You’ve started (or are making great progress on) your content marketing. You’re writing blog posts, working on the messages of your website, maybe even (gasp) recording video now and then.
What can you do to make sure it’s actually seen by the kind of clients you want?
The world is awash with content. This very article you’re reading may be a haze of words you're not fully taking in. You (and your buyer’s) full brain can only take in so much.
Enter the golden trio of Brand, Design, and Website.
These three elements are what you consider classic creative agency stuff. Something you need to hire a marketing agency for, because you’re an accountant, after all. You’re not a designer, or a brand expert, or a website builder. But even if you do hire an agency to help you with these three (and I strongly recommend you do!), it’s still critical you understand how and why they work.
Your brand is made up of the intangibles, the emotions, how people feel about you.
It’s not your logo, your name, or your values – although those are included. It’s the sum of everything you are, what you stand for, how you work. How you speak to clients. Who you work with, and who you don’t. How you communicate. How you build relationship. Whether you're tactful or direct. The emotions people experience in relation to your firm.
If you don’t understand and define your brand clearly, your marketing is going to be rather clunky. You’ll feel it’s not quite right. You’ll get stuck, delayed, confused: and so will your audience.
When you define it, and build every other marketing element on it, everything becomes so much easier. Because your invisible brand and your visible logo combine together into something people can feel, touch, see, interact with.
The biggest changes I’ve seen in accountancy firms are by those who – either for the first time in their business life, or in a new way – finally defined, in visible and invisible form, who they are. Their confidence increases. The quality of their marketing becomes first class (regardless of size). And the opportunities for their firm increase exponentially.
Know your brand, because every other element of marketing flows from it.
Accountants are always telling me, “Oh, I’m not a designer”. Oddly enough they usually have an opinion if we share a design – they either like it, or don’t like it, or have a few suggestions.
That’s because it’s built into us to know whether something is appealing and tells a visual story; or whether it’s confusing and tells nothing at all.
It’s okay if you’re an accountant, not a designer. (It’s also totally okay if you are both!) No matter what you consider your creative skill levels to be, when you’re working from the well-crafted brand we discussed above, all your design will look good to you, and to your buyer.
Good design will help them make their buying decision faster.
My suggestions for accountancy firms who want to ensure they have good design are:
- Invest in a good branding process, and have clear brand guidelines developed. Logo, colours, fonts of course – but also target market, niche, style and tone of voice, words you use and don’t use, image styles, graphic styles. A ‘brand book’ is a great investment.
- Find a marketing agency you trust who can deliver great design based on your brand guidelines, and stick with them. This may cost you more the first time (a good agency is going to invest time to get to know your brand), but the longer the relationship, the more consistent your work will be. Don’t jump from designer to designer in order to save money. Your design will look cobbled together, because it is.
- Get ‘standards’ designed that you and the team can use – templates based on your brand that you can upload to Canva or some other app to quickly add content from what’s happening in the company right now. That way you’re on brand, but it’s still personalised. Use them for social, emails, web pages, blogs, and other content.
Ah, the glorious accountancy firm website. The item on which so many marketing hopes are pinned. The great rise of enthusiasm and joy when it’s launched…and the subsequent drop to reality when, months or years later, you realise it needs to be kept updated all the time. That if you simply build it and leave it, they will not come.
Your website needs to share these five things:
- Who you are:
This is your brand, your “what we stand for and why”. It’s the team, your values, everything we talked about in brand. Get this across powerfully and visually throughout the whole site.
- Who you serve:
Whatever your niche is, be specific to it. If it’s an industry, use their language and terminology. If you are reaching a broader audience, create messaging and content appealing to who you serve. Be way more specific than “businesses who want to grow” or “companies who use Xero”. You want them to think, oh my, that is completely me! How did they know?
- What their issues and problems are:
This is the “They Ask You Answer” concept by Marcus Sheridan (I highly recommend his book), and it will serve you and your buyer in good stead. Don’t give them a list of services: tell them about the problems and issues they have and then tell them…
- How you solve those:
This is your process, your Way. How do YOU do things different to the way any other accounting firm does them? What's your onboarding process like, your methodology, your pricing? Explain that so they are comfortable with getting in touch, which leads us to…
- What you want them to do:
This is going to vary depending on what page of the site they’re on. Every page needs to have a very clear, specific step: and ideally you’ll focus on just one. What do you want them to do next? Then it’s their choice to do it.
Now you’re ready to move on to email marketing, follow up, and blogging: the next three elements of the twelve.