One of the biggest benefits of using accounting automation software is time savings. By taking care of many mundane, repetitive — yet necessary — tasks, these advanced solutions give firms the chance to pursue higher-level objectives. Recent research from Goldman Sachs estimates that automation can reduce the time firms spend on their accounts payables processes, for example, by 70 to 80 percent.
A popular way to use all that newfound time is to devote more effort to marketing, which can drive new client acquisition and grow the business.
Marketing can take many forms, but one of the most effective is an informative, well-written corporate blog. Having one helps you reach prospects, showcase your expertise, and bring in new business. In fact, according to research from InsideView, companies that blog just once or twice a month enjoy 67 percent more sales opportunities than companies that do not blog at all.
The good news is that you don’t have to be William Shakespeare to write an effective blog. Clear, functional prose is all that’s required to get people reading and taking action. Other factors that go into the creation of a good blog are just as important. Let’s take a look at them and get your firm started on the path to blogging success.
A tried and true marketing method
The blogging concept has been around for many years, perhaps giving it a somewhat “old-school” feel when it comes to marketing methods. But visit any successful company’s website, from monolithic players like IBM or General Motors to any well-established mid-sized firm in just about any industry, and they will invariably have a blog.
That’s because blogs, like their veteran marketing cousin email, still work extremely well as a corporate marketing tool. In the technology world, applications can come and go faster than a shooting star across the night sky. However, some, like blogs, have proven to have staying power akin to previous eras when longevity was the name of the game (think: kitchen appliances made in the 1970s — those things seemed to last forever!)
The nice thing about the blog format is that it can be used to great effect by businesses of any size. As long as you’re selling a product or service, have internet access, and have a desire to get the word out to prospective customers, a blog will always be a useful item to have in your toolbox. Accounting firms certainly fall into this group, meaning it’s a good idea to consider getting one set up.
Blogging’s many benefits
Let’s look at some of the key benefits that come from blogging:
- Establishes your firm’s expertise: By communicating your knowledge around tax, assurance, regulations or whatever other topic you know well, readers will soon realize you are a trusted source of useful information. That will reflect well on your firm and make potential clients want to do business with you. You may even get the odd call from a media outlet looking for insight into a finance-related story. A mention on a respected news website or TV broadcast can extend your reach exponentially.
- Helps attract new clients: A blog can introduce your firm to potential clients who previously never knew of your existence. These prospects may discover your blog by, among other methods, receiving a link to one of your posts from a peer, or by coming across it while conducting an online search on the topic the post is addressing (see more on ranking high on search engines, below). Gaining new business in today’s digital communications world means having a vibrant online presence, and blogs are an effective tool for establishing one.
- Creates regular communication with existing clients: Staying in touch with current clients, even when you’re not actively working on their files, is always a good idea. Doing so reminds them that you’re there, you’re thinking of them, and you’re always ready to help. Sometimes, however, heavy workloads, business trips and other factors make it hard to keep the communication lines open. Posting a new blog offers a great reason to send an email to your client base and ensure the dialogue never goes dormant.
- Provides content for e-newsletters: If you have a newsletter already set up that you deliver at regular intervals to your clients, new blog posts are a great source of content to help populate them with fresh, intriguing information.
- Boosts employee morale: New blog posts are often a hot topic of discussion internally amongst staff members. Most people are usually curious to see what their organization is saying to the world, and this can provide a healthy buzz around the water cooler, be it a real or virtual one. Seeing the firm’s published takes on topical issues can also help employees gain an appreciation of its priorities, directions and philosophies. This factor is particularly valuable in larger firms where perhaps not every employee has regular interactions with members of the leadership team.
Tactics and tips
To ensure your blog helps deliver the benefits you want it to, follow these best practices to maximize the return on your efforts.
- Post regularly: It’s tough to build a loyal readership or generate any kind of blog buzz if you post sporadically. Try to get at least one post done every month, and if you can do it every two weeks, even better. Consistency will make your voice familiar to people, and the more posts you have out there, the greater likelihood your writing will get noticed.
- Plan it out: To help ensure a regular schedule, use a calendar to map out your upcoming posts. It needn’t be complicated, either: you can simply add reminders to your email calendar of choice and color-code them to filter and easily identify them amidst your many other meetings and tasks. You can, of course, use more advanced calendaring software if you wish, with which you can add additional details, such as post descriptions, research links and target word lengths.
- Brainstorm topics: Set aside some time every month — it needn’t be more than 30 minutes — to think about topics for future blog posts. That way, you’ll never be short of ideas. And don’t hesitate to invite trusted staff members to offer their thoughts. They will invariably bring different perspectives that you yourself may never have considered. And speaking of staff…
- Spread the writing around: Invite them to contribute posts to the blog. Not only will it provide a new and rewarding experience for those who are keen to write and express themselves, it will showcase to the world the diversity of talent your firm possesses.
- Include a call to action: Blogs are great for sharing your knowledge and serving as a way to connect with your audience. They also represent, however, a prime opportunity to direct readers to your website, where they can learn more about your services and how to get in touch with you. With that in mind, make sure you include a short line (usually at the end of each post) that invites them to learn more by clicking on a link to your site.
- Get the word out: In addition to mentioning a new blog post in your newsletter, be sure to spread the word on any social media channels you have set up. Your next new client might just hear about you from someone they follow who likes or favorites your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn post.
- A few slightly more advanced tactics: Those who are particularly digitally savvy may want to consider optimizing their posts for search engines — in other words, tailoring your text to give it a better chance of being noticed by search engines like Google and making its algorithms look favorably upon it, resulting in higher placement on search results pages. A good first step is to include keywords that potential readers might be using in their searches. And if you feel your prose needs an extra polish, think about working with a professional business writer or editor who can take a blog to the next level of readability.
One final tip may be the most important: be patient. Establishing a successful blog takes time. It can be a few months before you start to sense it is connecting with your intended readers, and maybe even longer before it brings in new business.
While you’re waiting for that to happen, remember to enjoy the process. At the very least, blogs are a great way to sort out your thoughts, reassess assumptions, spot new opportunities, and prioritize what matters most. With a bit of planning, dedication and willingness to try something new, your blog will soon be establishing your firm as a thought leader — and attracting new clients in the process.
Like any worthwhile endeavor, blogging does take a bit of time. Learn how Caseware Cloud can help automate repetitive processes to give you back more time to pursue this kind of high-value activity.