As a former accountant I recognized that there is a knowledge gap in the marketplace. After getting a Master’s degree in accounting from one of the highest rated programs in the country, I realized I knew plenty about accounting but close to nothing in terms of marketing.
That is obviously a problem for anyone trying to start their own business. Because every business is in the business of marketing. Self-employed accountants aren’t in the business of accounting…they are in the business of marketing their services.
Making the problem worse, accountants are often put into a strange position. Many people think of accountants as simply number crunchers…a commodity left with no choice but to compete on price.
The way to get out of that trap if you own your accounting practice is to start marketing effectively.
Recognizing this gap, I recently launched ProfitCrunching – a recourse for marketing information, training and services for the accounting industry. Because crunching numbers is a lot more fun when the numbers are profits…and the profits are yours!
Good marketing can differentiate you and make you an authority; changing you from “number cruncher” to a trusted confidant. Someone to seek advice from. Someone who serves clients year round rather than getting work piled on once a year.
This differentiation thing might seem like a big deal. But in reality, you only have to pick up a few great marketing techniques because everyone else in the industry is doing the same thing: not really marketing and not really standing out.
Since content is a huge part of the modern marketing environment, let’s talk about six ways that accountants can use content to market their business effectively.
Focus on the information your clients want and look for
There is a huge issue I see across the accounting industry. The good news is that it is insanely easy to fix and you will instantly stand out.
There’s this strange tendency for accountants to clutter their websites with information that no one will ever want to look at. For example, links to IRS publications and calculators on their site.
If I want to read an IRS publication, I’ll go to the IRS website. Most people hire accountants in an attempt to avoid reading IRS publications in the first place!
Leave out the information clutter and focus on providing content that people really care about.
Starting a blog is easier than ever these days. And coming up with content doesn’t have to be a hassle either.
One simple way to do this is outlined in this post from Marcus Sheridan. Address people’s questions and concerns. That’s what potential (and current) clients care about.
Another thing people want to know is why they should work with you. So…
Use Sales Copy
It’s pretty common to come across a website with a homepage that says absolutely nothing. It might mention all of the services that they provide. And it might throw in a couple of welcoming phrases like “we hope you find what you are looking for here.”
But the truth is that doesn’t do anybody any good. Not you. Not the customer.
Use sales copy to explain why potential customers should work with you rather than someone else. You don’t have to be a professional copywriter. Simply explaining the benefits of your service will instantly boost your conversions. Even if the benefits of working with you are the same as the next guy…no one else is doing it.
And as the great Drayton Bird says: “If you’re the only person saying it, you own it.”
By the way, that goes for your ad copy as well. Take a look at these ads taken from publications like The Yellow Pages:
You can quickly see that the tendency is to focus on services. You can’t really tell one from another. At that point a customer either goes with the first service they call, or call around to find the cheapest one.
Pick a target audience, focus on the benefits you can provide for them, and they will call you.
Make your content functional
Content is not just a communication tool. It also has a functional purpose…if you structure it properly.
Instead of saying “hope you find what you need,” point people in the right direction. Show them where they should go with proper site navigation.
Plus, your content is a powerful SEO tool. Optimize your content and increase your chances of getting organic search traffic (which an obviously lead to more clients).
Use “the most powerful media”
Content marketing doesn’t have to be confined to a computer screen. In fact, in certain cases it’s more effective in print.
One such example is a print newsletter. As Bill Glazer put’s it, it is “the most powerful media you can use to grow your business.”
A print newsletter has more staying power than most other forms of marketing. People open their email inboxes instantly looking for things to delete.
But a good print newsletter gets opened. You are in the person’s home. It’s instant brand recognition. You build authority. You retain your clients by avoiding the number one reason people switch services: neglect.
And that’s how you become a trusted adviser rather than just a “number cruncher.”
By the way, I just launched a done-for-you newsletter service for accountants. Check it out risk-free and start dominating your local market.
Keep in touch
Don’t forget the power of the email.
The vast majority of people (almost everyone) that comes in first contact with you will not be ready to pick up the phone right away to inquire about your services.
But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be eventually.
By not following up with potential prospects you are actually missing out on the majority of your business opportunities.
That’s where building an email list, and providing them valuable content, really comes into play. Using a simple solution, like Aweber for example, you can build up a list of prospects to follow up with.
This is incredibly cost-effective (read: cheap) and has an incredibly high ROI if done right. Plus, these emails can be automated – giving you a hands-off client conversion system.
In most cases you’re going to have to give people a reason to sign up for your email list. This is especially true of most accountant websites where the value of signing up for the email list isn’t always clear (I don’t want to get email updates about new IRS publications).
This is where an “ethical bribe” or a “subscription magnet” comes in. Those are just fancy words for a free report.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be very complex. And it can be self-serving if you get creative with it.
For example, you can offer a download of a free report about “The top 10 things accountants do that drive their clients crazy.”
Prospects will likely find that useful and intriguing. After all, they are probably open to hiring a new accountant (otherwise why would they be on your site?). This type of report will help you stand out from all other accountants (that drive their clients crazy) while helping the prospect choose a good one: you.
I listed a few ideas here. And it’s probably easy to get overwhelmed by it all and not take any steps forward. The thing is, taking baby steps in the right direction can have an enormous impact because most other people aren’t even doing that much.
Just remember, small changes can make big differences.