There are Better Uses of Your Limited Marketing Resources Than SEOby
Search engine optimization for your accounting practice’s website is an important piece of your marketing strategy. But if you have a limited marketing budget, SEO is not the best use of your funds.
There are still too many snake oil salesmen masquerading as SEO experts who claim that with a few technical tricks, they can send you hundreds of website visitors every day. I get offers from them all the time, so I know they’re lurking out there.
Here are the problems I see with relying on SEO as your main marketing strategy.
Google keeps refining its search algorithm, and those who use technical tricks to get to the top are punished. It’s in Google’s interest to provide searchers with results that help them find what they want. Otherwise, searchers will turn to another search platform.
Relying on SEO alone means you’re depending on an outside company for your marketing, and Google’s interests are not the same as yours. It’s far better to build and create something that belongs to you.
Google is changing its algorithm to reflect the way people search. Sites with a conversational tone will have a big advantage as voice search becomes more prominent. Already, more searches are performed on mobile devices than on desktop computers and laptops. Keyword stuffing is out, and exact phrase matches are no longer needed.
Getting to the top in search results doesn’t guarantee you’ll get great prospects. Just because your firm ends up on the first page, or the top five, or even in the number one spot of search results doesn’t mean that the people who find you will make great clients. This is especially true if your firm doesn’t have a specialty. Chances are you’ll get a lot of tire-kickers who might be looking for the next low-cost accounting firm they can dump their rotten records on.
Here are some better uses for your tight marketing dollars and resources.
What all of these have in common is that they focus on building a relationship of trust between your firm and your clients and prospects. Accounting is a relationship business. It takes more than landing at number one in the search results to build a relationship.
Online Reviews and Testimonials
Anytime you do exemplary work for a client, and they gush with gratitude for your work, ask for a testimonial or a Google review. I know, we accountants are shy about asking a client to say nice things about us, especially if we feel that we’re just doing our job.
But think about the steps you took last time you bought something on Amazon. Did you read some of the reviews? Don’t you think your prospects would like to read about the experiences others have had with your services?
Local Business Events and Networking Opportunities
We accountants tend to be introverted, so going to events and meeting strangers can make us find any excuse not to attend. But here are some ways to make it less scary.
Networking is just meeting people. It’s not about making a sale. It’s about finding out what people think and what they need. It’s about establishing a relationship with people so that when they have a problem that you can help with, they think of you first.
Here’s my fallback question whenever I find myself at a networking event: What’s the biggest challenge you have in your business today?
Asking open-ended questions invites people to talk about themselves, which, according to self-improvement pioneer Dale Carnegie, is everyone’s favorite topic.
Consider speaking at a Rotary Club or Lions Club meeting. This is an opportunity to speak with business owners in your area and find out what they need help with. With the dramatic changes in the recent tax reform, business owners are dying to learn how it will impact their bottom line, and what steps they need to take now.
Or, if you’re on the audit side, consider explaining the new revenue recognition rules. You don’t have to try to teach everything you know, but pick out just one piece of the new tax code, or one piece of 606, and explain that without the technical jargon we so love to hide behind.
Start (or Re-start) a Blog on Your Website
I’ve written about blogging for accounting firms here, here, and here. Don’t just focus on explanations of tough tax or accounting issues, but write simple posts that address the pain points you hear about from your clients.
If you get too technical, then the main readers will be other accountants who are struggling to understand a specific topic. Those aren’t your prospects, although they will appreciate it (I sure do!), and they may refer clients to you who need your exact expertise.
Putting your name and your thoughts in front of your clients and prospects on a regular basis is powerful. While this does require some effort on your part to put together the content for each issue, almost nothing beats the ROI you can get from an email newsletter.
Not sure what to write or include? Instead of creating the entire newsletter from scratch, consider including links to current news articles that would be of interest to your business owner clients along with a short synopsis of the article, and what you think.
The best newsletters are the ones you create yourself. Including tidbits about yourself and your firm helps to establish a relationship with readers. The canned ones you get from your software company don’t have the same level of friendly conversation. They don’t tend to engage small business owners in the way that a newsletter focused on their pain points does.
I know that in the decade I spent at one CPA firm, I never heard any comments from clients about the canned newsletter that went out every month. But when another firm started sending out its own self-created newsletter, we got a call within 20 minutes from a business owner with questions about one of the articles.
Postcards and Direct Mail
When one of my accounting school classmates went out on his own, he sent out postcards to a targeted list of small businesses near his office. It was pretty inexpensive, and he got enough of a response to quickly jump-start his new firm.
As businesses move their advertising online, it’s not hard to stand out in someone’s mailbox. To really stand out, consider sending “lumpy mail” — an envelope with something inside. Or try a pen or an eraser, which makes the recipient curious enough to open it.
For decades, referrals have been the bread and butter for getting new clients. And they are still a powerful source of new business. However, unless your referral sources know exactly what kinds of clients you’re looking for, you run the risk of getting calls from prospects who are a terrible fit for your expertise.
If you use any of the methods I mentioned above, that will increase your pool of referral sources. And as you develop deeper relationships with those referral sources, the quality of prospects they send you will increase.
Liz Farr, CPA, spent 15 years in tax and accounting at small firms in Albuquerque, NM. Besides tax returns of all flavors, she worked on audits of governmental entities and not-for-profits, business valuations, and litigation support. Now she's a full-time freelance writer specializing in content marketing for accountants and bookkeepers around...