In today’s digital world, it’s no longer enough to simply add keywords and meta data to your web pages and expect to rank at the top position in the search engines. As both the consumer and the search algorithms get smarter, businesses have to work harder to convince potential customers of their credibility.
For the accounting industry, as with any other, part of that work involves establishing genuine authority in the sector and providing value to consumers without going after the hard sell. It might seem like a lot of work in order to build that authority up, but in the long run your business will reap the benefits – often the products and services start to sell themselves because of the reputation you have.
Authority vs expertise
Expertise and authority are two different things, and it’s important to establish that difference from the outset. Expertise is to do with the extent of your knowledge and experience; it could be argued that any established accountancy firm might be an expert. But authority implies an audience that values the aforementioned knowledge and experience and trusts what your business is saying above what others may be saying.
So how do you go about establishing your accountancy firm as an industry authority? Good question. Here are a few elements you’ll want to consider in your strategy.
Develop a mission statement
And by mission statement, we don’t mean a pithy sentence that you can slap underneath your logo and is meant to reassure everyone that you stand for good things. Your mission statement is about what you intend to bring to the industry that other accounting businesses don’t. This mission has to be woven into every aspect of your brand and bought into by the senior staff. If the whole workforce believes in what you stand for, it’s easier to live the mission.
Prove your authority
This is the part where the very sales-driven will be turned off. Because in the modern world, if you want people to buy into what you’re saying and doing, you need to start giving something valuable away for free: your expertise.
You can do this without jeopardising your paid services, but in order to build up a following of people who trust your business, you have to inject expertise into everything you put out onto the web, or into print, or whichever channels you use. There are many, many ways to do this, some of which include:
- Whitepapers or e-books
These are a more formal way to share your insight and can be distributed at events, via email to clients, on LinkedIn, or simply put on your website for download.
- Q&A sessions on social media
Compile a list of questions you’re often asked and instead of simply adding an FAQs page to your website, host a Q&A session on a social media channel, or make videos to put on YouTube. Smartphones have good video function these days and there’s no need to make it hugely polished – just present your subject in a way that’s easy for everyday consumers to understand.
- Blogging about recent industry changes
Include updates about changes within the accounting and financial sector and talk about the effects they’ll have on your core audience. This will help clients to keep abreast of the latest guidelines and practices.
- Offer commentary and insight in traditional media
Appearing in industry press or on local radio to comment upon news items that affect the accounting sector is a great way to cement your authority both with consumers and competitors. If the journalists or DJs like you, you may even be invited back regularly to talk about industry news.
The key with all of these and any others you choose to investigate is to offer value and knowledge everywhere you appear.
Let others promote you
It’s tempting in any industry to shout about how great your business is and mention your USPs anywhere you can. Marketing in the accounting sector, however, as with any other, needs to be more subtle than that. Identifying and promoting your USPs is important, but it’ll only take you so far. To add credibility to your position as an industry authority, you need to encourage your customers to talk about you positively.
This doesn’t often happen without some sort of prompting. Providing a fantastic service is at the heart of gaining positive comments, but if you can’t then display the comments to potential clients, you’ve lost a lot of their value.
Adding testimonials to a website or product brochure is a good start, but to really cement your authority, an independent review service is necessary. There’s a good reason that TripAdvisor is one of the most widely used websites for anyone making a booking at a hotel, restaurant or attraction – people believe and trust what their peers say above what brands say. Implementing a third-party tool such as Reevoo, Trust Pilot or Feefo ensures the reviews given are reliable, and prevents competitors from creating false reviews to discredit you. (For the accountancy sector here at Whitefish Marketing we tend to use Vouchedfor )
If you’re on social media, set up alerts for people using your brand name and re-post selected positive comments about your services. This way your authority starts to filter over several channels and from several sources, making it stronger and more prolific.
Don’t only impress consumers
When you’re setting out to become an industry authority, it’s easy to get hung up on the B2C requirements. It’s worthwhile, however, taking a step back and looking at other spaces where your knowledge might be valued.
Attend – and better still, speak – at industry conferences and seminars. Present case studies that you’re proud of and prove to your peers that you’re leading the sector in your specific discipline. Perhaps your accounting business has created a highly efficient infrastructure that enables staff to manage work more effectively, or maybe you’ve helped a client to turn their company around. Whatever it may be, present some nuggets of expertise to other accountancy firms and you’re sure to be on their radar in the future.
Attending a trade show or networking event is another way to establish your authority among related industries. An event for small businesses, for example, may give you exposure to a selection of people who are starting out and need your support. Or a trade show could lead to an opportunity to help a large organisation in an entirely different sector to develop a strategy for cutting costs and rebuilding margins.
Find creative ways to add value
Don’t necessarily rely on written or visual content as an accountancy marketing tactic. There are lots of useful tools you could add to your website to help visitors out. For example, why not create a tax calculator, that tells users how much tax they’d have to pay for their earned revenue each financial year. Or a tool that tells clients what margin they’d have to add to a product to make a profit.
Such tools don’t have to be detailed and take into account all possible variables, they’re just designed to give users a rough idea of what to expect before they sit down with an accountant and go through the particulars. They do, however, offer something basic and easily understood to, for example, people who are newly self employed.