Accounting services are in high demand thanks in part to globalization, a growing U.S. economy, and a complex tax environment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But how do you make your accounting firm stand out in an ever-expanding crowd of competitors so that you can attract enough clients?
For all types and sizes of companies, marketing has become the way to win prospects and nurture a successful business. Marketing for accountants is as crucial for your firm today as it is for most professions out there. What’s changed in recent years is how easy it is to find accountants or online accounting solutions. This makes it much easier for business owners and families to change accounting firms.
In order to retain clients and win new ones, you need to make sure your firm is visible and top of mind, while considering new trends and ideas for business development.
Some of the most useful tactics that will win clients for your accounting business include developing a good referral program, carving out a niche, creating a diligent marketing strategy, and using social media to create connections. They also involve developing your position as an industry expert and making sure you regularly assess your efforts against your investment.
To start growing your accounting business in the online era, we’ve devised this short but information-rich guide. It contains the most important steps you should take to market an accounting firm and lay a stable foundation for winning more clients.
1. Establish your specialty and niche
The first step to successful marketing for accounting firms is determining your niche and getting to know your clients.
You have to understand who they are and what they needs are so that you can provide them with the appropriate services. This doesn’t involve becoming a specialist in medicine to work for a medical company, but does entail understanding the issues that such a business faces.
In this way, you can:
- Ensure current clients will stay satisfied with your firm
- Stay ahead of changing trends and challenges related to those fields
- Know how to reach prospective clients
- Give future clients proof that you’re the best company for them
While some accountants choose to serve various industries, for most, the best approach is to specialize in a few professional fields such as creative services or medical practices.
In this way, you know their intricacies and the right approach that these specific types of clients need.
As an added bonus, the better you become in a certain specialty, the less time you and your team would need for executing the work, and the higher quality services you’d be able to provide — which benefits all parties.
Some of the top accounting firm niches include:
- Estate or trust accounting
- Forensic accounting
- International tax
- Mergers and acquisitions
Grow your accounting firm by narrowing focus
Maybe you’ve been successful at keeping your focus broad. But maybe new client relationships have started to stall, or you feel like you’ve reached all of the potential clients in that market.
For whatever reason, you may want to focus efforts on a new niche. Here are a few questions to ask when trying to determining where to spend new business efforts:
- Are some client relationships more profitable than others? This may illuminate your firm’s expertise in a certain field.
- Do some clients refer more new business than others? This might indicate a better chance of retention for some industries.
- Are you limited geographically? If so, consider which industries are growing the fastest.
- If you’re open to clients in other locations, ask what type of businesses your team is willing to travel for? It’s a small factor, but you can also see where you can get direct flights to in order to make business travel even more productive and easy.
Pro tip: If you’re wondering how to assess profitability as mentioned in the first bullet, consider accounting time tracking software that allows you to break down time spent by projects and tasks. By having an accurate, automated timesheet system, you can dig into reports and uncover efficiencies at an employee- or client-level.
2. Devise your marketing strategy wisely
Now that you know exactly who you’re talking to, you can feed that insight into your marketing strategy.
Whether you’ve spent some budget on marketing each year or are just getting started, you should take the time to define your marketing goals and the methods you’ll use to reach them. All of this should go into a well-documented and researched marketing strategy.
Putting together a more formal marketing plan for your accounting business is a great way to organize your efforts and ensure they’re productive. A plan typically contains your unique selling points (USPs), a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, business targets, and overarching goals.
Improving your web presence
Once your strategy is set, the starting point should be your website. This is likely your clients’ first impression of your business so it’s important to not overlook its content, design and usability.
It’s a good idea to plan the improvement and creation of content at the same time, first considering what key information a prospective client would need to know.
Some tips to step up your accounting firm’s website:
- Include bios for your leadership so potential clients can understand who they’ll meet with
- List all of your services and explain what sets your firm account (here’s where that USP comes in handy)
- Make your contact page easy to find, and include a form or similar way to reach out
- If you have a blog, make sure to regularly post relevant articles and other resources that target your clients’ needs
3. Find the best marketing channels for your firm
You have a strategy, and you’ve updated your site. Now it’s time to put some inbound marketing tactics into play. It’s important to research not only how people find accountants, but what information they’re seeking and how you can best deliver it.
In the next few steps, we’ll cover some of the most crucial marketing tactics for accounting firms, including:
- Social media
- Referral programs
- Content marketing and thought leadership
Determining the right tactics for your company comes down to a couple factors: budget, audience, and resources, to name a few.
Let’s take a look at each one.
4. Social media marketing strategies for accounting firms
All accounting firms should at least consider digital marketing as a way to gain clients.
More specifically, embracing the power of social media to reach and engage the right audiences. In order to benefit from the opportunities that online channels offer, you have to know your audience well and have relevant and timely content to share with them.
When creating your social media properties or assessing your current accounts, consider:
- Branding: Is your logo, header, bio, and URL up-to-date and cohesive?
- Voice: Do your social media posts fit the personality of your firm? A good rule when writing for a business is to keep the tone professional and informational if you’re just starting out.
- Type of content: Does the content you share educate and entertain prospective clients? Is it helpful? Does it reflect your perspective?
- Scheduling: Pretty much no business should be live-tweeting when so many great social media scheduling tools exist. Use them to your advantage to write and plan out content in advance, so your business can be posting without you having to stop what you’re doing and switch gears. Some exceptions may be if there’s a Twitter chat related to your field, or if you’re getting customer support questions through social media.
Social media is not only about publishing your branded material, though. It is a great place to get connected with prospects and clients, as well as with fellow professionals and industry leaders.
Client referrals are also blossoming online, giving new life to the good old word-of-mouth, which can bring a steady flow of new leads to your firm.
5. Become a referral machine
Your current clients are some of your best advocates when it comes to growing your accounting client list.
Not only do they know how great you are, but they likely know other families or businesses similar to their own.
To make the most of this opportunity, make it easy for your clients to refer their friends and colleagues. You could offer a discount or bonus for each new client they refer, or simply send “thank you” cards or a small, business-appropriate gift to show them you appreciate the effort.
You could even create referral cards at your front desk, or edit the form on your website to include a field for how a new client heard of you.
Track your marketing efforts
Detailed time tracking for accountants
6. Reinforce your role as an industry expert
Content marketing is not only a way to share your expertise but also to get search engine optimization (SEO) right. The latter can help your website appear when clients search for accountants online.
If you’re planning to start a blog as a way to share content, just make sure you plan to post regularly as developing an audience can take time.
In a highly competitive environment as the accountant field, you need to showcase to current and prospective clients that you are knowledgeable, thus becoming their preferred choice. As described in the first section, defining your specialty can also give your blog the right focus areas. You can write broadly or on specific questions that you find clients asking often.
However, there is a range of other tactics you can employ to establish your position as an expert. More outgoing professionals can try podcasts, vlogging on YouTube and other channels, and setting up learning platforms.
There might be someone on your team who has the skills or drive to take this on, with the help of some training. Thankfully, a wide range of training platforms exists that can not only level-up your team’s marketing efforts, but can also help retain employees.
The more visible you become online with high-quality content and insights, the better chances you have of establishing your solid position as a go-to expert.
It’s also wise to stay connected in your community and offer keynotes at industry events. Becoming a prominent speaker at relevant conferences or gatherings is a sure sign for the savvy client that you are somebody to work with.
This is an opportunity for prospects to get basic information about your services and understand what you can provide to them.
7. Email marketing
Your marketing strategy should include email, as well.
Collecting the contacts of prospects and then sending them educational information is a great way to nurture a client base and retain relationships.
For some types of accounting firms, cold emailing may also be a good opportunity, so you should assess if it can fit your niche’s specificities. Don’t leave out traditional options such as local radio, newspapers and TV channels, as locally based services can still be effectively marketed through them.
8. Measure your marketing efforts diligently
Every good marketer will tell you this: measuring results is as important as the actual marketing tactics themselves.
You should set up a working system of assessing how successful your strategy is so that you can make alterations on-the-go and prevent overly wasted resources. Of course, with any new approach, you’ll have failures that come with important learnings. But the key is to keep track so you can make smarter decisions before sinking your entire budget into one tactic.
One of the essential steps you should take is to track time spent on marketing tasks and thus get an overview of the investment you’re making in each direction.
Then, as a key step of how to market accounting services online, you should cross-reference this against the hard marketing results. You can measure them in various ways, choosing different key performance indicators (KPIs) depending on your strategy.
Marketers would usually use the built-in analytics tools within social media, as well as return on investment (ROI) measurement platforms such as Hootsuite, HubSpot, Buzzsumo, and Google Analytics, among others. This is how you can make a data-based decision whether your accounting firm marketing plan works and how you can improve it.
And don’t forget: successful firms don’t stop their marketing efforts at the first signs of success. This is, in fact, only the beginning.
Get started with the top accounting firm marketing ideas today
While making your first steps in marketing can be overwhelming, this is the way to ensure recurring client relationships in 2019 and beyond.
The answer to how to market an accounting firm starts with specializing your practice and setting up a solid marketing strategy. Then finding the tactics that make sense for you. And throughout all marketing activities, use measurement and analytics to guide you towards the right decisions and best results.
What’s your top tip for increasing leads for accounting firms? Please share your know-how in the comments below.