What’s more important to you? To spend time on promotional activities that don’t seem to cost anything or to get cost-effective results from promoting your services to people who you know are looking for someone like you?

Many accountants, bookkeepers and tax advisers spend time on various social media platforms, on Linkedin and on building big websites.

They hope that their efforts will result in prospective clients getting in touch and that those prospects will
– need the sort of expertise that is available (not something too complex or unusual);
– be easy to bring on board; and
– willing to pay the quoted fees in accordance with the stated payment terms.

And this approach evidently works for some people. But not all. And there is a sad temptation to copy what you see others doing without first checking a number of key factors.

For example, here are some key questions to clarify whenever you hear about an accountant talking about how they’ve been successful using social media:

  • Which platform(s) do your focus on?
  • For each platform, how much time do you spend on it each day/week?
  • Were you posting as an individual or using the firm’s social media handle?
  • When did you start investing time on that platform?
  • How many new clients has your activity generated?
  • What type of work are you doing for those clients?
  • How much have you so far earned in fees from those clients? And over what period?
  • Do those clients share any similar characteristics? If so, what are they?

The reason I advise you to  clarify such questions is the number of times I have heard about social media success which is not easily replicable. You maybe looking for a different type of new client, a different type or level of work for them (eg advisory rather than simple completing basic SA tax returns), you may charge higher fees, you may have less time available to post and engage on social media platforms,  or you may have different ambitions for your firm.  Sometimes the apparent ‘success’ we hear about is very recent and has yet to result in any significant fees being received by the accountant.

Rarely will you hear about anyone generating high value fees simply from their activity on Twitter or Instagram for example. It is also rare to hear about anyone being successful posting on social media using their firm’s name rather than as an individual.

Facebook pays off for some but plenty of accountants don’t like the idea of engaging on that platform and/or want to target the owners of larger businesses than are typically accessible via Facebook.

The same points apply if you are thinking of engaging someone (in house or externally) to do your marketing for you.  Remember though that letting someone else ‘do your social media’ is a little like expecting them to ‘do your networking’ for you.  Social media is like online networking. People like to get some of the real personality behind the brand and it takes time to build real relationships.

You wouldn’t expect anyone to win work by attending a networking event and simply talking about themselves. Even less so if someone showed up and just told everyone how great their boss was or pretended to be their boss.  Regardless of what you may have heard or been promised, exactly the same is pretty much true online too.

Whatever choices you make here,  you still need to consider over what time period will you judge whether your activities have been cost-effective?  Remember to also factor in the opportunity cost of your time and that of any employee you have doing your marketing for you. Could you achieve your objectives with less time and money if you were more focused and strategic?

One reason why we set the monthly fees so low for accountants who want to join the Tax Advice Network is because I cannot, in all honestly, promise short-term results. But there are very few other ways to market your practice via a highly ranked website (with valuable backlinks) and reasonably expect to secure a high ROI over a period of weeks or months.

Many people want a quick win from their marketing. Good luck with that. Sadly quick wins are frequently over promised and rarely delivered.  Marketing can definitely help you build your practice but you invariably need to play the long game.