Online marketing for independent accounting and tax firms

By Nate Hagerty

Figuring out how to market your business online can be a confusing morass of gurus (many of whom have never really done anything significant online), geek-speak, and expensive programs.
 
But, marketing comes down to three key elements:

Lead magnet – Capturing information

Follow-up – Conversion to client

Traffic – Sending prospects to your site

That’s it. Truly, all of the other junk out there is just details. Even social media – for which I continually bang the drum – is best used as a mechanism for all three. The best way to win with social media is to get users off of social media and into a relationship through e-mail or direct mail.
 
These subjects are the topics of multi-day seminars, but we’ll cover the broad strokes so you’ve got the right framework.
 
“Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter” doesn’t cut it
 
Wondering why your Web site is nothing but a glorified online brochure? The answer is simple. Web site visitors (when you get them) have no real incentive to actually begin a relationship. So, they slide/click on by.
 
Is anyone out there looking to clutter their inbox with more newsletters? Frankly, many tax and accounting firms don’t even have that element on their site, which really negates the effectiveness of your site.
 
Successful internet marketers understand that the real power for any small business resides in The List. So, you must give your Web site visitors a compelling reason to hand over their valuable information, which speaks to what they really want.This is called your lead magnet.
 
Where it all starts

The primary reason I’m addressing this topic first is that you can have droves of visitors, and a great follow-up system in place, but without the right strategy to start the relationship, you’ve got nothing. Marketing is, at its core, about building a relationship.
 
When I was on staff with Young Life (a non-profit mentorship/ministry organization working with public high school students), our credo was “Earn the right to be heard.” High school kids don’t give a dang about how great your solution is for their problems until you demonstrate that you care about them in a way they respect. So, I coached football and lacrosse, I went to community events, I played backyard football with them.
 
I built a relationship. Then, when the relationship was solid, we could talk about real things. And marketing for your firm is most effective when you follow the same model.
 
You first must have some reason for your prospects to start that relationship. Otherwise, you’re just another barker at the convention shouting out your wares.
 
What do your prospects want?
 
The answer is simple. They want no-nonsense, real-world guidance through the chaos of their lives. You’ve already got a tremendous advantage as a financial professional to use your authority to garner respect. Create something that will make them see you as their port in the storm.
 
Just remember: You must give them a reason.Then, the keys to the online kingdom will be yours.
 
Once you've captured their information
 
When you understand the necessity of forming relationships with your prospects, it becomes a matter of leveraging the right tools to immediately start to work on building that relationship.
 
You'll want to have an effective auto-responder sequence built into your e-mail response, which begins that relationship and, at a minimum, gives them a sense of who you (and your firm) are and why you’re different.
 
Effective e-mail follow-up is the missing ingredient in your online success. It’s still the tool most relied upon by ridiculously successful online marketers for the simple reason that our e-mail inbox is the dashboard of our personal lives.
 
Frankly, this is the cold truth about the modern age. Examine your e-mail inbox, and tell me if it isn’t one of the primary places where you conduct your business and your life? I thought so. So, if you’re not in that space, you’re toast!
 
And when you systemize this, that’s when it becomes fun watching leads come into your business and magically become well-paying clients because you’ve taken the time (or invested in someone else’s time and expertise) to create this automatic, relationship-building system.
 
It is important to remember that e-mail is an informal medium. It tracks with the steady de-formalization of our culture in general, and the truth is that when e-mail recipients receive your notes as just that – personal notes instead of corporate boilerplate – that’s what unlocks the effectiveness of this medium.
 
About the author:
Nate Hagerty is the former marketing director of a multi-million dollar firm and now the president of BuildaHerd Marketing – a results-driven, relationship-oriented marketing company working directly with accounting and tax firms nationwide.
 
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