Failure of the creative agency business model

Reading a great post about the lack of scalability in the creative agency business model is a great reinforcement for me and validation of the business that we run here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Years ago I realised three things

  1. No agency staff are trained on how to do biz dev
  2. A process must underpin successful, reliably consistent new business
  3. Only by getting buy in from all the senior team can it work in the medium term

Our new business methodology underpins all our work and that’s why, like Blair, our  recommendations from past clients fall into 2 camps. The politely nice and the ecstatic. For the latter, we  succeed in embedding a process that has continued long after our consulting assignment ended.  That is the difference the Creative Agency Secrets team makes in new business development.

Follow our 8 step New Business Methodology in the categories on the right side you’ll see articles listed on each step that can help your business embed, codify and practice new business development successfully.

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Online marketing for accounting firms: a research summary

Accountancy firms are the backbone of the business economy serving every sector of the community. Business owners use their accountant to get advice and recommendations on a wide range of commercial issues. They are trusted advisors for New Zealand business.

Yet accountants often present themselves poorly online. They are difficult to find on the internet, their websites are dull, unremarkable, and aren’t easy to use for prospective clients who want to research and find an advisor.

The attributes of a good business website:

  • Findable on search engines for search phrases that relate to the industry or product not the business name
  • State the services or products offered in clear, non-technical language
  • Illustrates specialisms and points of difference for the firm
  • Helps guide the customer to the correct service they need
  • Enable the customer to get in touch with the business by a range of communication channels – including social media as well as traditional telephone and email
  • Name key members of staff and their contact details
  • Show office locations, ideally on a map

Every business uses some form of marketing promotion to bring in new clients and to keep current clients coming back for more.

A website is the linchpin of modern business marketing activity. Most other marketing work directs curious web searchers to the website. These days, who hasn’t got a business card without the firm’s URL?

Creative Agency Secrets has appraised a substantial amount of accountancy firms’ websites for evidence of current marketing and promotion activities within the industry.

 

Here’s what we found

  • Over one quarter of all firms surveyed do no marketing promotion aside from their website.
  • 38% have some basic promotion, normally in the form of a newsletter.
  • And at the other end of the scale 6% are very active and seek to engage website visitors and encourage them to get in touch with the firm.

Where does your firm sit on the proactive marketing scale?

Top performers include

  • Deloitte
  • Cabbage Tree Accounting
  • William Buck
  • Astill Hawke
  • DJCA
  • Gilligan Rowe

What sets these firms apart?

The best accountancy firms have several key attributes in common

  1. They are highly informative both on their business, what they offer, and their industry
  2. Their web pages maintain public resources for research and self-discovery
  3. The have prominent and recent communication activity using written, audio and visual media which engages readers and keeps them on the website
  4. They encourage the visitor to reveal his identity to the firm

Why do prospective clients find these factors appealing?

Imagine going into a shop for the first time – you browse around looking for the product you want to buy and at “just the right moment” a sales assistant steps forward and offers to help you. They guide you in an un-pushy manner to the product you want but stay on hand to answer any further questions you have. A modern website needs to do the same job for the firm.

But on a website a visitor is anonymous.

You have no idea who has visited your site – just tracking cookies and the number of visitors in your analytics. The Firm doesn’t know their names, what their interest is and whether they are looking to buy some accounting advice.

Social Media

Businesses are moving into the social media scene. Yet most accountancy firms have not taken advantage of the core social media sites.

twitter researchfacebook researchother social media research

Our research reviewed accountants’ websites for public links to social media sites. We expected to see LinkedIn used the most because it is the professional business social media site but we were wrong: 34% had LinkedIn pages; 34% had Twitter and 46% had Facebook profiles.

Firms with an active social media presence tended to also have higher scores in overall web presence and influence. There are many additional influencing factors and it is important to note that where a company is on social media, they also have invested time in YouTube videos, blogging, or email marketing as well.

We ranked firms comparing their activity on the web by assessing how often they updated their marketing activities and what tools they used to market themselves online. This shows that activity really does boost your noticeability as an accounting firm online. What’s more interesting about these results is the outlying firms with our assigned activity scores of 2, 3 and 4 who also have a good Alexa Rank which suggests that content is an important factor in gaining a prominent online presence.

Online Marketing Tools used by Accounting Firms

There are a lot of opportunities to display expertise using content marketing techniques online.

Newsletters

When searching there accountancy firms’ websites for newsletters, we looked at whether firms actively requested prospective clients’ email addresses, and the ways in which the firm used them. Many displayed historic newsletters but they were often displayed in PDF format which is less searchable or sharable.

Of those with newsletters, a significant amount website visitors had no way to subscribe to receive the news online. Giving visitors the ability to subscribe gets you their email address for a mailing list and analytics information about those visitors. Mailing lists are a great way to start a dialogue with customers by building a self-service database. An opportunity lost by these firms.

Opted in databases of email addresses are among the most powerful marketing assets a firm can own. They can even be used to deliver a series of emails called autoresponders. These can welcome new subscribers, give them an introduction to the firm, and explain its services.

Blogging

Many of the news pages or blogs for the accounting firms we researched are static and have not been updated for many months or even years. They have no clickability or linking to other pages in the website and they are created on a single web page. This means an individual article cannot be hyper-linked, only the whole page.

By creating a blog-style page, the opportunity exists to create more internal and external links to your site which again increases the chances for search engines to visit more frequently as well as encouraging visitors to browse across multiple website pages. This also provides opportunities for other websites to link to specific articles from you which ultimately lead the visitor to your website.

Videos

Larger accountancy firms host videos on their websites, mainly used for training. None have made use of online broadcasting technologies like webinars, podcasts or recordings. Video and audio recording is now cheap and easy to do. They are a good way to communicate and to enable listeners to share your content and are far more engaging than text.

Training

Many accountants provide training and conduct seminars for in-person attendance. It would be very easy to broadcast a training event or record it at the same time for later broadcast. Training is a fantastic marketing tool but if someone can’t make the event time, watching a recording means they can still gain value from it.

 

In Conclusion

Most accounting firms have the beginnings of a good website presence. However they need to add new functionality that works to continuously draw new visitors into the website from search, from the email database and to encourage them to reveal their identities and join in a dialogue with the firm. This can be enhanced by including social media in their marketing plans as they create more and more points of contact for potential clients, as long as you know your clients use social media to connect. LinkedIn is particularly good because of its professional nature.

If you’re an accounting firm looking for a free website appraisal, you’ll find one here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Get in touch with us.

Website not showing up in Google: BNI New Business Development tip of the week

THis week I’m focusing on a client whose website was not showing up on Google – not for pages and pages.

He knew this was a problem and had been overcoming it by paying for SEO to put it onto the top of search.  But he knows this is a short term solution which he doesn’t want to continue.

We investigated and found 3 quick things to correct

  1. Site meta tags were not populated
  2. Blog was created as a page not posts
  3. Photo Alt tags weren’t used and images were uploaded with the camera image id (long string numbers)

So some easy quick fixes.

Medium term, we’re teaching them how to use links and key words in blog posts which will reinforce search queries as well as social sharing and reciprocation.

 

Check out Otautahi Tattoo’s amazing story as refugees from the Christchurch earthquake and relocation, growth and reinvigoration in Auckland – the photo is of All Black Keven Mealamu having his latest ‘rose’ design added.

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

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What does a client brief look like?

Thanks to Dawn who wrote in asking “What does a client brief look like?” 

Agency Client brief template

Agency Client brief template

Let us help you out.

What to do when hiring an agency

If you sub-contract your marketing to an agency or to freelancers, you want to be sure that you pay for and get good quality work.

A lot of the quality of output is due to high quality input.  By that I mean, briefing documents.  If you can explain clearly what you want, how you want it done and timeframes, you are far more likely to get high quality work back.

We use Upwork and People Per Hour to find freelancers and expert sub-contractors.

For briefing we always give a lot of detail and we also ask the freelancer to write back with answers to our questions.

We choose these carefully in order to show us that THEY have read the brief.

  • Please tell me what access permissions you need before you start the job

And we also ask them open questions whose answers tell us if they understand the scope, how they would approach the job and allow us to assess how good their English is.

  • Estimate how long the job will take
  • Tell me what problems you anticipate

Below is a template document which we use when we receive instructions to do some marketing for our clients. You can download it from the link.

Each sub-heading is self explanatory – as a client you should fill in each section as clearly as possible and then send it out to the agency or agencies you want to work with asking them to send you price quotations.

Alternatively, you write longhand what you want and the agency will fill in the gaps in the document.  Then you should approve it before instructing the work.

DOWNLOAD Master Client Planning Brief Template

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time

The Economist Native Advertising with GE

The Economist digital adverts on their app has an interesting native advertising content link sponsored by GE – it’s all about clean energy. A web page clearly with the Economist website layout and with their header – but independently closable (the X in the top left corner). All driven off a full page advert in their current edition 25th May 2013.

GE Advert in Economist app

GE Advert in Economist app

GE Future Energy native advertising page
GE Future Energy native advertising page

photo (6)

 

Brands Seeking Agencies 25th April 2013

Find new leads for your agency.

Subscribe and get a weekly summary of all the leads listed here by email.

Buy a monthly subscription for $19 and receive the full names of all the brands listed.

Learn more about Brands Seeking Agencies.

Brands Seeking Agencies

Americas

  • Beauty products group searching “how to write the perfect creative brief”, OH, USA
  • Transportation & logistics group researching “how to write a good creative brief”, ON, Canada
  • CPG sales promotion agency searching “dear valued customers letter”, USA
  • Bedding manufacturer searching “creative brief template for advertising agency” Canada
  • City lobbying group for urban planning reading How to write an awesome creative brief, NY, USA

Europe

Africa

Asia Pacific 

RFPs

Agencies

Brands

Alternatives to Wildfire as they withdraw pay-as-you-go

Wildfire was one of the first apps we found to do promotions on the Facebook platform.  Founded by cool Kiwi entrepreneur Victoria Ransom, they got bought by Google and have clearly been spending time refocusing their work onto large customers who can afford $2,500 per month fees.  The little people will have to go elsewhere in future.

Here’s a list we curated on List.ly of Wildfire Alternatives. Please add your own favourites.

Headline for Alternatives To WildFire
 REPORT
29 items   24 followers   78 votes   2.58k views

Alternatives To WildFire

A list of alternatives to WildFire, a social media giveaway app.

Source: http://creativeagencysecrets.com/alternatives-to-wildfire-as-they-withdraw-pay-as-you-go/

HipRewards

A self-serve tool that allows you to create a new kind of promotion; include digital music rewards for every participant to increase engagement, and only pay for rewards for your fans. HipRewards promotions work seamlessly on all devices, even mobile. You'll gain fascinating insights on who your fans are and what they think.

Easypromos

Easypromos is the easiest way to create promotions on your Facebook page. You can try for free, without any registration.

ShortStack

Build custom Facebook apps and photo contests

Apr 16, 2013 - blog.tidalwaveapp.com - 393
TidalWave

TidalWave 's new premium Customer Service App creates a 'round-trip' solution for your Social Customer Service needs. By combining Social Media and BPMS into Social BPM, you can now address your clients needs directly through a combination of TidalWave for Facebook and TidalWave Process Manager.

Apr 18, 2013 by Zsuzsi Szabo - antavo.com - 340
Antavo − Contest and Promotion Apps for Facebook, Mobile & Web

Create contest and promotion apps to Facebook, mobile and web to engage with customers and generate leads. Sweepstakes, photo and video contests, quizzes, deals, group offers, competitions.

May 24, 2013 by Giancarlo Massaro - viralsweep.com - 432
Social Sweepstakes - ViralSweep

ViralSweep allows you to build, run and manage social sweepstakes on your website.

Apr 16, 2013 - votigo.com - 398
Votigo Social Marketing Suite

Votigo's social marketing suite allows marketers to grow their audiences with contest software, sweepstakes, & social media analytics.

Apr 16, 2013 - rafflecopter.com - 364
Rafflecopter

Rafflecopter allows you to create and launch effective giveaway promotions & sweepstakes across your website, blog, and Facebook page under 5 minutes.

Apr 16, 2013 - strutta.com - 340
Strutta

Strutta provides powerful, easy-to-use DIY social media marketing apps, tools and analytics for contests, promotions and engagement campaigns.

Agorapulse: Facebook Apps, CRM, Moderation & Statistics

High Quality Facebook Applications, Analytics and CRM Engage your fans, qualify them, and measure your performance. Free trial. Paid plans start at $29.

Apr 19, 2013 by Brandon Carroll - heyo.com - 432
Heyo - Contests, Promotions, and Deals for Social, Mobile, and Web

Allows anyone to drive traffic, leads, and sales through campaigns on Fan Pages or mobile devices. Also, with one click, we create a mobile app based on your social data.Our goal is to provide a tool that caters to a brand new business looking to get started, a mid size business or agency focused on growth, or a market leader looking to empower their evangelists.

Apr 25, 2013 by Arnaud R - kontestapp.com - 375
Kontest - A cutting-edge platform to create and spread multichannel promotions

Grow your fanbase and qualify new contacts. Kontest is a cutting-edge platform to create and spread promotions across all channels. Free Access.

Votion - Crafting the future of brand & consumer relationships.

Votion helps Brands and Publishers create & keep customers through content types such as Brackets, Quizzes, Visual Polls, StackUp, Interactive Lists and MatchUps that are crafted for engagement. Our products build dialogs between brands & consumers

14

Woobox

Woobox

Woobox helps you easily create powerful contests, sweepstakes, coupons, and more to grow your fans and amplify your marketing.

Apr 17, 2013 by Mark Schmulen - constantcontact.com - 481
Social Campaigns - Social Media Marketing Tools - Constant Contact

Social Campaigns from Constant Contact makes it easy for small businesses to create promotions and offers exclusively on Facebook. Integrated email and social posting features help to promote your offer to all of your social and email contacts to drive them to your Facebook page. Detailed reports track unique visitors, new fans, offer conversions, shares and new email addresses. Grow your fans and turn them into repeat customers and advocates!

16

Zeus

Apr 18, 2013 by Christine Meyer - zeuspromo.com - 456
Zeus

Zeus Contest and Sweepstakes products are for one-time use and include the technology for either a Facebook Page and/or a standalone microsite (for up to 90 days) and ALSO include the complete Official Rules specific to your promotion. @zeuspromoapp

Aug 08, 2013 by Rajat Garg - socialappshq.com - 422
SocialAppsHQ

SocialAppsHQ is an All-in-One social media marketing and Social media monitoring platform. We have the largest Facebook app store across the planet!

Feb 16, 2016 by Votion Inc - votion.co - 451
StackUp - a swipe to like product

Gain knowledge from your customers all with a few swipes - right if you like, left if you don't.

Apr 16, 2013 - piqora.com - 456
Piqora (Formerly Pinfluencer) - Complete Marketing Suite for Pinterest

Piqora is an advanced Pinterest Analytics Solution that makes it really easy to identify and connect with influential brand advocates, get actionable insights into trending pins and boards, and measure key virality metrics to quantify brand engagement on Pinterest. Sign up for a free 14 day trial at www.piqora.com

offerCandy

Facebook contests are easy with OfferCandy. Create a sweepstakes in minutes with our easy to use, customizable templates. Engage with your facebook fans and track the results. No design knowledge needed. Grow your fans and in turn your business.

21

SnapApp

SnapApp

SnapApp enables marketers and publishers to create quizzes, polls, surveys and contests and distribute them on their websites, Facebook and Twitter

Apr 19, 2013 - wizehive.com - 437
WizeHive - Enterprise Collaboration, Business Process and Workflow

Build and use web-based apps that automate business processes and engage customers, employees and those that matters to you.

23

Privy

Apr 29, 2013 - getprivy.com - 442
Privy

Turn facebook fans, twitter followers, google searchers, and web visitors into real customers using promotions.

Cool Tabs

Create tabs, promotions and contests for your own facebook pages or for your customers. Easily and fast

May 14, 2013 - offerpop.com - 427
Offerpop - Actionable Social Marketing

Launch Facebook & Twitter campaigns in minutes with the most easy-to-use social marketing platform ever built.

[read our interview with List.ly c0-founder, Shyam Subramanyan]

Contact Forms: New business development copywriting

Encouaging prospects to reveal their interest in your business is one of the hardest-to-master techniques for online new business development copywriting.  You know you have website visitors, the analytics show the passage of traffic but it’s all anonymous.

You need to get better at contact forms:

Here are the symptoms

  • lots of people visit your website (probably)
  • few get in touch to find out more
  • fewer move up the funnel towards purchase
  • pipeline does not get many new enquiries from the website

How to Copywrite contact forms

  • Be economic with words
  • Only ask for information you NEED
  • Seek originality in your wording

We found a great example from Markitors – they offer a neat free tips service.  Using the one free tip offer encourages action by the reader and recruits an email address to an autoresponder series.

And take a read of our earlier article on Best Practice Email sign up Forms

One Free tip button encourages action

One Free tip button encourages action

markitors freebie

Xero Marketing: a pitch & a critique

Xero is a hugely popular cloud accounts package that has taken much of the Intuit QuickBooks and MYOB business from SMEs worldwide.

Image representing Xero as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Prompted by an article in Forbes about in-house marketing teams versus external agency use, I remembered a pitch we sent off to Xero.
As a customer of Xero and as a marketer, the things I think are lacking or could be enhanced primarily relate to the ease of re-using content and proactively driving it out to the right audience.
B2B comms for existing customers, in a nutshell.
Since Xero is growing internationally, they increasingly have separate user groups who should be communicated to differently – because they need different things from Xero.

Marketing suggestions – I have lots more….

  1. After signing up, there’s nothing to drive me deeper into using the higher features of your products, unless I search.
  2. Apart from support issues and feature requests, what are the useful things you could be communicating with my business [clues – finding support, accountancy advice, higher level feature uses, plug ins, apps developers, tax questions, work-rounds for bug fixes]
  3. How could Xero be leveraging existing customers to drive improved new business and new trial accounts using member-get-member referrals and other incentives?
  4. Autoresponders – for new users within the trial period and for first few months of use  – Xero could have a ‘guide’ much like Kiwibank‘s “Becky” who is there for the user, who acts as a signpost to helpful information inside your knowledge base, who helps check they’ve got the system set up properly.
  5. Why are you using FeedBurner to distribute your RSS feed from the blog?  It’s unsupported and you could be leveraging the channel for marketing messages to your active users in order to drive deeper brand engagement and possibly sales (see 2,3,4 above).
  6. Split out your blog into separate streams so that articles automatically send to different groups (e.g. developers and accountants, US versus NZ) Each would get articles designed for that audiences.  Create separate news feeds for different audiences, and further use them to drive marcoms to support your business growth goals
  7. The more you blog, the bigger your archive.  Readers rarely dive very deep and yet there’s probably heaps of helpful content which is being ignored.  Could they be created into “tip sheets”, e-books, training manuals and other support material? These content solutions can be supporting 1, 2 and 4 above.

As Forbes says, it’s great to be an in-house agency – but lifting your head above the parapet and seeking input and inspiration from an external agency team can be very beneficial.

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