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The DOs and DON’Ts of newsletters for accounting firms

Newsletters are an essential form of communication between companies and their stakeholders. More often than not though, those that sign up to a newsletter are (potential) customers who are interested in what you do. Many accounting firms are adding newsletters into their regular marketing activities and we’re here to help you build your newsletters for new business success.

We’ve taken time to analyse a couple of newsletters from accounting firms around New Zealand and we’ve noticed one major pitfall – these newsletters are LONG!

They often involve several articles, a lack of links and often their content just isn’t well focused on their business or those who may be signing up to their newsletter.

For a broader picture, lets take a look at the common successes and mistakes some accounting firm newsletters are making…

 

Successful elements in accounting newsletters

Relevant content: accounting firms are experts in their field and they show that well through the article content they provide in newsletters.

1Great use of spacing: the newsletters we’ve seen space out their content well and use headlines or boxes to separate content. Making content discernable is a good thing as it draws readers eyes in and encourages them to read. Content that is jumbled or squished together deters readers, and you should want your newsletters to be read.

Well planned structure: titles, headlines, blocks of content and different sections are commonplace in accounting firm newsletters. This differs from spacing as a coherent structure helps a reader flow from one piece of content to the next, until they’ve read the entire newsletter. It’s simply another way to encourage readers to read all the way through.

Include social media/ web page links: newsletters help drive website traffic, and so integrating links to online presences is vital. What’s more is that accounting firms include these links well by using images. These links are often included in sidebars or at the bottom of the newsletter so as not to distract from main newsletter content.

 

Common mistakes

Text-heavy/ too much content: often entire pages are included in accounting firm newsletters for any one of the articles they include. This is more so for less frequent, quarterly newsletters than regular monthly ones but does still happen. Entire articles belong on web pages or blogs, and we’ll tell you why after pointing out some more common mistakes.

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest.

3Irrelevant or unnecessary content: we’ve seen accounting firm newsletters that point out nearby office areas to buy or that their neighbours or friends are raising money for a charity and would like some help. While this content may be great to share with your readers, it isn’t NEWSLETTER content. Share these bits of information in email blasts to your email lists (possibly including your newsletter mailing list) instead. Your newsletter subscribers subscribed to a newsletter for information about YOU, not about local news.

Lack of an introduction or voice: some newsletters we’ve seen don’t include introductions or conclusions at all. Instead they’re collections of potentially exciting articles lumped into a series of pages.  This is a great place for the marketing partner to be the voice of the firm and to give a good face, tone and feel to the newsletter.

No website link backs or calls to action: one big thing missing from accounting firm newsletters to date are links and calls to action. Newsletters do more than inform, yes, but more importantly they exist to bring readers closer to the sender.

 

Our suggestions / good practice for newsletters

Short is successful: newsletters aren’t books. Newsletters are in fact short notes and pockets of information that a company provides its readers to keep them informed of their expertise and activities. Short is the key word there, and there are many ways to shorten a newsletter while also keeping it informative!

One great way to do this is to post articles or news reels on your blog or website, while linking to them in the newsletter along with an excerpt of the article – this encourages newsletter readers to navigate to your website and helps with google page ranking so that people searching for accounting firms find YOU!

Call to action: while you shouldn’t flood your newsletter with links it’s a good idea to link back to your website in some way shape or form. Getting newsletter readers (people who are interested in YOU) on your website improves the chances of them becoming a future client! You don’t necessarily have to develop a call to action or sales pitch but newsletters a good place to redirect readers to such a thing. A blog (if you have one on your website) is a great example of an opportunity to include articles in your newsletter and include a link back to your website that entices readers to click and read more.

 

Sidekick accounting brand mascot.

Build a brand, use a voice and provide colour: a newsletter can be the essence of your firm and how you share your company culture with stakeholders. Use it to build a brand by creating a voice and an image! Sidekick Accounting achieves this with their superhero icons and friendly writing style.

 

Conclusion

In short – accounting newsletters should embrace a short and unique style of presentation while providing links back to their website and social media as they beware of including irrelevant content. If they follow these guidelines it’ll result on a more engaged audience and better chances for turning a potential customer into a full client!

 

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Interview with TrustRadius founder, Vinay Bhagat

Image representing Vinay Bhagat as depicted in...

Vinay Bhagat, TrustRadius Image via CrunchBase

We were lucky to find out about TrustRadius the enterprise software comparison site founded by Vinay Bhagat

Image representing TrustRadius as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

through a search we were doing for clients.  As a result, we got in touch with them and secured an interview.

Why did you start TrustRadius?

We’re trying to change the way software is bought and sold. If you’re a consumer who wants to buy a product or service there’s a wealth of information out there.  But if you’re trying to buy a piece of technology which could have a huge impact on your career, or business – it’s more challenging; more opaque.

Technology marketers try to control the information flow a customer gets.

Our belief is that through a platform like TrustRadius we can give buyers a more authentic, rapid way to make smarter decisions.  It’s not just picking the right product – it’s the right product for your use case.

Every business has unique needs – on TrustRadius you can crowdsource different perspectives about the context around the problem the business is trying to solve. This allows the user to made a more informed choice.

This isn’t trying to provide all the answers.  TrustRadius is a layer to get intelligent and get insights, way to avoid mistakes.  It’s more than a content layer, it’s a way to allow people to connect with each other. a contextual social network.

What are the issues with other solutions?

The Gartner magic quadrant is not appropriate for everyone.
We have a user who contacted people through the site and did information exchanges to get to the real story behind their tech selection and purchase.

People have tried to do backchannel references for years – it’s hard to get peer input rapidly at scale.
Reviewers have authentication – and we use Linked In – in connect button to verify identities.

What’s your business model?

Today we are not focused on making money – we’re trying to create a trusted at scale network – as a young company we

have to concentrate at this.  If we can wedge ourselves between the buyer and seller its a $4trilliion marketplace.  We bootstrapped for 1 year and now have raised VC money last June – we maniacally focus on getting to scale through effectively recruiting reviewers, sourcing content and engaging vendors. Read more

3 ways to improve proposal writing next steps

We advised a client today about how to make 3 improvements to their proposal ending texts.  Writing a descriptive of your service or product and pricing it is only part of the new business development process.  It is essential that it leads to a next step to keep the discussion going and lead towards a buy/no-buy decision by the prospect.

Three key information points in a proposal

  1. clarifying next steps
  2. adding a timescale
  3. pushing the client towards buying what you want to sell

Here is the original ending paragraph they wrote:

Let me know if you are interested in talking more. If it would help, we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2 if you provide us with some game event data. As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.

By improving the text the reader is given clear expectations about next steps in the discussion process .

We recommended editing the last paragraph to give clarity on the 3 key information points

“The next step is for you to send us with some game event data and we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2.  

As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.  We would make a nominal charge for this work of $XXX which will be fully refundable if we proceed to a full implementation.  

I will call you on Wednesday next week to confirm when you can send us the data and a date for the demo.”  

Although sounding rather presumptuous this text sets clear expectations with regard to timeframes and next steps against which you can update your biz dev pipeline.

What are your favourite closing sentences in a proposal?7 Make New Biz Happen icon

Google = advertising around intent; Facebook = demand generation

I was at a networking event yesterday and the Sales Lady from Facebook New Zealand was presenting.  She made this statement

Google is advertising around intent; Facebook is about demand generation

And it started me thinking.

Google – yes I get it – the intent is shown by your search string.

Facebook’s claim is harder to back up.

Why Facebook’s demand gen claim is slack

The sales lady says that because on Facebook brands advertise to drive likes, then it’s demand generation.

I think because it’s hard to get visitors off Facebook and onto your website where you can actually make prospects take actions that lead them into the sales funnel, the effectiveness of this strategy is low.

But there are work-arounds – read this technique which we developed for our clients How Facebook boosted my newsletter subscribers.

Is Facebook still good for brands?

The answer today is yes… but.  We have great client brands who are successfully recruiting new readers through their Facebook promotion, advertising and status updates.  But without a clear set of tactics to drive those readers off Facebook and onto their website, all this work would be hard to monetise.

For many brands, especially B2B, their audience isn’t on Facebook.  So it’s irrelevant to their marketing plans.

Take a look at this FB post and the comments below.  We are seeing readers adding in their friends’ names to their comments in order to draw their attention to this bit of content, and that’s bringing in new visitors.

Facebook Comments promotion

GoHachi introduces you to new biz dev prospects

Getting in front of the people you want to sell to is difficult. Hell, we even wrote a how to manual about ways to research and find contact details of people online.

GoHachi threatens to make this history with its network-of-networks approach to business referrals and introductory sales.

I was an early beta tester and I love the idea of joining together all my networks and using whichever works best to connect with prospects.

So when Hachi invited me to test it out again, I jumped at the chance.

Hachi is improved

Take a look at the nice graphics and easy site layout.  All good for UX.

I added in my Linked In contacts.

Hachi linked in connections

Hachi linked in connections

– but was a bit confused because I thought I’d already done them.

My profile photo isn’t rendering properly (but I know what I look like).

Hachi helps make a connection to a prospect

Hachi helps make a connection to a prospect

So I thought I’d try out a couple of new introductions.

I browsed the “surprise me” tab to see who Hachi thought I should connect to.

Then I ran and saved a search for “marketing managers” in Auckland, New Zealand.  Came up with someone at Fonterra – a  milk marketing and buying company so I thought I’d give it a go.

Hachi offered me 5 possible routes to connect and I selected Jason – who I know from PocketSmith (cute financial planning tool).

Irritatingly, it doesn’t offer me the chance to just click and send.  I have to manually type in his email (necessitated going to Linked In which I thought I’d connected).

Hachi requires you to insert email

Hachi requires you to insert email

There’s a nice page where you can keep track of all the introductions you have in progress.

Let’s see what comes back.

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How to make matching Facebook profile and cover photos

Ford on Facebook

Ford on Facebook with matching cover photo and profile image.

A matching Facebook cover photo and profile picture looks professional and exciting.   Look at the Ford one here – see the large image becomes the background behind the smaller logo picture?  Cute!

You can do so many things with it such as making your Facebook followers laugh or just to make your profile look professional. But how do you line up the two images and make it work? Read on.

How to line up Facebook cover photo with a profile picture

1. Screenshot your Facebook profile page: The first step is to take a screenshot of your profile page for size reference. Paste this screenshot into  PowerPoint or a similar programme where you can CROP the screenshot. We’ll be using our client, Rowperfect, as an example:

Screenshot of Rowperfect Facebook page

Screenshot of the Rowperfect Facebook page

2. Crop your chosen picture into two images: now that you have your profile screenshot and have pasted it into  PowerPoint you can begin cropping your desired image. Detailed instructions follow this image…follow steps 1-4 frame by frame below.cropping

  • FRAME 1: mark your cover photo and your profile photo. The blue rectangle we’ve created represents the cover photo size area and the red square represents the profile picture. Remember to paste the screenshot exactly as it is and do not re-size it, even though it is larger than the PowerPoint work area.
  • FRAME 2: import the image you want as your combined profile picture and cover photo. Then re-size it so it is as big as the blue and red rectangle combined. Line it up as you wish.
  • FRAME 3: duplicate your now re-sized imported image, place it in the same location as its original and crop your imported image and its duplicate to be the size of the blue rectangle and red square respectively.
  • FRAME 4: now you have your two images, save the big one as COVER PHOTO and the smaller square one as PROFILE PICTURE.

3. Place them on your Facebook profile page: now you have your two images you can place the PROFILE PICTURE image on your Facebook profile picture and use the COVER PHOTO image as your Facebook profile cover. If all is done correctly your Facebook profile cover photo and profile picture will now line up together and look flash, just like the Rowperfect Facebook page!

Screenshot of Rowperfect Facebook page

Be creative: more interesting ideas

Here are a few ideas we found that might spark some inspiration for you… speech bubbles, a cartoon bird house, multiple images overlaid or a camera icon.  Be creative.

ideas

Facebook profile picture ideas and improvements

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time

Writing a cold email introduction

Copywriting for new business development involves meeting and starting conversations with new people all the time.

Sometimes, you have to write to someone you don’t already know and this is called “a cold” email.

I just received this one – and I think it’s quite good.

Hi Rebecca,
 
I bet you’re inundated with emails so I’ll make it quick.
I’d like to write some free killer content guides for Start-up Marketing software for your blog.
Here’s an example of my writing style. I write content that sells:
I’ve written for Huff Po, Social Media Explorer, Creative Bloq and I’m writing for Mens Health atm.
Let me know if you’re interested and I can send over some article ideas for you to review!
Kind Regards
 
 
David Duncan,
Social Search Consultant,
Here’s what I like about the message
  1. it’s short.
  2. it opens with a statement to make me empathise with the writer
  3. it comes straight to the point and makes the offer in line 3
  4. the reassurance about the author’s skill is designed for a business reader (like me)

There’s only one thing wrong with it.

The link to the article is NOT actually authored by David Duncan – it’s by his boss.

Pity

How to introduce your business by email

Copy this email introduction for your business; make a template and add in key information about your business.

In my networking group, we’re working hard to make it really EASY for members to introduce each other to new prospects and new clients.

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was asked by the group to help coach them in the best way to write an introduction that others could use.  So here’s an introduction to my own firm and a commentary on what information to put down for yourself.

Now read the perfect email introduction.

What does my business do?

This is an email you can send about our services
Creative Agency Secrets is an expert in marketing and promoting businesses using traditional and online methods.  We work as the outsourced marketing team for busy businesses doing marketing that starts conversations and leads to sales.
 
I have seen their work for [name a client] and used them for my own business to write the copy on our website About Us page.  And I’ve also recommended them several times and had great feedback especially about their careful attention to detail.
 
I will leave you two to connect – I’ve spoken to you both about each other and shared your emails and phone numbers below.

The elements in an email introduction

Start: with your one-liner…. who are you and what do you do
Build: with an example of their work for someone you both know, preferably.  If you can’t say you have worked personally with them, a mutual acquaintance is a positive reinforcer.
Memorability: Add an anecdote that describes your experience – if you can make it funny, cute or WOW that’s best but not strictly necessary.

End: Include all the information they need to continue a dialogue without you….

We plan on creating a shared document for everyone so they can cut/paste the text into emails for business referrals for new business development.

The best introductions are when you’ve spoken personally to both parties.  NOTE not emailed, spoken….

Want to know more? Make sure to download our FREE e-book "Cold Emails – Doing it right and netting yourself leads".

cold emails ebook

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time