5 Blogging myths for accountants

I saw an online promo recently suggesting that all accountants should be blogging. How objective is this idea and does it really make sense?

Given that I’m still an enthusiastic blogger you might expect me to also advocate blogging by accountants. But I don’t and it’s not just because of my experience with the Tax-Buzz blog – although that does confirm my view about the myths surrounding blogging for accountants.

I should stress that I enjoy blogging and have now posted almost 500 items here since 2006. I also have a separate blog on which I have shared hundreds of posts on the subject of The lighter side of accountancy and tax.  I stopped writing my third blog at the end of 2011. The Tax-Buzz blog was where I shared over 400 insights and advice re tax related stories in the media over a 4 year period. I explained why I stopped adding to that blog in a blog post(!) in May 2012.

Anyway, here are my 5 blogging myths – ie: reasons often given to encourage people to blog regularly and why I think that accountants are different. If you disagree, please add your comments below:

1 – Build your credibility – This only works as regards people who see and read your blogs. Most accountants in practice are not seeking to build credibility across the UK, let alone the world. Their target audience is more local than that. Will your target audience (prospective clients, advocates and potential staff) find your blog and read it sufficiently to be influenced? There are certain tools you can use to help here but my own experience suggests that the impact will be minimal in real-life, as distinct from in theory.

2 – Enhance your SEO – This refers to ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. How easy is it for your target audience to find you on the web? Not the people who know your name or the name of your practice but those who don’t know you and are looking for someone just like you. Might I suggest that the best starting point here is to arrange for your website to be Optimised before you start blogging – if this is your objective. I would also suggest that blog articles are typically seen as a great way to access free advice. I am doubtful as to how often anyone will contact an accountant and be willing to pay for advice received after reading their blog online. The web user is far more likely to keep searching for more free advice on the same topic.

3 – It’s fun – I’d agree with that. But then lots of things are fun. How many fun things can you fit into your life? It’s also time consuming.  Is it enough fun to warrant the time and effort? For most accountants I would suggest the answer is ‘no’. It’s nice to think one has been helpful and that lots of people have read what you’ve written. But unless this turns into billable work or trackable referrals at some stage it is simply ‘fun’ and probably less productive than many other fun activities eg: engaging on twitter, business forums and Linkedin (all of which I advocate – to one degree or another).

4 – Emphasise your niche – If you have one. During my talks for accountants I often stress the benefits of focusing on a niche and of highlighting a specialism.  The strength of the argument for doing this sometimes comes as a shock after years of trading as accountants to anyone and everyone. If you have no niche your blog will be just one of many generalist ones. But even if you do have a niche I have the same reservations as set out in the 3 paras above.

5 – Distinguish yourself from the others – I’m a great advocate of the idea that it’s ‘more important to be different than to be better.’  But those features that distinguish you need to be evidently of benefit to your target clients. Being 7 foot tall and always carrying a bright green briefcase will make you memorable but do those differences benefit anyone? In the same way, will anyone feel that they are getting more value for money or a better service simply because you are a regular blogger? I think not.

I was recently a judge in a competition to identify high performing accountancy firms. Some (not many) of the entrants referenced their use of social media as contributing to their success. I was pleased to see this. However, in most cases they went on to explain they were active on twitter, linkedin and blogging. No one seemed able to distinguish the value of different elements of their social media activity. What was unclear was whether any firm that was blogging could identify any of their growth as benefitting from this activity.

The other side of the coin

I’ve been blogging here since 2006. The frequency of my posts varies but it now averages about 2 per week. I get to post my thoughts and ideas here to help readers and I am then able to collate the posts to create articles for the press and for other websites.  I also often adapt my blog posts to create supporting material for my courses and seminars for accountants.

I am aware of a relatively small number of accountants in practice who seem to enjoy blogging. I know of far more who gave it a try and then gave up. They concluded that the benefits didn’t live upto the hype.  I don’t think that’s a reflection on the accountants. I think it’s more to do with the hype.

[This is an updated version of a blogpost I originally wrote in 2008. Beyond my own evidence, through the TaxBuzz blog, that sadly supports my contentions, nothing much seems to have changed in the last 4 years. Well, one thing has; there are now more marketing types encouraging accountants to start blogs and to outsource the writing to the promoters!]

What do you think?  Please add your views as comments to this post especially if you are an accountant who blogs.

I have written a 10,000 word ebook containing marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>, , ,

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Mark Lee

Mark is a speaker, mentor, facilitator, author, blogger and debunker. Mark Lee helps professionals who want to STAND OUT and be remembered, referred and recommended using his 7 fundamental principles to create a more powerful professional impact, online and face to face.
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9 replies
  1. Rosie Slosek
    Rosie Slosek says:

    I agree. Unless blogging is going to be a core part of your marketing strategy and this is realistic to your target market, it is a waste of time.

    Having a website that is engaging, optimised and has lots of contact details is much more important. Stick to LinkedIn and possibly Twitter.

    Reply
  2. Laurence Ainsworth
    Laurence Ainsworth says:

    Mark, I’m not sure I agree with your reasoning. It seams to me that the use of blogging is not the issue, it is as with many things in business not much use unless it is part of a strategy. Those few accountants successful in social media are extra ordinary in the sense that they developed a strategy and understand why they are blogging and what they are trying to achieve.

    The problem I have, like you, is the hype juggernaut which is social media. The proponents throw mind boggling numbers and demand that you must be in on this revolution. The fact that Facebook has 900 million users is irrelevant of you want to be the pre-eminent accountant within five miles of Sutton Coldfield. Getting results from social media is not easy, (in a recent survey I undertook less than 50% of respondents had got business from social media even though they wanted to) and it requires the kind of consistency of effort that many people cant provide.

    If you cant be bothered to get a strategy for social media, dont waste your time. Stick to what you know works, which in most cases is some kind of face to face marketing.

    Reply
  3. nick goddard
    nick goddard says:

    Nice article Mark, I agree with most of your points (it is fun, isn’t it!), but I do think that being a regular blogger differentiates. I think it reinforces the service we provide to our clients. My own blog is done weekly, and is automatically emailed as a monthly newsletter to all clients (and selected interested parties). It is partly service, partly PR.

    As far as differentiation is concerned, I did some market research on competitor’s websites when I revamped mine about 15 months ago. I looked at 30 local accountant’s websites, the number offering a newsletter (and/or any regular content update) were woefully low. Most of the ones which did had the packaged kind.

    My tip for anyone planning a blog is exactly that – plan it. Don’t just write them ‘as and when’, because when you get busy, it’s going to be the first thing that gets discarded. I have a pool of about 8 written blogs, with many more ideas and partly written ones, so I know that if things go manic, it’s going to be fairly easy to still issue a blog article.

    Reply
  4. Toni Hunter
    Toni Hunter says:

    I blog for the company and myself personally and I have no intention of giving up just yet. Each blog has a different style, but both do a great job at directing traffic to our website and therefore building awareness.

    I agree that attracting new business from blogging is a long shot, but how about using to develop relationships already made or to service your current clientele?

    Newsletters are costly, whereas a well developed blog is cheap and has the potential to be seen by a wider audience. It also shows that we as accountants are capable of embracing new technologies and techniques.

    As with most marketing techniques,it is about getting the right mix of tactics and being consistent,useful and APPROACHABLE.

    Reply
  5. Heather Townsend
    Heather Townsend says:

    Thanks Mark for an interesting read, with some good points raised – not all of which I agree with.

    Let me lay my cards on the table, I am one of those folks who you talk about who does encourage accountants to blog. In fact, I have designed and delivered workshops on blogging for accountants and folks involved in marketing their accountancy practice.

    However, I believe that there is benefit for all accountants to blog, but as Laurence commented, on the proviso that the blog is part of the overall marketing/business development strategy of the firm. Any marketing activity which is done in an adhoc or unfocused way is, frankly, in my opinion a waste of time.

    As Nick pointed out, planned blogging is incredibly useful (as is a little bit of unplanned blogging from time to time.) When a blog is properly thought out and planned, it can have many benefits, such as:
    * providing marketing collateral to your network and clients (as Toni has mentioned)
    * help demonstrate your credibility and let your personality show through
    * help prospects regularly return to your blog, helping increase your visibility for when they are ready to buy.
    * give you an excuse to keep in touch with your network, by sending them blog posts which they may be interested in

    I do very strongly agree with you that repacking standard corporatise, into a blog is not a good use of any practices time. Every accountant can generate benefit from their blog, as long as what they are blogging about is classed as valuable content by their clients and prospects – and they have a strategy for getting this content out to their clients and prospects. For example, one of my clients sends out each new blog post to their network. This produces a spike in website traffic, which in turn results in a noticeable spike in new client enquiries.

    For example, I was lunching with a member of my network recently (a partner in a top 6 accountancy practice) and we were talking about strategic networking, and how to prioritise who to spend the time with. After this meeting I sent him 2 blog posts which I had written 5 months and 2 years ago respectively. It was an easy way to be able to help him out, whilst building my social capital and visibility at the same time. If I hadn’t been blogging I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

    Whilst I am not a big fan of regular newsletters, as every accountant seems to do this – and how many clients actually open them? If you do write a newsletter for your clients and prospects, a well written blog is a great way of populating your newsletter with relevant, pre-written and valuable content.

    Reply
  6. Griselda
    Griselda says:

    Accountants and other professionals need to break out of the traditional mould and actual speak language that their clients understand.

    Blogging is an informal and fun way of engaging with your web visitor without mystifying them about exactly how you can help them. The benefits of blogging are many but like anything you need to be committed to get the full benefit and its not just accountants who struggle with the commitment.

    The fact may also be that the stereotypical accountant may not want to concern herself with anything other than accounting. Unfortunately, although this may have worked well 10years ago, its no longer a wise commercial strategy.

    Reply
  7. bookmarklee
    bookmarklee says:

    Thanks again Rosie, Laurence, Nick, Toni, Heather and Griselda for your comments.

    Is blogging a worthwhile allocation of time for accountants in practice? Sadly the answer, based on my observations and experiences is invariably NO (in most cases).

    Yes, you can derive some benefit from it, as Toni points out above and, even more so, if it forms part of a structured marketing plan, as Heather suggests. When that happens that some benefits may indeed flow.

    For example, you can do as I do and use blog posts as a substitute or component part of newsletters. You can also use them to show clients the range of your skills – beyond those they experience on a day to day basis.

    However, the hoped for benefits, even then, still need to be sufficient to justify the time, effort and commitment that regular blogging takes. Face to face marketing, advocated by Laurence, is even more time consuming of course.

    Spikes in website traffic and enquiries are only worthwhile if they convert into ideal client wins. Few accountants track these effectively and even fewer would be able to assert that their blogs play a significant part.

    I saw a lovely blog post earlier today referencing an author who had a spike in website traffic – up from 100 a day to almost 50,000. He was very excited until he realised this spike led to him selling just 23 books. The blogger draws an analogy with a Rolls Royce showroom told that a new Uni is being built at the end of the road. As a result the showroom will have tens of thousands of new eyeballs looking through the window. However, although the Uni students may well be interested in the cars, they’ll not be buying one.

    What matters, as ever, is the quality of your visitors/readers, not the quantity of them.

    Reply

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