As the outsourced accountant to hundreds of companies around the country, I see one thing that so many of them have in common -- an underfunded marketing plan.
In fact, most businesses don't have a marketing plan at all. They throw money at random ideas, hope something sticks, and move on. No questions asked.
Today we're going to look at what you should be spending on marketing, and how turn that spend into a profitable return. As your accountant, my job is to protect your bottom line -- but we need to make sure there's a bottom line to protect.
Let's get to it.
#1 - Build a better website
Chances are, your website needs a lot of work; don't let it deflate you. Most websites are broken in so many ways. Go to your site right now. You do have one, don't you? Either way, we need to get it fixed. All good sites have a few things going for them:
A great first impression with a call to action
Clear service pages that detail what you do
A blog that is prominent and valuable
Gated content for gathering leads
A library of tools that make your customers lives easier
Most sites that I visit are nothing more than an About Us page and a static home page. The copy is thick and full of jargon, and the pictures are fake.
Budget: Most of you could get a great website in place for $1,000 to $5,000. You can hire a Wordpress expert on Upwork.com to help you build it. Easy.
#2 - Write Helpful Blog Posts
Blog posts are still the way to go. I don't care what anyone else says. At Ignite Spot, I've written hundreds of posts just like the one you're reading now. They sit on the internet for me, and do one thing only -- sell my company. But not in the way you think. I don't write posts that promote our services. I write posts that answer questions that you have. It's how I found you. You're here aren't you? You're on my website because you did a google search or something similar, and now you're reading this article.
Here's the problem with blogs. Most companies don't take them seriously. They write a post once a quarter, and they do it without heart. Nobody want's to read that drivel.
What would happen if you opened up your heart as the CEO of your company and taught your customers?
Budget: Once your website is up and running, writing a blog is free. It just takes time on your part. I would suggest writing at least two articles a week to start. I used to write everyday. I've since scaled back to one a week or so because I have a huge foundation to build off of.
#3 - Create Helpful Videos
Do you have an iphone or similar device in your pocket? Then you have everything you need to make great videos for your customers. Start a YouTube channel and make videos that do one thing -- help. Just like blog posts, your videos are not designed for you to sell your stuff to me. Instead, they're a way for you to brand yourself as the expert. You do that by being helping and answering hard questions.
Don't be afraid of giving away the secret sauce. We don't do what you do, and when we see how good you are at it, we're likely to give up and hire you.
Budget: Free, including your YouTube channel.
#4 - Build an Ebook
I mentioned gated content earlier. An ebook is a great example of this. Gated just means that the website visitor has to give you something in exchange for the content. In this case, an ebook. If they give you their email address by filling out a form, then you send them an ebook.
You've seen these kinds of offers all over the web. They work. If you're ebook is extremely helpful, people will give you their info to get it. That's the key -- don't write a crappy ebook.
Budget: Once you write the content, you'll need to hire a few people to make this thing shine. You'll want an editor to review it for grammar and readability. You'll also need to hire a graphic designer to make the thing look amazing. Plan on $1,000 to $2,000 for the entire project.
I know it's a lot, but trust me -- it will become a great tool for developing leads down the road.
#5 - Do Interviews
Get onto twitter and reach out to celebrities, authorities, and valuable people that your customers care about. Ask them if you can do a video interview with them. You might get one yes out of 20 invites, but that's all it takes. Once you get your 'yes', set up a screen share so that we can see your face and the person you're interviewing. Then hold a 10 to 30 minute interview with them, asking the kinds of questions your customers want to know about.
This works in every industry by the way. For example, if you own a lawn care business, try and get a popular landscaper on and talk about how to care for different kinds of trees common in your area.
Budget: Also free. It just takes a little time and hard work on your part. You can do it.
# 6 - Film Testimonials
Many of you have customer testimonials written down somewhere. That's great. Now go and visit those customers and record them talking about you. We care about video these days, especially when it comes to testimonials.
#7 - Use HARO
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. It's an online marketplace where reporters go, looking for industry experts to help them write their articles. Once you sign up, you'll be able to look for current requests in your industry. Contact those journalists and offer your insight into answering their questions. It's a great way to get featured in popular magazines, blogs, and more.
Budget: Free unless you sign up for the paid version.
Some of the most effective marketing is actually free. As an outsourced accountant, I'm very passionate about driving the sales of my company, as well as those of my clients. The 7 tips listed above have made a huge difference to our growth. Give them a shot, and tell me what you think. Just remember, this kind of marketing only works when you're consistent. So show up every day and do the work, and you will be rewarded.