Luckily, there are plenty of simple but effective things you can do to attract new business and build loyalty among your existing clients. Here are five easy, cost-effective activities that should be part of every bookkeeper’s marketing plan.
- Social media
Love it or hate it, social media works well for small businesses. It costs nothing to set up a profile for your firm on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. And if managed well, it allows you to strengthen your relationship with your existing clients, lets prospective clients learn about the kinds of services and expertise that you provide, and connects with your followers on a more informal, social level while keeping things professional.
Use your chosen social media platforms to remind clients about upcoming BAS deadlines or changes to employment law. Introduce new staff members or share interesting articles you come across that may be useful for your clients. Upload posts from conferences and seminars to let clients know you’re up to speed with what’s going on in the accounting profession.
You should also share links on social media to blog posts and client case studies on your own website that demonstrate the value you bring to your clients. Build engagement by encouraging followers to share your posts with their own social networks, and prompt them to comment on your posts by asking a question. And make sure you share what you post across all your social media platforms.
Your posts don’t have to be creative or time consuming to write. They just need a little consideration about what content your audience will find useful.
Small business owners often ask me if there’s any point having a blog on their website when the reward for effort can seem negligible. While writing a blog can be difficult, especially if you’re not a confident writer, the answer is an unequivocal yes – you should be blogging on your website, for several important reasons.
First of all, blogging provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and show that you have your finger on the pulse when it comes to the needs and interests of your existing and prospective clients.
Second, your blog humanises your business in a way that the information on your home page can’t. It allows your personality to shine through, giving people an insight into who you are, what you stand for, how you run your company and, most importantly, whether you’re the right bookkeeper for them. Think of it as a window into your business.
Third, blogging gives you instant content to share on social media and in your email newsletters to clients.
And, most importantly, your blog helps your website show up in search engine rankings, driving potential clients to your website. Google loves websites that regularly add fresh content and rewards them with better visibility in search results. The more blog posts you upload to your website, the more those posts become indexed in search engines and the easier it is for potential clients to find you.
In terms of marketing spend, blogging is free if you keep it in-house. If writing isn’t your strong suit, or you simply don’t have time, consider outsourcing to a copywriter who can provide you with a series of articles that are search engine optimised. There are plenty of skilled blog writers out there looking for freelance work. Try crowdsourcing websites like AirTasker, Fiverr, Freelancer or Upwork to find the right one for your needs.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which is one reason why video marketing is an increasingly common, highly effective way for small businesses to promote their services to prospective clients. Compared to written content, video is more easily digested, takes less time and effort to view, and is becoming the preferred medium for online information. According to marketing software developer Hubspot, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product or service than to read about it.
Thanks to a host of free video creation tools, like Google’s YouTube Director for Business app, you can easily shoot, edit and upload professional looking videos to your website without the need for expensive equipment or a Hollywood director.
You can film a short ‘meet and greet’ clip that introduces your business and lets prospective clients know what you’re about. You can make a testimonial video of a client talking about how your business has helped them sort out their books and allowed them to spend more time with their family.
How about a video explaining how to use a particular add-on or app that you think your clients would find useful? Google research into the effectiveness of explainer videos has found that four out of five consumers believe them to be helpful, and almost 50 per cent of internet users search for videos related to a product or service before they contact a business.
- Customer retention
Marketing shouldn’t always be about attracting new clients. If you want them to stay loyal, your existing clients need to know how important they are to you and how much you value their feedback about your service.
Think about how hard, big businesses work to retain your custom. Your bank, your supermarket, the utilities companies you use – they all dedicate a huge amount of their marketing budget towards keeping you loyal to their brand so you spend your hard-earned dollars on their products and services.
While you obviously don’t have the marketing firepower they do, you should be committing at least some of your time and budget towards keeping your existing clients happy. Why? Because according to Harvard Business Review, it costs up to 25 times as much to acquire a new client as it does to retain an existing one. That’s not just in marketing and advertising costs – it’s also the cost to you in terms of the time and energy it takes to find, attract and service new clients.
For a fraction of the cost and effort, you can implement a number of initiatives that reward your existing clients for their loyalty and make them feel valued. One simple example is asking for their feedback. Once a job has been completed, phone them to make sure they were happy, and then follow that up with a client satisfaction survey. If they are unsatisfied with anything, explain how you’re going to improve things and always make sure to follow through.
If they give you positive feedback, thank them graciously but don’t be afraid to ask their permission to publish that feedback as a testimonial on your website and any other marketing material that potential clients might see. Find out if they’re willing to leave a positive review on TrueLocal, Google and your Facebook page.
And at least once a year – maybe around tax time – send them a gift, such as a bottle of wine or some good-quality chocolates, along with a thankyou letter and some referral cards with an incentive to recommend your business to their friends and family.
Technology may have made small business marketing easier but there’s nothing like getting out there and meeting people face-to-face. Never underestimate the power of personal interaction when it comes to providing opportunities to find new clients, build your contacts, make connections with others in the industry and promote your practice. After all, the best ad for your business is you.
Industry seminars and conferences like those run by the accounting software companies can be a great place to network with accountants looking to refer work.
Joining a local chamber of commerce or business network can put you in touch with hundreds of local businesses for around $300 a year. Or if you’re after something more structured and exclusive, you may prefer to join a business referral and networking group, such as BNI, which only allows one person from any business specialty to join its chapters.
Finally, don’t discount the incidental networking that comes from being involved in local organisations or clubs. Volunteering as treasurer of the local netball club or community group is not just a fantastic way to give something back; it also creates trusted connections with others in the community who may one day need your services.
Caroline Morrison, principal consultant, Caroline Morrison Communications