You want leads and you want them quick. That’s fair enough when you consider the pressure that most firms are under. Any of these sound familiar?
- You’ve lost a big client and it’s worried you
- You see all these other firms on LinkedIn getting loads of clients and you want that too
- You’re budget conscious and want to see ROI on your marketing spend
- You’ve recently started a new firm and need stability
- You want to protect yourself against impending economic uncertainty
These are all perfectly valid reasons for wanting lots of leads and ideally you’d like them for a minimum amount of time investment on your part right? Accountants are busy people and marketing doesn’t always fall top of your long list.
However, reality doesn’t always conform to our desires and despite what that guy in his expensive garden on the Facebook ad might tell you about a ‘secret formula’ you can only get if you ‘sign up to his marketing course’…. there’s no magic bullet.
Think of it like The First Law of Thermodynamics (bear with me). It states energy is always conserved and can’t be destroyed. Marketing is similar: you get out exactly what you put in.
Whether it’s next week or years from now, either a tweet that blows up or a well positioned brand that delivers its value over years. It’s all just time, money or both paying dividends down the line. (To be fair a dividend would have been a better analogy but I’m a physics nerd so, deal with it).
I mean think about it, if it was really that easy everyone would be inundated with clients and no business would EVER fail. We’d be living in utopia.
It’s normal to feel like this. Social media has played a massive part in setting unrealistic expectations. It’s important to remember, people rarely share their failures.
No selfies when they’re tired and greasy, no motivational posts when they feel down and no braggy posts about all the clients they’ve won when they’re worried about their business and it’s future.
As someone who works with accounting firms from all sorts of different backgrounds I’m here to help lend perspective to this popular question and give you some practical tips for things you can try that DO work. Even if not overnight.
So here’s some examples of successes and the journey each accountant took to get there:
Comerford Foley and their winning blog formula
Colin and Ger of Comerford Foley, a friendly and open minded firm based in Waterford, Ireland have been with PF for over four years. They’re a shining example of how “They Ask You Answer” principles, if properly applied, can have people coming to you rather than the other way around.
Currently enjoying thousands of monthly views to their site and a steady stream of leads, Comerford Foley don’t leave any stone unturned. Employing someone to do regular social media posts, running events both online and offline and continually producing content, they’re in many ways star pupils. It’s blogging however, that’s seen the best results for them. With 70-80% of their traffic being attributed to organic search on a monthly basis.
“I think to begin with, you’re asking yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ It does take a long time and you don’t always get the results you want, but I’m really happy with where we’ve got to now. Seeing those numbers makes it worthwhile. We’d have never got this far without the support of the team though.”
The last one is an important point. A mistake I see all the time amongst firm founders is leaving the content creation all to themselves, worried they won’t be able to get staff to buy-in.
We asked, “If you were told today a large part of your role would be marketing, how would you feel?” Some of the words the team shared were scared, nervous, worried, frustrated, terrified, confused.
We then asked for a list of questions clients had asked them within the past week, and wrote those all down. We then said, “Guess what: you’ve just contributed to marketing. This is what marketing is. It’s where it comes from. This is what we use to decide what blog post to write or what social post or video to create. Would it be useful to your job to have those ready to hand, instead of having to repeat the same advice over and over?”
The team were visibly enthusiastic and the light had gone on. Blogs (and other content) came not only from this workshop but others like it which the firm did on its own.
But how many blogs do you really need to produce to get these kinds of results?
“We produce 4 or 5 blogs a month on average, sometimes it’s more sometimes it’s a little less. It’s definitely tough, but now we’ve got to the point now it’s a habit. So if we haven’t posted a blog that week we feel guilty.”
What Colin is saying is clear. Good habits are hard earned and not just the result of a few weeks of enthusiasm. For CF that meant having a new brand and website built back in July 2016 and continuing to blog regularly ever since.
In mid-2019 we made a renewed commitment to increase the consistency of their output after a few fallow months and the following graph shows the impact that had on their website visitors over an 18-month period:
This graph charts an 18-month period. That’s 18 months of regular commitment to something, by no means a quick win.
But in this instance the firm persisted and are now seeing lucrative results with leads coming in on a weekly basis from their blogging. Also, unlike other marketing channels those blogs will continue to bring traffic to the site for years to come.
Robson Laidler and their journey to social media success
Robson Laidler (RL) are a firm of business advisers based in the North-east with over 100 years of history, but this rich past hasn’t stopped them from embracing newer media and making their social channels a success.
When they recently announced the appointment of a new director, nearly 1000 unique visitors flocked to the site from social media to read the news and take a look around. This culminated in more people sharing and more growth.
However, it hasn’t always been this easy to get people’s attention…
Gemma Graham, Robson Laidler’s Head of Marketing said:
“For a long time we’d share things that were really important to us and it wasn’t getting the traction that we wanted. It was frustrating but ultimately lead us to take a look at the way we did things, which was for the better.”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming your social followers care about certain subjects as much as you do.
Think of it like that cousin you never talk to. Suddenly they have a new baby and expect the entire extended family to be excited but you barely know them. Your socials followers are the same. You need to stay consistent and share news that’s interesting and relevant to them in order to stay in their minds. That way when you share something REALLY important, they care.
Robson Laidler didn’t just start sharing stuff on social, either. They had the marketing foundation of first building a solid firm known in their area for many years, and then several years ago they completely revisited their brand.
They had the solid experience and expertise, but their brand wasn’t showing that value and looked a bit dated. Once the brand was complete, they knew they needed to share everything they’d learned via their website (one of the visual representations of the brand) as well as on their social platforms.
They worked with PF to build a custom website based on their client journey – including deep conversations about their target audience, the issues they face, and the way Robson Laidler was placed to help them solve those, and integrated brand and website and social and all their marketing for a fuller picture. This picture would then be easier for a prospect to understand and build trust with more quickly.
“There’s posting on social media to tick a box and there’s posting on social media as an extension of your brand. I think it took me a while to realise that sharing our personality on socials was a good thing and that we needed to share it all to be authentic.”
RL had always been pretty active on social but 2019 saw them committing to upping their game further, digging into their content and really focusing on a best-in-class approach to social.
The below graph shows website referrals over an 18-month period. Culminating in their two large spikes in activity, the first being March, where they stepped up and helped clients with guidance around COVID-19 and July being the announcement of their new director.
Both of these subjects were extremely important to the firm and ultimately saw a record amount of uptake. However it was Gemma’s commitment to consistent, varied content over the preceding year that held their audience’s attention and ultimately is delivering the results.
Complete HQ and how investing time in valuable PDF guides helped to convert leads
Andy runs Complete HQ an unapologetically in your face firm based out west near Plymouth. Since its inception, Andy has proceeded to grow the business exponentially, including taking on three new team members in their first year alone.
Starting from scratch is never easy though and Andy appreciated they needed to invest in their brand early. He initially set about joining PF for a brand workshop to ensure their marketing properly represented what you got in real life: a forward thinking collection of approachable people who talked in a language their clients understood. This blog isn’t focusing on brands but if you’d like to learn more about just how important it is check out these blogs.
Once Complete had those foundations, with PF to guide him via our monthly co-pilot and tracking calls, Andy set about creating assets.
Assets in marketing are exactly the same as they are in accounting. THINGS that hold value. They can be tangible like physical flyers, intangible like your brand or digital like an eBook but without fail the job of an asset is to add value to your business and your clients lives.
Andy appreciated holding back his knowledge was counterproductive and instead learned sharing your value builds trust and when buying things there’s nothing more important.
“I’ve definitely converted more people by sharing these guides with them after our call. They’re like f**k me why has nobody told me this before?!”
The thing about creating assets however is they take time. Often lots of time if you’re aiming to produce something of worth. Andy took this idea seriously and began by producing a guide outlining 25 ways to extract cash from your limited company.
The guide is 7 pages long, custom branded with a nice design and packed full of tips a business owner can use there and then to make positive changes.
Complete didn’t stop there either. They continued to produce valuable, longform content they believed their clients would love. Fast forward to now and they’ve added a resources page to their website with a selection of guides that’s always growing.
“I’m aiming to do one of these guides every few months because the feedback we’ve had is great. Yeah they take some time but I think of it from a long term perspective. Once they’re done, they’re there forever.”
So what was the result of all of this work?
After diligently sharing these assets on their site and with every prospect that will have them (as well as doing social, blogging regularly and much more), Complete are one of the fastest growing firms in the UK and Andy has won awards for his work. The guides have helped get countless clients across the line, as a way of showcasing early on, all the value Complete can add to their business.
So what do we learn from these stories?
Good results take time and effort. When you see someone sharing success all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg.
When all you see is results, behind the scenes people have, without fail, been working hard as well as investing time and money into getting those results. There is no magic bullet, there is no secret trick you’re missing, in fact you’re doing swell just being here and reading this (especially getting this far this blog was epic).
So ignore what “Show-off A” is saying on LinkedIn: every journey is different. Your journey will be different. The only thing the same for all of us is that First Law of Thermodynamics.
You get out what you put in.
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