s the kind of level you get when you have someone reviewing your content in detail…which is the next point.
7. Hire someone to edit and review copy your team writes
No matter how much time you invest in writing yourself, and building the team’s skills in writing, it’s still extremely helpful (and a big time savings) to outsource the editing and reviewing.
This is because…
- It’s hard to edit your own work (you’re too close to it).
- It removes stress and fear. This isn’t the final product getting published, it’s what Brene Brown calls the SFD – the…Somethingy…First Draft. You can say Stormy First Draft if you prefer. You get what I mean!
- It saves loads of time. You’re not spending hours fixing spelling mistakes and reorganising paragraphs (which is really tempting, we know): you’re focusing on what you and only you can do, which is to share the core content, even in a messy way. Then the editor tidies it up for you, while you’re meeting with clients.
- It plays to your skills. If, no matter how hard you try, writing is not your favourite, you don’t have to actually “write” the full thing from start to finish. You can dash off the content or bullet points, or record a video, or forward content from a few emails, and let someone else turn it into “proper content”. That’s editing, too.
You could even outsource the small admin details of choosing imagery, drafting and publishing the post, doing SEO tasks so the post is more findable. We do that for many of our clients and everybody gets to do what they do best.
When you do all of these things, and move slowly and steadily towards a team who are writers (or at least content-creators at a core level), not only will you have high quality content which is unique to your firm: that content will be working for you to bring the right kind of clients at the right time.