Marketing for Accountants: A Detailed Guide for Accountants (Online & Offline Strategies) [w/ Amanda C. Watts]
Guest: Blake Oliver, CPA, and Amanda C Watts
There's no dearth of clients, but there is a dearth of clients that will pay well for your expertise without questioning your price. Marketing puts you in control of getting them."Amanda C Watts.
Because it’s one thing to get clients, it’s another to get the kind of clients you and your team will be happy to work with. The latter requires you to create and implement the right marketing strategy that attracts the right kind of clients.
Else, you will be stuck with clients that don’t pay much and will make your life unpleasant.
In this article, we turn to Blake Oliver, CPA, and Amanda C Watts, an accounting marketing and branding expert, to shine the spotlight on the strategies accounting firms can use to get the kind of clients they need to grow revenue in 2023.
Marketing Strategies That DON’T Work for Accounting Firms?
Using any of the following marketing strategies today is a waste of resources.
Cold messaging is like cold calling. It is sending direct messages to potential clients to get them to use your services. This strategy doesn’t work because they are inauthentic and not based on relationships.
Cold messaging has not always been an ineffective strategy. It worked in its early days. Amanda thinks back to 2019 when cold messaging was one sensible craze.
The idea was to build an audience of people and reach out to them with cold direct messages (on LinkedIn, email, etc.). If you sent 30 messages to potential clients, five of them could be interested in speaking with you about your services because it felt like a show of genuine concern.
“The problem is that 3, 4 years down the line, every potential client has been messaged a few times by a lot of people. Potential clients now feel spammed by these messages,” says Amanda.
She adds that unless your client is in so much pain when the right email comes in, they will feel icky, mark it as spam, or send a horrible reply,” which does everything but improve marketing for accountants.
Optimizing for Cheap Rates
If there was ever a time when optimizing for low prices made marketing sense, it’s certainly not in 2023.
You would want to avoid any marketing strategy that will position you as a cheap alternative.
The “Hey, Buy my Stuff” Marketing
Constantly pushing for sales may never get the clients you desire. People don’t like being sold to. You have to demonstrate a genuine interest in helping your potential clients by addressing their problems.
Amanda recommends encouraging prospects to think about your offer during a sales call instead of asking for a purchase. If they feel you’re the right fit, they will do business with you.
I start relationships off with, “If you’re too nervous, don’t do it. If it feels right for you and we’re a good fit, we can work together. This has earned me over 700 clients since 2017.”
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Marketing for Accountants: The Strategies That Actually Work
These strategies will help you attract new clients and upsell—or at least retain—existing ones in 2023.
- Facebook Ads
- Newsletter marketing for accountants
- Blog and social media marketing for accountants
- Community marketing for accountants
1. Facebook Ads
Facebook ads allow you to promote your posts, page, or website on all its related platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) to drive your ideal clients to your digital platforms.
With a user base of 2.96 billion, 15% of Facebook feed content is recommended by an algorithm that prioritizes advertising content. Mark Zuckerberg has promised to more than double these numbers by the end of 2023, which puts Facebook advertisers in a prime position to get their marketing messages in front of a larger pool of potential clients.
Facebook advertising works because of its reach and user data (which enables it to target people by their interests, location, age, relationship status, workplaces, gender, connections, languages, and education level).
2. Newsletter Marketing for Accountants
Email usage is expected to reach 4.37 billion in 2023 and 4.73 billion in 2024. This allows you to reach new clients—while keeping existing ones engaged—with your content.
Newsletters allow you to engage existing clients, uncover additional needs, and convert new ones with personalized content in their inboxes.
You can send one, two, or three emails every month to educate or inform your client about any relevant topic within your financial expertise. Each time you help a client or potential client solve a problem, they get closer to buying from you.
But this depends on how much you know your client: who they are and what they are trying to achieve. If not, you risk spamming them, which will push them away.
When you have figured out who your ideal client is and the problems they want to solve, it’s time to figure out the exact topic your content should cover.
One way is to answer your clients’ questions in your newsletter for other clients to benefit from it.
“That means “I’m already having this conversation with a client. I am now just going to take that inside knowledge and repackage it for everyone.” —Blake Oliver.
Do this long enough, and you’ll position yourself as an authority, and your subscribers will be more likely to buy from you.
3. Blog and Social Media Marketing for Accountants
Marketing and sales thrive on relationships as people are more likely to buy from those with whom they have a relationship.
But building this relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It takes months and years of consistently showing up (on your blog or social media) with content that helps your ideal customers solve problems like tax and financial planning. This enables you to build the “know, like, and trust” factor that drives sales in any business.
Amanda reminds us that “3% of your audience is looking to buy accounting services now, 7% in the next ninety days, and 40% in the next two years. 50% of people are not looking for new accountants at all.
Building through authority client education will help you convert the 3% and also gives you a chance to build a relationship with the 7% and 40% before they are ready to buy.
4. Community Marketing for Accountants
Another strategy to get your kind of clients is to create a private community on Facebook or Slack. This forum helps members to connect with other business owners, ask questions and build relationships around your firm.
You can post your content there to help members run their businesses better.
This works because people want to feel like they are a part of something, and when you make people a part of something, they will be eager to do business with you.
Amanda C Watts sees the growth of community marketing through the lenses of Covid-19.
She said we’ve been stuck in our houses. We’ve been on our own, and everyone has been nervous and scared. and we just want somebody to hold our hands. That’s why these communities are so great.
Apart from the chance to win clients, it is also a revenue line. Some accountants charge a monthly fee for membership in their communities and see the value they get out of these communities, clients and potential clients happily pay for it.
Community marketing gives you the chance to create “something bigger than you, and that’s what people will stay for. They will come because they need a problem solved, they will stay with you for the community.” —Amanda C Watts.
How to Leverage Facebook Advertising and Organic Content Marketing for Accountants
Since Facebook gives you the rare ability to bring you before your target audience (through detailed targeting), the amount of information you have about your ideal clients will determine your success with Facebook advertising. If you fail to nail this down, Facebook ads will not work for you.
“If you haven’t got a really clear idea of your ideal client if you don’t understand their pains, frustrations, and the real reasons they lay awake at night, then your marketing wouldn’t work. It doesn’t matter how many times you post on Social Media.”
—Amanda C Watts
One mistake people make is expecting results too soon. The people you’ll reach with your Facebook Ads are not actively looking for your services. They are there to have fun and interact with people in their network.
So, even if they want to buy from you when Facebook brings your ad to them, they may need more time than you expect, to make a buying decision. You need to be prepared to let your ad campaign run longer than you might expect.
Similarly, you’ll do better if you ask them to make low-risk commitments (like joining your newsletter, following you, or some other actions that do not require payment).
Once you have the right mindset in place, you can begin running Facebook ads by
- Choosing your objectives.
- Uploading your ad copy and ad creative.
- Setting your targeting options.
- Setting a budget for the Ad campaign.
- Selecting your preferred Meta apps (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp).
- Measure performance to see what needs adjusting.
Organic Content through Blogging and Social Media
“Without creating value through content, your ideal clients will always compare you (on price) with the accountant down the road, and they will choose them over you because they are cheaper.”
—Amanda C Watts
Beyond marketing to the 3% of customers that are ready to buy now, content helps you groom the 7% and 40% to buy from you when they are ready to buy from you in the next few years.
It starts with building the “know, like and trust” factor with helpful content to your potential clients. The more free value you give, the more valuable you’ll be perceived and the more value you can charge for your services.
How to Start Doing Content Marketing for Accountants
Content marketing is basically sharing knowledge to endear yourself to your target audience. Here’s what you need to start
Know Your Target Audience
Everything in marketing begins with knowing who you are dealing with. That’s why creating a buyer persona is such a huge deal.
A buyer persona is a mental picture of your ideal client. It documents their industry, demography, locations, preferred media channels, goals, and pain points. The amount of this information you have about your client determines your ability to say what they need to hear to do business with you.
Determine the Right Channels
Knowing where your ideal client hangs out helps you share your content in the place where the people you create it for will consume it.
Create a Plan
Create a plan for how you want to develop and share your content assets across which channel and in what frequency.
Execute the Plan
This is where you start creating and sharing the content based on your marketing plan.
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How to Know What to Say to Your Audience
It all comes down to listening to your clients to understand their problems and create content around them. You can turn your conversations with your clients into marketing content.
Amanda suggests that if a client complains about struggling with cash flow and paying their teams, you can turn the advice into an article or video and share it with your audience (of course without exposing your client’s identity).
Blake Oliver puts it this way; “I’m already having this conversation with a client. I’m now just going to take a bit of inside knowledge and send it to everyone.”
Advice for Firms That Are Struggling to Get New Leads from Their Marketing Efforts
You may not get leads from your marketing efforts because you do not sound convincing in your marketing materials.
The energy you bring into your marketing activities has to be right. Your audience will see through your lack of convictions.
However, marketing might not come to you naturally. You’re probably just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s understandable.
Thankfully, there is no one-size-fits-all in marketing. You need to step back a bit to find the type of marketing that suits your personality.
Amanda recommends taking a step back to ask yourself.
- Does the marketing I am doing make me feel icky?
- Are my efforts not in alignment with my energy, and therefore making it difficult to put my heart and soul into it?
If your answer to these questions is YES, you need to find a marketing strategy that is effective and aligns with your personality.
What matters is that you
- Bring the energy you are happy with into your marketing activities.
- Use a strategy that works with your audience’s preferred platform (where your ideal clients spend their time).
- Adopt a strategy that aligns with your personality.
For example, Amanda
“likes being in the spotlight and answering questions (at webinars) that help her target audience.”
If you don’t enjoy that, you can create testimonials that spotlight the results you’ve gotten for your clients. This will play into your firm’s marketing goals in one way or another.
Blake recommends recording videos if you don’t enjoy live events or doing podcasts if you don’t enjoy being in front of the camera. Or featuring a colleague if you’re nervous about recording alone. Attending accounting conferences could also boost your confidence and ability to interact and network with people.
Once you start being authentic in your marketing activities, you’ll be able to connect with your kind of clients.
How Long Should You Stay On a Marketing Strategy to Know It’s Working?
There’s no universal timing for measuring the effectiveness of a marketing strategy. It could take anywhere from six months to two years to build the kind of relationship that produces the marketing results you are looking for.
However, you can quicken the pace by doubling your efforts over a short period and analyzing the market response to know what’s working more quickly.
For example, instead of posting on social media twice a week, you can post every day for a month, then analyze the metrics to see how people are interacting with it.
Fortunately, all of the social networks/media provide metrics that enable users to measure content performance. Twitter will show you.
Instagram will tell you how many people saw, liked, commented, or saved your post for future use.
How Often Should You Check Your Metrics?
Checking your metrics once or twice a week is enough.
But you need to know what to look out for. Some performance metrics are only great on paper but do not amount to meaningful business results.
So, you have to define the metrics that will impact your bottom line the most and prioritize them.
"If you look at my socials, I have lots of followers but very few comments and likes, but I do get lots of more followers and I also get lots of people messaging me and new clients. If I get the number of leads, appointments, and sales I want for the week, then my marketing is working. "Amanda C Watts
Meanwhile, Some Marketing Strategies Take Longer to Measure
Marketing strategies like blogging and YouTube take a longer time to feel their impact. These strategies need more time to build traction.
Blake says that you need to ensure that you’re going to get some numbers back before you invest in a strategy so that you can measure success.
One Thing That Goes Hand-in-Hand with A Great Marketing Strategy to Achieve Success
Apart from adopting the right attitude to marketing, knowing how to express your unique value is critical to success in marketing for accountants.
- What unique problem are you solving?
- Why should a client choose you over your competitors?
- How are you solving them?
You need to nail this down to effectively communicate your value proposition through your marketing messages.
Should Firms Outsource Marketing or Do It Internally?
Most accounting firms make the mistake of outsourcing their marketing before they figure out their strategy.
If you give your marketing to an agency without establishing your niche, offer, and essence of your business, you’re going to get bad leads.
Amanda affirms that it is why her accounting marketing firm, Oompf Global, set their clients up to insource, rather than outsource.
“You can outsource things like Facebook advertising, SEO, YouTube advertising, and other techy aspects of marketing, but you can’t outsource strategy. Because that’s in your head as the firm owner.”
If you are overwhelmed with work, you can hire someone, like an admin assistant, who watches and listens to your team to polish the strategy and handle the posting of your marketing content.
The most effective marketing strategy is a job well done.
Quality work markets itself and earns you constant referrals.
No other strategy matters if your firm is not organized enough to satisfy the clients you win with quality services.
Financial Cents helps accounting firms streamline and automate their processes so that they can be the most efficient version of themselves.
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