A paradigm shift has occurred within the accounting profession. As more decision makers spend time on social sites, apps and blogs, traditional “selling” techniques, such as face-to-face networking, cold calling and handing out business cards, are quickly becoming less relevant.
While generations of accounting firm leaders built their practices using these methods, there’s a different way, today, to build relationships and attract new business. It’s done through content marketing, and it’s an approach that provides your contacts value, rather than a hard sell. For those of us who have steep chargeable hourly goals, an efficient and effective method for developing business is music to our ears!
Spending time online is part of our daily lives, but attending a “mixer” may not be. The next generation of firm leaders are Millennials who embrace the use of digital tools as part of their lives, rather than just an activity that they are “forced” to do.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant and valuable content with your network, with the goal of building relationships, offering value and acquiring new clients.
Content marketing can be used to accomplish many things. Some of the business purposes for content marketing may include:
- Lead generation
- Creating awareness
- Expanding your reach
- Driving sign-ups, registrations and downloads
- Demonstrating credibility
- Client service
- Community relations
How it Works
The more you can plan your approach, the better the results. Here’s a basic approach I’ve used to add some structure to my own efforts:
Step 1: Create your content. Some of the more successful pieces of content are created around the issues impacting business owners. Some ideas may include:
- Legislative updates
- Timely opportunities, such as tax credits and incentives
- Question & answer(s)
- Invitations to seminars
- Diagnostic tools
- Business owner “pain points” and corresponding solutions
If you can create these on your own, that’s good. If you don’t have the time or ability, you can share the content that other organizations create and post on their social media pages. To do this simply and effectively, use the “share” buttons provided on the website or posts. Sites, such as Intuit’s Tax Pro Center or Firm of the Future Blog, the AICPA, and Accounting Today, are good places to start. These sites actively post to their social media sites. Just be sure to add your take on the issue or comment on the post; don’t just share it without context. You’ll want to tell your readers why you think it’s important.
Step 2: Research. Next, identify where your clients and prospects are in the digital world, keeping in mind the relevance of your content. Is your targeted audience on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook? Search for them and connect. Depending on where they are, you may adjust your approach, which shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all scenario.
Step 3: Set objectives. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to create awareness of an important issue? Do you want clients to act, for example, by downloading, registering or attending something? It’s important to have a plan and know what you want to achieve.
Step 4: Post/publish. Once you’ve determined where your contacts are and you’ve got a plan of action, it’s time to post your content. What platform will you use?
Step 5: Follow up/respond. After you’ve posted, monitor your post for feedback, comments and questions. If you’ve posted the item on your blog, you may get inquiries through your website. Other times, you may get questions or inquiries directly on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. It’s your duty to respond to the questions in a timely manner, and same day follow-up is ideal.
Step 6: Measure. Your postings are highly measurable and can be tracked. Most platforms provide analytics. Try to get a sense of which channels are working for you and which ones are best left aside. As you get more experience and familiarity with the result, you will probably want to adjust your plan.
How Content Marketing Changes the Game
Content marketing allows the qualified buyers to come to you, not the other way around. Your content is often “found” by those who are actively searching online, and you can cover more ground. Publishing content online allows you to get clients locally, nationally and even all over the world, from the comfort of your home or office. That’s effective and efficient, and that’s why content marketing is a real game changer.
If you’re looking for additional perspectives on how to make content marketing work for you, check out “Generating Positive Buzz Isn’t as Hard as You Think” by Intuit’s own Joel Hodges, or “5 Secrets to Finding New Clients” by Andrew Poulos, EA.