I have referenced what I call the 5Ms of marketing an accountancy practice before. This blog post is related to the fourth M. That is, which Media should you use to get your chosen Messages to your chosen Market?
The answer to the question depends on where you are most likely to find your chosen Market (ie: your target audience). When many accountants are asked about this, they have no clear answer. The implicit belief is: “Anywhere and Everywhere”.
If you think this is true for your practice then it doesn’t matter greatly where you promote the practice. Unfocused social media and Linkedin may help (but probably not much). Essentially you’ll try ‘Anything and Everything’.
Accountants who adopt this approach are typically the first to later say that marketing is a waste of money. Where that’s true however is most often because the marketing effort has been unfocused and hasn’t been planned by reference to specific objectives, clear target audiences and distinct messages that resonate with that market.
Let’s move on then to consider 5 other generic answers to the question, Where will you find your chosen Market and target audience?
This is the case, for example, when you have a high street or business park presence and want more passers by to pop in or to remember your details to pass on when they hear someone asking about accountants in the immediate vicinity.
The 3 main options here are: A pavement sign encouraging passers-by to pop in, to use the office windows to communicate with passsers-by or to have a leaflet stand by the door.
Incidentally, if you are considering moving into a high-street or business park, it can be instructive to ask accountants who have already done so whether it has been worthwhile for them. Do the passers-by who drop in etc become really valued clients? All too often there seems to be a mis-match which suggests the investment may not have been worthwhile. Depends on the high street and business park too of course!
Your local area
I make this point frequently to sole practitioners – and the point is relevant to many larger firms too. Unless you have some special expertise or sector focus (in which case, see later in this post), the vast majority of your new clients will come from your local and surrounding area. Even if you have clients all over the country, few prospects who are hundreds of miles away will ever choose you as their accountant over someone more local to them.
Assuming that you want to promote your firm in your local area there are plenty of options available to you including:
Adverts in the local press and magazines, local sponsorship of community, school and sports groups/awards, local networking groups, Business Gateway (Scotland), local radio, local business events and shows and also online groups (eg: on Facebook and Linkedin) that focus on your local area.
You can also build relationships with other accountants in the area who focus on different types/size of clients or different work to you. You may then be able to refer work to each other.
Also do ensure that your Linkedin profile includes your local area in the headline to make sure it stands out when anyone uses Linkedin to look up local accountants. Make sure it’s highlighted on the homepage of your website too.
If you really want to promote your firm nationally you might look to focus your promotional activity on National radio, TV, conferences, Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and any other UK online forums and general social media platforms. Generic blogging on your website may also reach a National audience if it doesn’t obviously have a local or other relevant focus.
The question is whether the time, money and energy you expend on ‘National’ advertising and activity generates a sufficient return and whether more local or sector specific activity would be more profitable and rewarding.
International and overseas conferences, overseas based groups, international magazines, Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and any other international online forums and general social media platforms.
The same question arises here as for ‘National’ advertising etc
Specific groups, communities or sectors
If you really want to go beyond your local area then all the evidence suggests that, to be successful with your marketing efforts, you will need to focus your efforts on specific groups of people, specific communities or specific sectors.
By way of examples, you might be focused on lawyers, young entrepreneurs or local property investors.
The key point here is that your focus on a specific group, community or sector enables you to STAND OUT more from the competition to win them as clients. As a result your publicity is more likely to succeed here than if you adopt an approach that is better suited to larger firms and brands that truly have a National or International focus.
Your publicity, marketing and online activity should evidence your connection, interest and expertise as appropriate in the specific group, community or sector you have chosen.
The opportunities to secure publicity here are extensive – and much more focused than any of the other options listed above. They include: writing for (and then advertising in the same) relevant community or sector focused magazines, news websites, blogs and papers. Also contributing to specific and focused Facebook groups and Linkedin groups, seeking out speaking opportunities at events that attract your target audience, relevant targetted sponsorship, relevant networking and business focused events. Also social media and online forums where the use of hashtags or tags enable you to reach your target audience more directly than if you just ‘go random’ (which tends to happen when you seek National and international publicity).
NB: The fact that you can use hashtags etc doesn’t mean that your target audience are interested in them. Many regular users of hashtags seem to misunderstand this.
I must offer one important caveat re social media to finish:
Overt adverts and promotional messages may appeal to some audiences on social media and Linkedin. In the main however, obvious adverts on social media etc for local accountants can be counter-intuitive, especially when they involves links to your own blog, social media and articles.
Other than when sharing obvious adverts you typically need to hold back on the overt promotional messages on social media. Instead you are likely to have more success if you focus on offering help and support, sharing useful knowledge and information, tips and tricks.
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