When you start up your practice or need to grow your business, marketing will be key to your success. But marketing is a specialism that’s as complex as accountancy or bookkeeping, and it can be tough working out where to start when you’re also focused on the day-to-day running of your practice.
Whether you work alone or have a growing team, there are some simple steps you can take to get started with marketing. A carefully thought-out strategy can help you to build up your customer base as well as retain the clients you already have.
What is marketing?
In the most basic sense, marketing is about attracting prospective customers to your business, converting them into paying customers and then retaining those customers by ensuring they repeat their purchase.
The key questions to ask before you get stuck into the nitty-gritty of the marketing work are:
- Who are you talking to?
- How can they find you?
- Where can you find them?
- How much can you afford to spend to attract them?
Here are some simple steps you can take to make your practice more visible to your target clients.
Create your brand identity
You wouldn’t go to a business meeting without thinking about what to wear, and the same should be true for your practice. Whether you work alone or have a growing team, your practice is also a brand, and your brand identity is much like the suit and tie or smart-casual outfit that you choose to wear when meeting with a client.
First impressions count, and your practice name, logo, brand colours and imagery will make an impression - good or bad - on your prospective clients. Keep it simple, make sure your practice name is legible and avoid clashing colours or fancy fonts. Hiring a graphic designer to create your logo could be money well spent, as getting your branding right will set you up for success in the future.
Nail your practice’s USP
Your unique selling point (USP) is worth spending a little time on. Not only can this be used in marketing materials such as your website, social media profiles and printed materials, you can also use it in person at networking events when speaking to prospective clients.
Think about your USP like an elevator pitch. What would you say to persuade a client to work with you if you were both in a lift and you just had the few seconds it would take to go from floor to floor? Your aim with this exercise is to end up with a short paragraph that encapsulates your practice and explains how you can help your target customer.
Create an effective website
When you’re just starting up in business, you may be able to generate enquiries and new clients purely through social media, networking events and one-to-one meetings, using little more than your elevator pitch and your brand identity. But for growth and long-term success, a website is an investment that will pay marketing dividends.
A website gives you credibility and demonstrates your practice’s stability. You can explain your pricing, display your contact details and offer an enquiry form so prospective clients can get in touch easily.
Make your website easy to find
For most people, finding a website for an accountant or bookkeeper means searching on Google or seeing a relevant post on social media. You can pay to be visible in people’s search results with Google advertising, which is often called ‘pay per click’ (PPC). Alternatively, you can use search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to tailor your site content so that it provides good answers to common search queries.
One of the easiest ways for a small business to get started with SEO is to focus on ‘local’ techniques. If you can ensure that your business address is on your website and verified by Google, then your practice will appear next to the Google map in search results when people search for ‘accountant/bookkeeper in [your local area]’. Take a look at our guide to local SEO for accountants and bookkeepers to find out more.
Ask your clients for reviews
Google offers the option for users to review businesses. Asking your loyal clients to add reviews can be a great way to show the quality of your services to new customers. Google will list the reviews in search results along with your star rating.
If you’re worried about getting a negative review when you reach out to clients, simply ask anyone who might be unhappy to get in touch first so you can resolve the issue. This can often be enough to prevent any negativity from appearing online. You could also limit your request to clients who you’re confident have had a good experience.
Consider your content strategy
Content lies at the heart of any low-cost marketing activity. Publishing blogs and how-to articles on your website will give you a supply of content to share on social media. It will also feed into your SEO strategy by giving Google new items to surface in search results.
To be good at creating content you don’t have to be the best writer in the world; you just need to be passionate and knowledgeable about your subject. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so that you have plenty of article ideas. Think about topics that will be of interest because of the time of year, as well as those that demonstrate your USP and your areas of expertise. Titles like ‘6 tips for…’ or ‘How to…’ tend to work well on social media and can also give you a framework that will make the content easier to write.
Build your social media profile
Using social media can be a fantastic way for businesses to market themselves at low cost, but trying to maintain a presence on all the different channels at once can be overwhelming. Think about your target customers and which platforms they are most likely to engage with.
As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn is a good ‘business to business’ channel, whereas Facebook is generally a ‘business to consumer’ one. Overall, it’s better to pick one or two channels and share frequently with quality content than to spread yourself too thinly. Take a look at our social media tips for accountants and bookkeepers to find out more.
Meeting people and forming connections is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your practice. One-to-one meetings can be invaluable in forming connections, and even if the person you speak to doesn’t become a client, they may recommend you to someone who does.
Networking is where your honed elevator pitch will come into its own. If you lack connections, think about joining a networking group. Many of these are free or only require a relatively low payment to cover costs.