Many small business clients would rather walk over hot coals than think about bookkeeping, so marketing your accounting firm is a tough sell that will often fall on deaf ears. But, while it may not be glamorous, it is crucial.
It’s a competitive space, meaning marketing your accounting firm is key to stay in business, especially when the decision to go with one firm over another often comes down to cost and nothing else.
“Generally speaking, your clientele is afraid of numbers, doesn’t understand what you do, and has no idea what they should look for when selecting an accountant,” says Shane Robert Walton, founder of Green Vine Marketing. “As a result, all too often they shop based on the one factor that they do understand: price.”
“We know that accounting is a competitive business and that most accounting firms generate business via referrals,” adds Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations. “However, they need to market and take the effort seriously. With new technology and the millennial generation coming, individual and firms who are not prepared to market and be competitive will suffer.
If you’re a solo or small business, it’s likely you won’t have a marketing team to help you get your accounting practice out there and win business. But, if you want to overcome this problem then help is at hand. We’ve asked the experts to provide some tips to help you get your business noticed.
1. Have a plan
This may sound like an obvious one, but if you don’t have a marketing plan which encompasses goals, action steps, and rewards then your marketing efforts are likely to be pretty slapdash. This plan should also include a schedule for your activities as well as the budget you can afford to allocate it.
“Every individual accountant and/or partner needs to have their own personal marketing plan,” says Corbett. “The marketing plan will set goals, identify marketing messages, identify what online sites or tools will be used, such as LinkedIn.”
2. Network better
There are plenty of opportunities to get your business noticed for free (or very low cost) at networking events. However, it’s not just about collecting as many business cards as you can; following up is key. If it’s a particularly relevant event, you could also think of offering your expertise to present or run some workshops, which is an effective way of marketing yourself as an expert accounting firm.
“Have a system for approaching networking events and for follow up – most accountants do not do this well (actually most business people don’t do this well),” says Corbett. “When networking add contacts to LinkedIn and use LinkedIn to communicate with them.”
3. Use content to establish your expertise
Another way to show your expertise is by crafting compelling content. Accounting is a complicated subject, which is where sharing your knowledge in an easy-to-understand way can make your firm stand out.
“Well written content is difficult to come by,” says Ryan O’Donnell, director of Marketing at Avalara TrustFile, a sales tax filing software provider. “Invest in content that helps your target audience answer questions and use it as a way to establish a foundation for future conversations. Capture email addresses and begin to have ongoing communications with your audience.”
4. Invest in the right cloud-based apps
Using cloud-based apps in your marketing can help you reach a larger market much more effectively than your competition. Whether this be to automate key tasks, to manage your campaigns, or to analyze success and failure, there are a lot of good options that will simplify your processes and improve the way you work.
“The key is not to just make your clients’ lives better with these apps, but to market your use of these apps as a competitive advantage,” says Walton. “Use these apps to separate yourself from the competition, making you stand out as offering a different service than any other local accountants.”
5. Manage your marketing with CRM
One of the key cloud-based apps you’ll want to invest in is a CRM system, such as Infusionsoft or Insightly. If you want to ensure your marketing campaigns reach the right contact at the right time then you need a way to manage these relationships.
“A strong CRM app, such as SalesForce, Zoho, or my personal favorite HatchBuck, allows you to efficiently stay on top of every client, automate much of your marketing, and ensure that you are reaching all your prospective and existing clients on a regular basis,” says Walton.
6. Keep in email contact
One significant opportunity for account firms to better market themselves is to their existing customer database through email marketing.
“A newsletter goes a long way to keeping you in front of your database and provides you an opportunity to nurture the relationships,” adds Brian Gatti, partner and marketing consultant at Inspire Business Concepts.
Another useful tip is to segment contacts by their interests to ensure you send useful, relevant content. “For instance, send a series of tips on getting the biggest tax refund to individual tax clients,” says Jessica Lunk, digital marketing manager at Hatchbuck. “Send non-profit clients tips on meeting audit requirements.”
7. Send out reminders
Whether they are your current customers or not, reminding clients of key deadlines will keep you top of mind during crucial accounting periods. “Send automated email reminders when clients are due for their next audit or tax return to promote recurring revenue for your firm,” says Lunk.
8. Expand your reach with social media
While email is crucial to reaching clients, expanding your marketing efforts to social media is equally important in helping you to broaden your brand reach. “We work in the sales tax space and have more than tripled our site traffic with this approach,” says O’Donnell.
9. Offer free tools
Show prospective clients that you’re not just looking to grab a quick buck from their business and then disappear by providing useful information on your website. For free.
“Attract new clients by offering free tools and resources on your company site, like articles, ebooks and financial calculators,” says Lunk.
“Have videos of firm accountants discussing who they are, why they do what they do, how they help clients, but not focus on giving a list of services,” adds Corbett. “Tell stories and this will resonate with prospects, clients and referral sources. Just telling what you do will not cut it.”
10. Get some PR
Just been abseiling down the tallest building in your state? Or won the prize for best accounting firm at your local business awards? Shout about it. Contact news organizations to get yourself some media coverage, and use it as a less obvious form of marketing.
“Use the media coverage to build the firm’s brand and individual reputation as experts and advocates for clients and businesses,” says Corbett.
How do you market your accounting firm?
Let us know what tips you have, or apps you use, for marketing your accounting firm in the comments below, or by emailing email@example.com
If you’re looking to purchase marketing software, here are some GetApp resources that can help: