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How content can help avoid the self assessment nightmare

Before you sweep your nightmarish January under the rug, Melissa Tredinnick encourages self assessment-bruised accountants to consider using a methodical content plan to whip clients into shape long before January 2021.

10th Feb 2020
Assistant Editor PracticeWEB
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Self-assessment season is finally over. After 10,450,542 tax returns were filed online, and a further 672,425‬ sent in on paper, many accountants will now be looking forward to a more chilled out February. 

Maybe you’ve got a holiday booked, or maybe you’re just settling back in to work as normal – either way, without a looming deadline or the threat of clients showing up at the last minute with their box of receipts, it’s tempting to forget about the whole thing until next year.

But, without wanting to pile the pressure back on, this two-month window before the end of the tax year is the perfect time to think about how you’re going to make self-assessment less of an ordeal the next time around.

By putting together a detailed, methodical content plan early in the year, you’ll be in a better position to engage with clients and get their 2019/20 returns finished long before January 2021.

Starting your content plan

Before anything else, you’ll need to think about who your content is aimed at.

It can be helpful to divide your audience into groups rather than looking at your whole client base as one. Carrying out a buyer persona exercise can help you focus your message and find the right way of communicating it.

Think about what you want your content plan to achieve, and what you want to say to your different personas. Who among your clients causes you the most problems when it comes to tax returns, and who just needs a bit of a nudge? How are you communicating with these clients already, and is the message getting through?

With that in mind, your next step is to start generating content ideas. Although your main aim is to persuade clients to contact you about their tax return sooner rather than later, your content plan doesn’t have to be a long list of reminders. Above all, it should answer any questions they might have about self-assessment.

A good way of doing this is to think about what your clients are already asking you – the recurring questions you get every self-assessment season, or the most common errors you find on clients’ records.

Even if they seem like very basic questions, putting your answer in writing may save you the time of explaining it over and over again. For more complex questions, it’s also helpful to have a clear guide that your clients can refer back to when they need it.

Guessing at the kind of questions your clients might want an answer to is a little harder, but there are some online tools that can help. 

SEO keyword tools like Ubersuggest can offer some inspiration by telling you how many people are searching for a keyword on Google, while AnswerThePublic uses Google’s suggested searches to compile phrases and questions that users might be asking.

Another approach is to go niche. If you work with a lot of landlords on their tax returns, talk about the specific issues that come up on their forms. If you specialise in construction, or tech, or the creative industry, make sure you’re talking about these sectors. 

The most basic details of the self-assessment process may not change from business to business, but something that’s written with a particular audience in mind is likely to resonate with them better than a vague guide.

Choosing your content types

Having come up with a selection of content ideas for the year, the next stage is deciding how to deliver it.

Articles and blog posts

Written content that you publish on your website, or on another platform like LinkedIn, is a good way to get lots of information on one page and to give your clients practical guidance.

Blogs and articles can be either short-form or long-form, so you might want to give some thought to the mixture of these you plan to produce.

Short-form content is quick to put together and distribute, making it a relatively easy way to keep up frequent and regular content production. 

However, long-form content is much more effective for search engine optimisation, increasing your website’s chances of appearing prominently in a Google search. It also gives you an opportunity to show your depth of expertise.

Multimedia

If you’re looking to go beyond the written word, videos and webinars can add some variety to your plan. They’re also a good way to reach clients who prefer to consume information on the go.

For example, you could conduct an interview with a member of staff explaining the tax return process, or an instructional webinar on what to prepare for self-assessment.

Social media

As well as planning for more substantial pieces of content, part of your content plan should be keeping your social media accounts up to date. 

Try to find time each week to share the articles you’ve published, post updates as the tax return deadline gets closer, and link to any relevant news.

Images and infographics work well for expressing a clear message on social media, so you could put some of these together at the start of the year and schedule them over time. 

Don’t worry too much about being repetitive or sharing the same article twice – the window in which clients might see one post about the self-assessment deadline is very narrow. 

Email

Social media may not be the best way to reach everyone, so don’t forget about email communications. 

You could use a CRM to schedule in personalised email reminders to your clients, but you could also send out a regular newsletter, and use this as an opportunity to link back to self-assessment content on your website.

Putting it all together

Finally, you’ll need to turn all of your planning into something that you can use. It’s up to you how you do this, but one method is to create a calendar on Excel or Google Sheets, with space to list the date, the title of the content, a description, a deadline, and any other relevant details.

The content you plan on self-assessment content should form just one part of your wider content strategy, so when you’re building your annual calendar, think about the other services or key events you want to promote. 

Put it to the test. By engaging your clients engaged with relevant content, it should be much easier to communicate with them when the next tax return season comes around.

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By Laurence Vogel
11th Feb 2020 12:47

Interesting post Melissa. Fits in nicely with a talk I am giving this year to accountants titled 'How to sell yourself as an accountant through content' which covers what content marketing is, what types of content is relevant for clients of a practice and how to get that content out there and generating cut-through.

Ultimately, your post is about making life easier in a practice, but improving their overall image to clients and beyond.

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