Apr 25, 2017
Often, the biggest challenge faced by modern day accountancy practices is how to successfully grow their business. There are a variety of different options available, all of which have their own particular advantages and disadvantage. Today we’re going to look into several potential options.
Successful marketing is clearly an effective way to drive new clients to your practice and also to enhance your brand locally. In 2017 there are a variety of both online and offline options that could make a striking difference to the amount of incoming business you receive.
Accountancy practices aren’t known for being the first to adopt the latest digital options. This is a shame because there are often a number of straightforward options that are easily available to most local accountancy practices. Those that do adopt digital marketing often outsource the entire process to an agency. Whilst this can be simple and an easy way to ‘tick the box’, we think a lot of practices who are keen to grow their business should at least consider in-house options. For the investment of one capable employee, you should be able to really notices a huge amount more exposure across all channels. The majority of agency retainers exceed these costs.
A great misconception is that in order to manage an in-house digital marketer, you yourself need to be an expert. You don’t. You do, however, need to have a clear vision of how online marketing can impact your business and how much business you expect to realise in the short, medium and long term. Today we will look at the very basics of how digital marketing can impact your accountancy practice.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Everybody has heard about it, not many people understand it. SEO is a very simple concept. If you’re an Accountancy Practice in Manchester, you want to appear as close to the top of Google and Bing when a prospective client search for “Accountants Manchester” or a variation of this term.
To give you an idea of how many people search for these types of terms;
There are 880 google searches for “accountants manchester” every single month.
There are 590 google searches for “accountants in manchester” every single month.
That’s at least 1470 people looking for an accountancy practice just like yours, in your area.
How much potential business could this be worth to you?
Let’s say your average annual fee to a client is £1500, that’s potentially over £2m of business that, if you’re not concentrating on search, you’re probably not in with a shout of.
Having a good in-house (or external) SEO expert continuously working on your SEO strategy can ensure that your work towards obtaining more and more of this business over a prolonged period of time.
How long does this take?
How long obtaining a good organic search presence takes depends on a number of factors but they are all mainly focussed around;
It’s unlikely you are the only accountancy practice in your local area and therefore you're probably not the only one looking to grow your client base. A simple google search of the relevant search terms (Accountants Manchester for example) can give you an idea of who is currently appearing prominently in the search results. There are a number of other tools that can help to unravel what your competitors have done to find themselves on the first page of the search results. Have they produces lots of relevant content on their website, have they been featured in local or national media, do they have a well-established SEO friendly website, do they have a strong social media presence and so on. A digital marketer worth their salt will explore all of these options and produce clear reports that back up their plans for any digital marketing strategy.
In a relatively low competition area, you could be looking at a couple of months before you start to see results but generally, you may be looking at 12 months of more.
There is an additional option that could help speed up this process whilst your are beavering away at your SEO plan.
Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC)
In the same way, I set out the benefits of SEO, pay per click marketing gives you a presence in the form of paid advertising in prominent positions of Google's search results. You’ll note that paid adverts have a green ‘ad’ box next to them, whilst organic (free) results do not.
Pay per click marketing works by setting up campaigns directly with Google or Bing. In short, you establish a campaign to tell google:
When you would like your advert (listing) to show on the search results pages. For example, this could be when somebody searches for “accountancy practice manchester”. These search terms are known as “keywords”
How much you are prepared to pay every time somebody searches for the above keyword and then clicks through to your website. This is known as cost per click (CPC).
How much you are prepared to spend in total over a given period of time. This is known as the budget.
There are then lots of other factors to consider, including:
When you would like to appear in the search results (times/days etc)
You may want a campaign with a larger budget to run 24hours per day, 7 days a week. Or, you may only want to show when your office is open and you are able to take calls.
What devices you would like to appear on
Do you have a responsive website that prospective candidates can navigate well across all devices? If not you may want to select that desktop traffic only. It’s important to get this right as your paying for every single click through.
What match types you want to select (exact match, phrase match, broad match)
You can tell google whether you only want to be visible for exact search terms such as:
This is known as 'exact match'. You could tell Google that you’re happy to appear for variations of the given search term.This could be something like”
“Accountant Manchester Area”
Whilst this will undoubtedly produce more traffic, you are allowing google to decide what it thinks is relevant and it won’t always be accurate. For example, you may find that you are visible for a search such as:
“Accountancy Jobs In Manchester”
Not great, if you’re not currently hiring or don't have any accountancy practice jobs available.
How much does this cost?
Pay per click can be expensive and usually does need a fair amount of monitoring, at least initially. To give you an idea of costs, I will list below the average CPC (cost per click) for “Accountants ”. Remember, this is what you will pay every time somebody clicks on your advert, whether they stay on your site for an hour or three seconds.
Average Cost Per Click
These results above are of course for large major cities, therefore as the potential volume and competition level is higher, the CPC is also higher. It’s worth looking at some smaller locations, just so you can see the difference.
Average Cost Per Click
What is the main benefit of promoting my accountancy practice with PPC rather than SEO?
Most people would advise it is important to do both, but whilst SEO can take an extended period of time you could in theory start to receive paid traffic in as little as 48 hours. I wouldn’t advise setting up live campaigns without the guidance of a professional unless you really know what you’re doing. It can be an expensive experiment. But you can create an account with Google Adwords and use their keyword search tool to at least explore the volumes, pricing and competition levels in your area.
So, let's assume you’ve started to receive some traffic whether organically or through paid means. Most potential clients won’t buy on the first visit to your website. A lot will be at the initial stage of their ‘buying cycle’. They will be making tentative enquiries, researching, comparing and generally considering options. The most frustrating part of this process is if you get forgotten about.
Have you ever visited a website, then noticed adverts for this website start to follow you around the internet on different websites? This is remarketing or retargeting.
It is reminding the potential client that you are still available for consideration and gives you a second chance to convert. Remarketing can be set up similarly through google campaigns or through other providers such as adroll and social networks like facebook and twitter .
Remarketing can also be used to target your existing database of clients. A good scenario where this could be useful is if you have recently introduced a new service. You can create a campaign to target all of your existing clients and produce adverts telling them about a new service you now offer.
Social media can be important for when growing your accountancy practice for a number of reasons. Let’s explore a few:
Complimenting your SEO or PPC traffic
Let’s assume that a potential client has found your website and is starting to consider whether you could be a good fit for their business. Before they even speak to you on the phone to explore your service they will likely perform some initial due diligence on your local reputation.
Your social media presences is a great way for you to explain, what you do, where you do it and what your existing clients think about you. Facebook can in a way act as the trip advisor for your accountancy practice.
When your potential client sees happy other real people talking about how you’re the best accountancy practice in London, they are over 80% more likely to pick the phone up and make an appointment.
Finding and driving potential clients
As well as complementing other forms of traffic, social media can be used to generate and drive further traffic. Similar to Google Adwords in facebook you can set up your own PPC campaigns.
Instead of being focussed around keywords, they are more targeted towards demographics. For accountancy practices, this can be very useful. Facebook allows you to specify demographics to target based on a number of factors including location, age, sex, interests, job title and many others.
An example of a useful campaign could be targeting people in your local town or city, who describe themselves on facebook as whatever your target client may be. This could be as broad as “self-employed”, it could be something like “IT contractor”, “business owner” or “managing director”. You can then elect to send this traffic to your facebook page or directly through to your website.
Whilst this is not quite as juicy as somebody that is looking to hire an accountant right now, you are promoting your business to people who for the most part will likely need an accountant. It will also do your brand awareness no harm either.
It can sometimes be a good idea to run this type of campaign at crucial times of the year, end of the tax year perhaps or when self-assessments are due in.
Hopefully the above gives you a taster as to how a digital marketing campaign could help you grow your accountancy practice both in the short term and long term.
Traditional marketing methods can often be a little off-putting for any small business and accountancy practices are no different. Traditional marketing methods often have a number of barriers to entry, particularly cost and understandably many see this method as difficult to track.
I just wanted to point out three potential methods that could be utilised effectively, with modest investments for a growing accountancy practice.
Billboards are a great tool for brand awareness but also with the right timing can be a good source of new business. Previously billboard advertising has been expensive and involved lengthy contracts. This is not necessarily the case in 2017. You could use a service such as sign kick which enables you to advertise for a short a period as two weeks for as a little as £100 per week, depending on your area.
A great campaign for a local accountancy practice could be to utilise billboard space during key times of the year, leading up to the end of the tax year, or around self-assessment time.
Are targeted billboard advert at this time could be very effective and would promote your brand locally.
As a local business local radio can be an inexpensive way to promote your brand. You’d be surprised but many local radio stations are much more affordable than you’d imagine with some starting from £150 per week. Most stations will produce the advert free of charge and offer guidance on possible scripts to use. If not, you can probably find somebody who will for less than £100 on people per hour.
Direct mail on a B2B basis can be effective and reasonably inexpensive particularly if you have a number of target clients you would like to focus on. Stannp will produce and print your direct mail with no minimum order quantities. You can literally use Stannp to send out on letter or flyer. All you need to provide is the address information which isn’t too difficult to do online. In a world of emails, you may be surprised how effective a direct letter can be to a number of target Managing Directors in your area. If you have the resources, have your letters followed up with a telephone call to try and arrange an appointment.
Hopefully, this mini guide can generate a few ideas that may work for your accountancy practice and enable you to grow your practice quickly and successfully.