The art of marketing

With competition among accounting practices as high as it’s ever been, a strong marketing strategy can make all the difference in attracting and retaining clients.

23 January 2017

Shelley Stock Hutter partner Bobby Lane sheds some light on how accountants can use social media to their advantage.

Social media marketing strategy and the accounting sector haven’t always made for the most obvious of bedfellows – is this beginning to change?

Bobby Lane: Getting accountants to take part in the social media revolution was always going to be something of a challenge. Accountants, by their own admission, tend to be a conservative breed.

However, we now live in the age of social media and it isn’t going away. Even world leaders take selfies!

I’m not suggesting taking daily pictures of your breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the importance of building your personal brand, and one for your practice or organisation, cannot be underestimated.

Some accountants and firms are recognising this, but there’s still a way to go.

How can using platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook help firms attract new clients?

BL: Accountants need to have front of mind that the younger generation of clients – and certainly tomorrow’s entrepreneurs – have grown up at the same time social media was taking its first steps.

One of the first things they will do when searching for a new accountant is go straight to Google, LinkedIn and Twitter and check out his/her profile. They really want to see the personality behind the name – even before meeting you.

In fact, being the invisible accountant with no social media presence could mean that new business meeting may never happen.

What factors need to be taken into account before a firm launches a social media marketing strategy?

BL: Firms shouldn’t think of social media as a necessary evil and something ‘they have to do’ or even fear.

Whether it’s one representative from the firm or a few active partners, they have to be committed to wanting to regularly use the social media channels. There’s no point signing up to LinkedIn, only to leave it lying dormant for weeks or even months.

Also, it’s important social media activity is integrated into the overall marketing strategy. It shouldn’t operate in a silo.

Of course, firms should make sure that the content posted is appropriate, relevant and brand-enhancing and not something that could harm the firm.

How can a high-performance website lend itself to boosting marketing efforts?

BL: As I mentioned before, prospective clients, or other target audiences will be sure to check out your company’s website.

There are some obvious points, such as making your site easy to navigate; otherwise you could lose prospects within a few seconds. Likewise, there’s a tendency for professional services firms to include a long list of services and almost enough technical copy to fill half of ‘War and Peace’.

Use words on a website well. Instead of just listing services, tell the story of how your firm helped their clients.

And if you are going to write blogs, make sure that there’s a commitment to do this regularly, and the copy isn’t too technical.

How has SSH tailored its marketing activities to tie in with the mores of the digital age?

BL: We are currently using a range of social media tools – from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The firm now has 57,000 followers on Twitter and I have more than 3,500 contacts on LinkedIn.

We are also regular contributors to both traditional and digital media sites, and often publish links to best practice/top tips pieces – which are useful for both our current client-base, but also prospective ones.

We are also proud of our clients’ achievements – so we use social media as a way of publicising all their great work. Some accountants are fearful of saying anything public about their clients, worried they will be snatched by a rival.

However, if you have a great relationship, this is very unlikely to be the case.