How Can Accountants Increase Their Online Presence Through Internet Marketing in 2016?
Do accountants really need internet marketing in 2016?
The short answer is yes! But it takes a bit of time and effort to get it right.
We live in a “smart” world, so digital marketing for accountants is crucial to stay competitive while connecting with the target audience.
For decades, when marketing accounting services, the focus was on the physical location (location! location!) and client referrals to generate new business. Further, involvement within the community also helped (still does) to promote specialists skills to attract clients.
But with the internet and resulting digital age, that paradigm (although tried and tested) doesn’t work as well as it used to.
If you haven’t engaged in online promotional activities for your business, you're missing out on a huge market. Unlike referrals that depend on individual word-of-mouth on a one-to-one basis, internet marketing can increase the number of prospects that you can convert into clients.
How Can You Effectively Get New Accounting Clients Using the Internet?
Whether you’re marketing for CPA firms or a small bookkeeping office, more emphasis has to be placed on the following digital tactics:
- Social media
- Website & Search Engine Optimization
- Review Management
- Content marketing
It’s an extraordinary shift in thinking for auditors as they need to realize that in-person referrals may not be something they can continue to rely on, and instead concentrate on the business’ online presence and assess their contributions online.
Having said that, it’s also good to note that digital marketing for accountants isn’t all that different from traditional marketing strategies such as relationship building and networking. Social media, client reviews, building authority online, and content marketing compliment real world referrals and enhance your reach.
1. Build A Strong Online Presence
For your online marketing strategies to succeed, you have to build a strong presence. This will require some work and patience to develop.
If you conduct a local Google search, you will find that CPA firms with a strong online presence have carefully developed their online brand image to appeal directly to the target audience.
Think about it; we turn to our smartphone to get a recommendation these days. So, to be noticed, you have to be highly visible on the web.
If you remember my recent podcast about the 9 Online Marketing Strategies for Dentists, you’ll notice that some of the same tactics like SEO, blogging, and social media marketing can also be applied to the accounting field.
2. Marketing On Social Media
Some marketing ideas for accountants take a lot of time, money, and resources.
One internet marketing strategy accountants can use that doesn't require a lot of time, money, and resources is social media.
That isn't to say that it's easy, because it isn't necessarily easy.
But it’s a great place to start building your online identity.
Social media marketing for accountants can take place on platforms such as Facebook that generate over 1.65 billion active users worldwide (making it a MUST for marketing initiatives).
Further, with approximately 1.09 billion people accessing Facebook on a daily basis, it’s hard to ignore.
It’s a suitable platform to develop and grow the following:
- Visibility (in a thriving online community)
For bookkeepers trying to attract new business, a presence on LinkedIn can also play a crucial part in generating leads and referrals. In a B2B point of view, social platforms like LinkedIn can also place your name in front of the people that are seeking out your services.
The right social platform depends on the services you provide and where the target audience is most active.
Because, as we've discussed before, you MUST know your ideal persona.
If you know who your best clients are, then go meet them there online.
For example, if you want to make a human connection with your audience, Facebook will be the perfect platform to make that connection. This could include sharing pictures and videos from “moments” like volunteering in the community, a workshop for filing taxes, or company events.
On the other hand, if you want to share valuable information (like new tax regulations) and enhance your presence, Twitter would be a better more suitable. It’s also a great tool to interact with the audience in real-time to answer questions or direct them to relevant information on your website.
At the same time, it’s vital to note that financial planning firms need to stay compliant with SEC regulations. As a result, your social media posts can be limited.
Financial planning firms need to stay compliant with SEC regulations. As a result, keep a close eye on your social updates.
Accounting firms should also note that social media is not a sales platform for marketing accounting services. Instead, it’s a tool to make contact with a potential client online that can lead to meeting them and converting offline.
The following apps can help manage and schedule social media posts:
3. Promotion Via Website & SEO
According to the AICPA PCPS/TSCPA survey of CPA firms in 2014, 23% didn’t have a website. Further, about 30% of potential customers had also passed on a firm because a website was outdated or insipid.
As a result, not having a website or not regularly maintaining one can mean the loss of potential revenue.
A website is necessary to highlight the business’ unique personality and to stand out from the competition. This is where you can emphasize your unique selling position and clearly communicate it to the target audience.
Take the time to build a website to present your accounting business or brand to the best advantage. Further, the website should be constructed to be responsive to capture new leads from inquiries.
To get your visitors to respond and make inquiries, your call to action should encourage and enhance engagement. Further, the content on your website should be fresh and optimized to be picked up by search engines.
For example, we had a client running a drug recovery center that was unhappy with the leads generated by their website. This was mainly due to their previous marketing agency not understanding the target market.
To resolve this issue, we used the following to tactics to generate multiple incoming leads from organic searches:
- Targeted keyword strategy
- Created content that was perfect for the target audience
- Enhanced website optimization
- Acquired authoritative backlinks (that's relevant)
In the end, they went from a 6 keyword ranking on page 1 to ranking for 99+ terms on page 1. Further, we got higher page views, more time on site, and the quality of leads also increased.
Their incoming leads increased from 10 incoming calls per month to 60-80 calls per month (and that doesn't take into account all the form submits they get every month!). Here's a snapshot of a few of their rankings:
When you use keywords effectively to optimize your content, it will help you rank on the first page of a relevant search.
Regularly performing an analysis/audit of your website and rankings will be able to help you squeeze every ounce of potential out of your site because you'll be able to see things that you woudln't have otherwise noticed.
Fixing issues with website performance or optimization will naturally lead to better rankings and/or a better user experience.
Regularly featuring new content about the industry can also help you build authority (online) as an industry thought leader (and that’s a double whammy).
To learn about how you can use SEO to drive traffic to your website, check out my blog on the biggest 8 problems with SEO.
Your website is a chance to make a great first impression, so you'll want to take every advantage of this opportunity.
A website in 2016 should include the following characteristics:
Mobile friendly: It’s crucial that your website is mobile ready (responsive) as 68% of all internet traffic will be generated by mobile devices by 2017.
User-friendly: A user-friendly site will help visitors have a positive experience. So make it easy for them to navigate around your website. Always think of your website visitors first and their experience.
Regular Simple Content: Optimized content needs to be regular and easy to read to keep driving traffic to your homepage or landing page.
Marketing for CPA firms is all about communication, so when a potential client visits your website, they should be able to understand easily your core message, your values, and the services that are offered.
I usually recommend to hire a design firm to build a website because, well think about it, you only get one chance to make a first impression AND, it isn't just about making an impression that's good, but let's face it, most accountants aren't experts in user experience centered website design.
If you feel comfortable creating your own website, then go for it. A few platforms you can choose to build it on include:
4. Take Ownership Of Review Profiles
Regardless of how you feel about client reviews, it is happening every day. So, it’s best to take ownership of these profiles (Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, etc.) and use it your advantage.
When I say 'take ownership' I mean that you need to claim these profiles and others so that you have more control over them, and can not only optimize them for search, but reply to reviews as appropriate.
By taking ownership of your business’ profile, you can be aware of your clients’ experiences and respond to them effectively. If there is a problem, you can use this as an opportunity to rectify it and show progress.
When people see you caring about your clients and taking whatever steps necessary to accommodate them, it can have a positive impact on generating leads and retaining current clients.
Online marketing for bookkeeping professionals has multiple dimensions, so taking control of this phenomenon can be a significant advantage.
You can encourage clients to submit a review during consultations or even have signs around the office letting them know that you would appreciate a review.
For more information about reviews, read this post ---> here to learn about how you can generate positive reviews for your business. (The post is written for dentists, but much of that will apply for accountants as well)
5. Use Content Marketing to Generate Traffic
The marketing trend that’s on an upward trend is content marketing. This means your company should consider creating the following content on a regular basis:
- White papers
You'll notice I said 'consider'.
Why 'consider' ?
Because you must know your ideal clients and know the type of content they consume, where they consume it, how they consume it, etc.
And then, and only then, proceed with deciding the content that you will produce.
If you want to drive traffic to your website, the content you create should answer questions that your potential clients have.
Do they want to know how much they should estimate for quarterly taxes?
Do they want to know how to plan for retirement?
Whatever it is, this is what your content should be focused on providing.
Content marketing makes sense for CPAs as clients are paying for the accountant’s experience and extensive knowledge. For example, if you’re publishing strong and original content on your blog, it can help you build credibility, authority, and differentiate yourself from competitors.
These could be educational posts that educate the consumers (about accounting practices or tax regulations). You have to structure the content in a way that helps the visitors get the information they’re searching for, easily.
Good content can come in the form of consumer guides, podcasts, and instructional videos.
Great content has the potential to convert visitors into clients. So, whatever content you put out there has to provide value for the audience.
Get creative with your writing and add sign-up boxes for newsletters, updates, and freemiums (for example, these could be eBooks about managing your finances).
Tip: Build a content calendar and develop parameters for what you’re publishing and when you’re publishing it. It can be as simple as a regular email or blog post every Friday at 2:00 PM.
Although content marketing is effective, it has to be your long-term strategy as it will probably take almost a year or more to see any real change.
So if you haven’t done any marketing online before, what should you consider before you start?
Like traditional marketing, internet marketing is most effective when it’s done correctly.
To do it correctly, you need:
1. A plan
2. To understand your market
To run any successful marketing campaign, you have to first understand your audience. The following questions can help you build a complete picture of your target audience:
- What are they motivated by?
- What are they worried about?
- What services are they searching for?
- What are the words and images that they respond to?
It will take some time to test and measure to figure out what works best for your practice. Tools like Google Analytics are free and easily accessible. These can be viewed as an overview or for each channel.
By seeing which blogs posts attracted the most traffic, it can give you confidence in what works and encourage you to produce more original content.
Do You Need Help?
If you’re too busy to initiate and manage a digital campaign for your business, it’s probably a good idea to either hire a content manager or a reputable marketing agency that specializes in internet marketing for accountants.
If you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, or can see the value in hiring somebody to market for you, then hire a professional. Further, with Millennials now in the workforce, it has also become more important to maintain an online presence to communicate with them directly.
Either way, if you’re not online, you’re probably not generating the kind of leads that are out there.
How have you promoted your accounting firm? Did you do it on your own or did you hire a professional? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.