You know building awareness for your business is important.

But how do you stand out and actually get the attention you need to reach new customers and generate new opportunities?

This was the dilemma faced by Davidson & Company, LLP, a full-service accounting firm located in downtown Vancouver.

“One of our taglines is that ‘We’re not your typical accounting firm’” explains Bahar Saadat, client relations & marketing manager at Davidson & Co. “Traditionally, accountants have a reputation for being boring ‘bean counters’ but we want to show people that we have personality, and that we have real people that are great to work with.”

For Davidson & Co, building awareness means having a way to stay top-of-mind with existing clients, and being able to reach potential clients in the process.

For the last two years, the firm’s best tool for reaching these audiences been email marketing from Constant Contact.

“We started with email marketing to communicate and share industry updates with our existing clients,” Bahar explains. “But it’s really grown into one of our best drivers for brand awareness. We’re noticing more people talking about our business, and we have more people showing up at our events.”

If you’ve been struggling to get the reach you’re looking for, email marketing can help. Consider these four tips from Davidson & Co to help you get started:

1. Ask for permission

Growing an email list can take some time, but as Bahar has discovered, it’s better to collect email addresses the right way, rather than trying to take shortcuts.

“We’re careful to only add people to our list that we’ve met and have an existing business relationship with,” Bahar explains. “When you let people know what they’re going to receive — for us that includes information about our events and industry news— people are very willing to sign up.”

Getting permission has proven to be particularly important for Davidson & Co, following the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which went into effect on July 1, 2014. The legislation introduced new requirements for businesses to obtain consent before sending marketing messages.

“I know there were a lot of business that were worried about CASL, but for us it really hasn’t been a problem at all,” Bahar explains. “We reached out to our audience to let them know that we were aware of it, and gave them the option to update their subscription and an overwhelming number of people said they wanted to keep hearing from us which was great.”

CASL Constant Contact Finance

2. Put your audience first

Asking permission will get people onto your list, but once they’ve signed up it’s your responsibility to provide something of value.

With an average open rate higher than 50 percent, Bahar has found that one of the best ways to provide that value is to start with her audience and understand what they’re most interested in receiving.

“It’s all about providing something that’s relevant to them and promotes engagement,” Bahar explains. “When we started out, we were just really sharing a graphic with a short message or announcement, but over time we’ve paid attention to what resonated and began to introduce more and more.”

The firm recently used audience feedback to tweak their strategy and make video a central part of their marketing strategy.

“We thought video would be a fun way to humanize our firm and show the people behind the scenes,” Bahar explains. “It really took off, even to the point where we are running into clients and they are telling us how much they enjoyed a video we sent out.”

The firm has also sent an online survey to a segment of their client base to learn more about what they’re interested in receiving.

Constant Contact Email Template Finance

3. Share your knowledge

You’ll get more people opening your emails when you shift your focus to providing content that’s interesting to your subscribers — which is a great first step towards email marketing success.

The next step is to understand what type of content would get people to take an additional action.

For Davidson & Co, that means sharing helpful advice and offering the chance to learn more at in-person events.

“In the past, we had relied on print invitations to promote our events and that made it difficult for people to share the events and invite other people,” Bahar explains. “With email, we have people who open and read our invitations but also share them with others. It’s a good sign when we’re meeting new people at our events that we didn’t send an invitation to. Email has played a big part in that.”

4. Be consistent

Consistency is important — both in the look and feel of your messages, and in the frequency that you communicate with your audience.

Email templates make it easy to create professional-looking messages that can be customized to match your brand.

“We put a lot of thought into how we put our marketing together because we want people to get to know our business,” Bahar explains. “Our goal is to really humanize our business, so each message that goes out will have a video or photos of our staff or clients.”

They use that same consistency when deciding what time and how often to send to their audience.

“In an industry like ours, it can sometimes take a few years before you actually convert a new client,” Bahar explains. “So, we really focus on being consistent and building the relationship anyway we can.”

Each month, Bahar and her staff put together an outreach plan that aligns with industry activities and events. With a list of over 3,300 contacts, Davidson & Co has built an audience of people who care about their business and look forward to hearing from them each month.

This has resulted in new business opportunities, increased referrals, and greater brand awareness for their firm.

“We all know accountants love numbers, and with email the numbers don’t lie,” Bahar explains. “It’s been the most effective tool for delivering our message.”

Put your email marketing strategy into action.

Whether you offer services to other businesses, like Davidson & Co, or want a better way to build relationships with customers, email marketing can help.

Has email marketing helped your business build brand awareness? We’d love to hear from you. Share your story in the comments below.