Content marketing is becoming a bit of a buzz phrase at the moment; happily taking its place next to “proactive” and “real time information” within the accountancy world. For anyone who has avoided it so far, content marketing is marketing that provides potential clients (or even current and past clients) with information that you believe they will find useful. This could be anything from a full-blown e-book to a simple infographic.

What will be my return on investment?

The tricky bit about content marketing is that it can be very hard to work out your return on investment. Placing an advert in your local paper or Yellow Pages is nice and simple. You hand over some money and if nobody calls then you’ve lost money and if people call then you can look at the number of leads and conversions and take things from there.

I would say that I have grown my bookkeeping business off the back of my blogs but even I couldn’t say what the return on investment has been. I have had experiences where I have posted a blog and the next day the phone has rung, but that’s generally not how it happens. Normally what happens is that I write a blog and then promote it across several social media platforms. A business owner comes across the blog on say a LinkedIn group; reading it takes them to my website and this process is repeated a couple of times. Then maybe one day they contact me. So, was it the blogs that won that client? Or LinkedIn? Or maybe even my website?

Your buyers are changing

As we often get too close to our own business, let’s use buying a holiday as an example. Depending on your age, not that long ago, when it came to booking a holiday you used to decide roughly where you wanted to go. Then you took a walk up to your local Lunn Poly on the high street, sat down at a desk and a member of staff found you a good deal. You trusted them that the hotel was a good one. You didn’t really question the flight times. I remember my parents buying a holiday and then coming home to find where we were going in the brochure such was their trust in what was being sold to them.

Most of us wouldn’t do that now. We’d Google the locations that we fancy visiting. Look on various price comparison sites for hotels and flights. Often tweaking dates and times to get the best price. Then it’s onto the review sites to see what other people thought of the hotel before, possibly, making a purchase.

If we happily put in so much effort into our holiday choice, why would we expect our potential clients to put less effort into choosing us? After all they will be entrusting us with their business and letting us see their bank statements and ultimately what difference is there between choosing a random accountant on Yellow Pages and picking a holiday from a list on Teletext? We’re in an age where we are surrounded by information and building trust is important but it takes time.

Blogs are a great way of building up a relationship with potential clients. They give you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and give people an idea of what it’s like to work with you and your firm. If you dabble with a bit of SEO and use questions as the heading (and starting point) of your blogs, then they will also begin to show up in search engines. This is very handy as quite often someone will ask Google a question thinking they need an answer when really, they need an accountant.

If you keep your blogs free from sales pitches, then you can almost see them as an extra staff member, working for free and long after you’ve first written them. Like a sales assistant in B&Q who comes over and explains what glue you need after spotting you staring at the display for slightly too long. They act as reassurance to your potential client that they’re about to make the right decision.

How to get started

If you believe that starting a blog is right for you, but you just don’t know where to start, first think of your niche market. Then make a list of problems that they might have.

We often forget that our potential clients don’t see engaging our services as the logical step in answering their query. The better you know your target market, the better you’ll be at knowing the problem they might be trying to solve and then guessing what their next step will be. Your blog will act as a way of steering them towards you, without directly telling them to do this. Remember this is trust and relationship building, not sales pitches.

An easy way to format a blog is to address: What is their problem? Why should they solve it? And finally, how can they solve it.

Once you have your chosen problem, you then need to use around 200 words on answering each question. So, it’s nice and simple and can actually be quite quick to do once you treat it as a system in the same way as you would do anything else within your accountancy firm.

My only further tip is to remember to promote your blogs across social media and possibly in your newsletter if you have them. And you never know; you may post just the one blog and get a call the next day. It has happened.

Claire Owen-Jones
Copyright Sian Trenberth Photography

Founder of Loud and Clear Accounting and freelance blog writer for accountancy and bookkeeping firms.

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