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Is Your CTA MIA?

Is Your CTA MIA?

If your readers love your content, but don’t have the ability to do anything other than read it, then your message might be missing a call to action (CTA). Every piece of content you distribute should contain a clear CTA. Don’t let your messages miss out on the chance to give your audience a worthwhile next step.

Readers perusing your email, website or blog post might want to download your latest report, find your social media channels, or take some other action. But without an obvious pathway toward this information, the pursuit of information may be abandoned. It can actually be quite frustrating for visitors to go hunting through a website or message – unable to find what they are looking for. Clear CTAs help your readers avoid frustration and help you capture opportunities.

What is a CTA?

CTA Example 1The CTA is the cornerstone of inbound marketing lead generation. A call to action is simply any type of graphic or text that a prospect can utilize to take a next step. CTAs can be as subtle as a “Visit our Website” link at the top of your email newsletter, or as overt as an image inviting readers to “Download Our Guide by April 30th and Receive a Free Travel Mug.”

Good CTAs point readers in the direction of your valuable resources, better CTAs capture contact information in exchange for a downloadable item, and the best CTAs accomplish both these tasks while also grabbing attention, enticing readers and succinctly offering exactly what your readers want or need from your message.

CTA Examples:

  • CTA Example 2Free consultation offers
  • Downloads
  • Sign-ups
  • Enticing give-aways
  • “Buy now” offers
  • Polls and surveys
  • Opportunities to learn more

Why include a CTA?

Your content marketing strategies are basically ineffective without CTAs. Your content exists to establish pathways back to your front door. Without a call to action, that pathway can dissolve causing your readers to start looking elsewhere for more information or additional resources. When you have a reader already looking to your content to help them solve problems, seize the opportunity to light the way to your next offering.

What does a CTA do for me?

CTAs route readers to your ancillary communication channels and additional resources: blog, social media, online resources, website, and so on. This helps drive traffic to your various marketing initiatives. They can also help you build your list by capturing contact information or new opt-in email subscribers. Most importantly, CTAs help you generate leads. When a prospect responds to your CTA and downloads your latest report, whitepaper or other nifty resource, you capture their contact information. Prospects who actively choose to receive the communications and resources you offer are your highly-engaged warm leads. This means they already have you in mind when you follow up with them through drip campaigns, follow-up calls or other nurturing efforts.

CTA Example 3How can I incorporate effective CTAs into my messages?

It is worth your time and energy to plan and track your calls to action. After all, this planning comes back to you in the form of engaged prospects, and impressed onlookers convert into new clients.

Take these six simple steps, and you will begin taking your messages from CTA MIA to actionable:

1. Brainstorm

Think about what you would like your CTA to accomplish and how it will achieve that objective:

  • What do I want my readers to do?
  • How will my CTA get them where I want them to go?
  • Is there a deadline for responding?
  • Do I have an incentive to offer?
  • Am I capturing contact information, and if so, how much?

2. Create

CTA Example 4Incorporate visual cues, such as graphics, images and succinct text, into your CTA in an aesthetically pleasing and stimulating manner. Be sure your use of color, typeface and imagery cohesively blend with your brand specifications. Here are some things to consider:

  • Is the CTA attention getting?
  • Is the CTA visually appealing?
  • Does the CTA quickly, clearly communicate my objective?
  • Is the CTA at or near the top of my message (above the fold)?
  • Does the CTA make sense with the message content?

Also keep in mind that your readers will become overwhelmed if you are asking them to go in too many directions at once. Make each CTA relevant to the message at hand. Avoid cluttering your messages.

3. Test

You will also want to test the basic functionality of your CTA. Have you ever clicked on a website link that did not work or tried to access something in an email message that directed you to a wrong page? Then you understand the impression that a “broken” CTA can give. Make sure your CTAs are functional. Beyond function, you may also want to perform A/B tests to determine which wording, placement, color scheme or other factors work best in your messaging.

4. Capture

CTA Example 5All of your CTAs should capture click activity, contact information or both (depending on the purpose of your CTA). Be sure the lead source is tied to these records and consider other data you might like to associate with these new database members: inception date, prospect location, campaign name, A/B test identifiers, etc.

5. Respond

If your CTA is for a newsletter sign up, whitepaper or report download, be sure to deliver your resource as soon after form completion as possible. If an email newsletter, welcome message, or a responsive email message, lands in a recipient’s inbox days after the opt-in form was completed, that message runs the risk of being mistaken as junk mail. Your CTAs should quickly deliver on their promises.

6. Track

Don’t do all that work and then forget to follow up on your opportunities. Track the responses from your CTAs and further nurture your prospects with relevant drip campaigns, additional offers or even a phone call.

Make sure your CTAs are not missing in action. After all, the CTA is the essential element of your inbound marketing strategies that helps you generate new leads and offer crucial next steps to your engaged prospects.

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

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Four Types of Stories That Will Help You Earn More Business

Four Types of Stories That Will Help You Earn More Business

The title on this blog post was originally “Four Stories That Will Help You Sell More Services”. Do accountants, attorneys, payroll providers and bankers sell services? It sounds so tawdry. Ask any of your peers if they sell services and their unfiltered, off-the-cuff response will likely be “no” – until they think about it, and then grudgingly concede that yes, in fact, they do actually sell services.

Cringe if you must, but it is a fact that CPAs and other business advisors sell professional services. You must “sell” your expertise, your knowledge base, your ethics, your years of education and experience, your skills, your creativity, your ability to solve problems, your capacity for listening, your empathy, and your trustworthiness. When dealing with existing clients, where the bond has already been established, all you have to do is maintain the relationship. When you are actively seeking new business, however, it can often be particularly challenging to establish the necessary rapport to get a prospect in the door.

You have to tell a story.

In my last post , I discussed why stories are effective in marketing and sales. Incorporating stories into your marketing and business development will help you bond with your prospects, nurturing them and earning their trust. Trust is an essential step in the buying lifecycle, particularly when it comes to selecting an accountant (or an attorney, payroll provider, banker, etc).

These four stories really do help you earn more business.

In this post, I review which stories will help you sell more services, earn you more business and boost your bottom line. Consider how you can thoughtfully incorporate these fory types of stories that have been proven effective time and again into your marketing strategy.

1. Personal Stories

I started off this blog post with a personal story. Did you notice? If you’re still reading, it was at least moderately effective. One of the most successful ways to reach out to prospects and show them that you are their best choice for their estate planning needs is to profile yourself, your staff and your current clients in the form of a personal story. People respond to people, particularly if sincerity is palpable. Stories come in many shapes and sizes, so don’t be shy about recording one on video, jotting one down on your blog, drawing a cartoon, or sharing one on your Facebook page. Use first person whenever possible to establish that connection with your readers. Infuse emotion into the story so that your readers can relate and begin bonding with you on an emotional level. Anecdotal stories are frequently the easiest to draft, as the memories are yours. If story telling is new to you, start with a personal anecdote and go from there.

2. Success Stories

Success stories are just a twist on personal stories. Rather than using yourself as the main character, use your clients. They all have a story to tell – the story of how you helped them through a particularly painful situation. Success stories persuade, even when a sale is not the primary objective. While protecting your clients’ privacy, tell the story of their struggle. What was the issue? Why was it such a big problem? How did it affect the client’s life, business, family, perspective, financial resources, status in the community, relationships, reputation or success? Be specific. Be poignant. And then focus on the positive – the outcome, the success.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies conducted a youth-oriented anti-smoking campaign that was highly effective because they used success stories that included the initial struggle to overcome the addiction. The ads evoked empathy in addition to fear. Empathy was the winning trait. “Personal testimonial ads rely on emotional appeals that may enhance message relevance and credibility… there is increasing evidence that ads using personal stories are effective.” If success stories can convince teenagers not to smoke, couldn’t they be used to convince your prospects to hire you?

3. Pop Culture Stories

Pop culture is a great communication starter. At parties, we meet new people and discuss celebrities, television shows, pop culture happenings, politics and other current events as ice breakers. Use the same ice-breaker concept to break into your prospects’ hearts and minds. Tell the story of a known celebrity who has experienced a similar pain point as one your prospects might be facing. There are dozens of tragic stories of wealthy Hollywood types who “forgot” to plan for their estate, or failed to maintain and update their plans that resulted in family feuds that lasted for years. These kinds of stories are fodder for a “don’t follow this example” story that might resonate with your prospects. Consider adding how you would have handled and resolved the matter had you been involved, infusing yourself and your product or service into the story. As long as your prospects understand that it is a hypothetical situation, you may introduce yourself as the would-have-been protagonist.

4. Historical Stories

Persuading prospects to consider you for their estate planning needs can often come with stories from times of yore. The historical story might take a bit of additional research, but the time spent collecting data to support your case will likely be worth it when you get new business from it. On last summer’s television hit show Franklin & Bash on TNT, the partnering lawyers have a reputation for using both personal and historical stories in their courtroom antics with tremendous success. Their behavior may not be traditional or conservative, but it is effective. They use stories in each case to persuade and connect with the jury. While these are fictional characters in fictional courtrooms, the show’s writers developed the characters’ behavior based on standard neuromarketing research – stories have an emotional impact and can generate the desired response if told properly.

The relationship between accountant or other professional advisor and client is a complex one. It is professional, yes, but there is a personal element as well. Perhaps this is due to the client’s need to divulge sensitive or intimate information. Perhaps is it due to the nature of the work. Regardless of the reason, prospects have to get to know you, trust you and maybe even like you before they take the plunge to hire you. Using stories, you will create a bond with prospects that will help you win their trust and earn more business.

 
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Posted in: Business Development, Business Growth, Client Development, Content Marketing, CPA Firm Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Prospecting, Social Media Marketing

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Design Your Website Around Your Clients to Earn More New Business

Design Your Website Around Your Clients to Earn More New Business

Don’t simply design your website as a marketing tool. Instead, consider how designing your website around existing clients can help your accounting firm land more new business.

If you are considering a strategy for refreshing your current website, or perhaps designing your first website, here is some contrarian advice: do not design it as a marketing tool. Let’s face it, most business people will not select an accountant based on a Google search. Referrals are still the most prolific and effective lead source for accounting firms. So why not design your website around the people doing the referring – your current clients?

Here is a simple way to design a world-class website for a tax or accounting firm in three simple steps.

First, make it your website.

Include items that are specific and unique to your firm.

  • Show pictures of your location and your staff.
  • Include imagery of your logo.
  • Include a listing of your services.
  • Include directions and a map.

Second, make your website a valuable resource for your clients.

Provide information and resources to your clients to help them with business and financial issues.

  • Newsletters and articles on recent tax changes can be informative.
  • Financial calculators, such as lease or purchase analysis, mortgage calculators, and retirement target calculators are surprisingly easy to find and add to your site.
  • Links to agencies that your clients might need to contact are also helpful. These can include the IRS, state and local government and taxing agencies, EEOC, SBA, Department of Labor, etc. If a client asks your advice on who to contact for an issue, or how to contact a specific agency, add that agency to the Links section of your website.

Third, provide personal, online services to your clients through private, secure portals.

While online services have become a business requirement for banks and investment services, they can also offer a strong competitive advantage for accounting services.

  • Clients will value the convenience of 24/7 access to their financial statements and tax returns.
  • Providing profitable payroll services to your clients is easy and cost-effective, and the internet makes it easier than ever. Clients enter payroll information and receive PDF copies of paychecks online that they can then print out. It’s more convenient for them and it significantly lowers processing costs for you.
  • By aggregating your clients’ investment and financial information into a single secure location that your clients access through your website, you can increase traffic to your site.

So, here’s the ironic twist. By not designing your website as a marketing tool and instead focusing on how better to serve your clients, you will increase client satisfaction. This will most likely result in more referrals, which in essence, will make your website a more effective marketing tool.

 
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Posted in: Client Service, CPA Accounting Firm Management, CPA Firm Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing

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Why Design is Critical in Email Newsletters

Why Design is Critical in Email Newsletters

Let’s face it, we are a visual culture. Visual appeal affects every aspect of our lives. From choosing a potential romantic entanglement to choosing a breakfast cereal, that initial eye-catching image has a lot more to do with who and what we choose than most of us are willing to admit. Visual appeal is an equally important element of good design, and email newsletters need to be as well-designed as they are informative and educational.

Without a harmonious balance between the black and white words on the screen and the visual design elements of your piece, you run the risk of getting overlooked by your readers.

Why is design critical to the success of your email newsletter campaign and how you can get involved in the design process?

To prove the case for good design, I have the law on my side. Attorneys can tell you from experience that many of us fail to read the fine print. A good number of us are only paying attention to the information that was called out for us in in some way. There are also a few of us who pay little attention to anything that does not call us to take action, such as the “Sign Here” line at the bottom of the document.

Why do we hate reading the fine print even though we know there may be some important information hiding in the tiny text? Why do vital pieces of written information frequently get missed? This is due to the fact that about 65 percent of the population is comprised of visual learners. (Source: Pearson educational publishing.)

Knowing this, you can assume that visual learners represent roughly half of your newsletter readership. Visual learners won’t automatically read into a written message in detail. Instead they glance through a piece looking for information they feel is of relevance or importance to them. They are looking for visual cues to help them engage in your content. At least one out of every two people viewing your email newsletter content will benefit from strong design elements.

Effective Design Elements:

  • Sidebars
  • Quotes
  • Charts & Graphs
  • Calls to Action
  • Numbered Lists
  • Changing Typography
  • Images
  • Cartoons
  • Video

Why else is design critical?

As a professional service provider, you have an obligation to keep your clients informed and up to date on matters affecting their businesses and their lives. However, well-laid design can transform your content from run-of-the-mill information updates into an interactive, engaging resource that will help you generate new business growth.

Well-executed design allows you to tap into your clients’ various learning styles. Some readers will want to skim your article, some will want to absorb every minute detail, and even some others will want to hear it in a podcast. Design coupled with innovation gives you a means of establishing a connection with any learner.

Provide your audience with points that call out information and then guide them through your content. Your article titles are the first pieces of information that can draw your audience in, followed by sub-headings, quotations, numbered lists, sidebars, charts, graphs, images, captions, sound bites, video and so on. Design tools should complement your content and can be used in various combinations to draw readers of all types into your email newsletter.

Here are five additional points to consider in the case for good design:

1. Recognition

A critical element of your overall email newsletter design is your readers’ ability to immediately recognize and connect with your brand. You work hard to establish your brand in the marketplace, and the overall design of your email newsletter can further build that image. Your brand is a recognizable visual identity that your clients, prospects and referral sources mentally connect with your firm’s reputation and value. A repetitive, yet relevant and solicited, stream of informative communications coming from your firm will serve to strengthen and enhance your brand, build top of mind awareness and reinforce your firm’s credibility.

2. Action

Design can move your readers into action. The “call to action” is essentially the integration of design and content to provoke contact from your readers. If a call to action is done well, it leads your readers down a path where there next obvious action would be to either contact your firm directly or find another relationship-building interaction with your firm. For example, you might have a simple request for interested parties to attend your next seminar. Your call to action would begin with the event announcement, follow through in the body of the message with relevant details about what information will be gained from attending, and then achieve the goal of action when the “register today” request results in a completed registration form. Good design can be employed to direct potential event registrants sign up through the use of graphics, images, bulleted lists and a strong call to “register soon”.

3. Enjoyment

Design helps your readers to engage in your email newsletter and can provide a sense of enjoyment. When your readers find themselves enjoying your content, it can help elicit positive emotion. These somewhat emotional interactions can actually build an impression and increase the likelihood that your reader will remember your article.

Type treatments and styles will help your readers better understand your content, and increased understanding inherently leads to enhanced enjoyment. Add an image or two along the way that support or reinforce your message content, and you will create a lasting impression. Readers who are prone to scanning will also dig more deeply into your message if they have a couple images or other visual cues and stylized text to help them along.

4. Attention

Your readers are constantly being bombarded by messages. Attention-grabbing design helps get you noticed in an over-stuffed inbox. In this day of information overload, design can help take the stress out of the experience for your readers. If they remembered enjoying your last email newsletter, can easily recognize your brand, and can quickly spot a few pieces of information relevant to them — then you have won the battle against the delete key. Your design can give your recipients a visual note that your content is important, yet accessible. It can tell them in just a few seconds that they can trust your message, and that they will appreciate the knowledge you have to share.

5. Focus

Design focus can be accomplished in two ways: first as a means of drawing your readers further into your content, and secondly as a method of communicating with a targeted audience. Design can improve reader focus through the process of creating a visual and informational hierarchy. Part of capturing that highly-engaged focus is having an understanding your audience. Targeted communications are a highly effective means of honing in on a subset and speaking directly to them. It is important to identify any niche industries that you serve and communicate directly to their pain points in your targeted email blasts. Communications focused on the needs of your subscribers will lead to enhanced client relationships and prospect conversion.

If you haven’t already begun to consider your business goals and what you want to accomplish through your communications — think about these things now. Lay out a plan for what you want to say and how often you want to say it. Arm yourself with a solid strategy and get involved in the process of designing your email newsletters.

Every designers’ dirty little secret is that they copy other designers’ work. They see work they like, and they imitate it. Rather cheekily, they call this inspiration.” –Aaron Russell

Whether it is email newsletters or other e-marketing tools, it may be helpful to consult with a designer prior to embarking on a campaign. You can also employ a designer to help breathe life into a stagnating campaign. A designer can recommend distinctive methodologies that will draw greater attention to your content marketing and help you achieve your goals. Make a plan to be a part of the process with your designer.

How to get involved in the process:

  • Know your goals, know your objectives, know your audience
  • Make sure your partners and/or senior management are on board with these goals
  • Clearly communicate your needs to the designer
  • Adhere to a schedule for approvals and deliverables
  • Clearly communicate all proofs and revisions with the decision makers at your firm and return feedback in a timely fashion — multiple revisions can add time and cost to a design project

Good design is a critical component to the success of your newsletter campaign. You may be considering seeking out professional design services, or perhaps you are thinking about integrating some new design elements into your newsletter. In either case, it is important to remember that beyond looking great, your content needs to provide real value to your readers. With the marriage of great content and stellar design, your email marketing efforts are sure to reap you the rewards of highly engaged clients and new business opportunities.

 
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Posted in: Advertising, Email Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Newsletters, Online Marketing

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4 Stages Of Maturity For An Accounting Firm

4 Stages Of Maturity For An Accounting Firm

I’ve been discussing the four stages of maturity with accountants at trade shows, seminars, and conferences for so long that I’m not quite sure where I originally heard about them. They’ve stuck in my mind for all these years mostly because they’re fun to talk about. But I’ve found that they can also be a useful way to think about your business.

What stage are you at right now, and where would you like to be?

Stage 1: “I will do business with anybody.”

This is where most new firms start out. Hungry to get work from any clients (and in some cases, just plain hungry), you’ll take work from anybody, under any conditions.

Stage 2: “I will only do business with clients that actually pay me.”

Armed with the experience you gained in stage one, you are now able to look at potential clients and assess their ability to actually pay you for your work. Instead of asking, “How can I get this client to work with me?” you’re now asking, “Can I make money by working with this client?” This is the first step towards creating a sustainable firm, and it is the most important stage to progress to, if not through.

Stage 3: “I will only take on new clients that operate in my preferred business method.”

At this point, you’re becoming an expert at determining what kinds of work your firm will do best and how to run your business for maximum profit. And because you have a relatively stable client base, you can be a little more selective about which new business you choose to take on. Is there a certain software system you prefer your clients use? Do you like to bundle services in a certain way? Do you prefer clients who will work with you via online portal? At this stage, you can use your experience as leverage to move new clients to your way of doing business. It might sound a little presumptuous, but it often results in better service to the client, less hassle for you, and higher profits.

Stage 4: “I will only do business with clients that operate in my preferred business method.”

Though many firms never make it to stage four, it’s a great place to be. You have a strong client roster. You’re a respected expert in your field. And perhaps most importantly, the business model you established in stage three is working like a well-oiled machine.

Still, you probably have a few rogue clients hanging around from stages one and two. They don’t fit your business model and you’re dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to serving them. This is the time where you begin asking yourself whether it’s worth keeping them around.

You may be able to bring them around to your business model. Chances are they’ll be happier in the long run. But if they won’t adapt, it might be time to end the relationship. You probably know a few firms in stages one and two that would love to have the business.

There you have the four stages of maturity for an accounting firm. Getting to stage three or possibly to stage four can make life a lot easier and more enjoyable, but knowing all the stages can make it easier for you to think about the growth of your firm as you consider the types of clients you would like to attract and your stage of firm maturity. Not to mention giving you something fun to talk about at conferences and cocktail parties.

 
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Posted in: Business Development, Business Growth, CPA Accounting Firm Management, CPA Firm Marketing, Marketing, Operations

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How An Accountant Became a Social Media Success on Twitter: @SportsTaxMan

How An Accountant Became a Social Media Success on Twitter: @SportsTaxMan

We had the pleasure of speaking with Robert A. Raiola, CPA (a.k.a @SportsTaxMan) about his success in developing a specialization in the area of sports and entertainment.

Robert is the Sports & Entertainment Senior Group Manager at O’Connor Davies, LLP and co-author of the AICPA book, Winning Tax Strategies and Planning for Athletes and Entertainers. For those of you who are social media skeptics, Robert’s story is truly inspirational. As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Robert developed a thriving sports and entertainment niche practice. He brought approximately 100 athletes into a firm in June 2011. Over the course of the following 19 months, his firm saw a 50% increase in revenue from the sports and entertainment niche, including six new clients in January 2012 alone.

How has Twitter helped him grow his business?

Robert Raiola, CPAWell, let’s start at the beginning… Ever since Robert was a child, he was enamored with sports and he dreamed of becoming a sports announcer. Later in life, Robert realized that his Brooklyn accent might preclude him from the world of sports commentating, and he attended PACE University in New York to pursue a career in accounting. After graduating with a BBA in accounting, he decided to combine his “like” for numbers with his “love” and passion for sports.

Part of Robert’s professional success can be attributed to plain luck (being in the right place at the right time), and the other part is due to his hard work and dedication to his craft. He has spent the last 20 years building a brand by specializing in the sports and entertainment niche. He describes himself as a “Financial Quarterback” for his professional athlete clients. Robert recognized that professional athletes bear the tax burden that comes with playing their sport in various states and countries. Handling the complexity of these situations is a valuable part of the services that Robert provides to his clients.

How did he become a social media success on Twitter?

We’ve established Robert’s professional success, but how did he become a social media success and sports celebrity on Twitter? Robert brings his love for sports and his accounting expertise into the Twitterverse and lends his unique voice to help get his point across. Here is a behind-the-scenes peek at Robert’s 2012 catapult into Twitter fame using his @SportsTaxMan handle:

  • Robert had a modest Twitter following until he appeared on a radio interview with National Public Radio (NPR). The first time his interview aired, he gained an additional 200 followers. By the end of the day, after subsequent airings, he found his Twitter following had spiked to additional 1,000 followers.
  • The next surge of followers came when ESPN retweeted one of his twitter posts, resulting in 2,500 new followers.
  • Robert was then quoted by ESPN.com after a half-court hook shot took Michael Drysch from an average computer technician to a viral internet sensation. “A lot of people don’t realize: You don’t win what you win,” he had said. Within the first 24 hours on ESPN.com, the post received 425,000 clicks. Because of the ESPN mention, someone direct messaged Robert on Twitter with a request to meet. The prospect wasn’t an athlete but was a high-end architect and landscaper. Robert responds quickly and directly to any requests that come through Twitter and schedules meetings with those who request them.
  • A sports reporter from the Boston Globe Sunday Sports Section called to interview Robert about the National Basketball Association (NBA) lockout – another example of prime promotional real estate.
  • Julie Buehler, a ground-breaking female radio host, writer and TV maven in California, has Robert on her radio show every month. Julie is a big Niner’s fan; Robert’s first comment was how the 49ers’ Frank Gore was fined $10,500 by the NFL for wearing his socks too low. And as Robert reported, “Not to worry Frank, it is tax deductible.” He participates in a number of other local and national sports radio shows as well.
  • He has been quoted in several AccountingWeb articles (such as this one on Phil Mickelsen’s “tax sand trap”) as well, giving him even more online visibility in his industry.

How did Robert grow his Twitter following from zero to nearly 15,000 Followers in 19 months?

Robert attributes his meteoric Twitter rise (now at over 41,600 followers) to having relevant and interesting content that has been picked up and/or quoted by several high profile media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, AccountingWeb, New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJCPAS), Sun Sentinel, and The405Radio.

As a sports content curator, he tweets 7 – 10 times per day. Robert says that many of his posts are his reactions to things as they happen. He comments on current sports events (giving his personal perspective on the latest and greatest sports news), he responds to pertinent @mentions, questions and direct messages in a timely manner, and he retweets from the IRS.gov and other reputable industry websites, always crediting the sources he uses. Timeliness, passion, knowledge and personalization make his posts “retweet worthy”.

What other topics does @SportsTaxMan tweet about?

Robert posts about other areas of pop culture interest, always with a financial or accounting spin. For example:

  • “The Grammy’s Goodie Bag is considered taxable income and the fair market value (FMV) of the bag and its content must be reported on recipients’ tax returns.” (Tweeted during the 2013 Grammy Awards.)
  • “How much did the NFL pay Beyonce for the Super Bowl half-time show?” (Tweeted during the 2013 Super Bowl.)
  • “How much does the President make per year compared to what Kobe Bryant makes per regular season day?” (Tweeted during the 2012 presidential election.)

Robert currently follows about 1,325 people. He doesn’t just follow everyone who follows him, but rather has a strategy to follow the top people in the sports world, new clients, people who communicate with him directly via direct messages, emails and phone calls and other resources that provide him with great, timely information. This is part of his social media marketing strategy and helps to set him up for the Viral Trifecta.

What is Robert’s definition of the Viral Trifecta?

From a strategy perspective, Twitter has given Robert a platform to share his thought leadership, build a brand, educate the public and, ultimately, to monetize his success. Like a famous radio or sports announcer, Robert’s voice is heard through Twitter. Twitter continues to provide him with the “Viral Trifecta”: the right content + the right spreaders + the right place = success. The Viral Trifecta has helped him become a social media success, which has led to tremendous growth of his brand and his business.

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For more information about Robert Raiola and the services provided by O’Connor Davies, LLP, visit their website at www.odpkf.com.

 
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Posted in: Business Development, Client Development, CPA Firm Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing, Prospecting

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Infographic: 6 Email Marketing Lessons To Learn From Scooby Doo And His Gang

Infographic: 6 Email Marketing Lessons To Learn From Scooby Doo And His Gang

The mention of Scooby Doo and his gang catches us with a sense of nostalgia almost instantly. But there is much more to Mystery Inc. than just fond memories. The problem-solving pup and his pals have a great deal to teach us about email marketing strategy, too!

Thanks to Email Monks for these six (adorable) email marketing lessons gleaned the famous cartoon series:

1. Being unique is being memorable.

There is no one like Scooby Doo, and that’s probably why he stands out in our mind as the master of monster mystery sleuthing. The secret success of the Scoody Doo series is its unique format. Your email marketing can be just as individual and memorable as Scooby. Stand out in the inbox by incorporating stellar subject lines, savvy copy, super images and groovy calls to action.

2. Everyone roots for a Scooby Snack.

You might not sit up and beg when a free gift is offered to you, but you probably get at least a little bit giddy at the prospect of a reward. Everyone loves a reward. If you have a group of long-term email subscribers or loyal clients, use your email marketing to toss them goodies every now and then. Promotional offers and giveaways boost subscriber (and client) confidence.

3. The “let’s split up” formula.

Fred knew the secret to covering more ground when there was a mystery afoot: “Let’s split up, gang!” The same approach can help your email marketing mysteries get solved. What is working in your messaging? What is not? Conduct A/B split tests to gain insights. Split subscribers into segments based on demographics and behavior for a highly targeted (and more effective) marketing strategy.

4. Things are not always as bad as they seem.

Mystery Inc.’s efforts often seem to be going awry until one of the team members picks up a vital clue that gets the gang back on track to solving the mystery. Sometimes a flaw may pop up in your marketing strategy (insert monster chase montage here). You might have a 404 error instead of a working landing page (oops!) or a grammatical error in your copy (oh, no!). But a bit of review time and a solid proofing process will help you find the clues you need to take your message from monstrous to magnificent.

 5. Being one like a family.

Even though you’d never confuse Velma with Daphne, both ladies make you instantly recall Scooby Doo. Just like Mystery Inc., your brand is a close-knit family. Even though your brand presence may exist on multiple platforms, make sure they all have an easily-recognizable presence that instantly makes fans and visitors think of your firm. What’s the best part of this equation? When your subscribers become raving fans, they also become part of your brand family.

6. Solving mysteries sans stress.

Scooby and the gang always had fun. Even when things seemed scary, Shaggy and Scoob found a way to turn things around and lighten up the atmosphere. When you have a new marketing assignment, tackle one problem at a time, identify shortcomings and come up with a plan for solving each issue. Marketing professional services can sometimes be serious stuff, so take a note from Scooby’s team and have some fun with it. A lighthearted, spirited approach will come through in your messaging and win subscribers’ hearts.

Enjoy this fun infographic from Email Monks and bring Scooby’s marketing lesson’s into your own strategies.

Infographic: 6 Email Marketing Lessons To Learn From Scooby Doo And His Gang - Email Monks

 
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Posted in: Communications, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Email Newsletters, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Newsletters, Online Marketing

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Stock Photography Is Not the Answer

Stock Photography Is Not the Answer

Periodically, we write about the importance of using real pictures that accurately reflect your firm and its people, both staff and clients. While stock photography and Photoshop are useful, valid tools that most businesses, including ours, turn to on occasion, they shouldn’t be relied on too often or in the wrong way.

One reason is that stock photography isn’t always appealing and can embarrass your firm. Just ask the folks who implemented the Republicans Are Black campaign.

For another thing, the generic images that are often purchased from photo banks are useless when it comes to differentiating your firm. Carefully chosen images that establish or emphasize your branding are one thing, but shots of people are quite another. Limiting your imagery to the usual selection of photogenic, ethnically balanced groups – who almost invariably grasp nice pens while viewing a colorful graph – prevents potential clients from learning what makes your firm the perfect choice for them. Worse, it subtly implies that you might be hiding something awful behind those bland stock images. Are your partners graced with more than the usual allotment of eyes? Is your audit team composed entirely of reptoids? Anything is possible…

Skip the stock photo faux pas.

Choosing these unmemorable images means missing out on an opportunity to share something honest about your firm, but that’s not all. There’s plenty of scope for public humiliation, as well when you rely too heavily or carelessly on stock photos. This fall was a tough time for the Republican Party in this regard. They’re by no means the only offenders, but they had a quick one-two punch from mistakes involving over-reliance and misuse of stock images. Shortly after the Republicans Are Black public relations disaster, Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had a similar lesson.

The re-election campaign decided to include as part of every page of its website an image of the Governor among members of his richly diverse constituency. Sounds good so far, right? But for some crazy reason, rather than opting to take an actual photograph that included Pennsylvanians of all races, ages and genders, his campaign Photoshopped a stock image of an African American woman into a mélange of other photos, real and purchased. Only this one was a recognizable graphic sourced from Shutterstock, a very affordable and commonly used outlet for stock images. Embarrassment ensued.

The real you is always better.

The point is, these mistakes just aren’t worth it. The people who look consistently fabulous in photos are called models, not professional services providers. Showing actual human beings makes your firm more accessible, which is appealing, and also communicates sincerity. Take real pictures your real team and real clients, even if they’re not all as cute as buttons. They’re interesting! And whatever you do, do not rely on Photoshop to change reality.

If, after viewing the pictures, you become concerned that what you see contains not a hint of diversity, perhaps that’s an issue you want to address. Consider revising the firm’s hiring practices, reaching out to a broader client base or adopting another strategy to remedy the real problem, not just the image problem.

Then again, perhaps there is no problem. True diversity, where you’re receiving alternative points of view and multiple levels of insight is a valuable thing. Insisting that every possible scenario include at least one African American, one Asian, one Latino and one woman, however, in addition to the usual complement of white men in suits, will not deliver that diversity of thought you seek. It also isn’t very convincing.

Just be who you are, serve clients to the best of your ability and try to build a firm you can feel authentically proud of. Most of the time, doing that will naturally result in at least a smidgen of ethnic and gender variation. If it doesn’t, then figure out why it hasn’t and decide whether you’re okay with that from a business perspective as well as an ethical one. But don’t try to cover it up with stock photography and Photoshop.

 

Guest post by Sarah Warlick, Content Director, bbr marketing

Photo credit: iStock by Getty ImagesTM, Unfinished Business, 20th Century Fox

 
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Posted in: Content Marketing, CPA Firm Marketing, Imagery in Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Best Practices, Online Marketing, Reputation Management

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Why Stories Will Help You Sell More Professional Services

Why Stories Will Help You Sell More Professional Services

Once upon a time, there was a CPA Firm that desperately wanted to grow. It was a good accounting firm, following the rules and regulations set forth by the regulatory agencies, providing quality client service and hiring only the best and brightest talent. It was a relatively young firm, but it dreamed of being recognized as one of the very best. It fantasized about becoming the leading provider of audit compliance for public companies. It envisioned multiple offices throughout the country. More than anything else, it wanted to grow.

What did the good little CPA Firm do? It began telling stories, sharing educational and informative content in an engaging and interesting way. It began to highlight its services, benefits and people through storytelling. It began marketing by identifying with its target market, its prospects, its clients and its referral sources through relevant prose and attractive visuals. The CPA Firm began to demonstrate its greatness through storytelling, and, little by little, began to grow. Soon, it was opening new offices, attracting better clients, expanding its service offerings and bringing in more qualified leads. The little CPA Firm was very happy.

What is the moral of this brief story?

Good stories will help you sell — whether your product is a gadget, an idea or a professional service. Why? As human beings, our brains process information better when it comes in the form of a story, whether auditory or visual. We are literally hard wired to react to stories more than any other form of information gathering. Cognitive and behavioral neuroscience research indicates that our brains respond to certain triggers either favorably or unfavorably. Occasionally, there is a minimal response either way, which indicates a complete lack of interest or engagement in the trigger. (If your marketing is eliciting zero response, keep reading!)

What does this have to do with marketing or selling?

Harvard University began studying the impact marketing strategies have on our brains (and therefore our reactions) back in 1990. While the term “neuromarketing” wasn’t actually coined until 2002 (by Ale Smidts), Harvard psychologists began experimenting to determine if they could effectively manipulate information to generate a specific reaction. The meme, originally coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, was the foundation for neuromarketing research. A meme replicates information and influences a decision maker within 2.6 seconds.

Dah Dah Dah DUM

Do you recognize that tune? The first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are collectively a cultural meme, just as advertising slogans such as “Where’s The Beef?” and “Just Do It” are marketing memes. Memes are used (and recycled) in marketing all the time. When Puss in Boots was launching in theaters, DreamWorks ran an ad featuring Puss that was based on the Old Spice commercial series “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. Classic meme (watch the Puss in Boots commercial).

Since the dawn of neuromarketing, companies such as Google, CBS and Frito-Lay have used neuromarketing research to measure consumer response to products and promotions. Apparently, we cannot make a decision solely based on facts and logic. For professional service providers, this may come as a shock. It goes against the paradigm we have held dear for years. Facts, figures, statistics and logic: those are the keys to persuasion, right? Not really.

Use stories to entertain, inform and persuade

According to neuroscientists, most of our cognitive activity (i.e., what we think) occurs on a sub-conscious level, well beyond the reach of our active awareness. Highly emotional content tends to have the most positive reaction, activating oxytocin, producing feelings of empathy and helping us bond with one another. Oxytocin ensures that we bond, rather than merely eliciting pleasure for the sake of it. Bonding has been imperative to our survival as a species and is certainly critical to marketing and selling.

“Buy this product and it will do this” and “hire us because we’re the best” won’t sufficiently engage your prospects or create that essential bond. Facts are boring. They generate zero response on a biological level. You need to use stories to draw prospects in, titillate them, educate them, inform them and persuade them.

A story can potentially carry the entire sale for you, provided it has these six characteristics of highly persuasive stories (courtesy of the Neuromarketing blog for marketing and sales):

1) Impactful delivery

2) Vivid imagery

3) Realism and understandability

4) Structure

5) Context and surroundings

6) The proper audience

There is definitive proof that stories will help you sell more services. What story do you have to tell that will help you increase prospect engagement and boost sales?

In my next post, I’ll review four types of stories that will help you sell more services. Come back soon.

 
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Posted in: Business Development, Business Growth, Content Marketing, CPA Firm Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Prospecting

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