The other week I was talking to one of my clients, an accountant in Canada. We were discussing my ‘Rambo’ marketing tip, and the fact that most accountants benefit greatly from online marketing because instead of being a place of nothingness (when you try nothing and get nothing), or a place of great danger (the Rambo method), online marketing is long term, slow and steady, but with better results over a longer period.
“It’s just nice to go from a difficult and exhausting place to a happy, safe place of marketing,” I said.
Jeff laughed. “That is what I want!” he said. “I want to be in the happy safe place of marketing!”
Naturally I thought it would be great to share this as a marketing tip, because who doesn’t want to be happy and safe?
So here are a few tips for you as you begin the online marketing process, so that you too can be in that happy, safe, and profitable place:
First, realise that traditional marketing is broken. It really is. By ‘traditional marketing’ I mean the old school system of creating hard-copy brochures, hiring telemarketers, holding prospect meetings in person, sending things through the post, and the like. This system does not work the way it used to, and very few of your prospects expect it to. This doesn’t mean that you fling out every element of traditional marketing – for example, some accounting firms still see success through telemarketing (although it definitely is less effective). And I would even argue that now is the time to send things out in the post. But before you do any of that, you have to start with accepting that the way things were is now dead and gone, and unless you step into the new world, you’ll be increasingly frustrated.
Begin listening to success stories. Really, really listen. They are out there. I am constantly recommending firms on Twitter and within the past two weeks, three firms got at least one if not more pieces of business solely from that source. One of the firms we work with regularly gets enquiries from UK missionaries because we have created landing pages and diagnostics and social media connections along these lines. Another firm held a webinar and got four new meetings as a result. Online marketing really, really does work – for accountants and accountancy firms – and if you are still in the “I’m not sure, I’m sceptical” camp, it’s going to soon be a very lonely place.
Hire a marketing manager (even part time), or outsource your online marketing efforts. If you are the managing partner, owner, director, or anyone in a place of great authority, do not do it yourself. This is not your job – it’s not where your best skills are – and it is ridiculous for you to be spending two hours to write and post and share one blog post, when someone else could be doing this for you four times a month for the price of those two hours’ chargeout rate. At the Profitable Firm, we are sometimes the whole outsourced marketing department for small firms, or we’re a portion of it for larger firms. Sometimes we build the website and they hire someone else to do the social media. Or we run the webinars and all the marketing associated with it, and they take care of sending emails. Quite frankly, we don’t care if you use us or someone else. As long as the job is getting done, and done well, and you are spending your time on what you’re best at, it’s a win all round.
Refurbish your website, or start over. It’s your hub. This is where all your online marketing efforts point to – so it has to be good. Your accountancy firm website should be all about the visitor. Our website process involves helping you identify your niche or industry areas of focus. I will go so far as to guarantee you that you have at least one niche if not three, and you may not even realise it. We were helping a client in London recently with their content marketing plan, and he told us that they had no niche areas, that they just did business with a variety of different clients. We said fine, no problems, let’s just ask a few questions and flesh it out a little. Within an hour we had three niche areas, and he was more excited than I’d seen him in months. “I had no idea we were specialists!” he said.
Build your database. Get all your names – clients, contacts, prospects, strategic partners, friends, family, suppliers – in one place. And add to it daily. No matter how beautiful your website is, and how organised your email marketing and social media efforts, and how consistent your blogging, none of it will do you any good if you don’t have an audience. (And it should be the right kind of audience – back to our niche marketing concept, you can read more about it here.) I’ve said it a hundred times – even if it’s as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, keep a list of all your contacts and include at a bare minimum first and last name, company name, type of business (industry or niche area), and email address. Everything else you can add later.
Write, or get someone to write for you. If you write well, get blogging. If you don’t, identify key issues and critical areas of focus and get raw material together – bullet points, top ideas, articles you like, other blog posts you enjoy, email updates you appreciated, etc. Then have a good writer put it together in a way that sounds like you. We do some ‘ghost writing’ for accountancy firms who don’t have the time to do it themselves. Most of them do a little writing, and we do a lot, and it all comes together in a consistent approach.
Systemise. Get a system that will do the tracking and the follow up and the ‘admin’ aspect of your marketing for you. Whether it’s a combination of online tools (such as your website coordinated with Mailchimp and SurveyMonkey and Paypal and Tungle and Basecamp and many other tools), or an all-in-one system like Infusionsoft that does everything for you, outsource that one as well. You can ‘outsource’ it to your marketing manager if you have one, or to us, or you can find someone else you work well with. Just get it done.
Let it happen in its own time. One of the biggest challenges with online marketing is that it does take time to build. Especially if you’re building organically (the best way), it’s a bit of a slow burn. But once you are burning, you will really go. Your other option is to be willing to spend lots of money so it will happen fast. You can invest in a powerful website and connected CRM system with automated follow up sequences and weekly or even daily blogging, pay-per-click advertising and an intense social media campaign. That will not be cheap in the slightest – but oh my goodness will you be blown away.
Most of all, work with someone you trust. Online marketing specialists are a dime a dozen – actually, a dime for a few hundred, I’d say. Every single day we are being followed on Twitter by “social media experts” and “content marketing specialists” and “leadership consultants” and more titles like this than I could possibly name. Many of them have very powerful claims about what they can do for you. Some of them are trustworthy. Sadly, many are not. The greatest part about online marketing though is that you can evaluate who to work with based on what they’re doing. I wouldn’t dream of telling you to get blogging if I wasn’t doing it successfully already. And hopefully when you visit our site you are quick to notice the free stuff to download, the marketing tips to sign up for, the webinar replay to watch, the online purchasing capability. We haven’t got it perfect yet – we’re constantly revising and adapting our own systems – but I can say with confidence that we do practice what we preach, and it is a beautiful ride.