Content: Why It Almost Doesn’t Matter What You Say

I take a great risk writing this marketing tip – after all, almost my entire marketing philosophy is based on the concept that content is absolutely critical to the marketing success of your accountancy firm.

I still stand by that. Content is absolutely critical – and you will fail if you do not produce fresh, relevant, helpful content for the market you’ve chosen to focus on.

But once you know your market, the words don’t matter quite as much.

Marketing Tips: Illustrative Graphic

There’s a real tendency by business owners (not just accountants!) to imagine that when it comes to content, there’s some sort of magic formula that will turn your average-looking or average-sounding marketing campaign into something that will WOW PROSPECTS and MAKE PEOPLE BUY.

The magic formula of good content

There is no magic formula, unless it is this:

  1. Know your market.
  2. Use their language.
  3. Sound like a person, not a company.
  4. Sound like yourself.

That’s all. I was going to say something like ‘be funny’ – but that only works if that’s who you are. If you are a traditional, 150-person accountancy firm who has been around for 100 years and your brand image is that you are solid, reliable experts with some gravitas, then being funny is not going to work for you.

I thought of this tip because of the Minions. Everybody seems to love the Minions even though they don’t actually use any words. It’s gobbledygook. They babble and use their own language (if you can call it that), but somehow they are hilarious and they get their point across, with expressions and body language and style.

You could try to craft your marketing around someone like the Minions – or emulate another accountancy firm who you admire. (Read my tip on why you should not be looking at other accountancy firms) But it’s going to fail no matter what words you use if it doesn’t sound like you.

So let’s explore each of the 4 areas of this ‘magic formula’, if we can call it that:

Know your market.

I’ve beaten this drum for so long, but it’s more true than it ever has been. Accountants are waking up to the fact that if you’re going to do any marketing at all, it must be focused. Targeted.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be an industry. For some this works brilliantly – property owners, creative agencies, solicitors. But this only works if you have significant expertise in this area, or you are willing to focus all your efforts (marketing and otherwise) on this one particular area, for at least 12 months. If you’re not willing to do that, pick something else.

The reason that targeted marketing works so well is because when they land on your website, or download your materials, or talk to you in person, they are relieved to discover that:

  • You understand their issues before they even tell you
  • You’ve addressed these issues successfully in the past
  • You speak their language (see the next point)
  • Your style of doing business matches theirs
  • They don’t have to explain themselves over and over

This is what your prospects are looking for. You are saving them countless hours of frustration because they don’t have to explain what they deal with every day. It shortens the sales cycle, increases their trust in you, and encourages them to buy more.

Use their language.

This follows on directly from the previous point. If you know your market, and the issues and problems they have, then you’ll be far more likely to talk in a way that they understand.

This includes things like:

  • Terminology
    • Words
    • Acronymns
    • Industry-specific references
    • Ideas & concepts
    • Style of doing business
      • Instant decisions
      • Decision by committee
      • Focused or haphazard
      • Casual or formal
    • Marketing preferences
      • Email
      • Direct mail
      • Social media
      • Skype
      • Fax machine
      • Phone call
      • In person meetings
    • Technology they prefer
      • Software
      • Cloud technology
      • PC or Mac
      • Tried and tested or latest new thing
    • Imagery
      • Fun
      • Cartoon
      • Stock photography
      • Custom graphics
      • Professional photography

    You’ll also want to ensure that you actually use words that they themselves would use. One of the ways to do this is by asking your clients and prospects questions that will allow them to express themselves – and then use those exact words and phrases when crafting your own marketing.

    If your marketing matches their language, they’ll be much more likely to trust you and work with you more quickly.

    Sound like a person, not a company.

    These days, the wording that is used by even the biggest businesses is very personable. Friendly. Like you’re speaking to (or listening to) one single person, not a big corporate who use professional-speak.

    For example, I bought a noodle pot once, and when I checked the instructions it actually included directions for heating it over a campfire. It’s far more likely that those buying this noodle pot intend to zap it in the microwave on their lunch break. But the campfire instructions were just a few extra words on the back of the pot that made me laugh, and I felt like I was connecting with a person, not a big company.

    You’re seeing this technique a lot more lately, especially by the larger companies. Social media has changed the expectations of prospective clients so that they demand to be dealt with as a person, by a person – not as a number, by a company. Your marketing needs to reflect this.

    The single best tip I can give you on this is that you say aloud what you’d really like to say, and then write that down exactly. I’ve done that countless times when I feel like I’m staring at a blank screen. I think, ‘Well, what would I say if I didn’t care how they would take it, or whether it sounded perfect?’ I write that down, and then simply tidy it up a bit. Often I’m surprised at how little tidying it needs.

    Sound like yourself.

    The worst mistake you can make in your own content is to try to sound like someone else for whom you felt it ‘worked’. Borrowing others’ marketing ideas is a great starting point, and I have no hesitation in encouraging you not to recreate the wheel. But borrowing an idea and then re-crafting it as your own is quite different from stealing their idea or wording entirely.

    The best way to sound like yourself is:

    • Use words that you often say in conversation
    • Don’t use generic content. By all means take that generic content and re-write it, but if it’s written for everybody it will sound like nobody.
    • Be comfortable with the wording that is used. If someone else does the writing for you, and you think it sounds contrived, it probably is.
    • Don’t be too formal. Unless you are an extremely stiff or formal person, use conversation-language. Not ‘professional-speak’.

    Follow that magic formula, and your content will win every time.