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Gratitude Marketing: It’s All About That Thanks

Gratitude Marketing: It’s All About That Thanks

This is the perfect time of year to employ gratitude marketing.

You’ve probably heard Meghan Trainor’s delightful song, “All About That Bass,” and you might have even seen the delectable Thanksgiving song parody “All About That Baste” from the oh-so-adorable Holderness Family, but when it comes to professional marketing, your client messages should be all about that  “thanks.”

Marketing really is all about that “thanks.”

This time of years sheds light on a vital component of your  marketing strategy: gratitude. 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.

Go Beyond the muffin basket.

It is important to let your clients know that you are grateful  for their business, but are you communicating your appreciation throughout the year, and not just in your annual gifts and  holiday greetings? Baskets full of goodies and annual calendars are great, but what about the rest of the year? December and January may sometimes bring a bit of client attrition, and a more aggressive client appreciation marketing strategy can offset losses by helping keep your existing clientele happy and satisfied.

Show your clients that you value them.

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:

1. Reward

Let’s face it. People love perks. A  freebie can help you bring in more business  and keep existing clients happy. If you only meet with your clients once a year, you might as well have a coffee cup, pen set, notebook, thumb drive, ball cap or smart-phone cover available to give to your client as you wrap up the meeting and make plans to meet again next year. After all, you probably need (or already have) a stockpile of giveaways for conferences and events. Fun gifts can be great client loyalty tools as well. Why do giveaways work? Well…

You’ve been given something, seemingly for nothing, and now you feel obligated to reciprocate…” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Psychologist

2. Educate

As a professional service provider, it is your obligation to help inform your clients about changing regulations and laws that may impact them. Sharing information has become a competitive necessity. Show your clients you value them and want to partner in their success by keeping them well-versed on issues affecting them. Your website, online guides, email campaigns and social media outlets can  work together to provide educational resources for your clientele. Your messages could also offer a freebie in the form of your latest report or whitepaper download. But clients won’t know about your informative updates if they haven’t opt-ed in to your email program. Catch clients at the front desk, in meetings or during phone calls, and let them know you’re committed to making sure they will be grateful for their subscription to your client email newsletter.

You might also choose to educate your clientele through  events, seminars and webinars. Your client email and social media campaigns can promote these sessions, but what about after the event is over? Follow up with event attendees with a thank you email, and perhaps also provide a link to additional resources that attendees would find useful.

3. Refer

When a client refers your services, you definitely should take the time to  thank them. A thank-you gift, client spotlight article on your blog, reciprocal referral or other offering could adequately demonstrate your gratitude. An even more effective approach would be to instill a referral program, and give your clients the incentive of a cash reward in exchange for legitimate referrals.

You might offer payroll services, but your payroll client could be looking for a new local accounting firm. You are probably intimately familiar with the outstanding CPA firms in your community. It is helpful to have a referral list assembled and ready to share with clients who come asking. You could also get some marketing reciprocity rolling, and reach out to the top four accounting firms on your “favorites” list. Offer to feature one firm per quarter in your client communications in exchange for similar promotions to their clientele. Clients who know you and trust you will appreciate genuine recommendations and referrals from your business.

Say, “Thanks.”

No matter how you choose to reward your clients,  appreciation marketing is all about a genuine, heart-felt approach to letting your clients know that you understand their worth and care about their success. Take some time this holiday season to get creative and find new ways to use your client communications to say, “Thank you.” Don’t forget to keep the gratitude flowing by offering little displays of client appreciation throughout the year.

 
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Posted in: Client Retention, Communications, Content Marketing, CPA Firm Marketing, Email Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices

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INFOGRAPHIC: The Importance of Visual Content Marketing

INFOGRAPHIC: The Importance of Visual Content Marketing

A picture is worth a thousand words. When used in the right way, an image can have an impact like no other medium of communication.

Visual content marketing is more successful than any other form of communication. Marketers who embrace visual content reap the rewards of higher returns – in terms of more fans, followers, readers, leads, clients and, of course, revenue.

If you are not yet focusing on visual content in your marketing strategy, whether on social media or in your email campaigns, it’s time to re-imagine your plan. Visualize the benefits of incorporating stunning imagery and visuals to increase your reach, enhance your brand and earn more new business.

We are visual beings.

According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, 93% of all communication is nonverbal. Consider how we react to body language or why silent movies are so compelling despite the lack of verbal dialogue. What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are. How you use graphics greatly affect how you and your business are perceived.

Visual content drives engagement. Neuromarketing science confirms it. Do you need some hard evidence to buy into the visual content marketing process before you’ll commit?

Review these fascinating statements based on case studies and experiments from psychologists, scientists, neurologists and other experts*:

1)  Graphics expedite and increase comprehension, recollection, and retention

2)  Visual clues help us decode text and attract attention to information or direct attention increasing the likelihood that the audience will remember

3)  Pictures enhance or affect emotions and attitudes

4)  Graphics engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking by stimulating other areas of our brain (which in turn leads to a more profound and accurate understanding of the presented material)

5)  In a normal conversation, the importance of words is 7%, voice tonality is 38% and of body language is 55%

When you are ready to begin focusing on visual content marketing, remember to be consistent and innovative throughout your campaign.

Show, don’t tell.

The infographic below by Kwikturn Media provides additional details about why visual content is absolutely essential to your ongoing marketing success.

Visual Content Marketing is Essential to Marketing Success

Tweetable Take-aways

Engage your social followers with these interesting statistics:

90% of information transmitted to the brain is #visual

The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text

40% of people respond better to an image than 1,000 words

46% say a website’s #design is the Number 1 criterion for discerning a company’s #credibility

Posts with #infographics grow traffic an average of 12% more than those without

700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute

Pinterest generates more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn COMBINED

Photos on Facebook garner more interaction than text, videos, and links

Visitors spend 100% more time on pages that have #videos on them

Consumers who watch a product #video are 85% more likely to purchase that product

 
*Sources:

M. Parkinson, “Do-it-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics”. http://www.billiondollargraphics.com/infographics.html

H. van Oostendorp, J. Preece and A.G. Arnold (guest editorial), “Designing Multimedia for Human Needs and Capabilities,” Interacting with Computers Volume 12, Issue 1 (September 1999): 1-5.

J.R. Levin, A Transfer of Appropriate Processing Perspective of Pictures in Prose, (in H.Mandl and J.R. Levin [eds.]) Knowledge Acquisition from Text and Prose (Amsterdam: ElsevierScience Publishers, 1989).

W.H. Levie and R. Lentz, “Effects of Text Illustrations: A Review of Research,”Educational Communications and Technology Journal 30 (4) (1982): 195-232.

D. Bobrow and D. Norman, “Some Principles of Memory Schemata,” (in D. Bobrow and A.Collins [eds.]), Representation and Understanding: Studies in Cognitive Science (New York: Academic Press, 1975), 131-149 and D. Rumelhart, “Schemata: The Building Blocks of Cognition,” (in R.J. Spiro, B.C. Bruce and W.F. Brewer [eds.]), Theoretical Issues in Reading Comprehension (Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate, 1980), 33-58.

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

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Lights, Camera, Action! Use Video Marketing To Enhance Your Brand, Grow Your Audience & Earn More Business

Lights, Camera, Action! Use Video Marketing To Enhance Your Brand, Grow Your Audience & Earn More Business

Video has stolen the scene from the written word. In our high-tech world where information is only a click or a swipe away, we seek content that is instantly engaging, concise and interesting. Short videos are hogging the content marketing spotlight. Videos trump blogs. If you are not video marketing, you should be.

Reading is becoming too cumbersome for our modern society. As a culture, we simply do not have the attention span to read anymore. News flash: video is once again taking center stage over other mediums. Including video segments in your professional email newsletters is a great way to jazz up your newsletter content. If high production costs and lack of technological skills have been on your list of excuses for putting off the inevitable, get ready to start shooting (video, that is).

Here are three great reasons why you should incorporate video into your marketing strategy immediately:

1) Video is easy

Using a simple handheld video recorder, you can capture great content that visually conveys the sincerity, casualness, humor or whichever tone and attitude you wish to impart. People like people. They appreciate messages they can relate to. And they are far more likely to pause and check out a visual (video) than they are to read an article. Use a company spokesperson, or film yourself, to engage your audience. This will help your brand stand out among the competition.

2) Video equipment is cost-effective

For less than $300, you can own a simple-to-use high definition Flip Video™ camera.  That’s less than you’d expect to pay for an SLR or high-res compact digital camera and it comes with editing software that is easy as pie to operate. There are other inexpensive options on the market as well; just do a little homework to see if you’ll need to buy additional software for editing before making the purchase.

3) Video is engaging & better at conversion

Videos allow for the expression of nonverbal cues that the written word simply cannot convey.  The average Internet user is likely to watch roughly 206 videos each month. Nearly 70% of marketers now incorporate video into their marketing campaigns. Video is four times more engaging than static content and drives conversion faster. Let this sink in for a second: the amount of information your brain retains in 60 seconds of video is the equivalent to 1.8 million words. #mindblown 

Before you start shooting your marketing video

Most often, what you shoot is of greater value to your audience than the quality of your camerawork, so shoot first and ask questions later. That said, you should put some effort into producing relatively high quality “homemade” videos. Consider these tips for successful video production:

Script and Content

Develop content that you find interesting. If you are interested in the topic, it will show through loud and clear on the screen. Great videos are often scripted and rehearsed in advance, but spontaneous and impromptu reactions from staff, clients or strangers frequently have the highest online appeal. A solid strategy is to do a combination of both formats. Interviews of company executives are an excellent way to grant your audience “behind the scenes” footage – be the first to break the news about upcoming changes to your viewers. Consider taking the most important piece of an article (in one minute or less) and discussing its implications on screen. Or reviewing the highlights of a current event or pending legislation. Take your video camera “on the road” and report back from industry trade shows, seminars or company retreats. Grow your video channel with timely and informative updates about what’s happening in your industry and with your company.

Lighting and Direction

Your video should be shot with the best available lighting, sound, focus and steadiness of the camera.  If you’re capturing video outdoors, be careful not to shoot facing the sun and consider shooting during the “magic hours” – the periods of time shortly after sunrise and prior to sunset when natural soft light is abundant.  Be mindful of controlling background noise when you can, such as turning off a television or radio if it’s not part of your scene.  When possible, use a tripod or other stabilizing device to help control the solidity of your video.  Most video cameras have some stabilization and auto-focusing software built in, but you will not regret having a tripod on hand. Have fun with the creative aspects – put on your Director’s cap when determining what to capture and how to capture it. See an example of how my colleague, Becca Fieler, shot her office in a video blog about productivity.

Editing

Brevity is the gold standard. One minute and thirty seconds is the optimal length for web videos, and less than one minute is usually even better. If you have five minutes of high quality content, it will likely be more appealing if published as multiple shorter productions. A series of brief, concise and compelling videos will help your brand more than one long video that won’t be able to maintain viewership and attention. Don’t get too fancy with editing tricks, like fading in and out and moving type, which can distract your audience from the more important content. Because the success of low-tech documentaries, such as those created by filmmaker Michael Moore, your audience will forgive amateurish aspects of your video production, provided that the content is interesting and engaging. Be sure to publish video that makes you smile and makes you proud.  What is in your video is more important than how flashy it is. Never publish just to publish. No matter how intricate and showy your video is, it will not help you grow and persuade your audience or boost your brand if it doesn’t contain compelling content.

Embrace Serendipity

One thing to remember when developing your own video content is that you just never know how good it may turn out. Sometimes, you get lucky and unintended circumstances contribute to your content having such wide appeal that it gets passed along and shared by many people. Embrace the idea that your videos need not be “perfect” and that you may not fully understand the elements that help a video “go viral”. If you boil your video production down to a simmering science, you may lose the creativity that sparked interest in your early videos. If your videos are too predictable, the video campaign won’t have long-term appeal. You may not win a Shorty Award, but your creativity will help you connect with your prospects and grow your online presence.

One final tip:

Share, share, share!

The point of video is to share it with an audience – your clients, staff, prospects, friends, colleagues, family. Once you’ve developed content and produced a video that you’re happy with, upload it to YouTube, your company’s blog page and Facebook page. Then link to the video from your email newsletter and other email campaigns as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn. The more viewers you get, the more you can grow your audience and, ultimately, your brand and business.

With all of the upside and so little that can go terribly wrong, shooting video will certainly help contribute to the success of your company’s brand. It’s never been easier, less expensive or more fun to capture video.  Lights, Camera, Action!

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Five Reasons for Holiday Video Marketing

Five Reasons for Holiday Video Marketing

Holiday videos are a great way to reach your clients, prospects and referral sources through seasonal messaging. Most of us count our blessings and find reasons to be thankful in November, celebrate a season of light in December, welcome the New Year in January, find someone we love on St. Valentine’s Day, and (whether we are Irish or not) don green attire on St. Patrick’s Day.

Holidays are relatable. Holidays are also predictable. We all know when they are coming, we all know what they are about, and you can easily utilize holidays to add instant appeal to your marketing and communications strategies. Holiday video marketing can bring cheer to the spirit, warm the heart and help personalize your messaging in a way that no other form of communication can.

Still not convinced? Here are five great reasons for holiday video marketing:

1. Video Helps Build Relationships

Video connects with your contacts for the same reason that some folks prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar establishment, or attend events, conferences and classes hosted by live presenters. People prefer human interactions, and video is the nearest online equivalent to the face-to-face interaction. A video message wrapped up in a warm, touching, cheerful or otherwise entertaining holiday theme boosts appeal and is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of your contacts. Engage your target market with seasonal appeal, while sharing your passion for what you do. Your viewers will see that passion in your face, hear it in your voice, and catch that sparkle in your eye, which will help them relate to you and boost your credibility.

Holidays also often tie into philanthropic opportunities. Video can help showcase your firm’s involvement in the community. Food drives, toy drives, local charity events and other community activities could be featured in a holiday video. People get caught up in stories. Showing your viewers how they can get involved in the same charitable endeavors that your firm is participating in offers them the opportunity to become part of the moment and opens the door to new business opportunities as well.

2. Video Gives You A Chance To Talk About Your Firm In Your Own Words

A holiday video greeting can give your interested prospects the chance to virtually “meet you” prior to meeting you. In your next video, think about running through a checklist of documents or information that your client should bring before coming in to meet with you for the first time. Tell them why this information is important to provide. This helps your client to be prepared for your next interaction and also reassures them that you have a well thought out process and plan in place even before they walk in the door. Simply wear a festive holiday hat, and your pre-meeting or other business video communications could go from bland and lackluster to fun and engaging. What better way to kick off a new client relationship than with personality and insight?

Service and product overviews can also take advantage of the holiday theme. Utilize video to introduce special offers, talk about changes at your firm or spotlight new additions to your team. Keep in mind that video content that is unique, memorable, edgy or unusual will always garner a better response than content that leans toward the mundane. Think about what you can do to grip your audience and provide information about your firm in a way that is out of the ordinary. Injecting elements that are shockingly creative, such as an impromptu gleeful holiday song or surprising holiday wardrobe, will entice your audience and leave them at the edge of their seats. They will enjoy every moment of your holiday video when you offer a bit of ingenuity.

3. Video Can Show Your Clients And Prospects “How-To”

How-to videos are among the most heavily searched content on YouTube and other video sites. You can use your holiday-themed video to educate, inform and instruct your viewers.

More often than not, your prospects and clients will need more complex interaction and services than what can be obtained in a two minute instructional video. Even though you are satiating a momentary need with how-to video content, you are simultaneously building the bridge toward future paid interactions when viewers come knocking on your door for deeper insight.

Think about incorporating year-end charitable giving strategies and best practices into your next holiday themed “how-to” video segment. Using the seasons for a little inspiration helps your viewers relate. When you provide an interactive, instructional video for general public consumption, you are not giving away your expertise. Instead, you are building credibility by demonstrating that you are the go-to resource with a full understanding of your chosen topic.

4. Video Can Help You Stand Out From Your Competitors

Have you seen many other professional service providers in holiday video content recently? Chances are that you have only seen a few, if any. Your competition might be afraid to venture into video, particularly video with a theme, but you don’t have to be.

Video builds a relationship in a way that no other online impression can match. Utilize video as a means of demonstrating your expertise, but don’t forget to occasionally offer up those fantastic heartwarming moments that make life worthwhile. Share the story of how your firm got off the ground, or how you’ve helped a client save money, or highlight each of your key team members using a holiday theme of thankfulness, joy, peace (think peace of mind) or some other uplifting emotion and your prospects will be hooked. You will stand out among the competition in your marketplace by showing off your firm’s personality and connecting with your target market with holiday-themed content.

5. Video Can Be Fun – And Video Can Be Shared

Holiday videos are less focused on the sale, which encourages viewers to share it. Your holiday video could feel more like an online greeting card than a marketing message but still feature your firm’s branding and contact information. Giving the gift of video can add a bit of fun and increase the likelihood of your message going viral. During the holiday season, your contacts are already thinking about giving and sharing, and video is the gift that keeps on giving.

Keep things light, and keep them real. One of the most important factors in a viral video is the feeling that you are watching real people just being themselves. It draws you in. The fact that viral video “stars” are not professional actors, but are actually average Janes and Joes doing captivating and interesting things, elicits a far more positive response from viewers than professional productions. Viral videos are accessible and have an element of imagination to them. They make viewers feel as if they could join in on the fun.

Lay your inhibitions aside and let go of the idea that video aficionados will expect you to kick out a professional production. Many of the videos that go viral tend to be simple videos captured on someone’s mobile device or hand-held video camera that just happened to grab a unique moment in time. In order for your holiday video messaging to be effective, it simply needs to come from your firm and your staff in a spirit of enjoying the holidays and wishing the same to all of your clients, prospects and referral sources.

Some tips for helping your holiday video to go viral:

  • Share your videos through your email newsletter
  • Post your video to your blog
  • Post your video to your social media sites, and ask your friends, fans and followers to share it
  • Remind your YouTube channel followers that you have posted fresh content
  • Ask your staff to share the video on their personal social media pages

Remember to keep your holiday video joyful, accessible, full of story, and creative. Enjoy the experience of creating the video, and your viewers will be enthralled.

Holiday Video Can Be A Great Way To Warm Up Winter Messaging

Video offers a way to connect your audience with the human presence behind your firm. Your contacts enjoy a bit of levity from time to time, and holiday messaging with video can add that lighthearted appeal that can push your email click activity through the roof (or at least boost it up on the rooftop where sleigh bells ring). Audiences tend to be more receptive to holiday video messaging and are more likely to share these messages with friends and colleagues. Give your contacts the gift of holiday video this season, and you will find business relationships and revenue growing as a result.

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Blog Roundup: 5 Marketing Thank You Ideas

Blog Roundup: 5 Marketing Thank You Ideas

Using your marketing messages to offer a genuine thank you to clients, prospects and referral sources is one of the smartest (and easiest) ways to nurture your contacts and build relationships. Here are five marketing thank you ideas to help you send out your gratitude this month:

 

Tip 1: Say Thank You for Subscribing

 

6 Emails You Must Send to Remain Top of Mind and Earn More (New) Business

6 Emails You Must Send to Remain Top of Mind and Earn More New BusinessOne tip to help you create an engaging and effective welcome email: thank new subscribers in your welcome emails. The most important element of a welcome email is the “thank you”. They have subscribed to your emails, indicating that they are interested in you and your services. Thank them. Consider offering them a small reward, such as a relevant whitepaper or report or a link for them to sign up to receive a free promotional item by mail… READ ON.

 

Tip 2: Thank Your Clients for Their Referrals

 

Your Clients Might Be Your Best Referral Sources

What is your best source of referrals? It could be your clients.When you receive referrals from your clients, make a big deal about it. Thank them. In addition to thanking clients, consider highlighting their businesses by profiling them on your website, or at least including testimonials from the individuals who made the referrals. If you make your clients feel good about giving you referrals, chances are you’ll get more than one from those who do… READ ON.

 

Tip 3: Thank Your Contacts for Participating in Surveys

 

Learn Your Business from Your Clients

Learn Your Business from Your CustomersOpportunities for client contact and customer service are everywhere, and it’s critical to tap into all of them to create lasting loyalty. One of the best ways to do that is to teach every employee in every department how to recognize these opportunities and what to do with them. Your customers can provide valuable input. Be sure to thank them when they do.. READ ON.

 

Tip 4: Thank Your Event Attendees

 

If You Plan Right, They Will Come

If You Plan 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 not the weather or some event beyond your control. It’s planning. Location, timely topics, engaging presentations, great networking and pre and post-event messaging (like thank you’s) all factor into creating a winning event. Here’s how to turn your seminars into business-makers… READ ON.

 

Tip 5: Take a Seasonal Opportunity to Say “Thank You”

 

It’s Time to Give Thanks

It's Time to Give ThanksYear-end finds many of us reflecting on the past year, both from a personal as well as a professional perspective. We look forward to celebrating the holidays with our family and friends, attending parties, exchanging gifts and giving thanks for even the smallest blessings we’ve received. We also think about Thanksgiving messaging and other holiday greetings… READ ON.

 

This month is the perfect time to say, “Thanks.” No matter what marketing strategy you use to say thank you to your clients, prospects and referral sources, you’ll never regret sending a message that shows your contacts just how grateful you are for their interest in your firm. When it comes to reputation management, thank you communications are genuine tools that help you build rapport with your audience and grow your business in the process.

 
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Posted in: Communications, CPA Firm Marketing, Email Marketing, Email Newsletters, Event Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Online Marketing, Reputation Management

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Ideas for Your 2014 Thanksgiving Marketing

Ideas for Your 2014 Thanksgiving Marketing

It’s time to give thanks.

Year-end finds many of us reflecting on the past year, both from a personal as well as a professional perspective. We look forward to celebrating the holidays with our family and friends, attending parties, exchanging gifts and giving thanks for even the smallest blessings we’ve received. We also think about what may have gone wrong, and what changes we want to make in the coming year to live better, be happier and get healthier.

At work, we go through many of the same thought processes. Are we satisfied with the results of our marketing efforts? Which strategies were more successful than others? How do we improve upon our methods and conversions? Did we cultivate the kinds of relationships we wanted to achieve? What can we do to increase our market share? How do we thank our existing clients for their loyalty and our prospects for their interest?

Think about your 2014 holiday marketing strategy.

Right about now, you have probably begun the search for the best holiday cards to mail out and are trying to figure out how to get your firm’s partners and key team members to personalize them so they send the right message – that you care. Many firms combine a holiday greeting with a “thank you for your continued patronage” note in an attempt to reinforce that one-to-one relationship that client retention (especially for CPA firms and other professional service providers) depends upon.

Some firms may opt to send out thank you emails for Thanksgiving or as electronic supplements to print greeting cards during the holiday season. And those emails will be well-received and should absolutely be a part of your communication strategy. They help you solidify relationships with existing clients and nurture budding relationships with prospects.

But did you know that thanking clients and prospects throughout the year could pay out greater dividends than any other type of email marketing?

Thank you emails are twice as nice.

It should be fairly obvious why the thank you email is effective… but did you know that it is twice as effective as the general email?

HubSpot conducted a comprehensive analysis of open rates and click through rates (CTRs) on automated thank you emails (auto-responders) and then compared those statistics to those reported on general campaign-driven marketing emails. Guess what they discovered?

Thank you emails generated a 42% open rate and 14% CTR on average, while generic campaign emails generated a 12% open rate and a 6% CTR.

WOW! Even automated emails that were sent out in response to subscriber/website visitor behavior generated more than twice the click through activity than campaign-driven marketing emails. Apparently, people like to be thanked. Saying thank you is not only nice, it’s nice for business.

What can you learn from HubSpot’s study? Clearly, saying thank you more than once a year will be beneficial to your marketing campaign. Here are some tips for how to implement strategic thank you emails into your strategy:

1. Set up auto-responders.

If you aren’t using auto-responders to thank newsletter subscribers and website visitors who take advantage of an offer (such as a whitepaper download, free consultation, webinar or seminar event, etc), you should be. Once set up, your auto-responders require little maintenance and are a marketer’s dream tool.

2. Keep your thank you emails simple.

Your auto-responders need not be fancy or particularly creative. Although there is something to said for well-designed emails (and you certainly wouldn’t want to send out an email that does not complement your brand), a thank you email can be simple. Thank your reader/visitor for whatever they did that triggered the auto-responder, give them something else to consider that is relevant to their demonstrated area of interest, and provide your contact information in case they have any questions. That’s it.

3. Give them more than they asked for.

If they downloaded something from your website, provide a direct link back to that same product for their records. This is particularly important if your auto-responder is based on a form that was submitted, as you want to make it easy for them to review your content again in the future without going through the process again. But then give them something more. They should have already received a copy of whatever it was you were offering, so the direct link is just a nicety. Now ratchet your niceness quotient up a notch. Your thank you email should include a secondary call to action, such as a different article, e-book or whitepaper on a similar subject as the one they downloaded, or a complimentary consultation with a tax advisor, or a case study of how your tax return reviews have uncovered significant savings. Offer something relevant to their area of interest, which you should be able to identify based on their initial action.

4. Be nice about sharing your email.

We’ve talked about how word-of-mouth referrals are the very best type of referral you can get, especially in professional service industries. Don’t squander an opportunity to reach new prospects when designing your thank you auto-responders. Include social media sharing links and encourage your recipients to share your email with their friends, family and colleagues – anyone who might value and appreciate the message and content you provide. The more people who see your quality content and your affable attitude about helping others by providing it with no obligation, the more you raise your thought leadership, expand your prospect pool, and increase your potential for new business.

Random-by-design thank you emails

You might also consider using non-automated thank you emails every once in a while, just to say “thanks”. The basic rules for the non-automated thank you email are essentially the same as those for auto-responders, although you might want to be a little more creative with your email design to let it stand out in the inbox.

There are dozens of opportunities to thank clients and prospects throughout the year. Some of the most common (and yet highly effective) thank you emails are:

  • Thank you for subscribing welcome emails
  • Thank you for choosing our firm new client emails
  • Thank you for visiting our website emails
  • Thank you for meeting with us emails
  • Thank you for registering for our webinar emails
  • Thank you for attending our webinar emails
  • Thank you for updating your contact information emails
  • Thank you for participating in our survey emails
  • Thank you for not unsubscribing nurturing emails
  • Thank you for being a client emails
  • Thank you just because we’re grateful emails

Review your Editorial Calendar and see where and when a thank you email might be appropriate. Develop a few different Thanksgiving marketing (and holiday marketing) designs and content options and test them to see which design inspires the reaction you desire.

While you’re thinking about it, design a lovely thank you email that you can send out to your newsletter subscribers before Thanksgiving to let them know how much you appreciate them. Be nice. Give thanks. Get more business.

 
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10 Tips for Stress-Free Professional Holiday Marketing

10 Tips for Stress-Free Professional Holiday Marketing

‘Tis the season for holiday marketing! Does the holiday season create stress? For many marketers in the professional service industries, an added layer of pressure is heaped upon us this time of year. The holiday season can be overwhelming for everyone, whether marketing director or weary shopper.

Life’s pace is ratcheted up a notch during the fourth quarter. Drivers are more aggressive, stores are more chaotic, children are more rambunctious, parents are more frazzled, employees are more anxious, and managers are more cantankerous. We sprint from obligation to obligation as though propelled by rocket fire, allowing precious few moments now and then to look forward to the peace and joy of the pending holidays themselves, when we imagine ourselves resting our wearing bodies and enjoying quality time with our loved ones. Until the squabbling and family drama starts. But we don’t think about that now. There is too much to do; too many places to be. And we move on.

The holidays can be taxing.
Especially for CPA firm marketers.

Marketers in the accounting universe often bear the biggest burdens of all marketing pros. Why? Because:

  • You must convince your partners and executive committees that holiday marketing is absolutely and unequivocally necessary.
  • You must prove – with analytical reports, facts and figures – why it has to be done the right way or not at all.
  • You must be exceptionally creative to avoid making the Powers-That-Be fearful that the campaign is too artsy. Or whimsical. Or frivolous. Or expensive.
  • You must accommodate everyone else’s hectic schedules, skulking outside conference rooms to steal ten minutes to review the campaign plans, gift options and budgetary needs.
  • You must design campaign plans that enhance your brand, express appreciation to your clients and referral sources, build rapport with prospects that will carry through to the New Year, and highlight your firm’s expertise with a shiny, bright light.
  • You must beg, plead and occasionally bribe firm leaders to sign holiday cards, write personal notes, and hand-deliver gifts to their clients and referral sources that generate the top 20% of the firm’s revenue.
  • You must differentiate your firm from the competition and ensure that the campaign is appropriate and politically correct without delving into boring or generic territory.
  • And, typically, you to do all of this on a shoestring budget, at the last minute, when most people are more interested in attending someone else’s holiday party than hosting their own. With determination. And a smile.

What’s a holly, jolly marketer to do?

Don’t despair, marketers! Retailers are not the only ones who benefit from holiday-oriented marketing and public relations. Don’t miss out on the tremendous opportunity that the holiday season presents. Get through your professional services holiday marketing with a little more joy and a little less stress with these 10 quick tips.

1. Get organized with a campaign calendar

Create a holiday season marketing campaign calendar and share it with partners. Include your plans for emails, newsletters, cards, videos, social media, mailings, gifts and parties. Note who is responsible for each aspect of your campaign, when each task should be reviewed (if necessary) and completed, and what the anticipated costs are (as appropriate). Stay organized so that you’re not sucked under by the overwhelming mire of Hectic – ahem, I mean Holiday – Season.

2. Maximize the holiday theme

Use the holiday theme to its maximum advantage in your calls to action, marketing messages and social media conversations to expand your reach and engage harried consumers. The majority of consumers expect holiday-themed communications this time of year. Many of them look forward to them (despite the lack of time, and running-running-running). Make yours stand out from the rest in some clever way. You can do it. Other professional service providers have broken the mold. You can, too. Put on your creativity cap, drink some genius juice (no, it’s not real, to my knowledge) and don your most jovial jumper to be inspired by the holidays.

3. Take your theme through to landing pages

Do you really need a new landing page if you already have one? Yes! Develop special holiday-themed landing pages for your online and email marketing campaigns. Holiday-inspired landing pages during the peak holiday shopping season automatically appeal to consumers’ state of mind. Keep messaging and branding consistent all the way from your emails, posts and ads through to your landing pages. Browse the best retailers’ holiday landing pages for inspiration if the genius juice isn’t doing the trick.

4. Put your professional services on sale

Have a year-end sale (yes, even professional service providers can host sales), promotion, special offer, give-away or other retail-esque goodie. Or present a discount for new clients who contract for next year’s tax/accounting/legal/payroll/banking services prior to December 31st. Or those who pre-pay for services.

5. Offer competitive convenience

Offer the same kind of convenience that Black Friday and Cyber Monday retailers do: allow your email subscribers to modify their preferences, give prospects access to early-morning, late-night or weekend appointments (temporarily), and host an open house (throw in some snacks) for free consultations or a no-holds-barred question-and-answer session with an expert.

6. Urge action with a deadline

Give prospects a deadline to urge action, but more importantly, create a feeling of value. Don’t fake the sense of urgency, though. It will be obvious (and irritating). Be real. Give them a reason to buy now, rather than procrastinating until next year. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are ready-made deadlines, but be wary about using them if your office will not be open. Choose a day where you will be available to answer questions, reply to emails, and take meetings for your deadline to avoid putting potential prospects off by a delayed response.

7. Personalize everything

Emails. Gifts. Cards. Videos. Invoices. Everything. Need I say more?

8. Host a signing party 

Cater an early morning breakfast spread (complete with mimosas and Bloody Marys, if possible), extended Friday afternoon lunch or early evening cocktail party at the office when it’s time to get the partners and department heads to sign their holiday cards (assuming you supplement your e-cards with print holiday cards, at least for some of your most valuable contacts). Take photos during your signing party and use them in your messaging, or compile them into a holiday video.

9. Repeat yourself

Refresh and repeat your messages through a variety of channels in order to stay top of mind throughout the most prevalent advertising season (Facebook is your friend!). Change your visuals and update your verbiage, but if there is one particular “message” that you’re trying to get across before the end of the year, don’t be afraid to repeat it. Repetition is key. Only 2% of sales are made from the first contact, with 3% on the second. Don’t leave 95% of your potential business opportunities on the table.

10. Dish with the media

Talk to the media about why you chose the uber-unique client gifts you’re sending out this year, what the surprising or heartfelt response was when a gift was presented to a particular person or organization, which holiday-related charitable activities your firm is involved in, where your team leaders are volunteering in their spare time, why you organized a Flash Mob or “random” Christmas Carolers at the local mall, or anything else that expresses the spirit of the holidays. The media is always looking for uplifting, inspiring and unique stories to share. Pitch them the stories they are looking for and your firm will benefit from the exposure.

The holiday season essentially runs from Halloween through January 1st. You still have time to get on the holiday train to benefit from savvy year-end marketing campaigns. Boost your firm’s brand, gain some additional visibility, build relationships and pave the way for a prosperous New Year with some creative, inspired and well-planned holiday marketing. Remember to give thanks and be grateful for the business you already have.

What is the most inspired thing that you have done to promote your firm, express gratitude, build relationships, and increase recognition using the holiday theme? Share your stories in the comments below.

 
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*Customer Spotlight* – Johnson & Sheldon PC Shares How They Go To Market For CPA Firm Growth

*Customer Spotlight* – Johnson & Sheldon PC Shares How They Go To Market For CPA Firm Growth

*BIZACTIONS | PDI GLOBAL CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT*

Johnson & Sheldon, PC

Amarillo, TX

What do hot air balloons and accounting have in common? For Johnson & Sheldon, PC (J&S), balloons have helped market the firm’s accounting services and connect the firm with the community it serves – which helps foster CPA firm growth.

Last fall, we were a sponsor of the Up in the Air for Family Care Balloon Rally in Amarillo, which raised funds to provide healthcare services and equipment to those who can’t afford it,” says Kathy Sheldon, the firm’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “It’s typical of the activities we underwrite and provide volunteer support for. It was a very popular event, and very Amarillo. We loved being part of it, and it has generated a lot of goodwill for us.”

Big on sponsorships

J&S uses sponsorships, volunteerism and board involvements to increase visibility and build client and referral relationships. To this end, the firm supports such organizations as Amarillo Botanical Garden, Amarillo College, the Amarillo Symphony, the Downtown Women’s Center and the United Way, as well as the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce.

We sponsor almost every Chamber event there is, including the golf tournament, clay shooting tournament and barbecue,” Kathy says. “Sponsorships are a major part of our marketing program. They increase our visibility, provide networking opportunities and enable us to show we care about our community.

We believe that getting to know people, and having them learn about us, is the best way to generate new business. So our people are constantly out there participating in meetings, conferences and other events that provide networking and speaking opportunities. As a result, referrals — often from other clients — are a big source of new business for us.”

Very family-oriented

Like the Amarillo community it serves, J&S has a family-oriented culture. So it readily supports organizations that serve children and families, such as the Don Harrington Discovery Center (a science museum for children), the Family Care Foundation, and various local sports teams.

We believe that doing things to enrich the lives of families in the area makes this a better place to live for all of us,” Kathy notes.

To accommodate the family needs of its staff, the firm offers a flexible work schedule, as well as the ability to work part-time or from home. And it’s not afraid to spend some money showing its employees that they’re appreciated.

We want members of our firm to be able to balance their work and family lives, as well as enjoy being part of our firm,” Kathy says. “So we do things to help that happen. For example, we give an annual Christmas party that brings together the families of our firm members for some fun. We rent a facility, have Santa there to give gifts to the children, and provide goodies for everyone. It’s one of many things that our people like about working for our firm.”

Small but growing

J&S was founded 20 years ago as Johnson Moore Associates. In 2012, the name was changed to Johnson & Sheldon, PC to reflect the change in shareholders. The firm is now led by managing shareholder Terry Sheldon, along with partners Richard Blankenship and Jeff Joyce, supported by a staff of 30. With that help, along with the resources of the McGladrey Alliance, to which the firm belongs, J&S is able to serve businesses and individuals throughout the Texas Panhandle, as well as in the neighboring areas of Oklahoma, southern Colorado, eastern New Mexico and southwest Kansas.

Despite our small number of partners, we’re one of the larger firms in the area in terms of the size of our staff and the number of our clients,” Kathy says. “There are no Top 25 firms here, and we stand out from other local firms in terms of the size and depth of our audit staff, which is augmented by McGladrey firms, and in the experience of our tax staff, which many clients consider a real plus.”

In addition to individuals and businesses, the firm’s client base includes financial institutions, public school districts, nonprofits, agricultural cooperatives, and retail stores. It also provides bookkeeping, payroll and litigation support services, employee benefit plan audits, and, through the resources of the McGladrey Alliance, SEC public company audits.

Keeping its name out there

Johnson & Sheldon's bi-monthly email newsletter

Johnson & Sheldon’s bi-monthly email newsletter

To show leadership and stay in touch with clients, prospects and referral sources, Kathy sends out a bi-monthly email newsletter (from Thomson Reuters’ BizActions product line) to a list of 1,000 contacts, including all of the firm’s clients.

The newsletter gives me an easy way to regularly share helpful information with clients and other contacts,” Kathy says. “It’s one of the ways we keep our name out there and let people know about developments at our firm, such as new acquisitions or staff members. I like being able to send out such good content without having to spend time developing it, and our clients like receiving information about ways to meet challenges and increase their success.”

Besides the newsletter, J&S uses the BizActions Timely Opportunities Widget to regularly add news items to its website, and posts the BizActions online Tax Planning Guide on it. It also posts BizActions Tax Bites for Social Media content on its Facebook page.

In addition, the firm uses community involvement and networking to increase visibility and build client and referral relationships.

We encourage our accountants to take clients to lunch, participate in professional organizations like the Panhandle Chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs, and get involved in community groups,” says Kathy. “Networking is still one of our best ways to develop client and referral relationships.”

Planning for the future

Kathy attributes their CPA firm growth partially to acquisitions over the years. She also stated that J&S is primed for additional growth, strategically seeking to fill positions that will enable the firm to continue to expand its service offerings and serve more target markets. They are even looking to increasing their leadership team, keeping an eye on continuity and succession planning for the firm.

We’ve grown in recent years by acquiring the clients and staff of several local firms as their owners retired, and we’re looking to acquire additional firms as their partners sell out. We’d like to remain the largest CPA firm in our area and become the largest in our region.

We’ve seen increased interest in tax, financial reporting and audit services in recent years as tax laws get more complex and reporting standards more stringent. So we’re looking to add people in those areas. We’d also like to add more Spanish-speaking staff, so we can connect more with the Hispanic community in our area and do more business with it.

To guide and manage our growth, we plan to add three to five shareholders to our leadership team in the near future, and are currently training members of our firm for that purpose by having them become more involved in the decision-making process. Our current shareholders aren’t getting any younger, and we want to make sure we’ll have the people resources we’ll need to stay one of the top firms in our market for years to come.”

 
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The Final 3 Stops on our Email Marketing Cruise

The Final 3 Stops on our Email Marketing Cruise

Ahoy, marketing mateys! On the fourth and final day of our email marketing odyssey, we will check out the social media scene, review our email metrics and drop anchor at our final destination, Accountability Harbor. Come aboard as our journey comes full circle and we complete our 12-point email marketing checklist.

10. Social Seaport

The social scene can be a happening place when you integrate your email marketing communications with your social media initiatives. Social media can generate enhanced exposure for your email content, increase email opt-ins, build your online reputation and generate leads. Email and social integration helps maximize the life, value and reach of your content.

Enhanced exposure

Email and social should be continually referring back and forth to one another. Opportunities exist within each communication tool to promote the other and work cohesively together.

  • Email
    Social sharing functionality should be integrated into the email platform you choose. “Share this” tools can allow subscribers to easily share your email content with their social communities. Your email messaging also offers multiple opportunities to promote your social networks. Your emails can incorporate social media banner ads, buttons, icons, images and other tools that drive email subscribers to your social pages.
  • Social
    Tap into your social pages to feature your email newsletter content and other email messaging. Valuable, informative, timely communications will be welcomed by your social media followers. Don’t be too shy to ask your social fans to share, retweet or like your great, sharable email content.

Increase email opt-ins & gain new followers

When you share your email newsletter content, you are also presenting an opportunity for fans and followers to subscribe to your email communications. Your sharable email articles themselves could feature “sign up to receive more great content like this” promotions in the footer or closing, or a call to action somewhere in the message.

Social fans and followers who have demonstrated interest in an email article featured on your social networks are likely to be receptive to hearing more from you. It is a good idea to use your quality content as a tool to occasionally remind your fans that they could also receive email updates. Think about incorporating a promotion such as, “Like what you see here? Sign up to receive more…”

You can also periodically share direct links to your email newsletter sign-up form on you social networks as a stand-alone plea. It is always a good idea to simply (and politely) ask fans to sign up to receive your email marketing campaigns.

Build your online reputation

Email messages about your company news, events, updates, happening topics and thought leadership can all be flowed through your social channels. When you share your valuable, informative content, you build credibility in your social communities.

Be mindful that each social platform has a tone and voice of its own, and be prepared to align your brand voice with the expectations of the various social networks. Your shared messaging should not be echoed across your social pages; rather, you should develop new variations within each platform to best speak to its particular audience.

You can also take the team approach to social involvement and get your staff involved. Establish social media guidelines, procedure and strategy, and be sure your team fully understands what you are seeking to accomplish through a social team approach. A social community that includes each of your team members can be a powerful and effective representative for your business. Each member of your team has something unique to offer, and the collection of these voices all showcasing their professional perspectives, expertise and abilities will help lead fans and followers to your virtual doorstep.

Generate leads

Email newsletter sign-up promotions can help build your list and grow opportunities, but there are some other ways you can generate leads and drive traffic from your social pages to your company. Be sure to feature downloadable resources and event registrations on your social platforms. Offer whitepaper downloads, promote your next seminar or share links to your online resources libraries. Social media contests can be another way to gather contact information and help promote your business. Be sure to review your social networks’ terms of service prior to launching a social media contest.

11. Metrics Marina

So, you have gone through the checklist, dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”… What’s next? Review your metrics and build a process to regularly report on your campaign effectiveness. Determine what you are seeking to accomplish in your email campaigns, establish your base lines and set goals.

Review your metrics, compare them with your goals and take the following into consideration:

  • What is the objective that needs to be measured?
  • What metrics best represent this objective?
  • Who is going to use this metric?
  • How is it going to be used?
  • Who will make the measurement?
  • How is the measurement going to be made?

Your metrics will help you determine what is working and what is not. Monitoring your metrics and reporting should be a regular, recurring part of your email marketing and lead generation activities.  It is a good idea to check in on your campaigns right before and right after you launch your messages in order to compare and contrast the success of each launch against historical expectations. If messages are being launched on a weekly basis, then weekly metrics check-ins should be a part of the launch process.

At the very least, check in on your metrics on a monthly basis to get an overview of your achievements. This process enables you to watch the arc of your marketing achievements to date. If you are generating monthly reports and tracking your campaigns in a measurable way, it becomes easy to share your campaign statistics with your team members as needed.

12. Accountability Harbor

Find refuge in your editorial calendars, email processes, metrics and marketing strategies. Guidelines, timelines, brand specifications and other accountability equipment will help your communications sail smoothly. Your email strategies can be a source of new business opportunities when you implement a lead generation strategy and stick to it.

  • Assign a lead monitoring champion and determine an appropriate flow of leads to decision-makers
  • Be sure to monitor your email metrics to determine which members of your database are your warmest leads
  • Connect the dots between your warm leads and your rainmakers by lining up subscriber interest with the relevant expertise of your professionals
  • Regularly produce lead lists for your professional team to follow up on
  • Have a system of accountability in place to determine if there is appropriate follow-through on leads generated by your email communications
  • Track your ROMI based on the dollar amount of new business gained versus your marketing expenditures

Follow these simple steps to create a wellspring of continual new business. After all, a solid lead generation process helps you do what is most important to you - continue the success of your business.

Our Odyssey Comes to an End

As we complete our email marketing journey, let’s review the activities we participated in along the way:

  1. Database Dock – We learned that our database is the foundation of our email marketing efforts and that list hygiene is a critical component of overall marketing success.
  2. Port Opt-In – We found that subscribers who come along with us for the journey are far more likely to stay for the duration of the trip than those we forcibly enlist.
  3. Welcome Aboard – We discovered that a warm welcome goes a long way, and that our welcome messages can help engage new subscribers from the onset.
  4. Strategy Pier- We determined that our email editorial calendars should align with our various online marketing initiatives to build momentum.
  5. Subject Line Station – We gleaned valuable insight into crafting attention-getting email subject lines that maximize readability and deliverability.
  6. Inbox Landing - We gained knowledge into the various components of our email messages that can affect deliverability.
  7. Personalization Springs - We began to understand that getting personal with our readers helps boost engagement and establish a connection with our audience.
  8. Aesthetics Lagoon – We saw that email messaging can be enhanced through the use of aesthetically pleasing elements, such as images, fonts and colors.
  9. Call to Action Cove - We found out how important calls to action (CTAs) are in our email messaging, and how to deliver clear, attention-getting CTAs that provoke response.
  10. Social Seaport – We realized that using both email and social media together gives our content more reach, shelf life and exposure.
  11. Metrics Marina – We noted that having procedures in place for when and how to measure our marketing benchmarks and review reporting will help you identify more leads.
  12. Accountability Harbor – We outlined a few questions to consider when developing your lead generation strategy that will help your business thrive.

There you have it. We’ve completed our travels through the 12 points of our email marketing journey. Thanks for joining us on our odyssey. We hope that you learned some new strategies that will put favorable wind beneath your own email marketing sails.

 

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