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Firm marketing goals

A firm’s marketing goals need to tie into and be aligned with your firm goals. A goal is simply a statement that states the direction of a firm in a particular area. For example, a firm might say:

“Increase awareness of firm in three niche markets (real estate, manufacturing and financial institutions).” Or, another firm might set a goal to obtain more referrals from attorneys and bankers. A third firm might decide to focus on seminars and speeches, or increase revenue from new clients through new services.”

Undoubtedly you will come up with many goals. You won’t be able to do everything or be all things to all people, so it will be important to prioritise your goals. The more you can focus and strive to achieve some immediate results, the more satisfied you will be with your marketing plan. Small successes along the way will provide you with the encouragement you need to stick with your plan. Don’t worry if you won’t be able to do all things at once.

Identify the threats and opportunities that will impede or assist you in obtaining the goals you have identified. A mistake that many firms make is to just outline threats and opportunities and not tie them into a specific goal. If they don’t relate to one of your goals, chances are they are not threats or opportunities.

For example, a threat that could apply to the first goal above could be: “Partners and staff lacking significant presence in these markets.” An opportunity could be:”No other firm in the market has a dominant position”.

Next you will have to set objectives. The main difference between a goal and an objective is that an objective tells you who will do what and when. For example, “By May 1, marketing brochures for the real estate, manufacturing and financial services niches will be completed. Responsibility: Marketing Director and Team Leaders.” The marketing plan needs to become a living document and objectives are the elements that give it life.

Before you get too far down the marketing path you will need to create a budget. This does not have to be a major project. Ask yourself these two questions:

  • How much time will I spend?
  • How much money do I plan to spend?

To get a quick reality check, ask yourself what are you currently doing in these two areas (time and out of pocket expenses). How do they compare to what you expect to spend? Your largest expense will most likely be your opportunity cost. In other words, for every hour you spend marketing you should multiply that by your billing rate. If you plan to spend 30 hours per month and your billing rate is $150/hour, your monthly opportunity cost is $4,500. If your marketing is going to be successful, you will need to bring in that much business for the time being spent.

Finally, write out your plan. If it is written it will more likely happen. A key to making your marketing plan a living document is to schedule your marketing time just like any other billable engagement. This way you are more likely to perform the marketing activities you listed in your plan.

Make sure you have a process to report on your progress, at least monthly. If you are a sole practitioner, make a monthly report to your spouse. If you are a multi-partner firm, have the marketing report the first thing you discuss at your monthly partners’ meeting.

Now is the time to start developing or refining your marketing plan. Take it step by step. Think seriously about the answers. Develop a clear picture of where you want to take the firm and then take it there.


LinkedIn Showcase Pages

LinkedIn’s ‘Showcase Pages’ are designed to help firms and other businesses build audience engagement around the different products and services they offer.

Showcase Pages were introduced when LinkedIn removed the ‘products and services’ tab on company pages. Now, Showcase Pages are the only option for firms wanting to display their products and services on the LinkedIn platform.

And while the Showcase Page feature can be beneficial for businesses with an established product line, just because the feature is available doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the right fit for your firm.

Here are some of the benefits and problems of the feature to help your firm decide whether you should use it for your company page.


  • Showcase Pages are extensions of your Company Page

If your firm has multiple services, each with their own unique customer segment, then Showcase Pages allow you to separate your communication for each audience without cluttering up a single Company Page. At the same time, your clients will visibly see the link between the service they use and your firm’s company as a whole, allowing them to explore other services your firm has to offer.

  • Showcase Pages have some similar features to a Company Page

You can post updates, feature LinkedIn groups connected to your service, and see detailed analytics on your updates. Unlike a Company Page, firms cannot add any “specialties” of your service, or allow team members to connect their personal LinkedIn profiles to a showcase page.

  • You can engage with specific customer segments

If you have clearly defined target audiences or are trying to encourage particular client behavior, the ability to segment users and the messaging your firm delivers to them on LinkedIn can be a big help.


  • No more user recommendations

A benefit of the products and services tab on a firm’s Company Page was that LinkedIn users could “recommend” the firm’s service. User-generated content like that is gold for marketing your firm online, as it can increase your firm’s credibility and demonstrate that your firm isn’t the only one who thinks highly of your services.

  • Starting from the beginning, again

Another obstacle with creating a Showcase Page for your firm’s service is the one you had when you first started your Company Page—you have no followers. This is particularly problematic for small firms who are already strapped for time and resources.

  • Reconfiguring your content strategy

Creating Showcase Pages creates the need to reconfigure a firm’s online content strategy. If a firm was regularly posting updates on their Company Page to an engaged audience, it would now have to consider what that looks like going forward. Having multiple Showcase Pages means there are now more channels that require their own messaging.


Writing effective headlines for online content

Firms should never overlook the importance of a good headline.

A good headline can ensure that the effort spent writing an article does not go to waste. It can also help search engines pick up a firm’s content in the weeks and months following the article being published.

Good headlines make more people want to click an online item whenever they see it, so spending the time thinking up the right headline can make a world of difference to the success of your firm’s articles.

Here are a few things to consider when writing the next headline for your firm’s blog or website:

  • Headlines should be descriptive

Online headlines need to be descriptive. Non-descriptive headlines don’t perform very well when they are read out of context, and they also don’t work very well for SEO purposes. In short, your headlines need to tell readers what they can expect from the article.

  • Avoid clickbait headlines

Clickbait headlines typically aim to provide just enough information to make a reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content. Often, clickbait headlines do not deliver on their promises.

Headlines need to be enticing, but don’t overdo it. Headlines that promise something but only bring in traffic are disappointing, and will not work as a long-term strategy.

  • Headlines have to work on their own

When writing an article, it can be easy to think of simply placing a headline at the top of the article and forgetting that that same headline is often seen out of the article’s context. Headlines are usually the only part of an article that is seen in tweets, news feeds, newsletters and search results pages.

Since headlines often have to compete for attention with other online, they need to be able to work alone and without the support of the article content.

  • Add keywords to your headlines

Adding keywords to your headlines can help with the article’s search engine ranking. Keywords can also catch the attention of a firm’s target audience on social sites, in newsletters or in search results.

  • Consider headline length

Online environments put limits on the length of headlines in various ways. Search engines like Google will only show the first 55-60 characters of a page title, so bear this in mind when creating headlines. Social media posts also have character limits and shorter headlines are more likely to be viewed in full.

It is also much easier to read and digest a shorter headline quickly. Making a heading too long and people are less likely to read it.


Handling eight common objections

Develop your ability to respond to common client objections by reading the following:

“I’m a small business and I don’t need all your sophisticated help.”

“While this is true, there are services we can specifically offer to small companies like yours that will make a difference in your productivity. We will not offer you any service inappropriate to your needs. To demonstrate how we can help, let me tell you how we would satisfy one of your needs we discussed earlier.”

“We’re concerned that one of our major competitors is a client of yours.”

“I understand your concern for confidentiality. However, we would never risk our reputation by violating any confidence of our clients. It is also our policy to have different people on both engagements so you will get the benefit of industry expertise without the loss of confidentiality.”

“Your fees are too high.”

“I appreciate your concern. But your business provides a product that is of higher quality than your competition. We take pride in offering higher quality too.”

“Let me think about it for a while.”

“I appreciate your caution. You need to have all the necessary information before you decide. What additional information do you need?”

“You do not have clients in my industry.”

“That is true, and I know you want experienced professionals to work for you. However, we do have clients whose operations and problems are very similar to yours. Let me tell you how we helped them out.”

“I am happy with my present accountant.”


  1. “That is important! Why are you using your present accountant? (Wait for response.) Those are important reasons. If you choose to do business with us, you could also expect advice and service in these other areas as well.”
  2. “It is always helpful to have another source of expertise. Could we have the opportunity to complete this one part of your job so we can demonstrate our ability?”

“How can I let my present accountant go after 20 loyal years?”


  1. “I respect your feelings. However, if you want your business to grow, you must get the best possible help. And we can provide that help.”
  2. “I appreciate your loyalty. Let us work out an arrangement where we pick up only the more complex work.”

“How do I know the rest of your team is as good as you?”

“That is a legitimate concern. You want all of the key people on the team to have experience in your industry. Let me arrange a meeting with the manager of this engagement so we can discuss your business and make plans for working together.”


Expanding your firm’s business; hunt where the ducks are

There are many factors that affect your sales, but the four most important are:

  1. the number of clients you have
  2. the number of services a client purchases
  3. the frequency with which clients purchase additional services
  4. the length of time clients remain with you

Many accountants concentrate their marketing efforts only on the first of these – increasing the number of clients. They spend their marketing budget on direct mail, seminars, or other marketing projects designed to bring in new clients. They then start the next marketing campaign to attract another group of new clients.

What they overlook is that developing a client you already have is much easier than attracting a new one. Many accountants would expand their business more rapidly, and at less cost, if they concentrated on the last three points listed above. Of course, you should never neglect activities that attract new clients, but equally you should remember that existing clients are like a mine that has many rich veins to be exploited.

Increasing the number of services a client purchases

Generally when you sign new clients, especially cost conscious ones, they require only a limited range of services from you. During the initial period you should over-perform on the services you provide, and gradually build up their confidence and trust. At this stage, regular contact with the client is essential if you are to understand their broader and longer-term needs.

You should be able gradually to build up a focused database that records each client’s needs and expectations. Once the relationship is established, you can begin to introduce other services to your clients. You can suggest extensions of existing services, or completely new services.

One way to deepen the commitment of existing clients is to offer discounts for additional services. This is best done by offering a larger ‘package’ for the fee, rather than discounting the fee on a particular service. The marginal cost of offering slightly more service is usually far lower than the cost of discounting fees.

Plan NOT to lose clients

The fourth consideration, how long a client remains with you, is of utmost importance. Avoid complacency with your existing clients – and never take them for granted. To repeat, it is much easier to develop an existing client than it is to sign a new one.

Four types of prospects

Think of your potential market as consisting of two groups: existing clients and potential clients. Each of these groups in turn may or may not be aware of a current need for your services. So you have four types of prospect:

  1. Clients who are aware of a need
  2. Clients who are not aware of a need
  3. Non-clients who are aware of a need
  4. Non-clients who are not aware of a need

If you had only $1 to spend on marketing, the group that would be most likely to generate the greatest return would be from the clients who are aware of a current need for your services.

The group that would show the worst return on that $1 would be the non-clients who are not aware of a need. Yet accountants spend most of their marketing resources on non-clients who are not even aware of a current need!

Fortunately, accountants have more than $1 to spend on marketing, and so should invest some marketing resources in all four types of prospect. Still, the point remains; the best return on marketing investments will be from existing clients. Harvesting this rich crop of fertile sales territory should be at the top of your marketing plan.


Identifying the winners in your team

Results from a series of interviews of leading edge accounting firms show that there are ten important characteristics of successful people. You can use these for assessing staff. On a scale of 1-10, you should be looking for 7 or higher.

  • 1. Committing to written goals for performance, and not settling for anything less than achieving those goals.

These people believe they control their destiny and keep accepting greater goals each year.

  • 2. Helping others when they are struggling.

These people realise that some are more skilled or experienced than others, and provide coaching, training, mentoring, and support to those in need of help.

  • 3. Having a positive attitude.

This doesn’t mean always agreeing with others. These people realise there are only so many hours in the day and try to achieve as much as they can in them without becoming discouraged. They can always see something positive, even in a seemingly impossible situation, and tend to inspire others to excel.

  • 4. Putting in the extra hours.

These people realise that what happens between 9.00am and 5.00pm is just survival. Progress is made before 9.00, after 5.00, and at weekends! To keep moving forward you need to invest 10-15 hours a week in advancing beyond your existing skills and knowledge base.

  • 5. Acting and thinking like an owner.

These people internalise the firm’s problems and try to come up with solutions. They also tend to bring matters to the attention of the management, regardless of whether or not they are popular.

  • 6. Working when others don’t know you are.

These people don’t show up only when they will be noticed, but work when necessary because they are focused on the job. They know the importance of discipline and focus.

  • 7. Knowing that little things do count.

These people know that even the smallest improvement in margins can bring results.

  • 8. Valuing feedback.

Whether it is a constructive confrontation, suggestions for improvement, or an expression of gratitude, these people are always willing to listen to others.

  • 9. Having a tough inner lining.

These people can handle attacks, adversity, and so forth with equanimity. They are not afraid to work when they are sick or distressed; and they would rather follow their passion for success than take the most convenient route.

  • 10. Thinking ‘firm profit’.

These people realise profit is the lifeblood of the firm and constantly monitor their performance by asking, ‘Is this activity earning profits for the firm?’.


What accountants need to know about SEO

In simple terms, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the umbrella term for all the methods accounting firms can use to ensure the visibility of their website on search engine results pages (SERPs).

SEO plays a significant role in what accountants upload to their sites, and acquiring the right SEO skills can help accountants write for the web effectively and ensure that their content finds its audience.

However, accountants should be aware that quality always comes first; if an article or blog post is rubbish then no amount of SEO knowledge will help.

Developing the ability to write should be followed by developing the ability to give the content created, and the website it was written for, the best chance of showing up in search engine results.

Here is what accountants who write for their websites need to know about SEO:

How to write headlines

Headlines written for the online environment need to be alluring and descriptive. The keywords included in an article or ones accountants want to rank for should also be considered.

How to use keywords

Accountants should compile a target list of keywords and phrases that relate to the central theme of their website and that tie in with the services they offer. When writing headlines or content, these target keywords and phrases should be considered.

Thinking up a strategy of allocating target pages for each keyword or phrase is a sensible way of distributing internal link equity and avoiding individual pages on the same website competing against each other for rankings.

Understanding internal linking

Internal linking is an easy-to-use SEO strategy that can boost a firm’s search ranking and increase its website traffic. It is an onsite SEO strategy that refers to the practice of publishing links on a particular page of a firm’s website that lead directly to another page on the firm’s website. Simply linking to related articles within the same site can have beneficial effects for both readers and the website.

Despite its importance, internal linking is often one of the most overlooked tactics that can be used to achieve search engine ranking goals. While this may be due to websites now having more complex navigation menus, internal linking has been proven to deliver significant results simply through the optimisation of internal navigation structures.


Control sales with better questions

The average person thinks about 600 words per minute (wpm), but can only speak about 125 wpm. This means that while you are talking to your prospect at 125 wpm, they are thinking over four times as fast, so in fact you cannot reasonably expect to be holding their full attention. Do not take this personally – think back to the last time you took some lecture-based training and you will understand!

This is why you should try to involve your prospect through every stage of your sales visit, even when you are giving a presentation. One of the best ways to involve a prospect is to ask good questions.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • How do you define quality in your relationship with an accounting firm?

Listen carefully to the prospect’s answer. While the vast majority of prospects will say something along the lines of ‘I want you to understand my business’ or ‘I want an accountant who will help me get what I want for my company’, some will define quality in other ways. It is important that you have clear understanding of your prospective client’s definition of a quality service.

  • What do you like most about your existing accountants?

If the prospect answers by giving his or her existing accounting firm extravagant praise, they may just be using you to get a better deal on their fees. However, if they tell you about things they are unhappy with, you can begin to pursue the topic until you discover their unmet needs.

  • How do you think I might be able to help you?

Pay attention to their answer here, because they are about to tell you what benefits they expect from their relationship with you. You should then re-orientate your sales presentation towards proving that you can meet those expectations.

  • What are your goals and priorities for the next three years?

Can you help the prospect achieve these goals? If you can, focus your sales presentation on proving that.

  • Who, besides yourself, might influence a decision to engage new accountants?

Would their bank have any input? Their other directors/partners? Their family? Sometimes, the managing director is asked to conduct the preliminary interviews with candidate accounting firms, but it is the other shareholders who make the final decision. To succeed, you must be known to the key decision maker, and to as many decision influencers as possible

Another way of keeping your prospect involved in your sales presentation is showing them a list of your references, and asking them if they know anyone on it. You will also stack the odds in your favour if your prospect accepts an invitation to look around your offices, as games are often won by the home team.


What to tweet on Twitter

Not knowing what to tweet or how to reach out to audiences on Twitter is a predicament many firms face.

Twitter is a real-time social media channel that receives roughly 3.5 billion tweets every week. With so many users tweeting, retweeting and liking posts, it can be intimidating for firms to know what they should tweet and how they can drive social media engagement on the platform.

Since the last thing accountants want to do is to bore their followers with the same-old tweets or retweets, it is essential to have some ideas before you start posting. Twitter accounts that think out their Tweets tend to do better at engaging their audience.

Here are seven ideas your firm can use to compose the perfect tweet:

Ask questions
One of the best ways to get others engaging with your firm is to ask questions. It is easy to think up some questions since there is no real limit to what you want to ask. Some questions accountants might ask followers include:

  • What service they like the most
  • What could be done to make firm services better
  • Trivia questions about the firm

Industry news
Industry news can provide an excellent opportunity for firms to discuss changes in the industry with followers. Remember to steer away from subjects that might be too controversial.

Positive firm news
It is always a good idea to share positive news about your firm whenever possible. This gets the word out to clients that your firm is successful and appreciative of what you’ve achieved.

Employee recognition
Using employee recognition tweets can get your firm’s staff engaged on Twitter, allowing followers and clients to go “behind the curtains” to have a look at who makes your firm what it is today.

Favourite Twitter accounts
Sharing some of your firm’s favourite Twitter accounts is an excellent way to humanise your social media presence so you don’t come across as robotic when you Tweet. Just be sure you don’t share too much and go too far off your firm’s identity.

How-to’s and blog content
How-to and blog content continues to engage audiences on the Internet. And since the majority of a firm’s audience won’t see their blog posts right away, firms shouldn’t be shy about sharing these new blog posts on their Twitter account.

If your firm is truly out of ideas on what to Tweet, try finding a quote that closely represents the values of your firm. People enjoy reading quotes and sharing content that people like can spark conversations for your firm Twitter. Always remember to give credit to the author of the quote whenever you use one.


Boost email success through personalisation

Sending out impersonal, irrelevant email newsletters or messages is a surefire way to encourage your firm’s clients and online subscribers to tune out.

Luckily for firms there is an easy fix. Making simple changes and adding in a few extras to personalise your email campaigns adds a touch of humanity and makes emails feel less generic.

Even though firms have an abundance of client data at their fingertips they won’t always make the most of the opportunity it provides.

Personalising an email isn’t hard; it can be as simple as adding in the recipient’s name to the subject line or body of your message. Or, it might involve customising an entire message based on a client or email subscriber’s location, interests, or service history with your firm.

Here are three ready-to-implement ways firms can use to personalise their emails to boost their email marketing success:

Ask the right questions

A straightforward, effective way to segment a firm’s email audience for personalisation is to simply ask subscribers the right questions.

Asking clients why they visited your website, employed your services or subscribed to your email list is remarkably easy, and quite invaluable. It provides firms with insightful data that can lead to your firm sending incredibly targeted emails.

Use location and time

Certain times of the day can be better than others when it comes to sending emails. Some clients might like receiving an email first thing in the morning, or they might respond better to one they receive at night.

It is likely that not all of a firm’s clients are in the one location or will respond to emails at the same time. But using client data can help firms analyse subscribers’ past open histories and send emails at the most optimum time to be opened for particular subscribers.

Personalise your firm

Personalisation doesn’t have to be limited to using client data; firms can also personalise their brand. Personalization can soften the edges of a firm while also adding a level of human connection between a firm and its client.

Accountants can make their firm emails more personal by testing email aspects such as conversational tones, pronouns like “I” and “we”, and generally making emails seem like they are from an actual human.