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5 Simple Strategies to Improve Your SEO

5 Simple Strategies to Improve Your SEO

Accounting firms that have a beautiful, well-written website deserve to feel pretty good about that accomplishment. They shouldn’t stop there, however, in the quest to take their message to new audiences.

A great website is a huge step on the path to success, but adding in some simple SEO-focused strategies will greatly add to the power of that lovely website. Many accounting marketers regard SEO as one of life’s deepest mysteries, to be tackled only by enlightened optimization llamas who reside on high hills. These rare mystics can certainly perform feats that regular mortals shall never hope to grasp, but there are in fact several straight-forward paths to boosting a firm’s SEO – steps that the ordinary professionals who manage firm websites are perfectly capable of handling.

To get the most mileage from your accounting firm’s site, try these 5 ideas and improve your SEO:

1. Select keywords carefully

Target your audience thoughtfully and precisely by selecting keywords that match the terms your ideal clients will use. Using broad terms like “accounting” and “CPA firms” helps, but don’t stop there. Hone in on your location, your specialties, your reputation and the words potential clients might enter in a search for the services you offer.

2. Include the office address

Make sure that your accounting firm’s name, location and phone number appear on each page of the site. This shouldn’t replace a dedicated contact page; the information should appear both places as well as on the page banners or headers, if included there.

3. Claim the firm’s profiles

Claim or create your firm’s profile on as many local search engines as you can. Appearing on sites like Yelp, Google Local, Merchant Circle, Kudzu and Yahoo Localworks can be extremely valuable for driving traffic to your site and introducing your firm to the people who need your services. They’re also an important source of reviews describing your clients’ experiences at the firm, so try to monitor what’s being said and comment when appropriate.

4. Use title tags correctly

Choose unique, descriptive title tags for each page on your website. These words will identify the page and appear on Google searches, too. It’s important to select tags that will communicate what your firm offers and inspire them to click in order to learn more.

5. Add internal links

Your web pages should link to each other in an organized fashion. Be sure to link the homepage to all other pages and the other direction as well. Groups of related services should be cross-linked, and remember to link blog posts to other relevant pages. Having this network of links helps site visitors find and the information they need and keeps them from running into dead ends as they explore your site. Conveniently, it does the same thing for the search engine web crawlers you’re trying to please.

Great service and outstanding expertise are the things that you’re most proud of, but they’re not enough. You must deliver the news to the people who can benefit from what you offer in order to succeed and stand out in the industry. The tips above will help you get the message out and improve your SEO. After you’ve tackled these tips, your professional performance can speak for itself and prove the point that your firm is the right choice.

 

Guest post by Sarah Warlick, Content Director, bbr marketing

 
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Posted in: CPA Accounting Firm Management, CPA Firm Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing, SEO

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3 Quick Ideas For Marketing Your Estate Planning Practice

3 Quick Ideas For Marketing Your Estate Planning Practice

According to the 2013 Top 100 Firms report from AccountingToday, estate/trust/gift tax planning is the third top area of growth for CPA firms, up nine percentage points since 2012 and behind only state and local taxes (#1) and international tax (#2).

That’s not surprising, because U.S. News and World Report says that for the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 people per day will reach age 65 — the time when many start thinking seriously about estate planning. So the demand for information about tax-efficient ways to transfer wealth to loved ones is huge and growing.

To compete effectively for business in this growing practice niche, you’ll need to aggressively market your estate planning services, so you don’t lose out to firms that do.

Here are three quick ideas for developing your niche estate planning practice:

1. Identify your differentiators.

Many firms offer trust or estate planning services of one sort or other. But not so many have professionals with an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP), Certified Estate Planner (CEP) or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential. If your firm does, make sure your marketing communications tell clients and prospects about it, so you can differentiate your firm from competitors that don’t. Similarly, if your firm has an entire trust and estate planning practice group, or professionals with many years of estate planning experience, tout this in your messaging.

2. Get involved in relevant groups.

To increase awareness of your trust and estate planning services, keep up with developments in this practice area, and build relationships with potential referral sources, participate in estate–planning-related professional organizations and social media groups; for example, the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils, the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Section, or the Global Estate Planning Council Networking & Marketing Group on Linkedin. The more you communicate with others in this niche, the more you’ll learn about opportunities to grow your practice.

3. Become a thought leader in estate planning.

Similarly, the more you share helpful information about trust, gift and estate planning, the more you’ll become known as an expert in this practice area and the place to go for estate planning services. To this end, send out an estate planning newsletter, give speeches and seminars on estate planning topics, participate in or run an estate planning blog, and post articles about estate planning on your website and social media pages. If you don’t have the resources in-house to regularly share information on estate planning topics, consider purchasing content marketing solutions from a provider like BizActions | PDI Global. Doing so can help you save valuable time for other marketing activities.

To get the most from whatever you do, take time develop an estate planning niche marketing plan. Determine who will do what when, develop a budget for the activities you plan, find a partner who will champion your niche marketing efforts, and track results. The estate planning business is there for the taking. So develop and implement a plan for marketing your estate planning practice to get your share of it.

 
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Posted in: Business Development, Business Growth, CPA Firm Marketing, Email Newsletters, Marketing Best Practices, Niche Marketing

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Lead With a Bang – Create a Better Email Newsletter Header

Lead With a Bang – Create a Better Email Newsletter Header

Your email newsletter’s header image, or masthead, gives your subscribers a powerful first impression. In mere seconds, your heading can communicate what your newsletter is about and why your subscribers should read its content. If your newsletter’s header is a bit tired or lackluster, you may want to take some time to spiff up your design.

You should also make sure that your header image is clickable, and decide where your readers should land once they click through. You might want them to land on the contact page of your website, the main page of your website or even a recent promotional landing page with a special offer.

Your header image should stay on-point with your brand specifications and be clearly recognizable as a message from your business. You could incorporate your tagline, motto or mission statement into your header. The image should sum up what you do, show off what makes you different or special and draw subscribers into your message.

Here’s how you can get creative with one of the most prominent features of your newsletter:

1. Incorporate historical landmarks or famous locations in your area

000-sample-nl-masthead-headder-image-template

Create a collage of famous spots in your community, and use those images as your background. In the example above, we showcased the original Palm Beach County Courthouse (center) and the new courthouse (right and left) in this fictitious Palm Beach law firm’s newsletter masthead. Visuals of famous spots in your area help readers connect with your message and give your newsletter hometown appeal.

You can also incorporate photos of the places and businesses with which your firm does business. This approach allows you to feature a visual testimonial, giving an overview of your client roster and displaying your reach in the community.

2. Show off your impressive location

world-wealth-management-sample-office-location-masthead

Is your office location stunning and gorgeous? Then tap into the visual appeal of your beautiful location, and use it to welcome readers into your newsletter. The outer facade of your office building could be the perfect first impression that lets your newsletter subscribers know what to expect from your communications.

3. Give subscribers a behind-the-scenes peek

the-insider-sample-masthead

If your office interior is a stunner, then it could also be a stunning heading for your email newsletter. Let your newsletter readers feel like they have just been given a look behind the curtain when you feature an inside view of your business. You could showcase your team hard at work at their desks, your beautiful architecture, your reception area (and receptionist) or even a stunning conference room with a client meeting in progress.

4. Show off your team

JPG Estate Planning Matters

A simple header image with your firm color scheme and a few snapshots of your team could be the perfect way to communicate your hands-on approach to serving clients. Your key staff members, or even your entire team, could help showcase a visual “we care” theme. Layer in casual snapshots of your team in their home town, at various community events, on-location with clients or while involved in philanthropic endeavors. Steer clear of the standard suit-and-tie head shots and embrace joy in your team photos. This approach can help display your firm values and get readers to warm up to your messaging.

5. Get your clients involved

sample-bank-masthead

Get your clients excited about receiving the next edition of your newsletter by promising to feature photo contest winners in the masthead of your upcoming issue. Use your email and social media channels to ask clients for photo submissions. Be clear about contest specifications and give a deadline for responding. Oregonians Credit Union recently shared a social contest, CU in Oregon, asking their Facebook followers to take “selfies” while out in the local community wearing a free pair of Oregonians Credit Union sunglasses. Members were asked to pick up a pair while visiting various credit union locations. In September 2013, their Facebook cover image features tiled photos from contest participants. You could use a similar approach and feature your photo contest winners across your email newsletter header.

6. Get graphic

Growth Strategies NL Mock MastheadJ

Modern, graphic elements, contrasting colors and a heavy use of whitespace can be the perfect recipe for creating a stunning newsletter header image. If your logo is lovely, perhaps it could steal the show and be the headliner for your communications. Lively colors on a white background will give your newsletter a modern edge and tell your readers that your business is hip to what’s new. This approach communicates the idea that your services and strategies are cutting-edge.

Other ideas to help you add appeal to your email newsletter header image:

  • Create a mosaic of images giving subscribers a visual overview of your firm’s history
  • Highlight your recent accomplishments, awards or accolades
  • Spotlight your clients and incorporate testimonials

No matter what you decide to incorporate into your email newsletter’s header image, be sure to hit the mark with your target audience. Know what your clients and prospects expect from your communications and be sure your header image delivers.

 
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Posted in: Email Design, Email Newsletters, Imagery in Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices

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3 Simple Steps and a Great Solution For Getting Paid Faster

3 Simple Steps and a Great Solution For Getting Paid Faster

How are your collections? Are they humming along like a well-oiled machine? Or are the proverbial shoes on the cobbler’s son a more apt metaphor?

I am often surprised at the number of tax and accounting firms who say they aren’t getting paid quickly enough. Most are advising their clients on ways to increase collections and reduce AR, but they can’t quite seem to implement that advice into their own firms.

Here are a few suggestions that may help with getting paid faster:

1. Pay First – File Second

First, move toward a pay-up-front or pay-upon-completion model. There is no reason to invoice your tax return preparation. The return shouldn’t be filed until it is paid. Remember, you have ultimate leverage before you file your clients’ returns, but virtually zero leverage after.

2. Stand Firm

Second, it’s a good idea to have a stated policy regarding late payments, finance charges, impact on future service, etc. Include the policy in your engagement letters and adhere to it zealously. If a payment is late, contact your client right away. There’s no need to be harsh, a friendly reminder will often suffice. This action tells your clients that you monitor payments closely. On the other hand, if you wait a couple of months before contacting late payers, you’re essentially giving them permission to be late.

3. Keep it Simple

Third, make it as easy as possible for your clients to pay you. That includes taking credit cards and online payments. There are more ways than ever to do this, many of them easier and less expensive than you think.

Here’s a creative way to make it easy for your clients to pay you: if you charge a monthly fee or retainer, and you process their payroll, consider asking permission to collect your accounting fees when you fund their payroll. For example, let’s say you have a client who pays you a $300 monthly retainer and you process their payroll on a semi-monthly basis. With their permission, you could collect $150 of your accounting fees each time you fund their payroll. This increases your cash flow, and it enables your client to pay your fees in smaller, more frequent payments, which most will find easier. If your client has a service bureau provider doing their payroll, see if they will set you up as a vendor and do this for you.

Increasing your business doesn’t do any good if you don’t get paid for it. Begin training your clients to make sure that you are on the top of their list of people to be paid. Even better, train your clients that payments are to be made in advance or upon completion of your work. As the old axiom goes, you won’t get what you don’t ask for.

 
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Posted in: Budgeting, Business Growth, Client Service, CPA Accounting Firm Management, Marketing, Operations

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Lifecycle Messaging: Using Email to Nurture Your Clients for the Long Haul

Lifecycle Messaging: Using Email to Nurture Your Clients for the Long Haul

Lifecycle marketing isn’t just for the B2C set. Client nurturing seems to be an afterthought for many professional service providers, but this powerful marketing strategy should not be overlooked.

What is lifecycle marketing, you ask? Simply put, it is a series of marketing campaigns that targets your clients beginning with client acquisition and continuing over time as your clients’ needs evolve.

Messages such as birthday greetings, welcome letters and rewards program updates are all part of your lifecycle messaging. Communications like these mutually benefit you and your clients because they provide tailored touch points between your in-person meetings, and they can also help you call attention to your add-on services. These campaigns help you foster trust, educate your clients, nurture relationships and offer added value for your clients.

If you haven’t yet tapped into the muscle behind lifecycle messaging, there are a few steps you’ll need to take:

  • Identify existing clients in your marketing database
  • Have a process in place for updating converted prospects into client status
  • Have a process in place for encouraging new clients to opt-in to your email program (make email acquisition part of your new client engagement process)
  • Include each client’s inception date in your marketing database member records
  • Consider identifying your clients’ dates of birth, wedding anniversaries and other important dates
  • Flag other identifiers such as geographic location, event attendance, income level, marital status, services utilized, and so on
  • Consider ranking and flagging clients by hierarchy (such as silver, gold and platinum level clients) in order to identify groups for loyalty reward program messaging

In the beginning…

Your new clients are still getting to know your business and may need some help getting their feet wet. Help the “new guys” get acquainted with you by sending them a welcome campaign. Consider dripping out a series of messages to new clients that plug them right in to everything that makes your business great. Here’s an example of how your client welcome campaign could look:

  • Week 1: Welcome to our firm! Thank you for choosing us. If you ever have a need, here are all the ways you can connect with us…
  • Week 2: Have you accessed our client portal yet? Create your login today. Here are the details…
  • Week 3: Getting to know our firm: here are three important things you might not have already known about us…
  • Week 4: Did you know? We do more than just [SERVICE]. Here are a few folks you can get in touch with if you ever need [SERVICE, SERVICE, or SERVICE]…

The next steps

Send out email reminders to your clients recommending that they check in with you for annual meetings as important deadlines loom. Some service providers have predictable dates such as payroll tax or federal and state tax filing deadlines that apply to groups of their clients on the same calendar date. Others reach out to clients on a periodic basis based on a client’s acquisition date, such as estate planning check-ins that may occur about every 18 months. In both cases, utilize your email marketing database for your client lifecycle marketing and remind your clients about important deadlines and upcoming meetings.

Other important reminders for clients

Use your messaging to remind clients about new information like extended office hours, office closures, holiday hours, new office location announcements, contact information updates, new professional staff members and so on.

Keep it personal

Lifecycle marketing can put a smile on your clients’ faces in the form of birthday greetings, anniversary congratulations, holiday messaging and other personal touches from your firm. These messages have little to do with your actual business, but have everything to do with telling your clients, “We remember you, and you are important to us.”

Offer loyalty perks

Loyal clients are excellent referral sources and excellent opportunities for add-on service sales. They should be rewarded for sticking with you. After you have identified client inception dates and ranked your clients into hierarchy, map out a reward program for each tier of clients. Longer-term and/or higher net worth clients could receive larger rewards, while your lower tier clients might receive fun perks like a coffee mug or USB flash drive with your firm logo. These loyalty rewards should be separate from your annual holiday gifts and should specifically include a message thanking your clients for their loyalty. You could even encourage more office visits by inviting clients to pick up their loyalty gift during their next meeting at your office.

Re-engagement messaging

You can use your email messaging to keep in touch with lost clients. When you loose a client to another firm, that doesn’t necessarily mean the client wants to ditch your newsletter. Let them unsubscribe if they wish, but otherwise leave them on your list and flag them as a former client. Clients sometimes leave for simple reasons like competitive fees. When deal-hunting clients discover that cheaper is not always better, your newsletter could be there to help remind them that you’re still available.

Here’s why…

Jeffrey Baer, CPA, CEO, Baer & Edington LLCWhen one of our clients went with another CPA firm in 2009, I put them on our email newsletter distribution list and used that to stay in contact. Recently, I called my contact to touch base, was able to get a meeting right away and re-engaged the lost client. My contact said that he had kept up with the people and events at the firm by reading every issue of our email newsletter, which impressed him. He told me that he took the meeting because of our email newsletter. About 70% of our growth in 2011 can be attributed to this one client, and our email newsletter was a significant influence on obtaining the business.”

~Jeffrey Baer, CPA, CEO, Baer & Edington LLC

Also identify your inactive users. Clients who display dismal click activity and lackluster engagement in your messaging can actually hurt your deliverability. Consider developing a brief campaign to reach out to inactive  users. Here are some ideas:

  • We’ve missed you! Let us know what we can do better. Fill out this 60 second survey…
  • A note from us: Here’s how you can get the most out of your email newsletter…
  • How often do you want to hear from us? Take a moment to update your sending frequency here…
  • We’re updating our records. Please take a moment to send us your most current contact information…
  • Have you downloaded this report yet? Only our valued clients have free and full access to this resource…

If your inactive clients remain unresponsive after your re-engagement campaign has completed, promptly remove them from your list in order to keep your email deliverability in ship-shape.

Keep the lifecycle living

Lifecycle marketing can be a thriving part of your client communication programs. Map out a strategy for reaching your clients at important touch points in their relationship with your firm. A robust client messaging program fulfills your clients’ needs for information, helps you fill your pipeline with add-on sales and increase client retention rates.

 

Download the Segmentation & Targeted Marketing Whitepaper

 
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Posted in: Communications, Email Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Marketing Strategy

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Unsubscribe Me: Why I Broke Up With Your Email Newsletter And What Would Have Made Me Stay

Unsubscribe Me: Why I Broke Up With Your Email Newsletter And What Would Have Made Me Stay

I recently asked a marketing email newsletter (which shall remain unnamed) to unsubscribe me. I was a bit heartbroken to be ending the email relationship with one of my long-time favorite newsletters.

I had loved and adored these email communications for years. I wanted to stay and be an actively engaged member of their community: re-tweeting their articles, sharing their posts on various social networks, commenting on their blog, forwarding their emails to my colleagues… But the relationship was becoming unhealthy. It was time for me to say goodbye.

I came to terms with my disappointment and decided to use this unhealthy email relationship as an example to help spare others (and your prospects) from enduring the same heartbreak. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in that vein I have identified some warning signs to help you determine whether or not your content marketing relationships are on the fritz.

The Signs Of Failing Content Health:

  • Irregular, sporadic content launches
  • Content becomes increasingly opinion-based
  • Content speaks loudly and seldom listens
  • Content contains spelling, grammar and formatting problems
  • Content offers no real or perceived value

The Irregular Launch

When I think back, I realize that the first indicator of my fading relationship was when the communications began to sputter. I would receive two emails and two blog posts in one week, and then nothing for a month. The next communications would come a couple of months later with gusto, and (I thought) a new commitment to a focused communications strategy. Then, once again, there was nothing. Not a word for months. After that, I only received erratic messages regarding cross-over product promotions and the occasional rant related to a hot, “trending” topic. These are the death gurgles of content strategy.

Think about how often you are launching your blog and email communications. Do you launch daily, weekly or monthly? If your answer is, “We launch whenever we think about it,” then you might be in a failing content marketing relationship. The initial push to start a new, vigorous content relationship with your community may have passed the honeymoon phase, but the romance does not need to die a horrible death.

How To Fix ‘Here-Today-Gone-Tomorrow’ Content

No one wants the relationship to end, and there is a simple solution that will help you keep it together: create an editorial calendar. Map your content strategy out in a predictable, organized schedule. An editorial calendar will help you determine what to write, when to write it and who will be writing it. Involve others in the process and make the editorial calendar an internal resource that your entire team can access. Weave a system of accountability into the plan and open up channels of communication. You can also develop a stockpile of content to help fill in any ‘emergency’ gaps in your schedule.

Determine the following:

  • How will our goals be measured?
  • How often?
  • How will our goals be achieved?
  • By what date?
  • Who is accountable?
  • How will accountability be tracked?
  • What is the back-up plan?

Once you have the answers to these questions, along with buy-in from all the members of your team, your launch schedule will flow back into a natural rhythm. Additionally, your subscribers and followers will no longer be asking themselves, “When will I hear from this business again?”

The Low-Value Content

You cannot increasingly shift your focus toward yourself and expect your personal relationships to remain healthy. Professional content marketing is the same. If you can’t stop talking about yourself in your content, you run the risk of turning your prospects away.

“Me, Me, Me.”

Your opinion matters and you should give it. Your insight is what attracted your subscribers and followers to you in the first place. However, your content should also provide something of value and have some basis in fact. Even a movie review is based on the fact that the film critic actually viewed the movie. A critic can speak about whether or not the film is recommended for viewing by pulling from a vast repertoire of cinematic knowledge. You may or may not agree with the film critic, but the opinion is still valuable because of the individual’s wealth of experience, knowledge and insight.

“I Can’t Hear You Because I’m Shouting At You.”

Another reason why I decided to end my email relationship was due to all the ranting. I was tired of it. Inflammatory rants about things that ultimately don’t matter are boring. (There, I said it. I’m bored with your rant.) Content that speaks loudly and seldom listens will hurt your online relationships. Take a deep breath, step back, and ask yourself if this irksome subject matter is just bothering you – or if it is also problematic for your people. Think about what your subscribers need:

Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content, enthusiasm and ideas about how to solve that problem.” – Laura Fitton, Founder, oneforty.com

“OMG, This Is So Improtant You Just Gotta Read It.”

The final nails in the coffin of my terminated email relationship were horrific spelling and grammar mistakes. I am not a grammar taskmaster. I embrace writing in natural language. To turn me off, one must write a blog post in a drunken stupor at 3:00 a.m. and then publish it – unedited. Unfortunately, my email newsletter subscription was beginning to look more like a drunken text message than a professional marketing communication. The content no longer offered me any real or perceived value.

Despite the cultural shift toward the use of casual, everyday language in online communications, spelling, grammar, coherent messaging and professional language are still important to the majority of your subscribers. Your online messages exist to enhance your brand and build your credibility. They are your brand ambassadors, and they should represent the full worth, value and esteem of your business. Avoid using lingo the masses won’t understand, skip the text-speak, and save the F-bombs for another time and place. Review your work, run your spell-check and then have a team member proofread your work before you publish it. As Anchorman, Ron Burgundy once said, “You stay classy, San Diego.” Your business communications should stay classy, too.

Keep Up The Good Work

If your content strategy is displaying one or more of the signs of failing relationship health – don’t give up hope. Your email marketing relationships need regular maintenance in order to stay healthy and fit. Take some time to evaluate the current state of your e-marketing health, and become invested in making it work. Avoid the destructive practices that led to my recent email break up. Content marketing is like a long, healthy marriage with your subscribers. Like any healthy relationship, content marketing requires time and dedication. Get in there and enthusiastically deliver content that will make your subscribers and followers fall in love with your business messaging all over again.

 
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Posted in: Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Marketing, Newsletters, Online Marketing, Reputation Management

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A Picture May Be Worth a Thousand Words. Shouldn’t It Also Reinforce Your Brand?

A Picture May Be Worth a Thousand Words. Shouldn’t It Also Reinforce Your Brand?

Odds are, your firm isn’t in the beauty products business, but there are important lessons to be learned (or at least considered) from an ongoing debate involving two top companies in that industry.

By now, you have probably seen the controversial comparison between Victoria’s Secret’s “Love My Body” and Dove’s “Real Beauty” ad campaigns. The focus of most of the comments from the campaign comparisons has been on the physiology of the ladies used in both campaigns – from weight to height to skin color to age. Some enlightened social media contributors may have even mentioned the perception of personality as a footnote. Overall, the discussion (and related controversy) has been primarily about the sexualization of women, with a particular focus on how beauty is perceived and promoted in our culture.

While those are all appropriate topics to stem from the original Reddit post that put these juxtaposed images in the social crosshairs, I would like to discuss the two campaign photos from a different perspective:

How does each photo attract its respective target market and reinforce its respective company’s brand?

(And using that analysis, how do exceptional professional service firms use imagery in branding their firms to attract their desired market?)

Both Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign and Victoria’s Secret’s “Love My Body” campaign showcase a group of models. Can you tell what the target market is for each brand based on each photo?

The target market for Dove may be a little more easily identified, based on many of the same comments that have made these dueling campaigns “newsworthy” enough to be editorialized in such news outlets as Bloomberg Business and BusinessInsider, not to mention air time on Ellen, Dr. Phil and CNN. So what do you think Dove’s target market is, based on this photo alone? Women is a given. Women of all ages seems to be another clear market. What about women of “average” weight? Or happy women? Or friends and family? These are traits depicted in the photograph that differentiates it from the Victoria’s Secret counterpart, but that do not necessarily identify a market.

But those traits may point to the company’s overall brand.

What do the images on your website, on your marketing collateral or in your email newsletter reveal about your brand? Do they confuse or reinforce your brand?

Dove appears to be promoting its product line to women of all ages, potentially of all sizes, who perhaps want to be happier in their skin. This speaks to the company’s brand and public image. It says “we are a company that recognizes the need to feel happy in your own skin and we want to give it to you, regardless of your age, size, ethnicity or personality. Our products will make you happy.”

Do your public-facing images promote your professional services firm as “one-size-fits all” or personalized service?  Do your images speak to data or human resources? Do your images convey a desire for local or international clientele?

As noted in thousands of scathing tweets, blog rants and Facebook posts, the women in the Victoria’s Secret ad are not smiling. Nor are they terribly diverse, interactive with one another, or considered “average” on anyone’s beauty scale. Some critics have also alleged that the photo lineup was likely created in Photoshop, rather than shot live with all of the models present. How does this different style affect the target market sought? Or does it have no effect at all?

Do your visual images online or in print brand your firm as focused only on specific niches or do you convey an everyman vibe?

It seems logical that the Victoria’s Secret ad would also be target marketing to women (they are selling bras and underwear, after all). But is it also targeting men by using models that the company believes personifies the epitome of female beauty and seduction? And which women is the company targeting? Supermodels? Women in their teens and twenties? Apathetic women? Or all women?

How does the depiction of homogenous, disinterested, tall and skinny women, none of whom are interacting with one another or the camera, reinforce the Victoria’s Secret brand? Does it enhance the company’s brand? Does it detract from the brand?

I believe that brands are reinforced not only by the content of our website copy, marketing lingo, and advertising campaigns, but also by the images we use to perpetuate our brands. As the old adage goes, a picture is not only worth a thousand words, but it also speaks volumes.

Test Your Firm’s Brand With a “Blind” Image Test

Here’s an idea that will reveal some useful information concerning your own professional service brand.

  1. Find out where your local Chamber of Commerce is holding a networking event in your city this month.
  2. Send a representative from your firm to the event.
  3. Have him or her bring a few of the images that you use in your marketing, including those used on your website, in your brochure and in your email newsletter.
  4. Make sure the images DO NOT contain any text, especially the name of your firm. Have the images printed out separately, without any context or verbiage.
  5. Ask several different attendees to give you the first three words that come to mind for each image and write the answers on the back of the image.

The answers may surprise you. They may not. But they will certainly tell you if there are any contradictions between the brand you are trying to establish and the one that is being, at least subconsciously, broadcast behind the marketing jargon. Even professional firm marketers can learn a few lessons from a retail industry marketing fail.

 
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Posted in: Advertising, Branding, Business Development, CPA Firm Marketing, Email Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Newsletters, Online Marketing, Prospecting

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Turn Your Tax Season Stress Into A Positive Force

Turn Your Tax Season Stress Into A Positive Force

What… Me? Worry?

Do you get stressed out during tax season? (Most of us do…) Learn how to turn that stress into a positive force.

Tax season is a stressful time for tax and accounting firms. And we’ve all seen articles about how to eliminate stress from the workplace. But is eliminating stress altogether really a good solution? Is it even possible? I think it may be better to turn negative stress into positive stress.

Take a Serious Look at the Negatives

We all know about negative stress. Negative stress drains energy and hurts performance. It causes anxiety and depression. It’s not healthy and can lead to serious physical problems and illness. Negative stress needs to be avoided and eliminated wherever possible. And a good way to do that is often to turn it into positive stress.

Consider the Positives

Positive stress creates excitement. It energizes and motivates. It can give you and your employees a sense of anticipation and accomplishment. Positive stress actually increases awareness and improves performance.

So the goal isn’t to eliminate stress altogether. That’s all but impossible during tax season. But there are ways to turn it into a positive force in your firm.

Step 1: Get Organized

The first step is to make sure that you are organized and in control. One of the leading causes of work related stress is an unreasonable workload and a feeling that you are out of control. Since the “workload” equates to dollars, you won’t want to reduce that. So it becomes important to ensure that you and your employees have a sense that things, while challenging, are under control.

Step 2: Lighten Up

From there, most tax and accounting firms have a variety of things that that they do to bring some fun into the workplace. I’ve had past conversations with one firm discussing the benefits of special snacks brought into the office with various lighthearted themes. There were also references to pranks, toys, and fun extras to bring a bit of levity into the daily grind (including their now infamous traveling “Poop Moose”… Don’t ask…) Employ any method you can to bring a smile or laugh into the workplace. It will do wonders to relieve negative stress and increase positive stress (fun).

Step 3: Get Motivated

During tax season, most firms are providing the highest-value service to the majority of their clientele, simultaneously. If that’s not a reason for some excitement, then I don’t know what is!

 

Two More Tax Season Tips:

 
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Posted in: Client Service, CPA Accounting Firm Management, Employee Performance, Employee Retention, Marketing, Operations

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Infographic: Why Your Marketing Should Show More Love

Infographic: Why Your Marketing Should Show More Love

Valentine’s Day is knocking at our door, and this time of year often makes us think of love. But what does love have to do with marketing and communications? Plenty.

If love isn’t already part of your firm’s marketing strategies, you might be behind the curve. Big brands like Coca-Cola are attempting to #MakeItHappy this year with their 2015 Super Bowl ad campaign. Another big contender, McDonald’s, revealed during the big game that, between February 2-14, 2015, they will be randomly accepting “lovin’” as a form of payment. Puppies, horses and hugs also scored touchdowns during Super Bowl 2015′s commercial line up.

Take a note from these big-gun marketers. Even though professional firm marketers aren’t peddling soda-pop or hamburgers, “lovin’” can be the most powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal.

There are four very powerful foundations, cornerstones we can stand on: honesty, authenticity, integrity and love.” ~Julian Treasure

Your firm’s communications can benefit from campaigns that showcase the heart of your firm. Use your communications to tell the “love story” of your firm. Let onlookers see the passion behind your business. Personal connections are truly what drive prospects to sign on with you and motivate clients to stick around.

It truly pays to inject some heart into your marketing and communications strategies. Here’s a little infographic we created to highlight three good reasons why your marketing should show more love:

Tell A Love Story With Your Marketing FEB 2015 BizActions-PDI-Global-ThomsonReuters

It’s true!

These are just three methods you could tap into to boost engagement in your campaigns, but there are dozens of strategies you could employ to warm up your communications.

Here is a roundup of our latest posts on how you can use your marketing to get clients and prospects to fall head over heels for your firm:

 

10 Ways to Get Prospects to Fall in Love With Your Marketing

10 Ways to Get Prospects to Fall in Love With Your MarketingHow lovable is your marketing? Do your prospects eagerly anticipate your next email? Are they enamored with your newsletter content? Have they shared your social media posts with their friends? You’ve likely spent a lot of time (and money) vying for their attention on your beautiful website and flirting with them on social media, but you’re not sure how to take your professional courtship to the next level…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

14 Ways to Use Email and Social Media to Make Your Clients Fall In Love with You All Over Again on February 14th

14 Ways to Use Email and Social Media to Make Your Clients Fall In LoveYour clients love you. They really do. They have committed to a relationship with you and they turn to you when they are in need. But has the honeymoon phase ended? Client retention is just as important to the success of your business as lead generation. Make the face time opportunities with your clients count, but for the time between client meetings, use email and social media to keep the magic alive…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

Make Your Prospects Fall in Love With Your Welcome Message

Make Your Prospects Fall in Love With Your Welcome MessageYou’ve worked hard to pique their interest and get them to notice you. You’ve created a beautiful website, chatted with them on your social media platforms and sent them love letters in the mail. They’ve just made the first move in your professional courtship by subscribing to your email newsletter. How do you take the relationship to the next level? An email welcome message is a lot like a first date…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

3 Darn Good Reasons to L-O-V-E Email Marketing

3 Darn Good Reasons to L-O-V-E Email MarketingWith the seemingly endless growth of social media, you may have become skeptical about the efficacy and longevity of email marketing. Yet, year after year, sources prove that email marketing continues to reign supreme, remaining a critical and highly profitable component of any successful business development strategy. Email marketing might not be a shiny or sexy as social media, but it certainly has its own set of perks and benefits…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

Content is the Heart of Your Marketing Strategy

Content is the Heart of Your Marketing StrategyIn this new media marketing era, successful content marketing begins with a well-planned and strategically executed content strategy. Align your content strategy with the buying lifecycle in order to provide key decision-making tools for your prospects along the way. Leverage social media channels to drive more connections, achieve enhanced exposure and improve company popularity. Utilize all of the possible outlets at your disposal – email newsletters, social media, blogs, email blasts, press releases, websites and print – to maximize your exposure. In addition to quality content, presence and reach are also key elements for success…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

Familiarity Makes the Heart (and Brain) Grow Fonder

Familiarity Makes the Heart (and Brain) Grow FonderClients sometimes wonder if having a logo is really all that big of a deal. We don’t hesitate to tell them firmly that the answer is YES! The results of a fascinating study indicate that seeing a recognized brand image provokes positive emotional responses in viewers. Radiologists at the Ludwig-Maximillians University Hospital in Munich, Germany conducted the research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore responses to brand images. Study participants viewed images of familiar and unfamiliar logos and then answered questions designed to gauge their perceptions of the brand while attached to fMRI scanners. The researchers found a startling correlation between the degree of familiarity of the brand image and the location within the brain in which the images were processed…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

Gratitude Marketing: It’s All About That Thanks

Gratitude Marketing: It’s All About That ThanksThis is the perfect time of year to employ gratitude marketing. Marketing really is all about that “thanks.” Let’s face it. Your business would not function without your clients. Your clients fund your efforts. They have chosen to invest in you, so rewarding them for that investment is simply fitting. Take up a strategic approach to showing your clients some love through nurturing campaigns. Be sure the underlying tone or focus of your client messaging is one of appreciation and genuine gratitude for their business. Here are a few ways you can show clients you care…
>>> READ THE ARTICLE

 

Your marketing should show more love because wooing prospects and nurturing clients often resembles courtship. Yes, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but marketing “love” should a story told by your campaigns throughout the year. Seek to continually find ways to bring the heart behind your business to the forefront of your communications.

 

Want to use our infographic? Great! Feel free to share, but please acknowledge http://www.bizactions.com/infographic-marketing-love as the source.

 
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Posted in: Communications, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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