Marketing your practice – how-to guide
Tarryn Brent and I were thrilled to share tips for marketing your practice with bookkeepers and accountants at Xerocon New Zealand 2014. We talked about what businesses can do to retain clients, win new clients and convert existing clients to Xero. You don’t have to do everything we recommend, but a little goes a long way to ensure your practice is moving and changing with the times.
Read on, for a summary of what we discussed.
What is marketing?
Marketing isn’t just the promotional activity you undertake; it’s your pricing, your people, your terms and conditions – it’s everything you do. Don’t be afraid of marketing, because you’re already doing it. Use it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself.
We can define marketing with the four Ps: product or service, place, price and promotion.
Product or service: What needs does your product/service satisfy or what problem does it fix? What can you deliver?
Place: How do customers buy/consume? How will your product/service be delivered?
Price: What’s the value? Are there pre-set price points? How do you compare? Are customers price sensitive?
Promotion: How and where will you reach the audience? What is the best time to promote to them? How are the competition promoting?
Why is brand important?
Your brand is everything you are. It consists of your people, your product, and your messaging. It differentiates you from your competitors. The key is to live your brand and be consistent. If you run a modern, cloud-based practice – don’t fax me the contract! Deliver on the expectations of your customers, create an emotional attachment with your brand, and don’t break promises.
Six marketing plays
The way we see it, there are six plays for successfully marketing your business.
1. Know your target market when marketing your practice
Do your research. Find out who they are, what they do, and where they live and work. What drives them? What makes them tick? What do they need?
2. Match client needs
What are the needs of your target market? Can you match their needs with your products or services?
Take creatives for example: designers, copywriters, photographers, artists and architects – their job is to focus on their craft, while business management and accounting are secondary. They understand the need for invoicing, payroll and time and job costing, but they might not understand the ins and outs of the financials and might not want to. Your job is to help with guidance.
3. The elevator pitch
Once you know your market and how you’ll meet their needs, you need to wrap it up in a proposition that will speak to them. In a few short sentences, describe why you and Xero are a great combination. For example, if you’re targeting creatives, who care about design and functionality, ease of use and making their business successful, you could say:
“You’re going to love Xero. It runs in the cloud, so you just log in and use it from anywhere, whenever you want. And I can log in to help you out whenever you need me to. Xero is famous for being beautifully designed. Year after year, it wins big design awards. It will change your life, because Xero connects to your bank accounts. We will help you make your business a success.”
4. Don’t wait, act
Don’t wait for customers to come to you – be proactive. Look through your list of current clients: are there any that fit into your target audience? Have they already been converted to Xero? If not, why not? Do they know about Xero? Reach out to them.
Do some research and look for your target businesses in your area. Enquire with professional associations for businesses that might need your help. Some might require you to sign up before having access to their members, while others will allow you to advertise on their website or in their newsletter. Others may have events you could sponsor.
5. The tools for making yourself heard
So now you’re ready to market your services, but you need to make yourself heard. There are a variety of marketing tools you can use to reach potential customers.
We don’t suggest every tool is appropriate for you, so get familiar with the different options and determine which one or combination would work best for your practice and provide you with the greatest return on investment.
Use your website to tell your audience what you do and how you’re different from your competitors. Use video testimonials and case studies. Be easily contactable so customers can ask more. Decide if you want to publish your pricing and include your added value propositions – including your partnership with Xero, of course.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) & search engine marketing (SEM)
When marketing your practice online, SEO and SEM are important tools that help search engines like Google find you, drawing more visitors and potential customers to your site and improving the user experience.
Good SEO is something you can do yourself, or with help from our dedicated SEO experts, Lucy Godwin and Dave Anderson.
They know what Google loves and what it’s looking for, so they can provide you with advice based on their knowledge. It’s free because our goal is to improve our partners’ search engine ranking, and therefore our own.
The process is simple – we take a look at partners’ websites and make suggestions that will be relatively easy to implement. For example:
SEO-friendly URLS, title tags, and meta descriptions
Optimised copy containing natural, targeted keywords
Proper file names, alternative text and title text for images.
We’ve also created an SEO Guide for Partners, which is designed to help you become familiar with the basics of SEO. It explains what SEO is and gives you tips for optimising your website. You can also email Lucy (NZ/AU/UK) or Dave (US), who are happy to answer any questions you have about SEO.
SEM uses the same technology as SEO, but includes paid ads like Google Adwords. It offers you the opportunity to pay based on clicks, and ads in a successful SEM campaign will be shown to those who are specifically looking for your products or services.
There are some real benefits to using social media, particularly the ability to forge closer, more interactive relationships with clients and associates. It’s also a great way to engage with prospects, communicate instantly to a wider market and drive traffic to your website.
With a wide range of social media sites, like most things, they seem complicated until you learn more. At the very least, you should have a LinkedIn profile for your business and your employees, but think about Twitter and Facebook, too (and there are plenty more!).
If you’re not sure about how best to use social media, think of a networking session with a room full of people – participate in conversation, exchange business cards, and be sure to include a blend of personal and professional. It’s just the same online.
Blogging is a great way of posting your news and views online and can be done on a standalone website or on your business website. Blogs are becoming increasingly popular as a marketing tool, providing an easy way to update and refresh your website, without having to continually go back to your web designer. When it comes to blog content, keep it relevant to your business, establish your objectives and make sure you stick to them.
6. Always add value
The financials are important to any business, but there are other elements that feed into a business’s success. If they’re not already using them, advise your clients on the value of using add-ons from the Xero ecosystem that have been tailored to integrate with Xero to save time and money.