How to Make 2014 Your Best Year Ever
As 2013 draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your achievements and results over the past twelve months. Think about what has worked this year, what hasn’t worked and what needs working on. The break also gives you the chance to start planning your 2014 and how you can make it your best year ever.
To help you, I have put together a hit list of five potential areas to target that can make a big difference to your growth and profitability in 2014.
1. Your Website – Clearly a lot of accountants still don’t believe in the pulling power of websites. In fact, less than a third of accounting firms in this country have a website and the majority of those sites are just electronic ‘billboards’. These sites just list the ‘who, what and where’ of the firm and are often bought 'off the shelf'. They are templates full of duplicate content that Google hates. Generally they have no real focus on niche markets, rarely contain a blog, video or a lead magnet such as an e-book or white paper. The staff profiles are limited to a paragraph and they contain no CRM system to help distribute the firm's newsletter.
Unfortunately, these firms have a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality, however, that only works in Hollywood. To attract traffic to your website you need some key ingredients like keyword rich content, back links and features like a blog and videos. Ironically, because their billboard site isn’t generating leads they refuse to invest more money in the site so it goes stale and ultimately it becomes almost invisible to the search engines. By contrast, other firms have spent a fortune developing their failing website and cling to the shell because they want to justify the cost. Websites are an investment not a cost and you need to measure your return on investment. If it isn't working it's time to fix it or replace it. Technological change means what cost $10,000 to build five years ago can now be built for $500 in five hours.
Several websites we have built for members of our Accountants Accelerator Group have generated more than $150k of new business in 2013 and they will continue to deliver results for some time to come. Building a website is a real process that requires planning and it starts by identifying your ideal type of client and creating quality content that resonates with that market. For most firms this means a focus on your niche industries (builders or medico’s etc.) and services like self-managed super funds. Because the website is primarily designed to attract new business you need to use the right bait and tackle. If you’re not clear on who you are ‘fishing’ for then you end up prioritising the wrong things. You need to think about the user experience and be clear about what you want visitors to do on each page of your site.
As you’ll read below, video must be incorporated into the site and in 2014 you also need to optimise your website for mobile devices. In the past 18 months website designers have changed their thinking to ‘mobile-first’ which means they design the website for mobile devices like smart phones and tablets first then consider desktops last. A responsive website adapts to the size of the viewing screen and can display differently on each device.
2. Video is no longer an optional marketing extra for accountants, it is a must have. YouTube is now the second largest search engine behind Google and forecasts suggest that 57% of consumer internet traffic will come from video by 2015. Not only that, 78% of people watch video online at least once a week, 55% watch video online every day and 500 years worth of content is uploaded to YouTube every day.
I recently blogged about the importance of being on the first page of a Google search. Research indicates that on average, page one gets 91.5% of all traffic while page two manages less than 5% and page three just over 1% of traffic. You can read that blog here but the real ‘kicker’ is the fact that you’re 53 times more likely to get a page one listing on Google with video content on your website. Clearly, video is now an essential part of an accountant’s marketing arsenal and as a consequence we now offer a video service for accountants.
If you want to read more about video have a read of another blog we wrote titled Video Killed the Radio Star but not the Accountant
3. Create a Blog like this to connect and share information with your clients and prospects. Your blog fuels your SEO but the content must be original and relevant. Fresh content that answers your clients’ questions will activate the search engines and accountants that blog are proven to attract more website traffic.
Your blog is your content marketing hub and can be shared on social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It can be reproduced in newsletters and positions you as an expert or thought leader in an industry or subject matter. It provides a forum to talk about new services or software products and encourages interaction, comments and feedback. It can also create some free PR as business bloggers are often interviewed by journalists because they are perceived to be industry experts.
In 2014 get started on your blog and ideally try to post every few weeks with interesting content that draws in your target market.
4. Client Newsletter and Email Marketing – Every accounting firm needs a regular client newsletter and if you don’t have one, your clients are missing out. More importantly, you are ignoring an important marketing opportunity because your newsletter can cross-sell and up-sell your range of services and help build new client relationships. They let you engage with your niche markets and provide the ideal forum to 'ask' for referrals.
While most firms tend to focus on acquisition of new clients many ignore the need to stop the leakage of existing clients. They roll out the red carpet for new clients but take existing clients for granted. Your newsletter is a key client retention tool. When surveyed, clients often mention they changed accountants because of price, slow turnaround times or a failure to return phone calls and emails. However, a lack of communication and failing to stay in touch is high on the departure list. Make no mistake, your newsletter can build loyalty and while it won't directly lead to an engagement or 'sale', it can pave the way. It keeps your brand in front of clients and referral sources plus can be used to introduce your firm to new prospects.
It’s important to understand that not all newsletters work. Most accountants are too busy to write their own newsletter so they tend to fall into the trap of subscribing to what I describe as a 'tax newsletter service'. Let me ask you this, if you got a newsletter from a solicitor full of legislative changes would you read it? Probably not … so why send your clients a newsletter full of tax updates and case law? Clients want you to be pro-active with strategies and tools to help them grow their business and their wealth, they don’t want do a Masters of Taxation by correspondence. These newsletters won’t win you referrals because the content doesn't add value to ninety nine percent of your client base. On the other hand, a newsletter full of information about how you can help clients with their marketing, website, SEO and social media campaigns will resonate. If you are looking to attract Gen X and Y clients who want to work smarter not harder then discussing business automation software, the latest apps and cloud based solutions will set you apart from the pack.
The 'On the Money' quarterly newsletter we produce for firms only includes snippets of tax issues and the focus is business growth strategies including regular sections on starting a business and wealth creation topics like negative gearing and self-managed superannuation. They come branded with your firm logo and it passively asks for referrals in each edition.
Of course, subscribing to such a newsletter service takes the production pressure off but you also need to address the issue of distribution to your client base. You need to circulate your newsletter to as many clients, prospects and referral sources as possible and email is the cheapest option. Again, if you are targeting the younger generations they don’t want a hard copy and much prefer to read it online on their smart phone or tablet. Email distribution is easy using programs like MailChimp that lets you import your client’s details and then distribute your newsletter at the click of a button. The newsletter content can be embedded on your website so every time a client clicks on the ‘read more’ button at the end of a one paragraph teaser they will land an your website which also helps your SEO. Even better, the websites we build for clients incorporates a full email marketing engine at the back end.
5. Client Seminars are traditionally the domain of successful, pro-active firms. They are an effective way to attract new clients and they also let you introduce new services to clients beyond compliance. These services can often generate additional revenue streams in the practice and negative gearing and Self-Managed Super Fund seminars are classic examples.
Running seminars helps to build your brand, position you as experts, introduce the firm to the next generation and attract referrals. Incredibly, I estimate that less than 5% of Victorian accountants host client seminars. The reasons range from fear of public speaking through to lack of resources and time. There are groups like Systemised Seminars that specialise in helping accountants run client seminars and they provide a turn key solution including the speaker, equipment, PowerPoint slides, client hand out and all the marketing materials.
Kevin Bolt who runs the business tells me the most popular topics are tax effective strategies like negative gearing and self-managed superannuation because accountants are comfortable with the tax related content and the wealth creation edge. In 2014 seminars should be back on your marketing agenda.
If you’d like to discuss your marketing plans for 2014, contact me today.