Creating and sharing blog posts helps build trust with our audience. But finding time to write is hard when you have a busy schedule. Even once you’ve freed up that time, knowing what to write about can be just as challenging.
We’ve been asked about the value of custom written blog posts many times, and it’s a broad question. Sometimes the questions we ask don’t reflect what we really want to know, and so I’ve broken down the answer into three key micro questions based on the conversations we have with accountants regularly.
- What is the value of custom content Vs stock-bought or generic content?
- What is the value of having an expert write my blogs, as opposed to writing them myself?
- Why does custom content cost a lot of money, and can I get it cheaper?
There is a theme running through the answers to all these micro questions, and it has nothing to do with the value of the blog itself, and everything to do with the value of your time.
I want you to think about what your time costs, and bear it in mind as we take this little journey of exploration into the value of blogging.
1. Stock content turns people off, and we don’t want that
When I’m working on a website project for an accounting firm, and it comes to the part of the project when we have the conversation about page design and imagery, we often hear this request: ‘please don’t use those awful stock images’.
Reader – if you know, you know. There are some hilariously bad stock photos out there still circulating the internet long after having their moment in the 90s, a time when websites were considered a novelty rather than a necessity.
Please be assured we agree with you here. We neither use nor recommend using those awful stock images on your website. Yuck. Most of us are savvy to the use of bad stock images. We know when we’re seeing something inauthentic, unrelatable and disjointed from a website and its message.
Your audience gets the same feeling from a “stock blog”. A stock blog, much like a stock image, is a piece of generic content that has been created for everyone and no-one. It isn’t targeted to a specific audience. As we know, 70% of the buying decision is made online before your buyer gets in touch. The whole point of writing a blog is to answer the questions YOUR audience has in order to help them along the buyer journey. You want to be the expert leading that decision-making time.
When you purchase a stock written blog:
- You’re choosing a topic decided upon by someone outside your firm, with no knowledge of your audience.
This renders the question and its answer entirely generic and unspecific to the people you’re hoping to build a trusted relationship with. It could cause you to lose credibility rather than gain it. You may be thinking ‘But the topic is useful! and applicable to my audience!’ but if it sounds like any accountant could have written it, then it doesn’t make you stand out as the person with which they should personally connect.
- You’re likely to be one of 50 (if not 100 or 1000) accountants sending out exactly the same message.
Which both diminishes trust in the eyes of your audience, and isn’t good for SEO, because of all the duplicated content! Whilst you won’t be directly penalised by Google for sharing the same content as multiple other websites, it will make it harder for Google to decide which site to rank – meaning you will suffer low rankings and, consequently, reduced traffic to your site.
Original customised content, however, starts a real conversation between you and your potential buyer. It’s your opportunity to make an impression – and a unique one at that.
2. Having an expert write your blogs is like doing the bookkeeping for your clients
The question ‘what is the point in having an expert do something I can do myself’ is one you as an accountant get asked, too.
Think for a moment about the benefit of taking the bookkeeping off your client’s hands. These benefits will be similar to those you’re thinking of.
It frees up precious time!
Just as you doing the bookkeeping for your clients allows them more time to focus on their relationships, having custom content produced for you means you can focus on your relationships. Content is being generated whilst you’re doing the tasks most profitable for your firm.
Marketing isn’t a one wo(man) job
Even if you have your own marketing person in-house to do this stuff, they’re going to need support. Covering all the different elements of marketing an accounting firm is a big task and there aren’t enough hours in the week to do it solo. Writing blogs and all the admin that goes with it (sourcing images, optimising for SEO, uploading to the site) takes weight off their shoulders.
You get both writing expertise and content strategy
A great content writer thinks about more than just pretty words – they’ll have a strategy for readability. When we’re writing content for our clients, we’re thinking about how best to tell a story, as we know humans make sense of the world through storytelling. But we’re also thinking about the internal and external links we’re including in the blog, how the title will affect views, which call to action will have the most impact.
You have reliability and accountability
If you genuinely love to write, we commend you! But how much is your time worth? When writing blogs is low on the priority list compared to everything else you have on your plate, you may have the best intentions but may not be the most reliable. Even the best intentions go out the window when you have clients to see, and staff to support. Having custom content written for you keeps you accountable to your marketing goals. It means never having to wait for a blog to be published. Which means your clients get their answers from you, instead of using 70% of their buying time making a decision about another firm.
“Custom” means it includes an understanding of your audience and your brand –
In order to write content addressing the challenges, wants, needs and questions of your unique audience, a deep dive into your audience is required – who they are, what their challenges are, how they like to consume content. To write on your behalf also requires an understanding of your brand and the style and tone of voice that characterises it. We don’t write any content for our clients (blog or otherwise) without having these two foundational elements nailed.
3. Weigh up the cost of your time Vs getting content written for you
So how much does it cost to have one custom blog written for your firm?
At first glance, it might appear to be a lot. For example, when we write a custom blog for a new client, we tend to charge at least 4 marketing credits for a standard blog post. PF’s system of ‘marketing credits’ means you have a bank of them per month (minimum 10) and you can use them for blog writing, website page designs, social media posts or imagery, or a whole host of other things. Marketing credits are worth £95 each, so for those on a monthly retainer with us, their custom blog post costs £380.
£380 may seem like a lot at first glance. But it’s not the cost of “writing one blog post”. As you’ll explain to your clients for the accounting and bookkeeping work you do, to understand the cost you need to understand what you’re paying for:
- The years of writing practice
- The years of experience learning what works for accountants
- The understanding and tailoring to your niche market
- The content strategy and SEO knowledge beyond the idea generation and good writing
- The proof, review and edit process that may include back-up of a team
We don’t usually write custom blog posts as a one-off project. We could – and you could ask for a quote on this – but in addition to the 4 credits for the blog post, you’d need additional credits for research, review of your brand and style, and perhaps a session with you or one of your team to gather the core information. That’s all part and parcel of the work we do for our monthly clients, so it’s included in the cost.
Either way though, it’s a lot more than you’d pay if you got a freelancer to throw it together. And you might even think you could do it yourself cheaper. But it’s important to consider:
How much time it would take you, and the cost of your time – Because we’re doing this all the time, we can roughly estimate how long a blog will take us to write if we have our brief, research and all the pieces in place. We factor in enough time for creative thinking, drafting, structuring and editing. Consider how long it might take you to get a blog drafted, written and published. If we start at 4 hours, what might four hours of your time cost? And will you get it done in four hours? How long will it take to write the draft, then review, edit, add to your website, pick an image, check the SEO stats, publish, and review again?
The cost of your time if you don’t get the piece written – This is an often forgotten cost. Remember if you don’t write this blog to answer the question your audience is asking, you must factor in the time you spend answering the same question every time it is asked. Every time you write the same email response. Every time you have the same phone conversation. Every time you help a team member answer it. One of our clients recently mentioned how just one blog saved him 5-15 minutes a week, several times a week. Think about all those 15 minutes(es).
Can it be done cheaper?
The short answer is: not if you want it done well. As I’m sure you know when you’re talking to your clients about how much a bad experience has cost them – the old adage rings true – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If you’re exploring the option of using a freelancing site like Upwork or Fiverr for budget content, please read this blog first. Remember that ‘custom’ content requires a deep understanding of your audience and your brand, and a 24-hour £25 promise won’t deliver that.
Getting custom content doesn’t mean you stop practicing blog writing completely
By now, you have a better understanding of what custom content is. You might be thinking about reaching out now that you understand its value. I want to wrap this up by encouraging you to continue to write, even if you have PF or someone else create your blogs for you.
In fact, if you’re completely new to blogging, I’d actually recommend purchasing the book ‘They Ask, You Answer’, reading it, and writing some blogs yourself first. There are several reasons why learning to DIY before you outsource is beneficial:
- You’ll be able to practice your style and tone of voice first, so you know how to brief your content writer on it.
- You’ll start noticing the questions your clients and prospects are asking, and how often you’re answering them
- You’ll have a greater appreciation for the process and the cost (useful for outsourcing and delegating in-house).
- You’ll feel more confident collaborating on idea generation and key points in the future
- You’ll be able to give more informed feedback with a critical eye
If you want to practice your blog writing and be held accountable to getting blogs written and published, join the next intake of accelerator members. Our members weekly homework challenge is to get a blog written. The course will help you get marketing done in a structured way, with feedback, advice (and plenty of encouragement) from the PF team as you go along.
If you’re ending this blog post feeling understood, equipped with a clear answer to your question, and more confident to make a decision about your own blogging strategy, then you’ve experienced first-hand the value of a custom written blog post. Magic!