Accountants’ adverts are not working any more

Years ago, it was quite common for people to use a hard copy Yellow Pages directory to find an accountant. This concept has all but died out now. It’s also less common to hear that anyone has approached an accountant because they remembered they saw an ad in the local paper (or anywhere else).

Far more people are asking friends, family and online contacts who do they know? Who can they recommend? Who’s a good accountant?  I’m witnessing this happen almost daily on online business forums and on ‘social’ networking sites.

What this means is that your marketing strategy (of which any advertising is only a part) needs to include educating your clients, contacts and family as to the types of referral that would be of most interest and value to you. The more specific you can be the more likely you will be to secure those referrals.

You also need to ensure that your website talks to prospective clients who have been recommended to you – as they may well check it out. Does it confirm what they’ve been told by your advocates? If they highlight what makes your practice different to conventional accountants does your website reinforce that message? Incongruence can be damaging. (I’ve written far more on this topic previously so here’s a link to my earlier posts re accountants’ websites)

Have you had your site optimised so that people in your area who are looking online for an accountant will find your website? If you’re in Harrow for example the ‘search engine optimisation'(SEO) would probably focus on Harrow accountants. A decent SEO specialist and indeed many decent website developers will do this for you automatically. It’s pretty pointless to only have your site optimised for people who search for your firm’s name. The people whom you might previously have hoped would see your adverts don’t know your firms’ name so they won’t be searching on line for it.

Another effective way to advertise on the web is a little counter intuitive. It means getting involved in online forums and networks and being helpful and friendly BUT NOT posting overt adverts and promotional messages. That type of behaviour is ALWAYS counter-productive. The practical issue is that the people you will be helping and who will befriend you could be based anywhere in the UK. Some maybe more local and – this is the key point – as with all networking you are not just networking with them. They will, in time, become your advocates. So, in effect you are networking with all the people they know too.

What type of advertising is working for you? Do share your comments below please – whether  you agree or disagree with this post.  I’d welcome your feedback.

By |2009-08-21T07:04:06+00:00August 21st, 2009|Business messaging and branding, Websites|

About the Author:

Mark Lee FCA is an accountancy focused futurist, influencer, speaker, mentor, author and debunker.


  1. Mike Smith 21st August 2009 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Good post – as always.
    I’ve been a great fan of the big yellow book over the years and many of my clients have done very well out of the Yellow Pages

    However their star is most definitely falling. Claims by YP that Accountants can expect 0.18p for every 0.1p spent (independent research) I think is based on years gone by. And searches on Google are up month on month for Accountancy related searches.

    With average YP spend hitting £1700ish per year my advice as you correctly point out is to optimise your web site for both content and search.

    Referrals from advocates who know like and trust you still beat all other forms of lead generation but your website needs to enforce their message.



  2. Jon Stow 21st August 2009 at 9:44 am - Reply


    I agree with nearly every word you say; except that is for half of your first sentence. Of course, much of my marketing is online and through referral networking whether through networking groups or through friends and family. I am the Director of a breakfast networking group meeting every week.

    I agree that Yellow Pages is a waste of time, as are and other online directories because the prospective client is sticking a pin in a virtual or real page and one’s own firm is unlikely to be the lucky winner. You can pay to be at the top or at least prominent but I think that is often a put-off for prospects, because they will think you will be expensive because you have paid. Anyway, I “sacked” Yellow Pages and Thomson years ago as paid advertising, because they got me no business at all – ever.

    My point is that an advert in a local newspaper or free leaflet or handout can be valuable. It has been to me. One particular ad placed in every edition of a booklet sent out once a month with a free local newspaper has been one of the most successful sources of new clients. The continuity is important. If a prospect sees your ad regularly it will be remembered come the time when you are needed and they will already be comfortable with your firm and have pre-qualified themselves. My conversion rate from prospect to client once they call is better than 95% (really!).

    As with all marketing and advertising, it is important to test and test again and not do something just because everyone else does. However, if you can find a useful hook to gather clients, it will work over and over again. This one has for me.

  3. Contractor Accountant 4th September 2009 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    95%! That’s really very good – you must be one smooth accountant! Any hints to your secret???

  4. Jon Stow 4th September 2009 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    No secret. With a regular ad prospects are used to, they have already “bought” you and there is not much selling required. As I said, they come to you “pre-qualified” to use sales-speak. The wording of the ad has to say what you can do for them to make them feel better, not just give a business description such as “accountant and tax adviser” etc..

  5. Alan Moore 11th October 2011 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I would have to agree with Jon on this.
    When I started this practice nearly 10 years ago I did most marketing through trial and measurement. I paid for a yellow pages advert and received one enquiry in the year which I converted so paid for that ad (plus still a client today). We tried Thomson local with no success. Also tried online directory specialising in accountants but minimal traffic and no clients.

    Did telemarketing with several companies and only found one telemarketing company that actually listened to what I required rather than coercing clients with spurious messages eg (I will save you tax). The number of prospects I met with that obviously had no intention of changing accountants was unbelievable and the conversion rate was probably 1 in 10 overall (But at least the one client paid for the campaign of 10)

    Main successes have come from client referrals and website/forum.

    All of these prospects are very warm, receptive and very easy to convert.

  6. hugh dunlop ACIS, FFA, FIAB 18th November 2011 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    I find that most newspaper and YP advertising completely useless. YP has increased its prices so much that it is impractical. I recently got a phone call from a YP salesman asking why I no longer asvertised with them. I was spending over £600 for a featured ad, and getting about £500 return, not even paying for the ad. I asked him where he got the claim that YP ads return 1.80 for every 1 spent on advertising, but he chose not to answer.
    The best way to get more clients is to give curent clients a good, personal, service, legally ensuring their tax bill is as low as possible, keeping fees to a minimum, making them feel confident in you and your sevice, and let them bring others to you.
    And promote your business in any, legal, way you can.
    0141 636 1685

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