Marketing is a touchy subject for accountants. Despite this, one of the key trends from the 2016 Practice Excellence Awards was around digital marketing, with many firms focussing on website, social media and digital distribution of content.
If you run your own practice you might want more clients, however it seems inappropriate to ask for them. Accounting is a profession, similar to medicine and the law. Potential clients come to you. How can you make that happen?
Why would clients send referrals?
Suppose a client, of their own free will, mentions your name to a friend. Their friend calls you, mentioning the introduction. You would treat this person a potential client because a current client referred them.
Situations present themselves to your clients. A friend is getting divorced. They need a different accountant. Their new neighbour arrived because of work relocation. The company moved, the firm reassigned them or they took a new job with a different employer. A relative announces their accountant retired. Your client is asked: “Know any good accountants?”
You want your name to be at the top of your client’s mind. This isn’t as easy as it sounds if it’s a new client relationship or you interact only one a year. Producing and electronically distributing a client newsletter is a low cost way to stay connected without being intrusive.
What do I need to know before I start?
First, realise words you put into print can come back and bite you. Accuracy is important. Next, you are implementing a popular idea. Your client likely receives emailed newsletters from their university alumni group, favorite charities and possibly their local council. Once a month should be acceptable. Retail stores sending out emails once a day is irritating. You aren’t advertising, you are educating. You want your client to associate hearing from you with learning new, valuable information. You want to respect copyrights. Not all clients want to hear from you. They should have the ability to opt out. Finally, you don’t want a project that puts incredible demands on your time.
What goes into client newsletters?
There are now many email marketing systems available. In addition to providing newsletter templates, they also provide tracking statistics: How many emails reached their destination? Were they viewed? But before deciding on a delivery system, you need a product to deliver.
What kind of content should you provide? Simple. Information you feel your client should know along with content they would find interesting. Here are some examples:
- Changes to tax regulations - easy to understand explanations of why this is important to the majority of your clients
- Scenario-based explanations - why a change in regulations benefits or penalises a certain category of taxpayer
- Relationship articles - how might key news stories (Brexit) affect their personal finances or tax situation?
- Key filing dates - clients need to be reminded
- Personal finance articles - clients travel overseas. They access money. Don’t assume they are all sophisticated
- Lifestyle articles - clients earn money. You help them report and manage it. They also spend it. Articles exploring a luxury goods or vacation category can be entertaining to read
- Event announcements - tell people if you hold client seminars or teach adult education classes locally
What are my options?
You have several choices for generating a client newsletter:
- Write it yourself - it’s a great option if writing comes naturally. Costs are low, but you must review the content for accuracy. You name is in the byline
- Write it with friends - a few other accountant friends had the same idea. You each produce articles. This requires coordination. It also raises the byline issue. You don’t want your clients to leave you for a competitor
- Assemble with links - possibly the easiest solution. Review several online versions of mainstream publications. Find interesting articles and copy the links. Your newsletter takes the “I’ve assembled several articles you might find interesting” approach. Clicking on the link takes them to the publication. You need to confirm linking to the article is permitted. You don’t want clients to encounter a password gateway preventing them from viewing the article. Is the article accurate?
- Buy from a provider - many people in different professions acknowledge the need for a newsletter, yet have neither the skill nor the time to develop one. There are firms who will provide a complete newsletter relevant to clients from a specific industry. You brand their template with your firm name and contact information. It’s now your newsletter
- Customised option - suppose you don’t like an article included in the pre-built newsletter? Maybe your clients all come from the same profession. You might prefer a service that provides a library of articles, each compliance reviewed and checked for accuracy. They might be ghostwritten or have no bylines. You choose articles, slotting them into your onscreen template.
Why am I doing this?
Your newsletter helps you keep in touch with your clients on their terms. Articles get them thinking, calling with questions. This could lead to ancillary consulting business or new client referrals. Your clients initiate these contacts. New business comes because it was their idea.
Do you provide a client newsletter? Have you seen any tangible results from it?
About Bryce Sanders
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania.