If you are a tax professional or have any interaction with the industry, you probably know that there is plenty to do all year -- not just during tax season. There is paperwork to complete, new rules and regulations to keep up with, clients to advise and, of equal importance, marketing. But isn't marketing only necessary in the months right before (and during) tax season? Shouldn't the majority of our efforts go into marketing our firm during those high-impact times? While that would certainly be easier for firms who have endless to-do lists, the simple answer is no. If you are not marketing your tax practice throughout the year, you might as well not be marketing at all. Picking up your marketing methods each year right before tax season does little to improve long-term factors like search engine rank, and it also does not take into consideration that taxes themselves -- and the issues potential clients may be facing with them -- are a year-round affair. Let's dive into some of the reasons why having a year-round marketing strategy is essential to the success of your practice.
Why this mattersSEO and organic trafficThere are so many moving pieces within a broader marketing strategy that require consistent attention, even in the slower seasons. For instance, think about your placement in search engine results: do you think Google takes a break from ranking your firm and your competitors just because it is no longer tax season? Absolutely not. Google will crawl your site all day every day, checking on relevance and content, because that is their job. Your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts do not get to take a breather, and if you take your eye off the ball, then your PageRank can plummet in no time.Important factors to improving SEO -- like gaining more inbound links, creating great content full of relevant keywords and having high-quality landing pages -- are not one-and-done tasks. They take resources, commitment and, most of all, time. Generally speaking, after websites start working on SEO they can expect to see some results in four to six months. Since SEO results grow over time, however, those effects continue to compound and the success you see at six months is typically less than what you should be experiencing at 12 months. SEO is a process, not an endpoint. Since you will never be “done,” there is no reason to believe that halting your work at any point in the year is a valid thing to do. Even if you work in a seasonal business (such as tax), starting your SEO and marketing efforts just a few months before tax season will have no real effect on your rank. Unless you want to start over with your SEO every single tax season, keep maintaining your efforts all year long and you will be rewarded over time. Moz ranking criteria Every year or two, Moz, a SaaS company focused on SEO software development, comes out with a study (or several) on the influence of different ranking factors in Google's algorithm. Since no one truly knows Google's methods except Google, these factors cannot be 100% verified; however, the studies are based on the opinions of dozens of the world's brightest search marketers and run correlation studies to better understand the workings of search engine algorithms. So, if you are looking to gain insight into which factors could help (or hurt) your website's SEO, these lists are a great place to start. For local-specific SEO (which is relevant to most accounting practices in one way or another), there are a few factors that have seen significant increases in importance over the past few years. Google My Business (GMB) has seen explosive growth this year, and “GMB-specific features like Google Posts, Google Q&A, and image/video uploads are frequently mentioned as ranking drivers in the commentary.” As you can imagine, GMB should not only be maintained during tax season. By keeping your GMB profile alive and posting year-round, you are sending valuable engagement signals to Google (i.e., showing that you are an active and engaged business owner that cares about your listing). With GMB signals now making up 25% of the local pack/finder breakdown (the largest of any piece of the pie), working on your listing all year long is well worth it. Other factors with major importance to your search rank? Reviews, links, citations and more. None of these can be built up for tax season then put aside until the next year, so you should not expect to let up on your efforts at any point during the year. Two tax seasons ICYMI (but I doubt you did), the joy of tax season comes around twice per year. April 15th is the deadline for the following:
- Deadline to file individual tax returns (Form 1040) for the year 2018 or to request an automatic extension (Form 4868). An extension provides an extra six months to file your return. Payment of the tax is still due by April 15. You can submit payment for any taxes you owe along with the extension form.
- Last day to make a contribution to traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Health Savings Account, SEP-IRA, or solo 401(k) for the 2018 tax year. You have until October 15 to fund a SEP-IRA or solo 401(k) if you get an extension.
- First-quarter estimated tax payments due for the 2019 tax year
- Deadline to file estate income tax or trust income tax returns (Form 1041) or to request an automatic five-month extension of time to file (Form 7004)
However, there are additional important deadlines on October 15th:
- Final extended deadline to file individual tax returns for the year 2018 (Form 1040)
- Last day the IRS will accept an electronically filed tax return for the year 2018. If you're filing after this date, you'll have to mail in your tax return for processing.
- Final deadline to fund a SEP-IRA or solo 401(k) for tax year 2018 if you requested an automatic extension of time to file.
So, even though January 1st - April 15th gets most of the credit for being the craziest season in tax, there are actually many ongoing deadlines that mean clients (and potential clients) need your services all year long. Life events and referrals What is the biggest thing that happens year-round? Life. Your clients will not wait to undergo major life events until the ideal time for you, partially because they do not answer to you and partially because they do not always have control over the timing. Whether it be marriage, divorce, kids, an inheritance, job changes, or health issues, your clients (and potential clients) will be going through a lot -- all year, every year. If you stop marketing to help them find you (or do a poor job of keeping in touch with current clients), it is very possible that they will turn to someone else.Along the same lines, referrals do not just come at tax season (although you may see a large influx around that time). If someone is going through one of the life events I mentioned above, perhaps a friend of theirs recommends your services to them. Just like that, you have a new client. Referrals are the backbone of any successful tax and accounting practice. We have some clients who literally receive hundreds of new clients per year from their referral networks. Current clients, friends, financial advisors, estate planners, lawyers, bankers, realtors, and other accountants are just a few of the referral resources available to you. Taking advantage of these networks year-round is a fantastic way to significantly increase your client base (even in the “off-season”). IRS tax problems and notices Your clients are active all year and so is the IRS. Consider audits, for example. In general, the IRS can audit a return anytime within three years of the filing date. This leaves a large span of time in which taxpayers can be contacted, and whether they are a client or a potential client, you want to be the service they turn to. Even beyond audits, the IRS does not wait for tax season to notify taxpayers of any issues. Their website lists the following as reasons someone would receive a notice or letter:
- You have a balance due.
- You are due a larger or smaller refund.
- We have a question about your tax return.
- We need to verify your identity.
- We need additional information.
- We changed your return.
- We need to notify you of delays in processing your return.
Any of these would provide an opportunity for you to advise and assist taxpayers to navigate the confusing world of the IRS. Make sure they know where to find you at any point in the year. All of these reasons showcase why a year-round marketing strategy is the only way to go. When you postpone your efforts until tax season, you miss out not only on reaching new clients, but on compounding the time you spend to slowly build upon long-term goals like SEO and increasing reviews. If you are not in the game with building out content and an online presence, you will not be at the top of the search results -- or at the top of mind for any potential clients. So, what are some simple and practical ways to make your firm's marketing a year-round affair?
What you can do throughout the year Monthly email newsletter One great way to stay top of mind for your clients throughout the year and to generate word of mouth referrals is to send a monthly email newsletter. While tax and accounting firms may have sent printed newsletters in the past, technology changes in the industry have led to many client interactions happening online (which actually makes it easier for firms). If you approach email newsletters in the right way, they can be a great channel to showcase your expertise, alert clients to the latest changes in tax and accounting rules and help retain and grow your client base. At CountingWorks, we provide accountants and tax pros with easy, automated and industry-leading newsletters, client alerts, eGreeting cards and more. We set them up, import your client lists, create any email segmentation, and automate it for you. Newsletters are sent automatically from you, under your firm's logo and branding. Weekly Blog Maintaining an active blog on your website should be one of the top items on your To-Do list. With tax reform and the growth of cloud accounting, people have questions; luckily, you can use blog content as a way to introduce your brand to a new audience that is seeking professional help. To impress prospective clients and keep your clients informed, having timely and accurate content is a must-have for the modern firm. Not sure what to write about? Life events are a great place to start, since they do not occur only during tax season. They are year-round events that drive Google searches and social requests for help. As a tax accounting firm, your goal in marketing is to build up your online authority (i.e. showcase your expertise). When the time comes that someone starts looking for help with a major life event, you want to ensure that they can find answers with you. It is proven that blogging throughout the year is practically guaranteed to bring in new leads. Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than those that do not, and as an added bonus, 95% of businesses with a blog report higher search engine ranks. If you are writing about common life events, there is an even better chance your article will show up in the local search results. Your business is built upon your expertise and relationships. Communicating year-round reinforces you as a leader in your field. Producing relevant, high-quality content is a necessity to push your firm's marketing over the top. An extra tip: include links to your latest blogs in your monthly newsletter to drive more traffic to the site and show your clients that you are engaged and invested in keeping them up-to-date on all things tax. Daily social media posting We all know that social media is a huge part of modern life (especially for businesses), but are you taking full advantage of it? Business is no longer done behind closed doors, and what people say about you is out there for the world to see. Since the vast majority of clients (and potential clients) use social media, it is hugely important for your firm to have an active presence on the relevant social platforms. This lets you establish yourself as an expert and build more positive word of mouth attention. One way to start is by sending an email to your client base asking them to follow you, or by searching out and following clients on LinkedIn and Twitter. Use forums and message boards to answer client and prospect questions professionally, honestly, and correctly, which will earn you respect as an expert in your field. People will look to you for answers. Social media also provides another way for prospective customers to find you, especially if your website is not ranked high enough in search. You can even post the blogs you write to social media as part of your content strategy. This will bring more traffic to the site and amplify your efforts toward being seen as a thought leader in the industry. Reviews The importance of reviews relative to other factors has increased by over 43% in the last two years alone. Whether on Google, TaxBuzz or CountingWorks, you should be pushing to get more reviews year-round. When a referral or an online lead sees your brand in the search results, it is imperative that you are putting your best foot forward. According to Small Business Trends, there will be approximately 5-9% increase in business revenue for every star a business gets (i.e. out of five stars on Google, TaxBuzz, etc.). On the other side, 22% of consumers will not buy after reading just one negative review. What people say about you matters, and never forget that the internet is forever. Ask every single client to review you, and better yet, ask them to mention a specific service (which will improve your keyword rankings). It does not have to be difficult: the most important piece is to provide the five-star service that will earn you a five-star review. Once you start receiving great reviews, post them to your social media and include them in a “testimonials” page on your site. You have worked hard to earn those reviews, so make sure they become as visible as possible. While all this year-round marketing may seem like a lot of work, it is 100% worth it in the long run. Tax season may come and go, but what never changes is the need to keep your firm relevant for search rankings, social media, reviews, and more. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how to ramp up your year-round marketing, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. We're here to help!