Do you want to know how to do content marketing right? Good content marketing drives sales, builds brand authority, and develops long-term loyalty with customers. Poor content marketing can fall flat—or worse— alienate prospects, so it’s mission-critical to understand the pitfalls to avoid as you market your firm.
Gusto is committed to helping your firm succeed in all aspects of running a business, including unfamiliar territory like content writing. Content marketing is one of the most critical factors determining your firm’s success. We’re proud to bring you the insights, strategies, and practical tips you need to make a strong, lasting impression on your audience.
Gusto partnered with CPA Academy for the webinar, “How to Do Content Marketing at Your Firm From 2 CPAs Who are Pretty Good at It,” featuring Greg Kyte from Comedy CPE and Gusto’s own Caleb Newquist. The two content marketing pros had plenty of tips, tricks, and insights into creating a successful strategy.
Greg Kyte is a comedian and CPA who made Accounting Today’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the industry. Caleb Newquist is Editor-at-Large at Gusto and was the founding editor of Going Concern, a leading publication for young accounting professionals. Keep reading to learn how to make accounting fun, funny, and interesting enough to make a lasting impression in people’s minds.
What is content marketing?
Have you ever heard the phrase “content is king?” In an increasingly noisy digital landscape, savvy customers are more resistant than ever to traditional forms of marketing and advertising.
And for good reason: With third-party cookies and social media sites creating targeted, personalized ads that pop up on every screen, consumer trust in brands is at an all-time low. People also have more access than ever before to data and information about a brand’s true track record. Social media reviews can cause a reputation to plummet almost overnight. And to put it simply, everyone’s tired of the sales pitch.
Enter content marketing: a type of marketing that can build that trust, expand reach, and establish authority over time. It’s been steadily growing in importance since the 1990s and is showing no signs of slowing down. Today, it’s one of the most effective forms of marketing with the highest ROI.
To do content marketing right, you want to create value for your readers without a direct sell. Whether it’s a blog post, a podcast, a tweet, or an infographic, your goal should always be to inform, entertain, and engage your audience. Good content rarely features a direct ask. It’s a long-term strategy that builds trust over time, leading you to become the go-to resource for customers.
Why is content marketing important?
A solid content marketing strategy can generate quality customers, expand your influence to new audiences, build brand trust in your firm and increase revenue over time. Most importantly, though, content marketing works. Research indicates that content marketing generates more than three times as many leads as traditional advertising methods and costs 62% less.
Great content can drive more quality traffic to your website as well by helping you rank higher in search engines. When most of the world finds you online, this is no small matter. To survive and thrive today, your firm should have a solid tactic for increasing your online presence.
Finally, content marketing is a cost-effective form of marketing. You can use what’s called the pillar method of creating a lot of content easily. To do this, you’ll need to create one big piece of content and then repurpose and redistribute it across multiple channels, such as your LinkedIn or Facebook pages. So you’d take one case study and break it up into tweets, infographics, a video, and a blog post. Pretty cool, right?
Types of content marketing
Content plays a part throughout the customer lifecycle, acting as a way to draw attention to your brand, nurture leads, and ultimately increase conversions. Content appears at every stage of this process, known as the content marketing funnel. Work that appears at the beginning of the funnel, such as a video or blog post, draws attention to your brand. Work that falls at the ending stage, such as a testimonial, serves to further cement a deal a prospect is considering. Here are some other examples:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Case studies
- Email courses
- Customer stories
What to avoid in your content marketing strategy
Now that you know how important content is, you probably want to know how to create a winning strategy. We’ll get into that in a later article. For now, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do.
Don’t write for other CPAs
It’s really important to understand who exactly you’re writing for in your content marketing plan. It may seem obvious, but you’re targeting customers not other CPAs. Greg shared how common it is for CPAs to write marketing copy that really speaks to other CPAs. Remember that the people you are writing for do not share the same awareness, have the same background, or have the same priorities as you do as an accountant.
“Other CPAs aren’t the people who are going to come and get services at your accounting firm. … Your audience is your customers, … and you’ve got to define who your customers are.”– Greg Kyte
Writing for other CPAs sounds illogical, but it’s actually very common for writers to get stuck in their own perceptions and forget how things land for readers. The trick is to get out of your own head and experience. Think like a customer.
To do that, you’ll need to define who your customers are clearly. Ideally, you’ve done that already, as creating an audience persona is an essential part of any business strategy. But if not, here’s a primer: a buyer persona is a fictionalized customer with attributes you find most commonly among your customers. You’ll likely have multiple buyer personas for each of the most common customers you serve. These all depend on your firm and how specialized your services are.
To create them, you can leverage data and research such as stats and surveys. When interpreting these findings, flesh out who your firm serves most. Families and parents? Businesses? Do they have a high financial literacy or not? What do they want to know about? What challenges are they seeking an accountant to solve? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when creating your content marketing funnel.
Think about what these personas might need and how they need it. A busy working parent might appreciate a short video that’s quick, to the point, and easy to follow. They may not have time for a long article. A young professional who is doing taxes for the first time might appreciate an infographic in their social media feed. The combinations are endless, but each appeals to a specific consumer.
Don’t include a direct ask
Traditional marketing generally includes a strong sales pitch or call to action, with the marketer’s agenda being obvious and expected. Content marketing should appear to be strictly informational and educational, leaving the decision to purchase or learn more about your firm up to the customer.
“The mistake that consistently gets made is people coming off a little bit salesy, and it’s overbearing and maybe condescending to your audience. Really, most of the time you want your audience to enjoy the content, and to take something valuable away from it. So, if you’re just pushing your services and pushing them to take action straight away, that can be pretty off-putting.”– Caleb Newquist
In today’s crowded marketplace, people are bombarded by mail, email, phone, text, website, and social media with requests for their money. So when you come off as salesy, it’s a huge turn-off. The reader values his or her time. If they’re going to spend some of that time reading your content, make it valuable for them.
With good content, readers can relax, knowing that if they want your services they can be the ones to reach you. Of course, you’re doing this thing for a reason. So you do want something, and they know that, but everything feels different when you don’t feel forced.
Don’t worry about enabling DIYers
Well-crafted content is often informative and educational, giving advice and how-to’s to tackle problems your customers might be facing. For example, your firm might put out a video on filing taxes as an independent contractor. So you might be wondering, if I put out a video on this, then no one will need to come to me for this issue. So isn’t that defeating the point? Not necessarily.
The thing is, yes you’re giving away information. … In fact, Greg shared that that’s what content marketing is. Giving away information. But you’re still the expert. And when your customer gets challenged by a problem that they thought they could handle but realize they can’t, who are they going to for help?
“I go and I look at a YouTube video where someone tells me how to do something. And then I realize either that there’s some experience that I don’t have [or] some artistry that I haven’t gained in terms of what I’m supposed to be doing. Or I just simply don’t have the time to do that stuff. So, even though that content makes me go, ‘Oh, I can do it myself,’ I start, I get blocked. And then [I go,] ‘Who’s the expert I need to go to?’ Well, a good place [would be the] person who told me this is the way to do it.”– Greg Kyte
Consider this when designing your strategy. You might sprinkle how-to videos in along with general tips and tricks related to financial health. The how-to videos show customers you care, and that you value their energy and time. But know that when tax time rolls around, the DIYer is unlikely to have the time and energy to decipher every aspect of their problem. When life gets busy or they want expertise, you’ll be the go-to resource they turn to.
Don’t post staff highlights
It’s natural to want to show customers the kind of expertise and experience your staff has. You would think that it would be a compelling reason for them to trust your brand. But it’s not:
“You might even think, ‘Well, gosh, if I post a staff highlight it’ll show all their credentials and things like that, and it’ll make your staff person probably feel really good because they’ll like getting the attention.’ But ultimately, the big question is, is it getting customers interested in your expertise? I would say rather than posting a staff spotlight, that what you do is have your staff post a guest post showing their expertise in a certain area.”– Greg Kyte
Remember your audience doesn’t necessarily know all about accounting credentials. And even if they do, not everyone with great credentials is a great accountant. People know this.
It’s also not very entertaining. A page of staff highlights is one way to make people’s eyes glaze over. Again, think like a customer. What do they want? Put the focus on their needs.
You can still show your staff expertise in an indirect way. Have one of your staff create an informational post that teaches them something. You’re showing expertise, not just telling.
Don’t be afraid to be real
Accounting is a serious profession, and developing relationships with clients has always required a degree of formality. So it may feel off-putting to use real, down-to-earth language in your content marketing.
But natural language is exactly what you need to be seen as a trusted authority. Let people know there are people behind the words and behind the firm itself. Bring a humanizing element into your messaging, and you bring that aspect into your brand image. It’s much easier for people to feel loyal to a brand that feels like a familiar friend.
How that natural language looks will vary depending on your firm and your audience. Remember, the goal is to be authentic. However you define your brand identity and culture, share your messaging in a way that reflects that. There are even instances where occasional swear words can have a positive effect. Some research has shown that some use of mild, intermittent profanity in messaging can have a positive effect on people. At the same time, there’s no need to force that language into your content if it isn’t in alignment with how you’d interact with your customers.
“Using colorful language is … an option for you, but it is a way to keep things authentic. And you can write authentically without going blue. So, use that within the context of however you’re creating content, whatever that means to you.”– Caleb Newquist
Creating your messaging this way does carry some degree of risk. It’s possible that if you use a certain type of language, you could push away some clients. Greg doesn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing:
“Don’t worry about keeping it clean. If it’s natural to keep it clean, cool. If it’s not, that’s great, too. … If your language or if your behavior does turn some people away, make that a conscious effort as a filter because there’s certain customers that you shouldn’t be serving. … If you’re swearing all the time when you have a client meeting then swearing in your content marketing is good because anybody who’s offended by that won’t come to you, and [this] just saved you and them a lot of time.”– Greg Kyte
Learn more about content marketing for accountants
Content is a powerhouse in any marketing strategy. You’ll want to create educational, informative, and engaging pieces of content that raise brand awareness, nurture leads, and increase sales conversions. With a higher ROI than any other form of marketing, content marketing is an essential tool for any business.
Anyone can create a blog post, a tweet, or even an email. But to do it right, you need to avoid some common pitfalls. Don’t write for the wrong audience (namely, other accountants). Don’t forget to focus on your customer’s needs—they’re probably not interested in reading staff highlights. Don’t worry too much about sounding formal. An authentic voice is what you’re going for.
It’s not in your best interest to be overly promotional or include a CTA too soon. A pull method works better than a push method when it comes to this approach. And don’t be stingy with the material you give out. Yes, it’s free information. But watch as the prospects you pulled in with a great how-to video come to you as their resource when they need an expert.
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