Accountants: Is your blog putting your website visitors to sleep?

Accountants play a vital role for businesses and individuals who need to make sense of their financial situation. If you’re an accountant, people need your financial guidance and insight. And you need to use online marketing to position yourself as a skilled and competent professional.

Unfortunately, when it comes to online marketing, you have a distinct challenge that many other professionals do not have: Online marketing (such as articles and blogs and Facebook posts) uses content to help attract potential customers and to position you as the expert service provider. But what kind of content should you include in your marketing?

How to read a balance sheet? No, potential customers don’t want to know that. (In fact, that’s the reason they’re looking for an accountant in the first place… so they don’t have to read balance sheets!).

How to perform financial analysis? No, that would make someone fall asleep at the best of times! (And again, why would someone read about it if they were thinking of hiring you anyway?)

Changes to the tax code? No way! Who would want to read that at all? (Accountants only read it because they have to… no accountant wants to write about it too!)

As important as an accountant’s work is, it can be extremely difficult to talk about it in your online marketing.

So, how do you create compelling online content to help people see how valuable you are without just writing about stuff that they don’t want to read about anyway?

The answer is a combination of two elements that accountants can easily include in every blog:

Value – What you do for your clients. This is the benefit that people get by working with you.
Personality – Who you are. This is the “voice” of your content.

When you combine these two elements in your content marketing, you communicate in a way that attracts potential clients without boring them to death with information that they don’t need to know. Here’s how to incorporate personality and value into your work.

HOW TO INCLUDE VALUE IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

The first thing you need to do is figure out what to say.

Forget the in’s and out’s of what you do for a living. Don’t blog about that. After all, no one is really interested in reading about tax code. Rather, they’re interested in knowing that you know the tax code enough to help them.

So, create content that shows your value to your clients. Show case studies of people whose businesses have succeeded because they worked with you. Instead of talking about how to read financial statements, talk about what to do with the business insight gained from financial statements. Talk about what to do with tax returns to make more money. Outline strategies to help people retire early.

In other words, don’t talk about your work. Talk about how people can benefit from what you do and talk about specific things that people can do for themselves after they’ve used your services.

HOW TO INCLUDE PERSONALITY IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING

Now that you know what you want to say, figure out how you are going to say it.

Start by listing the various qualities that make up your personality. What do people think of when they think of you? What are some things that you like, which can become a sort-of signature for you? For example: Are you funny? Thoughtful? Happy-go-lucky? Enthusiastic? Energetic? Do you like classic cars? Do you like to cook? Are you an avid book collector? Do you like a certain sport?

There are things about you that make you uniquely you. Unfortunately, most clients and potential clients are too busy seeing the spreadsheets to the see person behind them. You can change that around and become more magnetic by letting your personality shine through.

As an example, just watch a cooking show. The ingredients that these chefs cook with, and the dishes they create, look good but could be duplicated by other expert chefs. The reason these chefs have a following and their own show is because of their personality!

Be true to yourself (don’t make up a rock-n-roll personality if it’s not you). Figure out what makes up your personality and then make sure that it shines through in all of your online marketing: Tie in elements of your personality in all of your blogs and articles and Facebook postings and tweets and newsletters and special reports.

Accountant marketing with blogs and articles doesn’t have to bore your clients. Instead, your online content marketing can be highly valuable to them (while at the same time displaying your unique and compelling personality), which helps to position you as an expert that they will want to hire.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘List building, content marketing, and objection handling’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here’s what I’m reading this week:

  • 41 tips that put over 10,000 people on my email subscription list. If you’re looking to build a list of email subscribers (and you should be trying to do that!!!) then this is a good, comprehensive blog post of tips that you need. I heartily agree with almost all of them (although I confess that I’m not a huge fan of pop-ups. I know they work but I just don’t like them that much). Check out this post and use it as your own personal checklist to grow your subscriber base.
  • Agile content marketing. This blog post starts by talking about how a comedian develops funny jokes. Basically, they write stuff they think is funny and then they test it out at a comedy club. Based on audience feedback, they go back to the drawing board and scrap or revise the jokes and test again. This method, as the blog post explains, also works for content. You create content, deploy it, test the feedback, and then try again. It’s a simple testing method (no new concept there!) but applied to content marketing.
  • Why nothing great happens with content marketing at less than 10 hours per week. In this blog post, Marcus Sheridan lays out his position that good content marketing needs at least 10 hours per week of focus. He lays out how long he spends on content marketing (good stuff there!) and as an added bonus, he does a great job of explaining why he’ll only work with clients who are willing to go “all-in”. (I love the disclaimer he makes his clients sign!)
  • Skyrocket your sales and destroy your competitors with the risk reversal strategy. In sales, some people will buy from you and some won’t. Those who don’t buy from do so because of stated and unstated objections. This article from SuccessWise does a great job of explaining how to counter some of the objections people will have when they are thinking about buying from you. (And you should also read my blog post Objections are awesome, which is kind of related.)

100 proposals in 100 days — End of challenge

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about my 100 Proposals In 100 Days challenge — a personal challenge to really get things rockin’ and rollin’ in my business and to have some fun trying to generate new business and raise the high-water level, so to speak.

The project started on June 27th and it was set to go for 100 days… until October 3rd.
aaron-hoos-writer-100-proposals-tracking

In that time, I planned to write 100 proposals within 100 days and I had created some other rules as well…

  • The proposal had to be for paid work (i.e. no guest blog posts).
  • The proposal could be to existing clients but had to be for new work (i.e. no writing proposals for stuff that was already coming down the pipeline).
  • I had to be able to do the work I was proposing — no throwaway proposals!

I’ve only got a week left in this challenge but I can tell you right now that I have to stop. No, I didn’t hit 100 proposals early. Heck, not even close.

Here’s why I had to stop (it’s a good problem)… I simply became so busy with the proposals I did write that I reached capacity faster than I though I would. (i.e. more of my proposals were accepted than I anticipated, and for more work than I was expecting). I can handle operating at or above capacity for a little while, which was the case for the past month. But then, at 2:02 PM today, I received a call from one of those proposals and it has locked me up completely for several months. Any bit of capacity I might have been able to eke out is totally gone. I am now officially BOOKED solid.

OVERVIEW OF THE PROPOSAL CHALLENGE

I started the challenge totally gung-ho and wrote one proposal a day for 34 days (through to July 30th)…
100_Proposals_In_100_Days__prop34

Most of the proposal acceptances appeared during August. I also had some other business commitments, as well as some personal commitments… my time was starting to vanish! I kept up with the work but between July 31 and today, September 25, I was only able to write another 6 proposals. It was kind of depressing to me because I wasn’t getting my proposals done. But hey, I’m not complaining about the volume of work! :)

My 40th proposal was written on September 22nd and I did think I could continue to write proposals (perhaps squeezing in a few more before the end date of October 3rd) but after my phone call this afternoon, it simply isn’t going to happen.

100_Proposals_in_100_days_Prop40

PROPOSAL CHALLENGE — BY THE NUMBERS

In total, I wrote 40 proposals out of 100 planned proposals, achieving 40% of my goal.

Of those 40 proposals, here are the responses I received:

  • 2 “we are already using someone else and can’t switch at this time” replies
  • 15 “Yes! Let’s work together” replies
  • 23 non-replies (or they haven’t replied yet — but some magazines take months)

Of those 40 proposals, 15 accepted my proposal and agreed to work together (which is an initial acceptance rate of 37.5%) although so far only 8 of those proposals have resulted in actual paid work already, giving me a real (paid) acceptance rate of exactly 20%. The other 7 positive replies may or may not turn into work. They said yes but not everyone can start as soon as they accept the proposal: Some are awaiting funding from outside investors, one of them is navigating complex regulatory requirements, etc. So I separate those into 8 “real” clients (because they are current and paid) and 7 “possible” clients. I suspect I’ll get a couple more out of the possible group but they’ll trickle in, and I likely won’t get all 7.

Of the 8 accepted and paid proposals, 5 are for ongoing (perpetual) work — and that is ultimately the reason why my schedule is so full. We’re not talking about small “one-off” projects here. These are for big projects. One of the projects will take several hours every day for the next year.

Of the 8 accepted and paid proposals, only 2 were to existing clients (and 1 was to a previous client who I haven’t done work for in a few years). The other 5 accepted-and-paid proposals were to totally new clients.

Of the 8 accepted and paid proposals, 4 ended up hiring me for more work than I proposed. That is very interesting to me. That means 10% of proposals turned into more work than I proposed. Huh.

Here are some interesting notes about the 40 proposals:

  • 5 proposals were to magazines (Confession: I thought I wrote more to magazines but apparently not… and none of the 5 accepted my proposal… yet).
  • 3 proposals were for “non-conventional” projects (mostly royalties payment). All three were accepted but only one has resulted in paid work so far.
  • 27 proposals were for online content and 13 proposals were for offline content. I closed a fairly equal mix of them.

I’m really excited about the results. Although I fell short of my goal, I wrote 40 proposals, closed at least 20% of them into real work (so far), and those 8 proposals have resulted in me being fully booked for the next 12 months and will be responsible for six figures of income that I wasn’t expecting before.

Conclusion? I loved this challenge even though it turned out to be too big of a challenge for me to finish. I would do this again, although I might consider adjusting the challenge dates a bit.

What I’m working on this week (Sept 23 – 27)

This week is particularly busy with a bunch of projects wrapping up all at once. The timing is perfect because I’m starting a huge (HUGE!) project in the coming weeks so it will be nice to have several of these nearly-done things off my to-do list.

I’ll be wrapping up…

  • … a couple of ebooks
  • … some website copy
  • … and some newsletters for real estate investors

Even though I’m starting a large project and wrapping up a lot of these projects, I’ve got some other things cooking as well — such as a new book I’m working on with a real estate investor.

These moments of “switchover” when completing old projects and starting new ones are surprisingly emotionally exhausting, even after having done this for many years. I come to love the projects I work on so it’s exciting to see them off of my desk and being deployed to help a client. But at the same time, it feels like I’m saying goodbye. I imagine this is just a tiny glimpse into a how a parent feels when they send their kids off to school.

But in my case, I just keep having more “kids”. haha.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Blackberry, Twitter, and ShamWow’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

There seemed to be way more to read this week than other weeks. Funny how that works. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading:.

  • Blackberry waves the white flag. How can you not read about Blackberry this week? haha. This article from Salon (and this article from Forbes) nicely sums up the fall. And that’s pretty much what Blackberry is going to be known for unless it can pull some kind of magical rabbit out of a magical hat. Which isn’t going to happen. The company is now just desperately looking for some kind of exit, in my opinion, and it will struggle for a while until it can find an exit. But what exits are possible? No one is holding their breath.
  • What’s next for Twitter besides the Twitter IPO?. This is a very compelling article that describes how Twitter is evolving and where it may be headed. The article’s writer, Christopher S. Penn, does a good job of discussing how Twitter will change and what it means for marketing departments. Buried deep within his article is a reference to Twitter TV which I wonder if it could be the Next Big Thing for Twitter. I might blog more about this topic in the future.
  • Will Emmy winners be thanking Twitter?. While we’re on the subject of Twitter, here’s another article I read about how some shows have a huge Twitter following and the possible influence that might have on Emmy awards. There isn’t a direct connection but Twitter is a powerful way to build momentum for a show (can anyway say Sharknado?), interact with audiences, and get the pulse of viewers. This is one of those articles that, after reading, made me sit back and contemplate the impact that Twitter could have on marketers who really rock it out on Twitter.
  • ShamWow guy stages a comeback. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with the ShamWow guy but I am. I think I’m fascinated by pitchmen (pitchpeople?) in general but the ShamWow guy’s attitude and style win me out over some of those other pitchmen’s shout-at-the-camera methods. I read this article earlier this week and, in fact, it inspired its own blog post — The ShamWow business model. And way back in 2010 I wrote 10 products that the ShamWow guy should sell in 2010.