From the Oct. 2009 Issue
Are you a “by-the-book” kind of person, or are you willing to break the rules?
Think carefully! The answer may reveal whether you are open to marketing and branding your firm beyond traditional techniques.
There’s nothing wrong with sticking with old-school methods. In fact, many firms believe you don’t want to fix something that’s not broken. But something that isn’t broken could still be improved upon or modified.
Take, for example, doing business on the golf course or attending networking functions. These endeavors are solid ways to build business, but in today’s environment, they are only two options in an entire portfolio of solutions. Many of today’s methods are low cost and high tech, but all focus on the same technique — reaching out to clients and prospects to be heard above the competition.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
By now, every firm should have a website, but statistics show that only about 60 percent of firms do (The CPA Technology Advisor 2008 Reader Survey). And many of these firms are stuck in Web 1.0 instead of thinking beyond the website-as-brochure scenario. Firms with dynamic sites (Web 2.0+) use a mix of interactive technologies, not for vanity or because it looks good, but to draw attention to their firm. (See www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2193 for a review of website building tools for accountants.)
One method to market and brand your firm is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and while it’s not a new technology by any means, it’s still new to the accounting profession. Brian Swanson, a partner at Flashpoint Marketing (www.flashpointmarketing.biz), works with tax and accounting firms to design and implement lead generation and marketing programs through a variety of traditional and digital methods.
“The reality is the techniques are new, but the broader concepts fall within traditional marketing strategy,” he says. “Take, for example, social media. Social media marketing uses technology platforms to connect with prospects, clients and referral partners to engage them in conversation on topics of interest or meaning. The goal is to provide enough information to incent them to learn more about your firm and services offered, while allowing them to ‘get to know’ you and your firm prior to making initial contact.”
Most firms are aware of social media tools, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Plaxo, but may not be using them to their potential, or at least collectively as a cohesive unit instead of individually. Similarly, Swanson feels SEO is a derivative of social media, and a technology that is not being used properly — if at all — within firms.
He says “getting noticed” is what SEO is all about. His definition: Anyone searching for information in Google or any other search engine will find you based on words embedded in your website. Once SEO is a part of your online efforts, reports generated through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) provide practical information you can use to find out who clicked through your site.
Top Five Reasons to Incorporate Email Newsletters
Barry Friedman, CPA, and chief executive officer of BizActions (www.bizactions.com) offers his opinions on the top reasons why e-mail newsletters are hot, hot, hot!
1. They Strengthen Brand Image. Communication is a key factor in any firm's success. When clients receive consistent, helpful communications from their most trusted advisor, it builds trust and loyalty. Email newsletters help firms stay in touch with clients, while also enabling them to provide relevant, educational information. Leading e-newsletter vendors also support custom branding to ensure that the firm’s name and brand is consistent across all collateral.
2. Email Newsletters Support a Cost-effective Delivery Method (digital vs. print). With rapidly rising printing and postage costs, many firms are abandoning printed newsletters. Technology provides a cost-effective and convenient way to deliver newsletters to clients digitally.
3. They Provide a Flexible Platform. Email newsletters are far more flexible than printed materials. Firms can schedule release periods to meet their unique needs, e.g., weekly, biweekly or monthly. Technology also eliminates the need to back date for printing. In the printed world, it is typical to schedule launch dates weeks out to accommodate for the time required to set up files, print and mail newsletters. A digital platform allows firms to make changes or add articles up to the time the newsletter is released.
4. They Include Email Lists and Click Reports. Some e-mail newsletter providers include email radar functionality, meaning that firms can launch directed email campaigns to further strengthen communication with clients. Click reports are also typically included, providing firms with helpful analytics, such as which articles have the highest click-through rates. This type of marketing intelligence offers more insight into the firm’s client base.
5. Readers Have Access to Quality Content. Premium email newsletter providers offer a comprehensive library of content that can be delivered to a variety of target markets, including, for example, individuals versus businesses. Articles are relevant and timely and enable firms to deliver a robust newsletter without having to invest a great deal of time in writing the content or having multiple newsletter accounts.