One of the issues many firms are facing – particularly some of you smaller accountancy firms – is that you’ve avoided marketing for so long that the cost of getting up to speed is daunting for you.
Because of this, you can’t simply leap into the new marketing game: you may need to spend some serious money on foundational areas in order to get yourself (and your firm) on to the new marketing playing field.
Your previous plan of “getting business by word of mouth and referral” is no longer sufficient and will not deliver the results you need.
But where do you start? And what is most effective? How can you see results? What is that accountant doing and why is it working for them? Is it a good idea to run an event? Where does social media fit in?
These questions and many more I am asked on a daily basis by accountants, and there are two answers.
- Content + social is the most effective marketing strategy for accountants
- You may have to spend a serious amount of money in order to simply catch up to what other accountants are doing
The temptation is to see this as ‘wasted money’: but that’s using old school marketing thinking, which says that you spend £x on this specific thing, and you get £xx back from that specific thing, easily trackable, done.
That’s not how marketing works anymore (read about the two-bucket rule of ROI). There’s a bigger game afoot: but you have to get on the field.
Here are a few areas you may need to invest in before you even get to the “good part” of lead generation, inbound marketing, a drip feed of prospects, etc.
If there was anything that I could encourage accountants to spend more time and money on when it comes to marketing, this would be it.
Getting a completely clear approach on your foundational brand – who you are, what you stand for, who your target market is, what they care about, and how you help them – will direct every single marketing step you take from this point onward. (Remember that a branding identity goes far beyond just getting a new logo – it might not even change your logo at all.)
It is, however, an extremely costly exercise which can feel to an accountant as if it has no return. For a good branding identity exercise, you’re looking at anywhere from £4k – £8k to start. “And I haven’t even gotten any new clients yet!” you’re tempted to say. “Think of all the new business I could get if I spent that elsewhere!”
But where, elsewhere? If you put your money into social media, you’ll want to have a clear approach with consistent design and a focused target audience.
If you put your money into a new website, your outdated logo or old-school thinking might get in the way of the site you dream of.
If you put it into telemarketing, you might just get more of the type of clients you don’t want.
Developing a branding identity does absolutely deliver a return: but that return comes bound up with all the other marketing activities and efforts until it’s hard to tell where it starts and ends.
Interestingly, the firms we’ve worked with who do have a branding identity (either through us, or through another agency) are the ones whose marketing is so good that everyone keeps asking me how they can be like them. When I share what the firm did when it comes to branding, and how much they invested in their marketing, I sometimes get a bit of a blank stare.
If you really want marketing that impresses, and you’re in it for the long haul, read more about what’s involved in a branding identity.
Even if you are clear on your target audience and your own purpose, and your logo and branding is good, your website may not reflect where you are as a firm.
Because your website is your marketing hub, it’s important that you keep it updated. If it’s more than three years old, it’s time for a change.
Sometimes you don’t need a full and complete website redesign. It is possible to make a few changes and feel as though you have a complete new website. Consider one of these options:
- Change the WordPress template you’re using. We have a website transfer option which takes all your existing content and moves it from your existing WordPress template to a new, fresher one. This works best if your existing site has good, custom content. If it’s a bog standard
- Move from the bog standard accounting site template to WordPress or another website platform. Some firms are still using those accounting website templates – you know the ones, that have the calculators and “Grow your business” guides and tax rate tables. Most business owners expect a bit more from an accountancy firm website these days.
- Use Rocketspark. If your budget is low, this is the best solution I can think of to freshen up your website without spending the earth. You don’t have to be a website designer, and it would be very difficult to make a Rocketspark site look ugly. (You might manage it if you changed fonts every sentence and used awful stock photographs, but hopefully you would know better.) There’s also Square Space and others like it. Again, we can transfer your site to a Rocketspark platform as part of our website transfer service.
- Re-strategise your home page and menu items. Some of our clients aren’t ready to make a big switch – or they don’t have time, because we’re focusing marketing efforts on a big event, or a Xero campaign, or something similar. You can get some help to re-visit your home page and change the messages just enough so that your website visitors get a better impression – even if the design doesn’t change that much.
3.Website design & build
If none of the above options are enough, then it’s time for a full redesign. Again you have a few options:
- Get a full customer journey site. This means you review your target market and audience, your own brand and personality, your lead to sale process (as it is now, and how you want it to be), and you integrate all of this with a powerful CRM system. “All singing, all dancing” is what people used to term this type of site…but it’s better than that. Read more
- Get a fresh look and a new site. Be careful with this one: you don’t simply want to take your existing site, with its standard wording and “30 minute no obligation meeting” and simply cover it over with a look of fresh paint. If you’re going to rebuild your site, you want to re-strategise the entire thing. Think differently. Look away from other accountants’ sites and start looking at sites that are just plain good. Do be careful about choosing a client to build your site merely because they are your client. Make them pitch for the work, too: and if you have doubts, don’t do it. You’ll regret it later when it affects your relationship with the client. (And if they are the kind of client who gets offended that you choose someone else, that’s not the sort of client you need in your life.)
- Build it yourself in Rocketspark or similar. This one is also difficult because accountants do not tend to be website designers and marketers: so all the characteristics which make you excellent at accountancy and tax can hold you back as you build your own site. If you’re up for the challenge, join our Content Marketer programme so that you learn the root principles of content marketing and how this will affect your website.
4.Content marketing plan
Developing a content plan is not your standard ‘marketing strategy’ or ‘marketing plan’ process. It focuses your efforts on your own custom content (what you’re going to say) and your own audience (who you’re going to say it to).
Content works best on a drip feed; so having a 12 month content plan to identify what you’re going to share every month will give you the best results over time. The content plan is always our starting place when we’re working with firms, because it answers all the questions you will get asked in every other area of marketing. What do I share on social media? Is getting a video done a good idea? What about an ebook? Webinars? Events? When you’ve invested the time into a content marketing plan, you have all these answers at your fingertips anytime you need them.
In simple terms, here’s what’s in a content plan:
- Priorities: What niche or focus areas will you choose? (This helps direct the content you will develop)
- Issues: What issues does this niche or target audience face? What bothers them, or creates an opportunity for you to help them?
- Content: What will you develop so you have something to say and to share to that audience, with those issues? Website pages, blog posts, guides, infographics, podcasts, interactive website tools….
- Design: How can you bring those content items to life? Your ‘Property Owner’s Guide’ is going to be much more appealing when it has a well-designed front cover and the brand and style is consistent with the rest of your marketing.
- 6-12 months: We recommend a 12 month marketing plan, but even planning 6 months of content will save you marketing headaches, because you won’t have to think, “What will I write about this month?” It’s already there, waiting for you.
If you’re going to be serious about marketing, then a “proper” CRM system such as Infusionsoft or Hubspot will be a powerful investment you’ll be glad you spent time and money on.
We use Infusionsoft at The Profitable Firm, and although I am thankful that we set it up from the beginning, if I had it to do again I would invest some serious money in setting it up properly. It’s rather like one of your clients saying, “I want to use Xero and Receipt Bank, but instead of having you set it all up for me, I’ll do it myself and we can fix it later.” You all know the end of that story.
Finding an Infusionsoft expert who understands what you need and can deliver it (without requiring you to give them your firstborn child) can be a challenge: but we have a few recommends if you need one. Just ask.
If you’re not ready for that level of investment yet, you can achieve quite a lot with Mailchimp – create one single place for all your contacts, segment them by type, set up autoresponders, integrate it with your website. Once you’ve used that for a few months or a year or so, and you’re ready to step up your investment, you can move on to something else.
The highest performing accountancy firms I know have addressed all five of these areas – perhaps not all at once, but steadily worked their way through them, and are now in a place where their marketing looks as though it is the easiest thing in the world. It’s good quality, it’s consistent, it all ties together – and best of all, it delivers a drip feed of new leads every day. Or, for some, every hour. That’s a good marketing game.
But you’ve got to get on the playing field first.