President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc
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The case for producing a client newsletter

3rd Apr 2017

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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?
  4. 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
  5. 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? 

The 2017 Practice Excellence Awards are now open for entries. Visit the Practice Excellence website to find out more.

Replies (11)

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By 0098087
04th Apr 2017 10:43

Practice Web. Superb

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Replying to 0098087:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:31

Thanks for commenting!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
04th Apr 2017 11:58

I did run a client newsletter for a year a while ago, content provided by a third party.

It didn't help. I think this is mainly because I have a one to one relationship with all my clients and if a tax change might affect them I talk to them about it or email them. If they see an issue that might affect them, they call or email me. I am a small one man band (and keep it this way deliberately).

I do, however, think they are a great idea for other practices (I'll admit it, mine is a strange beast) and especially for those with a lot of clients and staff. A lot of those clients will expect this sort of thing. It is a great way of communicating with clients, but make sure it at least sounds like it is coming from you- add your own editorial.

Remember, clients don't like feeling like just another number so personalise the content so it reflects your practice, and follow up on clients you know changes might affect- or better still, call them before the newsletter comes out and tell them 'this is just about to come out, but I thought I'd call you to run through it'.

Think through your purpose carefully before taking the plunge- writing all your own material might sound like fun for the first couple of issues but unless you're naturally gifted at journalism you might find after a few months struggling to come up with content- and there is nothing worse from a client's point of view then getting a few and then they peter out!

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:26

Thanks for commenting on my article. You made several good points, especially about the difficulty in writing your own content and keeping the flow of ideas fresh. You made another point about talking to each client directly, which is great! The newsletter enables you to reach everyone with commentary simultaneously, if you are dealing with breaking news.

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By pjc55
04th Apr 2017 13:15

I've been producing a monthly newsletter for about 4 years for clients & contacts, based in the UK. As background, I was a sole practitioner until recently - I took on a partner in January. I currently have just over 400 recipients on my list - always gradually expanding.
I write almost all the material myself, except for budget news, and even then I tweak the text to suit my style. It's mainly tax-based, but not necessarily topical. People a;ways need to be reminded of the basics, preferrably in simple terms. It takes perhaps a day a month - a considerable investment, but I consider it well worthwhile, as suggested above. I've gained business through it - clients have forwarded it to their contacts and family - and I often get replies from clients. It seems to act as a prompt to them to get in touch - which can lead to extra or earlier work.
We have little contact with some clients except for thinking about the accounts or tax returns, so it's a way of keeping in touch with them, reminding them that we're there, and letting them know that we can do things outside the normal service that they see from us.

For the last few months I've been using Mailchimp (formerly I just used Outlook with Mailmerge to greet recipients by their first names) - fascinating extra information and statistice! I generally get a 40% open-rate, which I gather is pretty good. I see surprising people opening the email - people I haven't been in touch with for ages, but who are still evidently remembering me via this email and so in due course they may contact me for advice.
So I'd definitely recommend it. However, the caveat is that it needs to be regular and as personal as possible, and that takes time. I am convinced that just using a bought-in letter would be useless.

Thanks (2)
Replying to pjc55:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:30

Thanks for commenting on my article. You bring up the point, "make it as personal as possible". Some people enjoy writing, others don't. There needs to be a happy medium. This might involve a customized newsletter format where you can add your own articles (editorials?) to prewritten content or possibly be able to assemble a newsletter from a library of articles produced elsewhere for the purpose. However, it's great your newsletter has delivered results!

Thanks (0)
Replying to pjc55:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:30

Thanks for commenting on my article. You bring up the point, "make it as personal as possible". Some people enjoy writing, others don't. There needs to be a happy medium. This might involve a customized newsletter format where you can add your own articles (editorials?) to prewritten content or possibly be able to assemble a newsletter from a library of articles produced elsewhere for the purpose. However, it's great your newsletter has delivered results!

Thanks (0)
Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
04th Apr 2017 13:50

I send my own written newsletters to my clients and I do get a good response. The only thing is... once you start then you have to carry on - so if its every month then you have to keep it it up for every month/quarter whatever (even January).
Also if you have a varied client base you need to be careful as to the subject headings as non VAT registered subcontractors wont want to know about VAT and corporate tax. I set aside a section personally aimed at my clients e.g I'll tell them what I'm doing (writing a book on Property Tax/ dividends whatever) or tell them about a course I have been on - ie a blog.
You also need to have something that attracts their attention when sent, so they are not confronted with paragraphs of words.
I have purchased some of Matts cartoons - they dont cost much but they make you smile especially the one where someone is in an office looking out of the window with a cup of coffee in their hand. Across the road a building is on fire with 'Inland Revenue' written above the door. The comment is: 'I rang the fire brigade but they just laughed and hung up.'
It is for this reason that I don't like the 'purchased' ones. Which look what they are being written in formal-speak with just a change of logo.
There are individual professional writers who write non standard newsletters for you that are aimed at your type of client - Sarah Bradford for one ... and me.

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:22

Thanks for commenting on my article. You bring up excellent points about the need for specialized content for specialized clients and the desire to avoid an "off the shelf" look.

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By AndrewV12
05th Apr 2017 10:35

A good article, I think it comes down to newsletter versus the internet and social media. Which is best mmmmmm.

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Replying to AndrewV12:
bryce sanders
By Bryce Sanders
04th May 2017 20:33

Thanks for commenting. There's a lot to consider. Although print is "old school" it has staying power. An eNewsletter can be "saved" to a folder and read later. Social media reaches lots of people, but messages can get lost in the deluge of constantly updated posts. The jury is still out.

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