Writing for accountants and bookkeepers: how to promote your practice

Accountant & Bookkeeper Guides

6 min read

How you describe your firm online can have a massive effect on your marketing. Our research has found that firms with well-written profiles are seven times more likely to inspire an action in the reader. Learn how to write the perfect profile.

What the data says

Xero runs an advisor directory for firms that use our product. It’s a place where businesses who have Xero can find an accountant or bookkeeper who knows the technology. During a three-week period in 2016, the directory generated about 14,500 referrals for our partners, but the results varied widely. Some practices got more than a dozen referrals a week. Others got one – or none.

At first we thought the discrepancies were search related. It made sense that some accountant and bookkeeper listings might not appear as often as others. So we ran the study again, except this time we only compared listings that were seen at least 100 times per week. The results were essentially the same.

After further analysis, we found it was the quality of the listing that made the difference. More specifically, it was the way the profile was written.

  • Well-written profiles prompted 11% of readers to contact the advisor or visit their website

  • Poor profiles rarely inspired any action

Good profiles mean good business

Strong profiles on the Xero advisor directory generated up to 13 referrals a week. That could equate to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of revenue.

To help accountants and bookkeepers improve the way they write about their firms, we compared high-performing profiles with poor ones to identify the lessons. These tips won’t just lift the performance of a Xero advisor listing, they should help all your online writing – including your website and social media pages.

Writing for accountants – tips and guidelines

Our study found that poor profiles often used obscure or complicated language. They also focused too much on firm size and location rather than the services they offered. Effective listings use simple terms, outline specific services, and they let the practice’s personality shine through.  

When writing your profile, try to:

  • Show some love – Demonstrate that you’ll really value a new client’s business.

  • Explain what you do – Build a clear picture of your services.

  • Talk about quality service – Illustrate your commitment to providing only the best.

  • Tell them how you go above and beyond – Going the extra mile builds meaningful relationships. Show them you’ll do that.

Consider using these guidelines to help during your writing process.

1. Start with the goal in mind

Take a moment to work out who you’re talking to and what you’re trying to achieve.

  • Who is your ideal client and what are they like?

  • What do you want them to think and feel when they read your profile?

  • What action do you want them to take?

  • What would make them want to contact you once they’ve found your profile?  

Use your knowledge of existing clients – including their motivations and anxieties – to imagine what makes your prospective clients tick.

2. Figure out what makes you different

What sets your practice apart from others. There’s something special about what you offer – something you’re proud of – so tell people about it. It’s why they might choose you. Jot down your ideas then gut-check them with colleagues. If you can, it might help to ask trusted clients what they value about your firm.

But don’t just say what you do differently. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader and ask:

  • So what? Explain how your services will benefit them

  • How so? Tell them how you’ll deliver on the promises you make

Good writing can have a real impact on your new business pipeline, your revenue, and your bottom line.

3. Have a conversation, don’t give a lecture

The descriptions that work best on our advisor directory communicate in a direct and personal way. Imagine the business owner is a friend who you’re chatting with. Start with a statement that gets their interest and go from there. Use everyday language and an informal tone. Words like ‘we’ and ‘you’ will help to keep it personal. Writing in this way will help your values, passion and skills to come across, while making the reader feel comfortable.

Learn how to pitch your firm in person, too

4. Talk about them, not about you

Put yourself in the shoes of the business owner. Yes, they need to know you’re experienced, competent and trustworthy, but mostly they want to know:

  • how you can help them

  • how you work

Give concrete details, so they know what to expect. And try to use language that makes it easy for them to relate to you. They’ll want to feel like you’re on the same wavelength as they are. It’s worth taking a look at other practice profiles and noticing which ones spark your interest and which ones you dismiss as bland or boring.

Keep details like your practice size, longevity, accomplishments, testimonials and awards brief. Put them last, not first.

5. Use plain English

Writing in plain English means using language that readers can easily understand and act on. It’s being adopted by governments and businesses across the globe and the rules are really simple. They’re also written in plain English, so they’re easy to understand. Check them out.

These plain English guidelines will help you get started:

  • Write for the intended reader.

  • Keep most of your sentences short, around 15-20 words.

  • Use more active verbs than passive verbs (the plain English site explains this well).

  • Use 'you' and 'we'.

  • Use the simplest words that are appropriate for the reader.

  • Don't be afraid to give instructions, such as “Contact us.”

  • Use lists where appropriate.

Plain English is not dumbing down. It’s an acknowledgement that shorter, simpler sentences are more easily read. Most online browsers don’t have the time or energy to interpret complex sentences. Even if they’re really intelligent and well educated.

Don’t worry about length

Shorter profiles didn’t perform any better than longer ones in our study. So while most writing manuals will encourage you to keep your writing as brief as possible, you don’t need to be paranoid about it. Write as many words as you need to.

But if your profile is going to be longer, put the most important information at the top. Open with a summary of your major points, then cover them in more detail down the page. Use clear headings to help readers find the information they’re looking for.

Think about context

Think about where the reader on your page has come from. How did they find you? Where were they two clicks earlier? A lot of the time you simply won’t know, but if you can figure it out, you’ll know the journey they’re on and you can make what you write more relevant.

For example, prospects who find you on our advisor directory are generally businesses who have subscribed to Xero (or are thinking about it). They’re novices who are looking for someone who knows the software. Keep that in mind when writing your profile. If you help set up Xero for clients, or you offer education and support, say so. It’ll probably help.

Writing for accountants – it’s mostly about simplicity

Good writing can have a real impact on your new business pipeline, your revenue, and your bottom line. Keep these tips in mind and try and learn more about plain English. You could get professional help or teach yourself how to do it.

But above all, remember to keep it simple. Clean, well-structured writing is not condescending to well-informed business owners. It simply respects their time.  And if your profile is read by someone who is feeling overwhelmed by finances, tax and accounting, your clear-headed writing will be a welcome relief.

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