As consumers continue to become even more savvy, standards are higher than ever for what the client experience should look like. Today, clients don’t just want good experiences, they want them to be seamless and enabled by technology.
Businesses that fail to adopt are driving clients away. In fact, 32% of all clients would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience. Can you imagine what the amount would be like for a brand they don’t care about?
Ensuring clients are satisfied has to begin with their very first touch point of your brand: that first website visit or phone call. This framework is all about creating experiences that clients resonate with to drive them from prospect to client. By following it, you can expect to build a more profitable firm with clients who you feel good about working with.
- Why the Digital-Centric Marketing Framework
- Your Current Referrals System As You Know Has Changed
- The New Way to Grow Your Firm (Without Growing its Headcount)
- Transform Your Business With the Digital-First Marketing Framework
- Conversion-focused Website
- Content Strategy
- Client Experience
Why the Framework
The data is there—the future is digital-centric. Firms that continue to only work using their outdated cumbersome analog ways are going to continue to have no time for the work that matters the most: delivering excellent client service, expanding margins, and building a more profitable (less busy) firm.
This framework also does not help you attract just any new clients—it helps you attract your ideal clients—the ones who you enjoy working with who also happen to be your highest paying clients.
Your Current Referrals System As You Know Has Changed
Most businesses start with referrals and coast along for months or even years—a model that can only take businesses so far.
You have no control over referrals, which means you can’t plan a marketing strategy or anticipate results. You’re at the mercy of your clients and usually it’s just a handful doing the referring. If they stop referring, you’re toast.
You’re forced to compete on price. You will struggle to transition your firm to more premium advisory/consulting work, since you’ll be stuck doing the work referred to you (typically, basic accounting and tax services). You’ll stay busy, but you’ll rarely get opportunities to help clients at a deeper, more personally satisfying level. Over time, you may struggle with employee retention, and your own job satisfaction might even suffer.
It’s possible for you to reach a point where referrals are a bonus, not a necessity—a point where your ideal clients are actively reaching out to you, instead of vice versa and you’re turning away poor-fit clients regularly.
And once you get a referral through the door, what are you even doing to create experiences they desire? Are you personalizing your communications to them? Letting them contact you via chat? Responding to them within hours instead of days or weeks? Tending to a referral the way you’ve been, is not enough.
Grow Your Firm (Without Growing its Headcount): The Digital-Centric Marketing Framework
This comprehensive growth strategy was designed specifically for accounting firms. It’s a compilation of everything we’ve learned from years of working exclusively in the industry.
The Digital-Centric Marketing Framework’s 4 Essential Elements:
- Conversion-focused Website
- Content Strategy
- Client Experience and Nurturing
With our guidance, most firms that implement these elements see at least a 200% increase in firm visibility within 12 months.
Transform Your Firm With
the Digital-Centric Marketing Framework POSITIONING
When establishing your ideal niche, your goal is to get as narrow as possible so that you can substantially differentiate your firm from its competitors, while staying as broad as practical, so you can still reach a meaningful audience. Positioning answers “who do we help?”
Step 1) Deciding What You Want To Do
- Which services make us the most money?
- What is our mix of services currently lacking?
- What are the easiest wins for us?
- Why do prospects seek us out?
- Is there a new offering (that we excel at) that doesn’t exist yet?
Look for services that your firm can offer that are both relatively easy wins and can command a premium price.
Step 2) Who Your Ideal Client Type is
- What type of clients have we been most successful with in the past?
- What type of companies/consumers typically seek us out?
- What industries or market laterals do we excel at?
- What client types make us the most money?
- What clients are the easiest wins for us?
Step 3) How You’ll Make a Difference: Your Unique Angle
What makes your firm unique from the other 100k+ accounting and CPA firms today? What specialized skills, processes, background, experiences, and ideas do you bring to the table?
- What unique approach, method, and/or process do we use that others don’t?
- What does our team’s unique background mix make them perfectly suited to?
- What are we sick of seeing in our industry and how do we do it differently?
- What do clients say they appreciate most about our firm?
As you respond, look for things that could be defining or differentiating. Get creative.
Phrases like “we get measurable results” or “guiding you beyond the numbers” are not differentiating. These are baseline expectations.
Modern clients aren’t satisfied with mere competence. They’re looking for personal connection. How can you align yourself with your audience in a way that will make them feel safe and heard, without personally interacting with them?
Step 4) Putting It All Together: Writing Your Firm's Positioning Statement
Focus on identifying services that are the most underserved/profitable. Then, pair them with a client type or industry that needs those services.
You might arrive at something like:
- Bookkeeping for marketing agencies
- Financial reporting for craft breweries
- Automated accounting for eCommerce stores
Now, add your unique angle to craft your full positioning statement:
“Our firm provides [specific service or outcome] for [type of market or audience] because/by [underlying motivation / differentiator].”
Don’t worry too much about finding the right language and word combination. Most businesses end up communicating what they’ve always done, but with fancier words. Your goal is to redefine your fundamental business strategy, in a way that’s specific enough to make you uncomfortable.
Be so clearly differentiated in your market that your list of direct competitors dwindles down to almost nothing or at minimum, 25 or less, nationwide. With this approach, your firm should start to win more of the right type of clients over the long haul at a higher price.
This is the home base for all of your marketing efforts. It’s built to rank well in Google, attract your ideal prospects, and usher them into an engaging and gently persuasive sales journey that ultimately compels them to become your next client.
A conversion-focused website will:
- Support prospects through the entire buyer’s journey, from awareness and consideration to final decision, with content strategically targeting each phase.
- Continually and automatically bring in new leads, without a big marketing team or budget.
- Create more cross-sell and up-sell opportunities with existing clients.
To have a conversion-focused website, stop relying heavily on your homepage and navigation menu. Instead, map out a workflow based on what users are actually doing and then guide them down that path with a simple structure and clear, well-placed buttons.
A basic user workflow looks like:
- Content: How can I (the user) solve my problem?
- Services: How can your firm help me solve this problem?
- Case Studies: Has your firm solved this problem before? For who? How?
- About Us: Who at the firm could help me? Do they look like people I could work with?
- Contact Us: I’m interested.
A killer article or blog post is almost always the first step in the lead generation process. At least 50% of your leads should come from organic content. Top firms are garnering 75-80%.
a problem for the visitor.
you as an expert in your market.
meaningful traffic to your website.
prospects earlier in the sales cycle.
Your content pages should include:
- Semantically marked-up content
- A keyword-focused headline
- A relevant featured image
- A killer sub headline
- A prominent email capture opportunity
- Social icons
- Thoughtful content
- Pull quotes
- Internal links
- Focused calls to action (CTAs)
Your Services page is for site visitors who are a step deeper into the buying cycle and it should be written accordingly. They’ve read one or several pieces of your content, and perhaps visited your homepage a few times. It’s likely they’re actually in the market for your services and are now gathering information. They might even be ready to make a decision between you and a competing firm.
What your Services page should do for you:
communicate what your services are, how they’re performed, and what a prospect could achieve if they hired your firm.
potential bad fits so that only the most qualified prospects make it through to the firm.
DRIVE GOOD PROSPECTS
into your sales funnel by encouraging them to take some action to connect with the firm.
Your Services page should include:
- A search engine friendly headline
- Processes and outcomes
- Relevant case studies
- Closing-focused CTAs
Prospects don’t just want to work with you because you seem to do a good job—they want to work with you because they like you. Your brand, your tone, your personality all matters. Your About page is where these details need to shine.
Here, describe how your approach to business is different from other firms. Don’t just talk about what you do differently—explain why you do it that way. What inspired your unique approach? What are other firms doing wrong that you want to do right? How do you want to make an impact in your industry?
What the About page does:
Helps differentiate firms, beyond basic positioning, through emotional or personal characteristics that a prospect might connect with.
Gives prospects a sense of the firm’s culture.
MISSION & VALUES
Reveals what the firm stands for, along with any relevant historical context about why that’s important.
Your About page should include:
- High quality, relevant and recent photos
- Core values and passion
- List of awards / affiliations
- Work environment
- Specialty-focused team bios
- More social proof
- Unexpected vocabulary
Contact Us Page
Your site visitors have progressed far enough into the buying process that they’re actually contemplating reaching out to you. Keep this page as simple as possible.
Your contact us page should include:
- Simple instructions. Tell site visitors why they should contact you and what you’ll do when you hear from them.
- A simple contact form. Have fields for a name, email address, and a message.
- Additional ways to reach out. Everyone does not want to fill out your form so give them alternative ways to contact you—live chat, email, and phone.
- Redirect to a “thank you” page. After someone fills out your contact form, direct them to a thank you page that reinforces their decision to reach out and share any relevant information about how long it might take for them to hear from you. You can also include a few links back to your most impactful content to keep prospects engaged.
We’ve downplayed the homepage a bit, but it’s still a critical part of your website, especially for referrals.
The homepage needs:
Establish a unique business position that separates you from direct competitors.
Create a personal connection with your target audience.
Drive visitors to dig deeper into your site.
What to include:
- A clear niche
- An intuitive navigation bar
- Proof of success
- Social proof
- Relevant content
- Compelling CTA
Optimizing Search Opportunities
Your ultimate goal is to show up on the first page of Google when your prospects run a search. For this to happen, a lot of things need to be going right on your website, and one of them is good having good search engine optimization (SEO).
The minimum recommendations for each page on your site:
- Page Titles. Tell Google what each page is about. Make sure they’re clear, specific, and keyword-rich.
- Meta Descriptions. Give a summary of the page content, which search engines pick up and analyze. It’s best to write your own.
- Custom Page URLs. Write search-friendly URLs that are keyword-rich.
- H1 Tags. Title tags. Google looks for these specifically, so make sure your titles are formatted to use them.
- Internal Linking. In your content, link to other content on your site using anchor text.
This is the long-term approach to educating and informing potential clients, so that you can connect with them earlier in the buying process and position them to be easily converted when the time comes.
Most firms incorrectly assume that having a content strategy means having a blog. A blog makes up only 25% of a full content strategy. Firms also waste tons of time churning out mediocre blog posts on a huge range of topics with no clear strategy and cohesion.
The Digital-Centric Marketing Framework content strategy consists of a multi-dimensional content approach that is organized and prioritized to maximize the use of every piece of content you create. Each communication is created for a reason and centers around your flagship piece or “cornerstone asset.”
Your Cornerstone Asset
Addresses: a critical challenge or opportunity for your target clientele and represents a unique point of view for your firm. It is directly related to your expertise and is based on both research and direct client experience.
This is your largest and most comprehensive piece of content, written to have lasting value for years. It serves as the foundation for your lead generation efforts—you’re going to be directing a lot of traffic to it. Typically, it is a guide or an ebook that’s well-written, well-designed, is extremely helpful, and comprehensive, and will take nearly 30 minutes to read.
Primary goal: to position your firm as an expert on the topic you’re presenting, earn trust, and get prospects to like you.
Finding Your Cornerstone Asset
Look back at your positioning statement. What guide could you write to further position your firm as an expert in that area?
Here are a few questions to consider:
- What do we wish our clients knew?
- What unique point of view do we have that no one else has?
- What future challenges will our niche face?
If you’re still struggling with ideas for your cornerstone asset, think of ideas or topics you want to “own” in your prospects’ heads. Demonstrate that your firm is an expert in your topic areas, and each topic you want to own is a potential cornerstone asset.
Developing Your Persona
Before you start writing, take the time to get clear about who your audience is, for this specific piece of content. It’s helpful to develop a specific “persona” - a fictional character representative of your target audience - and write directly to that person. Give them a specific age, profession, and title/position, at minimum (but the more detail, the better!). Write out their desires, both specifically (“I want to find an accountant I trust”) and more broadly (“I want to stop feeling fearful about money”).
Then, write two final, super important lists: a list of their struggles (things they’ve tried so far and/or where they’re stuck) and a list of their fears. It’s helpful to think about a specific client you’ve already worked with and develop a persona based on that person.
Creating Supporting Content
Once you have your cornerstone asset created, spin it into several other types of smaller content such as social media posts, infographics, webinars, guest posts, and blog posts that present a specific detail from your cornerstone piece.
These snack-sized pieces of content are incredibly attractive to prospects, and will almost always usher them directly to your cornerstone asset.
Step 1. Break your cornerstone asset back down into an outline and come up with about 30 unique “headlines” from individual sections in the piece, each of which could be presented on its own.
Step 2. Choose 2 to 3 content types that lend themselves best to each mini headline, and summarize how you would customize the topic for each.
Content types include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts (text, images, and videos)
- Case studies
Following this process, you should be able to relatively easily generate at least upwards of 90 ideas for unique pieces of mini content. Then, all you need to do is schedule them out over the next 6 to 12 months. Since your cornerstone asset is so solid, you may even feel comfortable completely delegating the tasks of creating and posting these mini content pieces.
Now, you’re driving your content like an actual campaign. Following this strategy will put you light years ahead of other firms who are still struggling to think of something to write about on a weekly basis.
Imagine having the next year mapped out and most of the hard work already done!
Then, when you’ve squeezed every last drop out of your cornerstone asset, all you need to do is create another one, and repeat the process.
For best results, promote your content like your life depends on it. Every time you post a new piece of supporting content, your real intention is to promote your cornerstone asset.
Imagine having a cornerstone asset so solid that site visitors start sending it to their colleagues, excited to share something brilliant “they” discovered. This is a content marketing snowball that will only continue to pick up speed the more you promote it.
Where to promote content:
- Social media - groups and on personal and company pages.
- Guest posts on other industry websites that have a substantially larger audience than you.
- Slack channels
- Email marketing
Bringing it Together
A lot of firms get hung up on how much content they need to be creating. To keep it simple, your firm should be targeting a minimum of 2,000 words a month in supporting content. Thought leadership content is important to prospective clients, but it has to be good content. Most firms are just spinning their wheels, creating random pieces of content that never go deep enough into any particular topic.
The entire point of the Cornerstone Asset strategy is to help firms zero in on a few key topics and cover them deeply. This doesn’t mean you can’t change topics every 6 to 12 months. But the point is to stay focused and fully cover one topic at a time, from every angle, in order to become the thought leader on that one big idea, before moving on to the next.