Improving online presence
Social media is changing the game and accountants must embrace the digital space to engage existing clients and win new business.
Competition is fierce among accountants. With so many talented practitioners offering great service, the most successful firms know they need to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s keeping existing
clients close or attracting new clients, social media is a useful tool that the wider profession is currently underutilising.
There are two main reasons why accountants should be on social media – to engage with existing
clients and to win new business. While the thought of social media may fill many accountants with dread, it really is one of the most effective marketing platforms available.
“It’s about positioning your brand as a thought leader,” says George Photios, a campaign director at digital marketing agency G Squared.
For existing clients, social media can be used effectively to keep an accountant in the mind of a client and to position yourself as a trusted adviser.
“Accountants have a lot of clients so social media provides a great opportunity to engage with them and remain top of mind,” Mr Photios says.
“By giving tips and updates, for example, tax updates or live commentary on things like the budget, utilising social media to give real-time information to people about what’s happening in the economy and other practical tips around minimising tax, they can really effectively reach clients."
Doing this allows accountants to raise awareness of their brand and the services they offer. This in
turn can get small business owners visiting accountants’ websites, following their updates and engaging with them.
However, merely posting content may not be enough. Many people now use social media as an alternative communication tool to the traditional phone or even email.
“These days, there is a much greater expectation out there for providers, accountants and others to actually have a good social media presence and to be responsive on social media platforms,” says Peter Chaly, managing director of marketing agency Smartink.
“Sometimes clients won’t pick up the phone, they might just connect on Twitter or some other channel and there is an expectation that you’ll be there,” he says. While this may seem like an obvious part of modern customer service, Mr Chaly believes it isn’t an area accountants have been necessarily good at.
“In the past, I think accountants, some of them, have been a little slow to adapt.
“In fact, I know of a number of clients who have [turned] to accountants who seem a bit more ‘with it’, who actually have a good social media presence and are active and engaging with their clients,” Mr Chaly says.
That’s part of it – keeping your existing client base happy and maintaining channels, other ways for them to communicate with you and for you to reach them.
But putting your name or your firm’s brand out there can also pay dividends by exposing you to
potential new clients. In addition to providing existing clients information, posting updates and
information on social media can attract new business.
Mr Chaly says there are boundless opportunities on social media for accountants to land newwork.
“If you’ve got a good Twitter presence, you can be hashtag searching, you can be looking for words that are being used, people might be looking for help in a particular area, your area of expertise and you can connect with them,” he says.
“I’d suggest offering them some advice or content that you’ve previously produced and help them out that way, and build a relationship and engage with them.”
Where to start
The first step for an accountant wanting to boost their social media presence is probably the same as the
first step of any marketing program – identifying a target market.
“We always talk to accountants about working out exactly who their ideal customer is,” Mr Chaly says.
Spend some time working out who your ideal client is and look at what their greatest pain points are, he suggests.
“Is it the start-up business looking to get off the ground who will need all the help with getting up and running, or is it someone who is a seasoned business owner who is perhaps dissatisfied with their current provider and maybe their current provider is slow to respond, slow to get work done or there’s a bit of a disconnect between what the client wants and what they’re getting, or [are your clients] the mums and dads?
“Work out who your ideal customer is or set of ideal customers are, look at where they are and how you can find them because social media provides awesome tools for finding these people.”
What to post
The golden rule when it comes to content is: make sure it’s good. Social media is such a fast medium that it can be tempting to disseminate quantity over quality but according to Mr Chaly, that’s a huge mistake. “The world has been turned on its head in terms of content, especially lately. There is just
so much really good content out there,” he says.
“Don’t put out mediocre content; make sure it’s really good, make sure that you are capturing those eyeballs. You want people to really value the content that you are giving them.” Mr Photios agrees, saying that the quality of content is what holds back many firms’ social media success.
“Formulate a good content strategy, and not just regurgitating content and sharing Sydney Morning Herald articles or AFR articles,” he says.
“Write something about what’s actually going on, actually produce that sort of content yourself. That sort of content is an asset to the business.”
How to convert
Any marketing professional will tell you that social media is now one of the most important marketing channels around.
But many business owners, from a range of industries, still aren’t convinced. A common bugbear of
these doubters is a belief that it’s difficult to convert social media exposure into actual leads.
It’s an issue Mr Chaly says he is frequently asked about, and admitting that converting from social media can be tough.
“You have got to earn it. These days especially, you do have to earn the opt-in a lot more than you used to,” he says.
“In the old days, you could just throw a form up on your website, say ‘opt in to our newsletter’ and people would just put their emails in, but now you have to produce really good content just to stand out.”
Mr Chaly offers some simple strategies that can turn exposure into leads.
“First of all, you can put a call to action within the content,” he says. “Somewhere down the page,
you could have a little banner that has appeal to the reader about that topic they are having problems with.”
For example, if a firm is running a webinar on a subject related to a blog post, they need to put
a banner about the webinar somewhere on the website. The banner can be a call to action to get people to register for the seminar.
“If they register, you’ve got their email address, you’ve their permission to get in touch with them,” Mr Chaly says.
Obviously, this strategy is not foolproof. Given the number of content providers trying to reach out to small business owners, people are obviously not going to give their email address to just anyone who asks. And even if you have great content – which would likely increase the number of email addresses you collect, you are still not going to get everyone. This, Mr Chaly says, is where technology comes in.
“Let’s say they don’t click on that banner and they don’t call you or email you and they go away … a lot of people would think that’s a lost opportunity – someone came but we didn’t convert, we don’t have any
connection with them. Well, if you’ve got a little tracking pixel that you put on your website, the
Facebook one for example, you can have that on there for up to 180 days — for six months, more or less.
“The next time they’re on Facebook, you can actually be serving up ads to the people who have visited your website. You can have another touchpoint with them.”
Mr Chaly says there is a cost involved in this method but it can pay off. Converting on social media is about increasing touchpoints with potential clients and this type of tactic often reaps rewards.
“You have the first touchpoint, to get them to your website, the second was the website, third
touchpoint could well be an ad on Facebook that is delivered only to people who have been to your website so they’ve already got an exposure to you,” he explains.
Mr Chaly says repeated contact is key in any social media strategy as people need to develop a trust
in you before they will consider changing their accountant.
“People typically won’t churn on first contact. It takes a while for the penny to drop and for them to make the decision to shift,” he says. “You can help that along by increasing the number of touchpoints that you have with them. That’s one way of maintaining contact with them and maybe helping them cross that line.”