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Wishing You the Happiest Of Holidays (and Sending You a Little Gift)!

Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons and a prosperous New Year!

From our family to you and yours ~ wishing you all the best for a joyful holiday season and a prosperous new year!

This time of year finds many professionals and individuals thinking back on the year’s events and looking forward to things to come. Some are making a list and checking it twice and some are celebrating
a season of light.

May we live every day like it is a holiday: being thankful, spending time with family, and looking
hopefully to the future.


Download Our Gift to You - Our Latest Whitepaper
This holiday season is a perfect time to reach out and find out what matters most to your contacts.

Our gift to you:

We’ll show you how easy it can be to cultivate relationships via email and nurture leads for more business in our latest whitepaper  filled with email marketing best practices.

During the holiday season and throughout the year, it is important to have an emotional connection with your prospects. This new insightful whitepaper will show you how to begin building rapport from your very first contact.

We hope you enjoy this free resource, and we wish you and yours all the best for a merry and bright holiday season!


If you’d like to learn more about how our integrated marketing solutions can help your firm grow this holiday season and throughout the year, be sure to visit our website or give us a call at 866.240.8477.

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Santa’s Reindeer Reveal His Eight Agile Marketing Secrets

Santa’s Reindeer Reveal His Eight Agile Marketing Secrets

An exclusive interview with Santa’s reindeer team reveals the agile marketing secrets that have made him so recognizable and successful.

Santa Claus has one of the most memorable and beloved brands in the world. He has persisted through economic recessions, depressions and wars, outsmarted phonies (think the Grinch) and endured philosophical adversaries. He is more than just a cultural icon; he is a marketing genius.

Santa is recognized the world over, even in areas where Christmas is not celebrated. His image has been appropriated in countless advertisements, movies, television programs, magazines, holiday cards, shopping malls, and even on mainstream media news outlets.

Whenever you see a plump mature man with a thick white beard, red nose and sparkling blue eyes, you think Santa Claus. Even if he’s not wearing a cushy red velvet suit with fluffy white cuffs and big black boots. Admit it. You do.

But how did he get to this point of global acclaim and celebrity? He had a little help from his agile reindeer marketing team.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Donder and Blitzen. But do you recall Santa’s marketing reindeer, y’all? Santa’s eight marketing reindeer help him maintain his brand and identity all year long, not just when one foggy December night comes along.

We interviewed these magical marketing masters and each one shared a secret to Santa’s marketing success, along with a tip for how you can follow his example to grow your own brand and build up your business.

The following is what each reindeer had to say about Santa’s agile marketing secrets.


Santa’s brand is universally recognized. Whether you believe in him or not, call him Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Father Christmas or St. Nick, or recognize the karma-esque concept of the naughty or nice list, you have to agree that Santa has one of the strongest brands in the world. It has evolved over the years, as any good brand does. Did you know that Santa’s current image was originally based on a retired salesman? Marketing giant Coca-cola began using Santa’s likeness in its advertisements back in the 1920s.

Brander’s agile marketing secret:

Don’t let your business get lost in the crowd. Create a recognizable brand for your company and promote it consistently in all of your messaging. Dress your brand up in something as memorable as Santa’s red suit and have a tag line that sings as clearly as Santa’s jovial “Ho Ho Ho!”


Santa encourages conversation. He solicits letters. Children send him wish lists, drawings and fan mail, and moms and dads leave him little notes alongside milk and cookies. Not only does he initiate communication, he reads every single message he receives. All he asks of us is to tell him what we want. And he responds accordingly to the best of his ability.

Talker’s agile marketing secret:

Ask your clients and prospects what they want. Encourage them to stay in touch with you, and give them as many ways as possible to communicate with you. Set up suggestion boxes, send out surveys, take a poll, mail out easy-to-return comment cards, and pick up the phone once in a while to ask how you are doing as a service provider and what you could be doing better. Talk to your clients. And then listen to what they have to say.


Santa gives without expecting to receive anything in return, even in today’s highly consumerist society. Can your current marketing strategy claim the same? Everybody wants something for free. Santa never asks your children to sign contracts before delivering their Christmas presents (or lumps of coal, as the case may be). Imagine if you had to sign a contract promising to be nice every year before baristas would take your coffee order, before neighbors would invite you to backyard barbeques, before your barber would give you a shave and a haircut, or before your internet provider would turn your connection on.

Giver’s agile marketing secret:

Be generous in your marketing messages and in your sales approaches. Rather than pushing a clearly sales-oriented agenda, give your audience the answers to questions, solutions to problems and the benefit of your wisdom. Give it freely and often. This will establish the trust and thought leadership you will need for that long-term, profitable relationship that will follow. Santa is a top-notch email marketer; he knows that email newsletters and social media pages are excellent vehicles for giving great advice, quality content and free (yet valuable) information that your market will appreciate.


Santa does something that no one else can do. Yes, he oversees operations at the North Pole all year long, supervises toy-making procedures, and manages Christmas correspondence, but that’s not what makes him unique. Santa is the only one in the world who can deliver toys to all of the deserving children in the world in one magical night. That is what sets him apart from all other operational executives, product supervisors and communication specialists. It is his unique selling proposition (although his unmistakable red suit, fleecy white beard and hearty Ho Ho Ho help sell it).

Proposition’s agile marketing secret:

What does your company do the best? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? If you are not shouting your USP from the rooftops, you are missing out on opportunities to set your firm apart from others who provide similar services, and that’s a real shame.


Santa rewards good behavior. Even the shopping mall faux Santas ask “have you been naughty or nice” when children climb up onto their laps. They are perpetuating the real Santa Claus’ brand, which includes rewarding admirable attitudes and excellent conduct. Children recognize that their actions affect their chances for that new Xbox they want, so they use their best behavior… at least during the brief period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Be a role model. Practice random acts of kindness.

Rewarder’s agile marketing secret:

Reward your clients and prospects when they do something that you wanted them to do. Positive reinforcement is a strong marketing tactic that works wonders. When clients buy additional services, reward them with a discount. When prospects sign up for your email newsletter, reward them with a free whitepaper. When referral sources send a new lead your way, reward them with a small gift as a token of your appreciation. You may be surprised at how often rewarded behaviors are repeated. And that leads to new (or better) business.


Santa delivers the goods. And I don’t just mean presents. He delivers what you want. We’ve already talked about how he gives gifts with no strings attached. But how successful would that strategy be if he gave away things that people didn’t want to receive?

Deliverer’s agile marketing secret:

Give clients and prospects what they want all year round. Use only the best, most relevant content in your email newsletters. Segment your lists (not just for the naughty and nice, but by other demographics, too) and deliver high quality content that your subscribers want to read. Share engaging articles and images on your social media platforms. It’s better to give than to receive in marketing. You’ll reap your own rewards in the end.


Santa provides the very best customer service. He is conscientious and meticulous. He doesn’t let anything stop him from fulfilling his promises. Snow, sleet, ice, unemployment, moves, divorce, distance – none of these all-too-common obstacles keep Santa from keeping his word. Of course, he has a team helping him as well. Sometimes, he even recruits moms and dads to be on his team.

Provider’s agile marketing secret:

Provide the highest level of customer service so that your client base consists of raving fans and your prospects fall in love with your company. Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. Create your own agile team of elves and hire surrogate Santas as needed to help you consistently deliver delightful service.


Santa never sells himself. He doesn’t have to. He maintains his conviction that his services and actions speak for themselves. His focus on each of the above marketing strategies has earned him enough word of mouth referrals and repeat business that he can enjoy continuous growth without resorting to sales pitches. Too many marketers focus on hawking their wares – be they services, products or a combination of the two. Santa lets his actions speak for themselves. And his brand and empire only continue to grow!

Conviction’s agile marketing secret:

Are you taking maximum advantage of referrals? If not, you should be! Develop a strategy to connect with your best referral sources and Tier 1 clients (who are your most lucrative and reliable referral sources) on a regular basis. A well-designed word of mouth referral campaign will be the most valuable and rewarding program in your marketing plan.

Create your own marketing magic

Santa understands marketing better than most. He has built a global branding empire by compiling his agile marketing team of eight reindeer and consistently branding, talking, giving, proposing, rewarding, delivering, providing and maintaining his convictions. You can do the same by following his stellar example. Create your own marketing magic this coming year. As the big man Santa Claus himself says:

Now, Brander! Now, Talker! Now, Giver and Proposition!
On, Rewarder! On, Deliverer! On, Provider and Conviction!
To the top of the list! To the best of the brands!
Now market well! Market well! Market well across the lands!”

Happy holidays! Make marketing magic!



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Email Marketing Myth Busting [Infographic]

Email Marketing Myth Busting [Infographic]

When it comes to email marketing, there is a magnitude of myths masquerading as maxims. To debunk the deceit, Email Monks created a clever infographic and made a run at busting 15 pervasive email marketing myths.

Some think the younger the user, the more likely they are to use a mobile device. (False.) Others swear that subject lines have to be short. (Nope.) Many more claim that a higher email frequency rate guarantees a higher unsubscribe rate. (So not true.) Still others claim that use of the word “FREE” in your email subject line will get you sent straight to email heck. These are all legendary lies of email lore.

Marketing Myth #1

Generation Y use smart gadgets and tablets the most, and thus most segmentation should cover a young target audience.

  • Per Hubspot: tablets are highest used among those 30-44 years of age.

Marketing Myth #2

First time customer, repeat customer… it’s all the same. So, send them all the same email.

  • Per Bain: repeat customers spend, on an average, 67% more than new customers.

Marketing Myth #3

All my database members who have opted in and have continued their subscription are my most loyal readers.

  • According to a survey, 25% of your house emails list will expire every year as readers switch jobs, email providers, and so on.

Marketing Myth #4

Eliminating bad email address equals list cleaning.

  • Per Email Stats Center: removing subscribers who have not engaged in over a year increases your deliverability rate by 3 to 5%.

Marketing Myth #5

A subject line is the golden key to your email campaign’s success.

  • According to Marketing Charts, sender name is the primary reason for opening an email.

Marketing Myth #6

Shorter subject lines result in greater email effectiveness.

  • Adestra’s 2013 subject analysis report enforces the fact that subject line length is largely dependent upon the industry you come from. Longer subject lines can be beneficial for some marketers.

Marketing Myth #7

Informative content is the only gold to keep your readers interested.

  • As per Blue Hornet’s consumer review report for 2014, discounts are the number one reasons subscribers sign up to receive emails.

Marketing Myth #8

Images are more preferable to text.

  • Per HubSpot: emails without images are likely to have a CTR of 1% more than emails with images.

Marketing Myth #9

The higher the email frequency, the higher the unsubscribe rate – every time.

  • According to HubSpot, emailing to your list 4 or 5 times a month will actually decrease your unsubscribes.

Marketing Myth #10

You can never send the same email twice.

  • Per INC, re-mails with subject line change and same copy results in 60% lift on average.

Marketing Myth #11

Emails sent on Mondays and Tuesdays are most successful.

  • There is no magic day of the week for sending emails. Your list members may have their own preferences based on region, industry, or any number of factors. Test your list to determine your sending sweet-spot.

Marketing Myth #12

Morning is the best time to send your marketing emails.

  • Per MailChimp: subscribers are most likely to open email after 12PM, with the hours between 2-5pm being most active.

Marketing Myth #13

Testing a small percentage of my list is enough to gauge the effectiveness of my entire list.

  • You’ll need to keep your sample list size adequate enough to ensure is properly represents your entire email list.

Marketing Myth #14

My emails are fully Can-SPAM compliant, so my emails should reach the inbox.

  • Per DMA: 80% of emails do not hit the inbox on account of poor domain reputation.

Marketing Myth #15

Inbox placement and low complaint rates means no chances of being marked as SPAM.

  • Hotmail estimates that Graymail (or “bacn”) emails represent 50% of all inbox traffic, and are the source of 75% of all SPAM complaints.

Unravel these falsehoods and get even more fun facts in this fantastic infographic: 15 Email Marketing Myths.


Click to Enlarge Image



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‘Tis the Season for (Holiday Card) Personalization

‘Tis the Season for (Holiday Card) Personalization

In my last post, I talked about holiday marketing for CPA firms and other professional service providers. Sticking with that theme, today’s post is about holiday cards. More importantly, it’s about personalization – holiday card personalization.

Business is all about relationships. Even retailers strive to make connections with their target markets, and some are more successful than others. But when it comes to choosing a professional service provider, such as an accountant or lawyer, the personal connection you have with the person who handles your financial and family matters is essential. As the provider, it is vital that you do everything you can to maintain that relationship.

The holidays offer a unique opportunity to reinforce your relationship with your existing clients. The key to strengthening your bond is personalization. Sending out this year’s cleverest accounting holiday card with your firm’s name (or even its logo) printed on it is not sufficient. Elves preparing tax returns, Santa’s “assets and liabilities” naughty and nice list, a giant red gift bag full of accounting receipts… cards like these may be cute, but they are not going to cement your relationship with your valued clients. Especially if they are not personalized.

How many generic holiday cards do you receive from friends and family? Not many, I suspect. With all of the tools available to produce customized holiday cards, very few people send out mass-produced mailings unless they also include a letter and some family photos inside the card.

Make your firm stand out from the crowd.

Why should your firm be any different? ‘Tis the season for even more personalization than what you strive for throughout the year. It’s your opportunity to give thanks, express gratitude and grow an ongoing rapport that will help you through the stress of busy season and beyond. Take the time to customize and truly personalize your holiday cards for the greatest impact and return on investment.

Here are some tips for how you can maximize your holiday card marketing and client retention efforts this season:

1) Include a personal note with each of your holiday cards.

Simply signing your name won’t cut it. Take a stack of cards and your client list with you everywhere you go – in the car, to meetings outside the office, to lunch, and even when you go home at night. Whenever you have a few minutes, write a note that is specifically pertinent to your client. Jotting down a personal note while watching TV with your family, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or sitting at a railroad crossing can do wonders for your relationship with your clients. If your partners, lawyers or executives can’t make the time to sign the cards personally, don’t send them. Nothing says “I deeply value your business and our relationship” like a generic, unsigned card with the firm’s name foil-stamped on them. Pixelated images of your partners’ signatures aren’t any better. No one will fire you for failing to send them a generic greeting card. But they may refer you or expand their own business with you if they receive a personalized note from you that fortifies how much you care about them. Don’t be afraid to express your unique personality in your notes, either. Who you are as a person is an important factor in your relationships with your clients.

2) Use photos of yourself, your partners, key team members or entire firm

Rather than buying 5,000 politically-correct holiday greeting cards, customize your holiday cards with photos of your people. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a photographer or shut down your firm for an all-day photo shoot (although you can get a lot of marketing mileage out of a professional shoot all year round). Host a holiday lunch for your associates and ask them to dress in a holiday theme or in specific colors or wear specific hats (perhaps provide an assortment of head gear, such as reindeer antlers, Santa hats and snow flake headbands for diversity) and take both group and individual photos. Create a collage card, slideshow, or e-card with musical accompaniment with the photos. Crowell & Moring LLP, a law firm, created this engaging holiday video e-card using fun photos of its own employees. The video is even more personal by including an interactive element: it asks guests to vote for the ugliest sweater. For each vote, a charitable donation was made. Fabulous!

3) Emphasize family and relationships in your messaging

Whether you send out an e-card or a print holiday card, focus on family. That’s what your clients are focusing on this time of year. Your firm’s family is its staff. Last year, the Van Winkle Law Firm created a brilliant holiday campaign, comprised of a fun holiday video and a related pop-up printed card (which you can see at the end of the video). Neither the video nor the print card required a significant amount of the firm’s time for development as the photographs used could have been taken at any time. The CPA and business advisory firm of Skoda Minotti used its staff members’ actual family photos to create its holiday e-card last year, which took no staff time to produce (other than looking for a photo to submit to the marketing department to be used in the e-card).

Remember, business is all about relationships. While you use the holiday theme to market to prospects, don’t forget about your existing clients and how valuable their ongoing patronage is. Let them know that you appreciate them through true personalization. It may take a bit more of your time, but it will pay greater dividends in the end.

Have YOU developed a fabulously personalized holiday campaign? Share your holiday cards, holiday videos and holiday e-cards with us in the comments below.

Happy holiday marketing!

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Sleigh Bells Ring and Your 2015 Marketing Plan is Calling

Sleigh Bells Ring and Your 2015 Marketing Plan is Calling

As the end of the year draws nigh, we tend to become swept up in the holiday rush, planning and taking vacations, entertaining friends and family, shopping and simply trying to get into (and maintain) the holiday spirit. Marketing strategy is not usually at the top of the long To Do list. But December really is the ideal time to design your 2015 marketing plan.

Here are six tips to ensure next year’s email marketing efforts don’t produce lumps of coal.

1) Are you listening?

December is a great month to really listen to your clients and get an idea of what is most important to them. Kick off your holiday marketing with online survey tools to pinpoint what your clients are looking for and find out what’s most valuable to them. Use this information to customize the content (including featured products and services) in your emails to make them more relevant. Then use the data to prepare your strategy for the first quarter of the year so you can kick the New Year off with a solid 2015 marketing plan.

2) Learn from previous years’ follies and triumphs

Who wants coal in their stockings? Think back to last year’s email marketing campaign and review what worked and what didn’t. Transform last year’s marketing coal into next year’s business development diamonds. As technology continues to improve and more data becomes available, use that information to your advantage – make adjustments to your strategy based on the trends and feedback you track and focus on the most targeted and relevant marketing to increase engagement and opportunities.

3) Check your list twice

Review your prospect email database list to identify who has been naughty or nice… Who hasn’t engaged with your published content and who has? Clean up your prospect list accordingly. Adjust the frequency of your messaging. Assess the relevance of your segments. Convert the naughty to nice with a final promotion or call to action. Ask subscribers if they would like to stay on your list or be removed. Reduce the frequency of their messaging if they do not respond and refocus your efforts on the nice (qualified and engaged) prospects on your list.

4) Make email marketing the gift that keeps on giving

Marketers have more outlets and platforms for publishing and sharing than ever before, but email remains the cornerstone of integrated marketing programs. In addition to beating other channels for return on investment, emails remain the preferred method for consumers to receive the information they need to make informed decisions. Attribution to email will continue to increase, as the savviest marketers fine-tune the relevancy of messages to enhance client and prospect engagement. This kind of targeted marketing has limited application in the vast web universe, but in the email world, you are able to (and should) capture and drill down to the smallest details that help you deliver the most appropriate messages to the right people at the right time for the highest return on investment. Make sure that the most targeted and segmented marketing is included in your 2015 plan.

5) Custom wrap your communications

If you fail to package your messages in the right ribbons and bows and merely send the same generic templates out to everyone on your list, you will ultimately pay the price (or, pay the ultimate price, as the case may be). In addition to creating deliverability problems for your firm, you will undoubtedly alienate prospects and clients who either already have, or don’t want, what you are mass promoting. If you are a smart marketer, you will identify who wants what and who responds to which kinds of messages, and you will plan your communications accordingly. Targeted, segmented and relevant marketing is a gift in and of itself.

6) Share the joy between email and social media

Maximize engagement by integrating your email campaign with your social networks and vice versa. Include newsletter/email sign-up options on each of your social communities, and likewise promote your social media accounts within your email campaigns. Consumers often seek different types of information from different sources – give them the gift of alternate methods of engagement. Then offer them unique content and means of communicating with you based on the strengths of each platform or channel.

Cultivate Relationships With Prospects via Email

Cultivate Relationships With Prospects via Email

Instantly establish and maintain rapport with your prospects, using only email as your method of communication. We’ll show you how in Nurture Prospects With Email.

Beyond Social -
Get Personal

Beyond Social - Get Personal Free Whitepaper

Social media and email marketing can work together to help you build relationships. Read Beyond Social – Get Personal, Using Human Interest Content in Email & Social Media.

Email Aesthetics: Deliver Great Content With Style

Email Aesthetics: Deliver Content With Style Free Whitepaper

Build your email wardrobe with layouts, establish and reveal a style with consistency, and choose your email accessories: Email Aesthetics: Deliver Quality Content With Impeccable Style.

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*Customer Spotlight* – Gardiner Thomsen CPAs Goes Above and Beyond

*Customer Spotlight* – Gardiner Thomsen CPAs Goes Above and Beyond


Gardiner Thomsen CPAs

Des Moines, IA

When’s the last time you climbed to the top of a 100-foot high grain bin to check a client’s inventory?

If you worked for Gardiner Thomsen CPAs, that might have been just yesterday.

That’s because the firm specializes in doing audits for farmer coops and other agricultural businesses.

The best way to find out how much grain is in a bin is to climb up and look in.

Our people are out in the field a lot,” says Emily Bell (nee Gardiner), the firm’s marketing manager. “We take a hands-on approach to serving clients because we think that’s the best way to come up with an accurate measure of grain and similar stock. This also gives us more face time with clients, and in our business, seeing is believing.

Some firms hire consultants to take inventory, but we’re convinced that doing it ourselves gives us greater credibility and a way to differentiate our firm from competitors. That’s why when we’re on an audit, there’s always a partner or manager present to run things. Our clients appreciate the years of experience they get when they engage us, and they like working with familiar faces from year to year.”

Still here after 50 years

This personal approach to client service has helped Gardiner Thomsen (GT) build a solid and growing client base in the agricultural industry. The firm was founded in 1964 by Emily’s grandfather, Dan Gardiner. His sons, Dennis (Emily’s father) and Dan, became partners in 2003, when the firm added Dave Thomsen, a long-time partner and colleague of the founder, to its name.

This interview occurred with Emily Gardiner, Marketing Manager

When we celebrated the firm’s 50th anniversary on October 19, we gave thanks for being a third-generation firm that’s still here after 50 years. Our firm really does feel like a family, not only because it includes several Gardiners, but also because many of our partners and staff have been with us for 10 years or more. That has given us a lot of stability and has helped with client retention, because our clients have worked with the same people from year to year.

I think that’s why many of our coop clients have been with us for more than 40 years, and many credit union and government clients for more than 20. Stability also helps with business development, because the Gardiner name is widely known, and we get a lot of referrals from existing clients.”

In addition to agricultural coops, which account for 90% of GT’s clientele (it serves more than 100 of them), the firm focuses on credit unions (4%) and government entities (4%), with personal tax largely accounting for the rest.

We’re audit driven. That’s why nearly all of our professionals are auditors. We don’t do much payroll or bookkeeping work. But we do offer business consulting, tax planning and filing, and general accounting services, as well as fraud detection and investigation. The bulk of our business, though, is auditing. That’s what we’re known for, and that’s what we’re very good at.”

Multi-faceted marketing program

While word-of-mouth is the firm’s top source of new clients, it’s by no means the only one. Sponsorships, trade shows, newsletters, presentations, social media and the firm’s website all play a role in keeping and developing client relationships.

Sponsorships are a huge part of our marketing program, because they help build visibility and goodwill. One of our biggest events is during the annual meeting in Minnesota of CHS Inc., one of the country’s largest agricultural coops. We sponsor a hospitality suite at the meeting that draws a lot of participants and provides great networking opportunities.

Another fun and beneficial event we sponsor is the Agribusiness Association of Iowa’s annual golf outing, which gives us a lot of face-to-face time with clients and prospects. We also sponsor local hockey, baseball and basketball teams, as well as local events like the Bacon Fest and the Golden Circle Games (a competition between businesses in the area) because they help us keep our name out there.

In addition, we have a scholarship program in our founder’s name (the Dan Gardiner Memorial Scholarship) that provides two or three $1000 scholarships each year to students at his alma mater, Waukee High School, who are going to college to become accountants. It’s a great way to benefit our community while connecting our firm’s name with accounting.”

GT is also big on content marketing. Every two weeks, Emily emails a BizActions email newsletter to more than 300 contacts, two-thirds of which are clients, and posts it on the firm’s website. She finds it a real time-saver.

GT's bi-weekly email newsletter

GT’s bi-weekly email newsletter

The newsletter enables me to reach a lot of people without a lot of work. It’s a breeze to manage. I can easily add new addresses, edit the distribution list and tailor the content to my audience.

I like the convenience of being able to select articles on agricultural subjects from the BizActions library, as well as to add articles of our own. I especially like being able to set up an issue to be emailed when I want, so even if I’m away, the newsletter will go out.

Along with the Timely Opportunity articles and online tax guide that we get from BizActions, the newsletter gives our website a lot of substance. And I know clients like it. A bookkeeper at one of the coops we send it to told me she spends an hour reading every issue.”

In addition, GT produces a four-page quarterly print newsletter in-house that it mails to roughly 200 clients.  It consists of articles written by the firm’s partners and the topics are always changing to remain current. For example, their last newsletter consisted of news about the firm, a profile of a client relationship and short notes on various tax topics — all of which are also posted on the firm’s website.

All of our coop clients do a print newsletter, so we feel it’s important for us to do the same. It helps us connect with that community.”

GT also uses BizActions Email Radars (email blasts) to inform clients about important matters, such as tax deadlines. And the firm is starting to do more with social media. GT has Facebook and Twitter accounts, which Emily uses to post and tweet out firm news, as well as photos, videos and other information that show the human side of the firm and the activities of its people.

Looking to expand

Our goal is to pick up more coops, especially by expanding further into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois,” says Emily.  “So we’re attending trade shows and conferences in those states and starting to build relationships with targets. We’re hoping that our name, along with client referrals and focused marketing, will help us get more coop clients and grow.”

Already, GT has added offices in Charles City, Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to its headquarters in Des Moines. A staff of 27 supports the firm’s eight partners in serving some 200 audit clients and a large number of personal tax clients throughout the Midwest and even as far away as California.

I’m excited about our firm’s potential for growth,” says Emily, “even more so now that my husband, Robert Bell (auditor with GT), and I have moved from Colorado to work with the firm.

I know that growth means he may well have to spend more time on the road at our clients than he does already, but it also means that our firm is more likely to be around for another generation.

To that end, I’m doing my best to make sure that we continue to be not just relevant, but also a leader and the firm of choice in our specialty areas.”



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Five Things My Dog Taught Me About Social Media

Five Things My Dog Taught Me About Social Media

Dogs, like people, are social creatures. And my daily interactions with my happy mutt have led me to ponder why and how social media has taken such a profound hold on the way we live, interact and do business. Social media platforms have given us a means to tip our snouts up into the wind and catch the scent of changing business climates, attitudes and trends.

Social media also gives us interaction with our communities and service providers in a personal, real-time experience appealing to our instinctive nature to gather in packs and share resources. Here are five things my dog has taught me about social media in the hopes that these observations will give you a springboard to launch, or enhance, your own social media campaign.

1) Wag Your Tail When They Walk in the Door

My mutt greets me with a friendly pant, a giddy howl, and a wagging tail every time I walk through the door. She is always happy to see me and does not wait for me to seek her out. She comes to find me. A major factor in building social interactions and growing relationships with friends, colleagues and our communities is to be the first one to say, “Hello.” Be the first one to reach out. Be the first one to re-tweet your client’s savvy post. Point out a referral source on your company Facebook page. Be the one to initiate that essential first positive interaction from your social media platforms. When we first start Tweeting and Facebooking, most of us are inclined to repeatedly broadcast messages about ourselves or our firm. Step out of the “me” and take a stab at plugging your clients’ efforts, praising them on their achievements or simply repeat their messages through your platforms. You will garner a following and boost your repute if you are proactively interactive with your social media communications.

2) Always Be There When the Refrigerator Opens

I open the refrigerator door to grab a snack, and by the time the door is closed my dog has magically appeared. She is making eye contact with me and is curious and eager to see if I will clumsily drop a morsel or offer a handout. Even though she does not receive a treat every time the fridge opens, she plays the odds ever hopeful for that moment when the cheese lands in her mouth instead of on my sandwich. Much in the same way, we should be pursuing the cheese from our social media platforms. If you do a bit of research you will find that there is a litany of tools available to aid your endeavors in seeking out who to follow. Whichever method you choose, following is an essential part of social interaction. Much like my dog is always close by my side, following me everywhere, so should you follow your social media favorites. Actively follow others, interact with them and be consistent in your efforts. Constant interaction ensures that you will be positioned to catch a yummy morsel.

3) Beg From Underneath the Dinner Table

My dog is intrinsically aware when I am eating dinner. She has been preparing for this moment since the refrigerator door opened. And although I can’t see her under the table, she has found a way to make her presence known. Her warm breath is on my leg, or maybe she scratches an itch and I can hear her tags jingling. Although she is politely staying out of view while I eat, she has made sure that I do not forget about her if I can’t finish my chicken. I need to make sure my clients are aware of the services that I provide even when I am not in “face to face” interactions with them. Without being aggressive and salesey, social media and email newsletters offer a polite podium for me to broadcast regular messages to remind my contacts that I am there. The messages I send are intended to provide value to my contacts, but they are always branded as coming from me and my firm. These constant social interactions are tools for growing my business relationships and enhancing top of mind awareness with clients, prospects and referral sources.

4) Bark When You Need Something

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes ignore my dog. A quick bark is usually enough to remind me that it is time to take a walk. Without those vocalizations, I might lose track of the time and have a mess to deal with later. I am grateful that my dog is able to remind me about her needs. Her little barks and whines prod me to move in a direction that I might have otherwise ignored. Part of being social is having conversations. The fact that social media offers a way for people and businesses to speak out, be heard and listen to what others have to say is the cornerstone of the social media experience and the reason for its wide-reaching success. We all witnessed the Egyptian uprising and the role that social media played in giving a voice to the people. How do we apply this to our business practices? If we are listening to the social media vocalizations of our business communities, we can react in a way that provides immediate solutions to pressing needs.

5) Be Sure to Send Out Your “Pee-Mail”

My former dog trainer once remarked, “Time to check the pee-mail,” when my then puppy decided to put a halt on our leash training in order to sniff out a mailbox. It made me giggle, but it also made me think. Dogs learn a lot from sniffing out territorial markings and this usually motivates them to go ahead and leave a mark of their own in reply. We should be leaving a mark for our clients, prospects and referral sources to find. We need to be found on more than just one social media platform; we should be actively communicating from several platforms. Constant, regular, informative and timely email newsletter communications are another great way to be getting messages out to a focused audience. Email newsletters offer a less “public” communication experience, and can be tailored to meet industry specific needs or focused to communicate to targeted groups. When you want to get a message out to segmented groups, pee-mail, I mean email, remains the best avenue for communicating these messages. The best email newsletter platforms provide built-in social media sharing tools so that your targeted messages have an opportunity to go viral from every inbox they hit.

The key to social media success is to be proactively social.

Seek out and follow your clients, referral sources and best prospects. Always be present with genuine, human interactions and expertise when opportunities arise. Build top of mind awareness through steady communications, and don’t neglect your social media efforts. Tailor conversations with targeted email campaigns that provide value and insight to hand-picked audiences. Most of all develop an ear for listening to social media conversations and be sure your nose is ready to sniff out opportunities and respond to needs. We are, after all, not dogs, but we can sure learn a few tips from the very social “man’s best friend.”


Image source: By ItsWolfeh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Posted in: Communications, Email Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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Blog Roundup: Webinars, Conferences & Networking, Oh My

Blog Roundup: Webinars, Conferences & Networking, Oh My

Webinars, seminars, conferences and networking events can be some of the driving forces behind your accounting firm’s marketing and business development efforts. But some CPAs aren’t natural rainmakers, event coordinators or hosts. We have some insights on how (and why) your firm could transform a lackluster public presence in today’s blog roundup.


No-Stress Networking

Tips for No-Stress NetworkingNetworking is nothing more than having a conversation with someone. That’s it. Sit down with a new acquaintance, find common ground and get to know each other. In most cases, you both know you are there to talk shop a bit, but I’ve found that it’s the conversations about your hobbies, families, friends and other things that allow you to connect the most. Making the connection as normal people who talk about the “stuff” of life fosters the natural impulse to do business… READ ON.


The Intrinsic, Yet Tangible Value of Trade Shows for Generating Leads and Increasing Sales

The Intrinsic, Yet Tangible Value of Trade Shows for Increased SalesThere are many reasons why companies benefit from exhibiting at trade shows. Generating awareness, defining your brand in the marketplace (especially in developing niche markets), creating leads, and positioning your CPA firm strategically within the marketplace are still valid reasons for participating in trade shows. But how many leads can be generated by attending or sponsoring a trade show? … READ ON.


How to Maximize Webinars for Successful Lead Generation

Tips for Maximizing Successful Webinars for Lead GenerationBusiness decision makers are looking to webinars for more information. Virtual events and webinars are a tier-one information source for decision makers, as they are convenient and cost-effective. According to MarketingSherpa, 60% of decision makers attended a webinar in the last in the last month. That means that the majority of decision makers attend 12 webinars per year… READ ON.


CPA Business Development: Trends in Building a Niche Specialization

CPA Business Development – Trends in Building a Niche SpecializationStambaugh Ness won an award through the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) for their program entitled, “Social Media to Social Meetings – A LinkedIn Group Grows Up.” They used the firm’s LinkedIn South Central AEC (SCAEC – Architectural, Engineering and Construction) industry group as a springboard for networking-relevant events to this group. Consequently their event attendance increased 80% – from 45 attendees to 228 in less than a year… READ ON.


If You Plan Business Events Right, They Will Come

If You Plan Business Events Right, They Will ComeWhat’s the difference between a well-attended client seminar that produces revenue-generating leads and one in which members of your firm outnumber participants? Usually, It’s planning. Here’s what you can to to make sure your accounting firm’s next event is a rousing success.. READ ON.


Take a few of these tips in-hand to build an event marketing plan that yields successful results for your firm. With a bit of strategic planning, your firm can maximize the benefits reaped from attending and hosting networking events, conferences, seminars and webinars.

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Posted in: Business Development, Business Growth, CPA Accounting Firm Management, Lead Generation, Marketing, Marketing Strategy

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Got Online Resources? Let Social Media Spread The Word

Got Online Resources? Let Social Media Spread The Word

Many businesses have robust online resources that their clients, prospects and referral sources can access in order to stay up to date on important changes.

These online guides serve a valuable purpose for your contacts, and they can also be a source of evergreen content for your marketing and communications strategies. Put your resources to work for you. Your  social media company pages, email communications, business blogs, microsites and websites can all be working cohesively together in order to maximize the value of the content that exists in your online guide.

Online guides such as tax guides, calendars, estate planning guides, virtual libraries and other microsites are often filled with articles, tools, calculators, videos and various dynamic content that your clients and prospects can access as educational tools. Email communications and social media offer many additional opportunities to generate new exposure of this type of content online articles.

Hand the microphone over to your social networks.

Why? Social sharing will help boost your SEO. Most search engine algorithms factor the social reach of your content into their search rank equations. Social will help your content get found. In addition to this, social media continues to integrate more and more into our daily communications. You can expect that the social factor will play an increasingly important role in helping your firm impact your community and extend the reach of your communications.

You will maximize the reach of your online guide content when you share the information from your online guide on your firm’s social networks. However, your online guide updates need not be dull, static posts on your company’s social pages. Make the social experience fun, creative and interactive for your fans and followers.

Use unique online content, such as:

  • “Monthly Factoids”
  • “Best Idea of the Week”
  • “Hints from Us”
  • “Your Daily Need-to-Know Info”
  • Or any number of creative features

You can even frame your social update in the form of a Q&A session where your social post poses a question and your online guide article provides the answer. Your online articles could be shared to your Facebook Company Page Timeline, take on a fresh perspective as a 140 character Tweet, a LinkedIn status update, a Google+ post or any number of new incarnations throughout your social presences.

Online guide content gems such as podcasts, videos and calendars would all be received as welcome updates by your social media communities. As you explore your online guide’s content resources, be sure to brainstorm ideas about how the various pieces of content can be incorporated into your  social media communication strategies.

Other social strategies for using your online guide’s resources:

  • Share the “Tip of the Day” with a link to the related online guide content on your social media pages
  • Post links to specific online guide articles using the article’s full landing page URL as a general update
  • Post weekly links to highlight engaging content such as videos and podcasts with “the word of the week” or “video insights” themes
  • Share links to full page lists of articles by specific topic
  • Share links to your online guide as a whole
  • Be sure to encourage members of your staff to share your online guide’s content on their personal and professional social networks

Fans and followers are constantly seeking to uncover hearty resources within their social communities. Your social media company pages could become their preferred information hubs when you give them easy, interactive access to your informative online guide.

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Posted in: Content Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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Webinar: How to Use BizActions | PDI Global Content for Maximum Online Engagement

Webinar: How to Use BizActions | PDI Global Content for Maximum Online Engagement

Want to learn how using BizActions | PDI Global content can maximize your online engagement? We’re featuring best practices for online content marketing at our next webinar. Join us on December 2nd to learn how to use our content to enhance your web presence by repurposing it on social media networks, blogs and websites.

Content marketing and SEO are like peanut butter and jelly:
they’re better together.

Great content attracts links and can rank highly, while good SEO means the content you publish attracts more actual prospects (those searching for services you provide) to your site. SEO should be a significant part of your content strategy.

This presentation will walk you through our guidelines and recommendations for publishing our content for maximum engagement and online visibility. These suggestions pertain specifically to BizActions | PDI Global newsletter articles, but are also applicable to all content that you publish online.

Register for our December 2nd webinar!

What you will learn:

  • Selecting the right content for each of your recipients based specifically on their needs and interests
  • Publishing BizActions | PDI Global articles on your website or blog in order to optimize your search engine results
  • The importance of incorporating eye-catching imagery in your online posts for more engagement
  • Using the “Share This” social media integration function in the BizActions email marketing platform to share articles
  • Tweaking our content for online visibility, value and readability while simultaneously avoiding potential duplicate content

Who should attend:

  • Professionals who utilize BizActions or PDI Global content marketing solutions
  • Marketers who are interested in learning online content marketing best practices
  • Prospects who want to learn more about BizActions or PDI Global content distribution

This session is for anyone who wishes to learn how content can maximize online engagement with clients, prospects and other contacts. The topic is applicable to all organizations in all industries.

How to Use BizActions | PDI Global Content for
Maximum Online Engagement

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
2:00 – 3:00 PM U.S. Eastern
Presented by: Becca Fieler
Earn 1 hour of Computer Science CPE credit


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Posted in: Content Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing, SEO, Upcoming Events

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