There are few disciplines in business that are as diametrically opposed as marketing and accounting are.
Many accountants look at marketers as wishy-washy creative types who operate based on feelings. They go about throwing money into the ether under the guise of “growth”, while the accountant bemoans the reduction in operating cash flow.
But you may realize that especially since marketing went digital, it has become a far more analytical discipline. One that an accountant should feel especially at home in.
Those accountants who are still curmudgeonly avoiding marketing efforts in favor of good old fashioned word of mouth are simply your opportunity.
A quick Google search will turn up accountants with websites from the 90’s and no digital marketing strategy, yet somehow they persist. The competitive landscape is barren. And that means that if you’re one of the few who have their eyes set on growing their practice, the prize is yours for the taking.
I get it, accountants hate wasting money, but with digital marketing your focus is on one thing – ROI. Every strategy you enact should drive value that you can directly attribute to the original effort.
If you’re interested in climbing to the top of the accounting heap, I’ve put together a guide that can help you get there.
Importance of a niche
Most business owners are resistant to the idea of carving out a target demographic.
They think that defining who their customers are means they’ll exclude those who aren’t. And that will simply reduce their pool of customers. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
We can ignore the fact that focusing on a specific niche will allow you to develop expertise in that area that you can apply to your other customers. Which in turn allows you to offer better services and usually at a lower cost. But consider how it looks to a customer.
From a customer’s perspective, they will always prefer to work with someone who seems to specialize in their specific problem. Even if there’s nothing special about their problem.
As an accountant, it may make no difference to you whether your client is a real estate agent or a carpenter. Their accounting needs are similar enough that you already have more than enough expertise to service both of them perfectly.
But they don’t know that. They want to feel special.
Think about it. Say you needed a photographer for a corporate event. So you type in “corporate event photographer” in Google. One result is a guy who does photography for weddings, family portraits, birthdays, corporate events, music festivals, products – the list goes on. But the next result is someone who just says “corporate event photographer”.
It doesn’t matter that a person who can photograph weddings and music festivals can also do a perfectly fine job of corporate events. The fact that the other person specializes in your problem makes you feel more comfortable.
They’re there for you.
So how is this relevant for an accounting firm?
You don’t need to choose a niche and be the “accounting firm for landscapers”.
But it can be useful to focus on the type of accounting you want to perform, and for who.
Do you do management and tax accounting for small businesses?
Do you do personal tax planning for wealthy individuals?
Do you do accounting for self-employed people?
Your customer often doesn’t know much about accounting. And there isn’t much differentiating one result from the next when they Google “accountants”.
All the results will have bland websites, and a list of identical services that they offer to everyone.
So the majority of the business will simply go to whoever ranks highest.
But if you are the accountant that specializes in their problem, then you have a much higher chance of converting them into a customer.
And remember, once they’re your customer, you can always cross-sell them on other services you know how to do anyway.
It goes without saying that your accounting practice needs a website.
But for most accountants, they use a website like an extension of their business card. It’s there so when someone goes to the URL on your business card, they can see more information.
But what it should be, is the core around which your entire digital marketing strategy is built.
Most of your marketing efforts will drive traffic to your website. It’s there that you’ll convince them of your expertise and ability to solve their problem. And that will get them to reach out to you so you can then turn into a customer.
It’s pretty easy to find a ton of amusingly poor websites for accountants. Websites that somehow rank relatively well despite looking like they’re from the 90’s – at best.
But there are plenty of companies that provide very beginner-friendly website builders. So there’s no excuse to not have a decent website.
Two of the most popular website builders are Wix and Squarespace. They’re great if you want something that does the basics, is cheap, and quick to put together. You can even use one of their built-in templates to get a good looking website without any design skill.
If you’re really looking to grow though, it may be worth it to invest in a more robust platform. WordPress powers more than 35% of the internet. And that means that it’s an incredibly well supported technology.
Now it can be a bit more technically demanding to set up and build your website with WordPress. But the advent of drag-and-drop builders, like Elementor, make it easy for beginners to build a professional looking website.
One of the main reasons to use WordPress, is that if you want to rank well in Google, you’ll likely perform better compared to the easier options. Ahrefs conducted a study showing just how much better WordPress websites fared in organic search results. That means they ranked higher for Google searches, which means they received more free traffic.
Whether you want to build it yourself or use the help of a consultant, your website is key to your success. You should ensure that the website is optimized for digital marketing, and for getting customers.
But if you’re just getting started and want to keep it simple, you can get away with a simple website as long as you include a few minimum elements.
Make sure you describe your services, say a little about you or your firm, and provide a contact form they can reach you through. And don’t forget to include your name, address, and phone number so Google can localize you better to your city.
Google My Business Listing
Certain types of searches are location agnostic. If someone searches how many calories there are in a Banana, they don’t need to see a result from their local grocer. But if someone searches for a plumber or an accountant, they likely want someone who is close to them.
With the increasing popularity of cloud accounting software, proximity isn’t as crucial. But it still is relevant to many searchers.
You can try it for yourself. Open an incognito tab in your browser, and search something like “tax accountant”. Even without putting in your city’s name, most of the results will likely be for people in your area. That’s because Google knows that for that type of a search, people generally want local results.
So what does that mean? Well when location matters to people that means that instead of searching in “regular” Google, they may start their search in Google Maps. And if someone is searching in Google Maps, then you need a Google My Business (GMB) listing to appear.
Setting one up is pretty straightforward, and free. You go to the GMB website, create an account, and start putting in your information. Google will then send you a postcard with a verification code to confirm that you’re located where you say you are. That postcard should arrive in a few days, and then your listing will be active.
The listing will not only allow you to show up in Maps searches, but possibly show up twice in regular searches. That’s because some searches include a map pack before the regular results.
Plus it will also send signals to Google that your website is linked to that same location. That way, if someone searches “tax accountant mycity”, Google can know that your website is a relevant result because you’re located in that city.
Once your GMB listing is set up, you can ask your clients to leave you a review to give your listing some credibility. That should help it rank higher in searches, and will make your business look like a more reputable result, worthy of a searcher’s click.
Content is a key component to your digital marketing strategy, the value of which will appear in all your other marketing channels.
Good content can rank on Google and drive search traffic to your website. It can be used to drive engagement and traffic on social networks. And it can be a useful way to reach out to your email list with helpful tips, reminding them of your value.
Take a look at the estimated traffic per Ahrefs for Bench.co, an online bookkeeping service. Only 4% of their traffic goes to their homepage. 4 pieces of content drive more traffic than the homepage, and make up 25% of their total traffic!
There are plenty of different types of content you can make like case studies, business advice, or personal posts. And that can show up as social posts, video, podcasts, or blogs. But for accountants my absolute favorite is tax related blog content.
The reason for this is that one of the most useful things content can do is drive more traffic to you from Google. It does this in two main ways.
First it ranks for the search query the content addresses. That means that a person who has a tax question and Google’s the answer can click on your results and read your explanation. That’s a person who has now been exposed to your expertise and is much more likely to seek out your help.
The second is that the more you rank for accounting related content, the more Google is going to see you as an expert in that topic. That means you’re more likely to rank for searches like “accountant my city”.
Now obviously if this strategy is so powerful, everyone must be doing it, right? Well generally, yes. There’s a huge amount of content on the web and everyone is competing with everyone.
But tax is special.
Let’s say I wanted to write a post about how to calculate EBITDA. Well that’s a relatively common search and so people would have already created content for it. That leads to two problems.
One problem is that the answer essentially never changes, so if somebody wrote a good post 5 years ago, there’s no reason for a new post to outrank it. Secondly, the answer is kind of universal. So if a person in Florida or a person in Texas searches it, if the best answer is from a firm in California, both those searchers will get the same result.
That’s a very challenging topic to write content about.
But like I said, tax is special.
That’s because rules around tax are often changing, which means there’s always a need for new and fresh content which can outrank old content. Plus the rules are different from region to region, so you’re competing with far fewer people.
A person in Florida searching state income tax information doesn’t want 10 year old content from California.
There is a lot of opportunity to generate content addressing local tax issues that people in your area are concerned about. And if you can give them the content they want, those are people that are far more likely to become your customers.
There are a lot of tools you can use to find the right content to write about. But if you’re just getting started, think of things your clients typically want to know, and then check if you can do a better job than what currently ranks.
Search Engine Optimization
Imagine that any time anyone in your area needs an accountant, they just go over to Google and you’re always the first result that pops up. That would give you an endless fountain of clients and you don’t even have to pay for ads.
According to Backlinko, over 75% of clicks go to the top 3 search results. So if you’re not ranking highly in Google, you’re going to have to rely on the more expensive approaches to acquire clients.
It’s because ranking in Google is such a golden goose that it’s one of the most competitive fields in digital marketing. Everyone wants to be number 1. But there can only be one number 1.
Fortunately though, as with most digital marketing, accountants are typically not on the cutting edge.
A lot of the highest ranking accountants in many cities have terrible SEO. But they rank simply because their website’s been around for a while. And time is a pretty relevant ranking factor.
But again, their weakness is your opportunity. That means that bringing some savvy to your SEO efforts can put you on the path towards the number 1 ranking.
There’s a lot of technical work that goes into SEO, and you’ll usually be best off getting a specialist. But if you want to take a whack at it yourself, there are plenty of great guides out there.
Even with great SEO, ranking your website in Google takes time. And until then, the main way for you to get visibility is through Google Ads.
When a person searches for “accountant near me”, there will be organic results, a map pack, and ads. Having your website show up all the way at the top can be a very effective strategy.
The best part is that you’re not trying to convince a person that they need an accountant. They’re already aware of that and that’s why they’re looking for one.
You just need to be able to convince them that you’re the one for the job.
Google Ads is a complex platform. And an expert can make sure you’re getting substantially better performance out of your ad spend than an amateur would.
That being said, it’s still user-friendly enough that you can get started using their guided set up to test out the platform and see if you like it.
Depending on how competitive your area is you can start seeing results for as low as $100/month. So it’s definitely worth giving a try.
But if you’re not seeing the results you want, it could be because your competitors have a well run account. In that case getting a free Google Ads audit of your account can tell you how much room for improvement you have.
Facebook is one of the world’s biggest advertising platforms, but it is generally a very different approach than Google Ads.
With Google Ads you’re usually marketing to a person who is looking for your service, and trying to convince them that you’re the one to choose. But with Facebook Ads you’re going to the user and trying to convince them that they should want your service when they’re not looking for it.
That strategy of trying to create the demand works especially well for things a person doesn’t necessarily need, but is enticed by when they see the ad.
In the case of accounting firms Facebook Ads can be especially effective if you’re offering tax service to people instead of companies.
One reason is that people don’t necessarily spend much time thinking about their taxes. So your ad can be a reminder of what they need to do and the value you can provide. Businesses will often times be more proactive about their tax needs.
A more important reason though are the targeting options in Facebook. Facebook’s targeting tools makes it easy to target large audiences of people who can benefit from tax services – basically anyone with an income. But in the case of companies, you have to be able to target business owners or decision makers. And that’s not quite as straightforward.
While targeting companies can be done, it can be harder, and you’ll likely need to spend more to be effective. That’s because Facebook optimizes better with large amounts of data, so the strategy is better suited to bigger budgets.
Social Media can be a very useful strategy for many businesses, and absolutely essential to some. But not all businesses will benefit similarly from all social media platforms.
Take Instagram for example. It’s a platform where users fly through content so companies need to be able to generate lots of content, regularly, and maintain high quality. That usually means being visually appealing, since it’s primarily a photo-sharing platform after all.
An accounting firm would generally not benefit much from a platform like Instagram. That’s because it’s not the best place to share your thoughts on the recent municipal budget.
But if you want to market your personal brand and are an interesting person (or group of people) it can be very useful. You want people to follow you because they like your personal content, and you can occasionally remind them that you’re an accountant. That way they’re much more likely to think of you when they actually do need an accountant.
That being said, in general Instagram isn’t going to provide much ROI for most accounting firms.
Facebook, on the other hand, can be an excellent platform for sharing content like tax tips and updates. You can also have discussions about business issues with your network. Post a question on your Facebook Page asking your followers if they have any questions or what they’re struggling with in their business, and you can start a discussion. That can help keep you top of mind, and show off your expertise.
But if you focus on business clients, then you should definitely be participating on LinkedIn. Posting interesting content is a great approach, whether you wrote it, or are sharing it. But even just participating in discussions on other people’s posts, or engaging with the content of others, can help remind them you exist.
Digital marketing is an incredibly dense field and is always evolving. While that may make it seem daunting, it also means there’s plenty of opportunity to get a competitive edge. Especially when you’re in a market where your competitors are lagging way behind.
I hope this guide was helpful in giving you your bearings so you can get started with marketing your accounting practice. And if ever you feel like you need a bit of help who better than a CPA who’s also a digital marketing expert. Reach out, I’d love to chat about your business!