Without a doubt, the single most powerful form of content that your accountancy firm can create is the production of regular, consistent blog posts on topics that are relevant and helpful for your target audience.
Unfortunately, there seems to be every excuse in the world for not spending time on this.
In particular, I daily hear from the marketing managers of accounting firms who are discouraged and frustrated at the lack of interest, input, and willingness to prioritise this level of content.
One manager told me:
“It’d be a never-ending maze of persuasion to get our advisers to think that it’s worth their non-chargeable time to post themselves. It’s considered the lowest priority on the list because it hasn’t proven to bring us the business that other arms of marketing have.
So it’s a bit of a cycle – we allocate less time, therefore we’re not able to prove that it could bring us that business.
It is frustrating when you think you’ve found the golden ticket, but you’re not allowed to buy the chocolate!”
Think about this for a moment.
Let it sink in.
Here is the marketing manager for an accountancy firm (name withheld to protect the innocent!). They are striving to do for your firm what is best. What will get you the best results. What will help you and bring in new business and make your firm stand out from the competition.
But no one is being persuaded.
It’s the lowest priority.
There is no time allocated to it.
They are not allowed to do what they know is going to help.
If you’re going to hire a marketing manager, why in the world would you bring them on board and then not let them do what they do best? Why not let them try – and yes, fail some of the time. They’re not going to get it right every time. But I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt that the firms who are generating helpful content of this kind are getting the results that you wish you were getting.
Here are the top 8 reasons accountants, partners, directors, and even marketing managers avoid writing great content – and how to defeat them:
1. TIME: There’s no time to write great content.
Yes, there is time.
Loads of it, actually.
Time isn’t really your excuse. We all make time for what’s important and for what we understand to matter. Anytime you’re avoiding content, it’s because of one of the other of these reasons – confusion, tech, complacency, lack of a plan.
One thing I’ve noticed accountants doing that does not work is “setting aside marketing time”. It sounds good – a full half day, or two hours, or even two days, to “work on marketing”.
But if you haven’t addressed all these other reasons, it doesn’t matter how much time you set aside: you’ll end up converting that to client time. Email time. Family time. Anything except for marketing, because you don’t know what to do with your time.
How to overcome the Time problem:
I’d suggest you join our Content Marketer Accelerator programme. You’ll literally spend one hour per week – maybe two at the most. And you’ll get more out of that hour than anything else you ever attempt to do on your own.
Get the whole team to sit in the boardroom and listen to the session. You’ll be amazed the conversations that it sparks, and the actions that result. Last week I ran a Xero Summer Camp webinar on “How to get the quickest ROI from your marketing”.
One of the attendees sent this email to Xero afterwards:
“Really inspired by this, and recorded my first video post, and also came up with content for the next 30 months. Could not believe how much I enjoyed it. Definitely gave me a kick up the backside regarding my website. I have been stuck on all these things for the last couple of years, and Karen has been the first person I could relate to regarding all of this online marketing etc. I think I have found my groove at long last!”
Caroline Andrews, Equilibre Partnership
That’s after a one hour free webinar. Imagine what you could do with a focused hour per week!
2. TECH: We don’t have the video equipment, microphones, webcams, or all the things needed to properly do marketing.
This is an excuse that’s particularly relevant for accountants. If you’re going to do something, you want to do it properly. All the way. The best equipment, the most professional videographer, the highest quality website.
Unfortunately, for many of you this translates to “If I can’t do it absolutely perfectly with the best of everything, I won’t do it at all.”
We all know where that leads: inaction.
Let me assure you that you don’t need the best of equipment in order to get content marketing going. You have, in your pocket or near to your hand, a piece of equipment that enables you to record and edit video, take photographs, share content on social, and so much more than that. Okay, maybe you don’t have an iphone mic or an extra lens to strap on, or even a selfie stick.
Do what you can with what you have.
Remember that the message is the key. I’ve seen a Facebook Live video that was recorded in a kitchen on a Saturday morning get hundreds and then thousands of views because the content of the video was spot on for the audience.
Remember that the whole world is not watching you yet. Your phone video is (most likely) not going to go viral. So you’re in a safe place. You can record hundreds of not-so-perfect videos, get practice, and influence one or two people along the way. That’s far better than influencing no one at all.
How to overcome the Tech problem:
Use what you have. Start doing Facebook live, or recording short videos when you think of something that your clients or prospects are dealing with, or to tell a story.
Hint: Sometimes the personal posts get the best engagement. I share videos now and then on Instagram. I recently went to Alnwick Castle, where some of the Harry Potter films were shot, and took a nine year old with me. The less-than-ten-second-video of her imitating Ron Weasley saying “LeviOsa, not Leviosahhhh” got more views than any work one I’ve ever shared.
3. FEAR: I don’t want to open myself up to criticism or mistakes.
This is a very real feeling, and it’s particularly relevant to accountants.
You’re used to getting things right. Completing the tasks on deadline, and with perfect accuracy. Otherwise there are penalties, either from the government or within the business.
When it comes to marketing, people don’t mind if you make mistakes.
They really don’t.
I’ve had emails from huge, very well known companies, in which they’ve sent me the wrong content. Left out the link. Included the wrong button. Gave the wrong price.
I’ve seen social media posts with misspellings that have completely changed the meaning of the post. Embarrassing ones, even.
And what do these companies or people do?
They re-issue the email. Post again on social. Explain it was a mistake, give the correct answer or link or button or spelling, and move on with life and business.
Humanity is what your audience is looking for: not perfection. This is one of the beautiful things about marketing. You get to make mistakes, and the world doesn’t fall apart.
I know this feels impossible, and that you’re fighting against every instinct you have. But trust me: the errors that occur now and then work for your advantage because your audience knows that you’re real. Honest. Human.
How to overcome the Fear problem:
The single best way to overcome Fear is to start. Taking presentation training courses is all very well: but standing in front of an audience and speaking will take you much further. The same applies for social media, writing content, recording a video, whatever.
4. COMPLACENCY: It’s new and different, and I’d rather just keep doing what we’ve always done, which is more familiar even if it doesn’t work.
I’m not sure there’s much more I need to say on this one, except that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get…less.
You won’t get the same as you’ve gotten before, because everyone else is moving forward. Fast. They’re hiring marketing team members and building incredible websites and re-branding their firms and bringing in videographers and teaching their team members to write blog posts and you’re…still trying those adverts in a local magazine? Or sending out those generic tax newsletters that every other accountant sends out?
Nope. Complacency gets you less. It’s dangerous.
How to overcome the Complacency problem:
Look around at what the best of breed accountants are doing (or, of course, simply the best of breed business owners!). They’re sending out their management accounts via video, not PDF reports. They’re running live events. Creating branded swag, like stickers and notebooks and mugs and hats and fidget spinners. You’ll quickly realise what happens if you stay a dinosaur.
5. CONFUSION: I don’t know where to start. What do I write about? How do I start? Where do I post it? Do I share it on social?
This is a very real problem, and I sympathise entirely. We talk to accountants every day who genuinely want to get going, but are so confused with the volume of information (some of it conflicting information) that it overwhelms.
The key is to ensure you work with someone you can trust. This is one of the reasons we generate so much free content at PF. Every single webinar we run is always recorded, in full, and shared on our Vimeo channel. We add to our free stuff and resources regularly. We give away templates and checklists and how to’s and free social media videos and as much as we can think of, so that if you decide to work with us it’s because you have listened and learned and seen that we know what we’re talking about. (Incidentally this has the double benefit of showing you by example how this content marketing thing works.)
How to overcome the Confusion problem:
Get training – either free or paid – so that you understand what content marketing is, why it works, and how powerful it is when the whole firm embraces it.
6. PLAN: We don’t have a structured plan of content, so I don’t know where to begin or how to continue.
Again, legit concern. The concept of a “marketing plan” is one that fills many accountants with dread, and justifiably so. Doing yet another SWOT analysis or a review of the competition feels sort of useless.
In many cases, that’s true. We recommend a content plan instead. This is a 12 month plan of the content you’re going to generate for your firm – blog posts, PDF guides, videos, website pages, webinars and events, emails, newsletters, social media posts, etc. This is far more practical, and it solves the problems of Complacency and Confusion, as well.
How to overcome the Plan problem:
Join our free webinar on “How to build a marketing plan that’s not useless”.
7. TOOLS: What software do we use, if any? We don’t understand social media, Google Analytics, our website, or the marketing tools we hear about.
It’s absolutely right to think about what tools you can make to ensure your marketing is better…but I’d submit that this is very likely the least of your worries right now.
If you address the problems of Plan, Complacency, Confusion, and Fear, you will suddenly find that the Tools issue rather sorts itself out.
You’ll get excited. You’ll start looking at things like Google Analytics with new eyes, and wanting to understand it better. You’ll review the Facebook Ads Manager and see which ones are working and which aren’t. All of these things will come together the more involved you are with your marketing.
How to overcome the Tools problem:
Use the basic ones already available to you – Google Analytics is your best starting point. If you need help, arrange a call with our Social Media Director, Ashley.
(If you’re already a PF client, we’ll sort this out for you as part of your monthly package. Talk to us about that.)
8. LAUNCH: Even if we have all of the above taken care of, how do we actually kick off? When? In what way? Do we announce it?
Unless you’re delivering a live event, or your marketing has a specific deadline (such as the launch of a website or re-brand), it’s very unlikely that you’ll need to worry too much about a “launch”.
This is another one of the beautiful aspects of marketing these days: “soft launches” are more popular than hard launches. You don’t need to send out postcards announcing that a new website is coming – you can post a tweet saying “Our new website is live!” and that can be enough. We’ve had firms who for various reasons decided not even to announce it at all for a few weeks or months.
Once you’ve put together even a very basic plan, the best thing you can do is start churning out content – to your small existing audience – and let it build organically.
How to overcome the Launch problem:
Launch. You’ll figure out the rest as you go.
If you’re a marketing manager of an accountancy firm, helping everyone within the firm to deal with these 8 issues is the first place to start. Particularly address the Complacency and Confusion issues – and if you need help, we’re here for you!
If you’re a partner or director, recognise that these are very real issues that, if left unchecked, will at a minimum cause your marketing person to leave the firm. And at a maximum, will lose you business at a constant rate until you don’t have much of a firm left.
And if you’re a staff accountant, be aware that the best firms want accountants who understand all of the above about content marketing, and are excited to implement them. This is one of the best skills you can have, to help your accounting career.