Should accountants be blogging?
The idea of blogging is not new but it is still a minority sport among accountants. Do those who blog find it’s worth the effort, asks Mark Lee.
Plenty of accountants have their own blogs. Most seem to use these sporadically to share tax and related news stories that may be of interest to prospective clients.
The primary objectives of having a blog are typically one or more of the following:
- Improve search engine ranking (so your website appears higher on page one when someone searches for an accountant in your area or for one with expertise in an unusual topic)
- Distinguish you and your website from those of accountants who don’t blog (and so help lead to more clients)
- Reinforce your expertise in specific topics (and so help lead to more clients)
- Direct more web traffic to your website (and so help lead to more media enquiries and PR as well as more clients when they are ready to change to someone new)
- Generate content that you can use to keep in touch with prospective clients, introducers and influencers (and so help lead to more clients in time)
In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I have been a regular blogger since 2006. I enjoy it. In this respect I am in a similar position to many of the marketing gurus who blog and then encourage accountants to do so too. The difference being that I blog for accountants and have never encouraged accountants themselves to become bloggers.
Many of the larger firms have long had blogs. In their cases though the person responsible for the blog is rarely an accountant in practice. It’s much more likely to be someone in the marketing team. And given the size and profile of larger firms I would tend to agree this makes sense and should make it easier to ensure the blog is kept up-to-date.
The extent to which larger firms, their partners and staff might benefit from having a practice blog can inform the choices made by smaller practices. One point to note of course is that larger firms have more potential contributors and issue more press releases which can be copied to the blog.
Persistent smaller practice blogs
Bainbridge Lewis in Brighton commented on the 2011 article and explained why they blogged. They still do now although far less frequently than they did in 2011 when they posted 43 items. (21 in 2012, 12 in 2013 and 17 in 2014).
Caplan Associates in Watford were referenced in the 2012 article and continue to be enthusiastic bloggers (about once a month although the pace has picked up again recently).
CheapAccounting.co.uk – Elaine Clark’s online firm and franchise has gone from strength to strength in recent years. She continues to blog extensively, and, I would suggest, evidently enjoys doing so.
Mitch The TaxMan – Mitch Young, now a partner at Nyman Libson Paul, started his personal tax blog some years back. Through it he evidences his fascination with tax and his desire to help his clients. The blog has raised his profile with the media and I am sure it also contributed to his promotion to partner, aged just 29, and his subsequent moves to first one and then a second London firm.
Not such ‘great’ examples
I note that a number of those who challenged my less than enthusiastic view in previous years are no longer in practice or no longer blog.
I have also looked back at the 6 blogs featured in the 2012 piece, referenced as ‘great’ examples above, by someone who knew the marketplace well:
- One blogged infrequently in 2012, about once a month in 2013, 3 times in 2014 and only twice so far in 2015. Hardly what you might call ‘committed’.
- One has posted just 23 items to their blog. None are dated, thus disguising how infrequently they add new items. Many of them seem to be copies of press releases or client testimonials.
- One posted just 5 items in 2012, 3 in 2013 and 3 in 2014.
- One was a US firm where the marketplace operates quite differently to the UK.
- The other 2 are still regular bloggers in the UK (and one of these is the CheapAccounting.co.uk blog I referenced earlier). But that’s just 33% of those featured as ‘great’ examples.
Many other accountants’ blogs referenced in comments on the earlier articles seem largely to have disappeared. There could be many reasons for this of course.
I happen to agree with those who advise that a well written and focused blog can, over time, help an accountant to stand out from their competitors. And this may then lead to more business and to more PR coverage.
A focused blog however, is just one of many ways in which an accountant can stand out. Blogging is not for everyone and, to be worthwhile, it probably needs to form part of a well planned marketing strategy.
What I have long challenged is the blanket advice that every accountant needs a blog. Loosely translated this typically means the advocate is suggesting that accountants should pay the advocate to write blog posts for them.
Given the relatively low proportion of successful accountants’ blogs it is self evidently true that a blog, of itself, does not guarantee practice growth or success. It has never been true that you MUST have a blog – regardless of what some marketing gurus have argued.
What is fair to say is that, if you want to grow your practice, you will benefit from developing a well thought through marketing strategy. And, depending on your objectives, on your focus and on your interests you may conclude that blogging could be a useful element of that strategy.
You should then review this theory over a period of time. This may require you to test different approaches to blogging, to experiment with the type of content you write about and to experiment with the style you adopt.
You might also try writing blog posts yourself and compare this with the impact of outsourcing the origination to someone who understands you and what you are seeking to achieve.
These days Mark Lee focuses his business actiities on two key activities:
1 - He loves being engaged to speak on stage to audiences of accountants in all size of firms. His latest keynopte talk is: The rise of Robo-Accountants - and how to beat them. He is an accountancy focused speaker, futurist and influencer with a positive reputation...