A client newsletter – electronic or print – is one of the most widely used, often abused and hotly debated marketing tactics for CPA firms of any size. Here are three highly subjective myths and realities to help you determine whether it’s a worthwhile tool or, if you currently have one, how to improve it.
Myth: Every CPA Firm Needs a Client Newsletter
Marketers want you to believe that your firm needs a newsletter. But traditional newsletters – containing commentary on tax legislation, personal finance or who’s recently joined the firm – are not a marketing necessity. At many firms, the client newsletter is actually a marketing albatross. Each issue involves a frustrating hunt for timely, relevant information. Some firms avoid this pain by slapping their logo on boilerplate content purchased from a third party, but those firms can pay a bigger price in terms of brand damage. It says to target audiences, “We value our relationship, but we don’t really care enough (or know enough) to produce our own newsletter.”
Reality: Your Firm Needs to Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness
The intrinsic purpose of tactics that communicate with clients, prospects and referral sources is to reinforce the perception that your firm is smart, trustworthy and prepared to help. Beyond keeping and growing existing clients, your primary marketing goal is to drive top-of-mind awareness with target audiences. That way, when a prospect is seeking assistance, there’s a greater likelihood it will select your firm or at least put you on a short list of candidates. If that’s the goal, then contact consistency and quality are critical; however, neither of these needs to be accomplished via newsletter.
Myth: People Want to Learn About Their CPA Firms
It’s nice to think that clients and prospects really care about your firm’s growth and accomplishments. The sad truth is that your success is more important to your competitors and current and prospective employees than it is to those who generate firm revenue. Blowing your own horn can also backfire. When your firm touts that a senior partner has just published a book and was a guest on CNBC, your target audiences may wonder why that partner isn’t focused on client matters or whether the cost of a book tour will result in higher hourly rates.
Reality: Your Clients, Prospects and Referral Sources Care About Themselves
Understanding that people are selfinterested can make you a better marketer. Rather than creating newsletter content based on what you know, what you’ve done or what you can do, focus instead on the ideas, talents and accomplishments of your target audiences, regardless of whether your firm played any role in their successes. This is a tough concept for many CPA firms to understand and embrace: that the most powerful form of thought leadership does not involve pushing out your own ideas. Instead, it involves deciding what ideas merit the attention of your target audiences, as well as what voices are worth listening to. True thought leaders seek to manage the conversation, not control it.
Myth: A Newsletter Is a Cost-Effective Marketing Tactic
The old saying “cheap is expensive” rings true when it comes to newsletters. If it’s created in-house, few firms actually track the hours required to write, edit, approve, publish and distribute their newsletters. If it consists of cut-and-paste content, few firms consider the cost of producing a newsletter that very few people may read. Regardless of content, only a small number of CPA firms proactively work to expand their newsletters’ reach, maintain an adequate customer relationship marketing capability or properly leverage readership analytics from open and click-thru rates (if their newsletters are delivered online).
Reality: Your Marketing Requires More Than a One-Way Conversation
Newsletters are one-way conversations. A fundamental marketing objective is to engage clients and prospects in a conversation regarding their specific needs and opportunities. Despite the buzz regarding social media, this channel also falls short in terms of engagement. If your firm’s traditional and social media marketing tactics do not serve as catalysts to drive face-to-face discussions and word-of-mouth referrals, then their cost-effectiveness can never be measured on a meaningful basis.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Click here to read the full issue.
Gordon G. Andrew is managing partner of Highlander Consulting Inc. (highlanderconsulting.com), a firm that helps companies gain and retain customers. Contact him at 609-987-0200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.