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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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….

Warm email introduction – copy this campaign

Ever got an introduction to a new business prospect and wondered why they didn’t reply to your email enquiry?

Let us show you how to guarantee they read your message

Burning_Email_Symbol

Scenario:  Rebecca (that’s me) introduces you to Jonathan Lewis.  Hey, you should meet Jonathan, I’m sure you guys could work together.

What happens next is one of three possibilities

  1. Rebecca emails Jonathan and cc you into the message – this is the best possible next step because Rebecca is known and trusted by Jonathan so he’ll open the message and see the introduction.  PLUS you are cc so he gets your email and you see his and can reply direct keeping Rebecca cc if appropriate.
  2. Rebecca says she’ll email Jonathan and ask him to get in touch – this is the worst possible next step because you have no control over whether she does it, what she says, you don’t get Jonathan’s email address and you don’t see the message.  AVOID
  3. Rebecca gives you Jonathan’s email so you can get in touch – this is the median situation.  Your message will arrive in his in-box but he doesn’t know you, your email address won’t be white-listed and you risk being ignored

How to overcome scenario 3 above.

Your email subject line is critical

Writing this email is important – it’s your one big chance for Jonathan to notice you and make direct contact.

Ready for the perfect subject line?

Subject: Rebecca Caroe

Yes – that’s it.  Make the introducer’s name the subject of the message – this will grab their attention and they will surely notice your message.  Why is he writing to me about Rebecca?  Hey, I know Rebecca maybe that’s news about her?

Dear [First Name]

Rebecca Caroe and I met this week and we were talking about [name the project / expertise] and she has recommended you and I connect.  Her reason is that we are [state your business] and we need [state their business].

Can we fix a time to speak.  I am available on [name 2 dates and times here – at least 3 days ahead of today].

Very much looking forward to learning more about [name their business].

[your name]

Why this email works

It sets the context quickly – it does all the ‘thinking’ for the recipient.

You should be trusted with one phone chat or meeting because of the mutual connection (Rebecca) and you’ve given them an easy route for the reply message by suggesting the dates.

Go on, try it and tell me whether it worked for you!

New business development copywriting: Stalled prospects

September is the time business gets down to work after the summer break.  Blair Enns at the Win Without Pitching team say this is the perfect time to clean out your list of prospects and new business opportunities.

Find out which ones are going to buy and which aren’t worth your time chasing further.  Blair writes

Below is a simple email template that you can use to raise deals from the dead. It works throughout the year but this week, more than any other period in the calendar, is when it works best.

THE EMAIL

It was taught to me as The Takeaway but I refer to it by the subject line that I prefer: Closing The Loop. Draft it, modify it if you dare, but send it to all those prospects you were talking to over the summer about real projects only for them to disappear on you. That’s the intended purpose of this email – to raise deals from the dead and solicit a response from someone who has been avoiding you over the summer.

Your natural inclination is probably to do the opposite of what I’m about to suggest. Resist. Do not send an overly polite email. Do not make excuses for your prospect’s behaviour over the last few weeks. Do not email in pursuit of a yes or even an answer. No, your mission is to strip away all emotions and matter-of-factly just let your prospect go. Below is how to do this and then what to expect afterwards.

Ready?

Read the detailed email Blair recommends

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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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Hire the right digital marketing agency – a guide

Here’s a great guide to how to find the best digital agency for your business brand needs.
Getting an organisation who matches your needs and is able to deliver to your brief takes time and careful analysis. Get yourself all the information you need in order to find the best agency and then you have to brief them well.

Writing an awesome creative brief is a challenge and one we can help you out with – even if we’re not doing the work for you. Getting the language and the articulation of your requirements correct will shortcut the selection process of finding the best digital marketing team for your needs.

Types of Digital Marketing Agency

Types of Digital Marketing Agency

 

Get the report from Search Engine Land – a Buyers guide to Digital Marketing Agencies 2013

 

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Best Practice email signup form: PSFK

Nice information ask here from trend spotters, PSFK.

They call it ‘need to know’ – I hope they do.

It includes a request for twitter id – first time I’ve seen that on an email newsletter sign up form. Interesting that they choose to put it so high up – under your name – the second field to complete.

 

 

 

How MontBlanc could improve its email marketing

I just bought a pen, a beautiful pen and shared my email address with the supplier – top luxury brand, Mont Blanc.

A week later I got an email, beautifully crafted but inappropriate message.  This is not the way to say hello and welcome to your new customers.  Launching right in with a sales message…. How about a welcome, a short autoresponder about the brand and explanation setting out expectations for the relationship?

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