How Your Blog Posts Can Help You Stay Top of Mind with Your Market

“Why didn’t you hire me? I live just over there!”

I looked up as a young man yelled at me from the window of his pickup truck, which had just screeched to a sideways stop at the end of my driveway. I recognized the driver as a neighbor who lived a block away with his father. I had been talking to the foreman of the the crew I’d hired to re-stucco my house.

“I started a new stucco business. I gave you a flyer and all,” he whined. I vaguely remembered receiving a primitive black and white flyer advertising his services, but that was months ago. Maybe even a year ago. When he gave me that flyer, I wasn’t even thinking about a new stucco job, so I tossed it out.

Then when I was collecting estimates for our stucco job, I had completely forgotten about that  xeroxed sheet of paper. And I didn’t have his contact information anymore. Now, with the chosen crew busily setting up, it was too late to even give him a chance. And his attitude wasn’t helping matters.

If he had made sure that everyone in our neighborhood knew about his business, I would have at least asked for an estimate. And I might have hired him.

If you don’t keep your name in front of prospects, then you risk making the same mistake this young man made. A mistake that may have cost him a nice paycheck.

Most advertising falls on deaf ears and blind eyes if the audience isn’t ready to buy. Or they’re not concerned about the problem this product or service is supposed to solve. Unless that bit of marketing catches your attention, you probably won’t remember the name of the company if you ever need their solution.

There are many ways an accounting firm can stay top of mind for prospects and clients, from attending networking events to speaking at local business meetings. But if you’re like many of the accountants I know, those activities are waaay outside your comfort zone. Some accountants are terrific at speaking — and I truly love hearing them at conferences or when I attend courses.

But for those who don’t like speaking, what are some good ways to stay top of mind for your prospects and clients? In this blog post, I’m going to suggest ways you can leverage your blog to get your message out to more people who need your services.

Writing a blog positions you as an expert

Sharing your knowledge with the world shows that you know your field. This isn’t giving away the keys to the kingdom — your best prospects will be wowed by what you give away for free. And they’ll be eager to learn what you’re not  sharing. They’re looking for someone who can guide them to fulfilling their dreams, and by sharing what you know, you’re showing them that you’re the one to help them.

Raise your search engine ranking without tricks

Google is continually revising its search algorithm with the goal of helping users find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. Adding content to your website on a regular basis tells Google that this is a website with useful and current information.

How do I know this works? I’ve done almost nothing to optimize my website in the search results, but I’ve been told by accountants looking for a writer that my site appears high in the rankings, sometimes as high as #1 or #2, depending on exactly what the search terms were. When I first launched, I couldn’t find myself on Google. Now I’m consistently on the first page.

This takes time and patience. Despite what some SEO experts say, there are no magical ways to significantly raise your search rankings. There are some things you can do that will enhance your profile over time, but don’t believe anyone who says they can get you on the first page with just a few tweaks to your website. If they’re using tricks to game the system, Google will eventually punish you for that.

Build the foundation for your newsletter

Reuse your blog posts in your newsletter. You can copy the whole post into your newsletter, or include a link that takes readers back to your website.

The wonderful thing about email newsletters is that they can be forwarded to others. A newsletter coming from your firm adds a personal connection that a canned newsletter from your software provider can’t.

Communicating with your clients on a regular basis is a great way to tell them about services your firm offers that they may not be aware of. If they don’t know you offer these other services, they may go elsewhere if they need them. And it can remind them of tax-saving ideas they need to talk to you about.

Spread to other social media channels

Where do your ideal customers hang out? Scope out the different social media channels and search for your clients. Where do they hang out? Where are they most engaged? If you work with young entrepreneurs, you’re more likely to find them on Twitter or FaceBook than on LinkedIn.

Every social media channel has some means of sharing content. LinkedIn has its own publishing platform where you can simply copy and paste your blog post. Add an image at the top and you’re done. Or you can just add a link back to your blog in a regular post.

Use as a helpful followup after networking events

If you’re like most accountants, you’ve got a stash of business cards collected at various networking events, I’ve got scads of them myself. And if you’re like most networking event attendees, you’ll add your latest fistful to that growing pile.

Here’s a way that you’ll really stand out from the crowd: pick out your favorites — these are the people or businesses you’d like to work with most of all — and send them a short email. Thank them for meeting you and send them a link to a blog post you think might be helpful.

I hope this has given you some ideas for getting more mileage out of your blog posts. And if you’re not already blogging, you can see that the many ways you can re-use your blogs makes this activity a worthwhile investment! And if you need help getting your blog written in the first place, send me an email at liz@farrcommunications.com!

78 Ideas for Your Tax Blog

“I don’t know what to write about.”

This is a common excuse I’ve heard from tax practitioners for not keeping up a regular blog on their website. As tax practitioners, we deal with the tax code every day. It’s easy to forget that our clients and prospective clients don’t share our depth of knowledge. What seems obvious to us may be completely unknown to them.

A regular blog on a variety of topics will never take the place of your guidance as a trusted accountant who knows the intimate details of your clients’ financial matters. But it can enhance your practice by educating your clients about methods for reducing taxes and building long-term wealth. It can also save you time by providing you with posts you can simply point your clients to when they ask a question you’ve heard over and over.

Adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis is one of the criteria used by Google for search engine rankings. Google is continually revising its search ranking algorithm in an attempt to make the search experience a positive one for users. The emphasis is on quality and quantity, not on tricks designed to increase ranking at the expense of providing useful information to the searcher.

Here are 78 topic suggestions for your tax blog. These should keep you busy for a while — and serve as a starting point for additional topics to write about!

  1. Are you on track with your retirement saving?
  2. Roth vs. Traditional IRA — how to choose
  3. Rules for taking distributions from Roth and Traditional IRAs
  4. What happens when the IRA owner dies — why your beneficiary choice is critical
  5. Rules for borrowing from your IRA
  6. Qualified charitable distributions from IRAs — how to do this and what are the tax benefits
  7. Rules for rolling over a retirement account into another account
  8. Time value of money — how a little invested early can beat large sums invested later
  9. Retirement plans for self-employed and small business
  10. Defined benefit plans — why this may be a great choice for some small businesses
  11. What the new repair regulations mean for your business
  12. Taking advantage of the safe harbor de minimis election for purchases of small items
  13. Repair regulations — when is it a repair that you can expense and when do you have to capitalize it
  14. Business use of vehicles — when is your drive a commute, personal or business use?
  15. What kinds of vehicles are eligible for a 100% write-off in the year you buy them
  16. Documentation requirements for business use of vehicles and how to make it easy
  17. Estimated payments and how to calculate safe harbor amounts
  18. Nexus for income tax — what are the rules overall and what are the rules for your state and those nearby
  19. Nexus for sales tax — how is ecommerce changing this, and how can you monitor this
  20. Domestic Production Activities Deduction: What businesses are eligible and how to calculate it
  21. Research & Development credit — what are the potential tax savings and what businesses are eligible
  22. When does it make sense to do a cost-segregation study for the building you use for your business
  23. Qualified leasehold improvement rules — what improvements qualify for 15-year depreciation
  24. Vacation home rental rules
  25. Selling your personal home — Timelines for excluding gain for personal use
  26. Depreciation recapture from business use of your personal home
  27. Converting your home to or from a rental property
  28. Step-up in basis of your home at death of spouse — how this works in a community property state vs. a separate property state
  29. Choice of entity — Advantages and disadvantages of each type
  30. Agreements and contracts for your business — why you need a formal agreement and why your CPA needs to see it
  31. S-corporations — overview of this entity type and how this can save on self-employment tax
  32. Reasonable compensation for an S-corporation owner
  33. Formation and dissolution of a business
  34. Late election relief for an S-corporation
  35. Distribution issues for S-corporations — must be proportionate and when they can become taxable
  36. Shareholder loans — what you need to do to avoid reclassifying these as capital contributions or distributions
  37. Basis issues for S-corporations
  38. Accumulated Adjustments Account (AAA) — what this is and how transactions affect it
  39. Partnerships — overview of this entity type and benefits of complete flexibility in agreements
  40. What partnership income is subject to self-employment tax — recent IRS cases
  41. Partner loans, partnership debt, and basis issues
  42. Section 704(b) allocations in partnerships
  43. C-corporations — overview of this entity type and when this is an appropriate choice
  44. Best ways to get cash out of a C-corp and avoid double-taxation
  45. Like-kind exchanges — how to structure and execute these for maximum tax savings
  46. Mortgage interest deduction rules — how to calculate allowable amount when your mortgage is over $1.1 million
  47. How a recent IRS decision on mortgage interest is a bonus for unmarried couples
  48. Estate tax — how the portability rules can affect you and your spouse
  49. Charitable deductions of non-cash items — when do you need an appraisal
  50. How to document donations to charities
  51. Household employees — reporting and tax issues
  52. Taxability of barter transactions
  53. Stock options — how to decide when to exercise and when to sell
  54. How investing in muni bonds can save you taxes
  55. Harvesting losses in your portfolio to save capital gains tax
  56. Passive activity loss rules — what you need to know before investing in a passive activity
  57. Rules for qualified real estate professionals — how to meet them and the tax benefits this classification accords
  58. How to structure gifts to maximize the benefits for all parties
  59. Section 1202 stock — gains on sale are tax exempt
  60. Setting up an accountable plan to reimburse an S-corporation shareholder for expenses
  61. Section 179 limits explained
  62. Gambling income and losses — what you can deduct and what records you need to keep
  63. Hobby loss rules and your small business — how to protect yourself in case of an IRS audit
  64. What to do in case of tax identity theft
  65. Tax breaks for higher education expenses
  66. What expenses qualify for the childcare tax credit and what documents you need from your provider
  67. Rules for claiming someone as a dependent on your tax return
  68. Avoid underpayment penalties by increasing tax withholding from salaries
  69. Cash vs. accrual basis on tax returns
  70. Dependency exemptions for children of divorced parents
  71. Lease accounting rules — how the GAAP rules differ from tax rules
  72. When does it pay to outsource your bookkeeping
  73. How hiring a remote CFO can help you grow your business
  74. Changing from cash-basis accounting to accrual (or vice versa)
  75. How to correct mistakes in depreciation
  76. What to do when you receive a letter from the IRS or your state tax authority
  77. Ways to structure the sale of a business to save on taxes
  78. What is AMT and how to reduce your exposure

I hope this list give you plenty of ideas for your tax blog. Your client base, your practice and your team are all unique. Your blog will be most successful if it reflects that uniqueness.

Become a Trusted Advisor by Out Teaching Your Competition

We’re told that we as accountants need to become trusted advisors, but how do we do that? Jason Fried and David Heinemeyer Hansson’s book Rework puts it most simply: Out teach your competition.

Your best marketing tool is in your head. You don’t need to spend tons of money on flashy ads or fancy graphics for your website. You just need to share what you know with the world.

Most accountants don’t do this. They worry that they’ll give away all their secrets and thus lose business.

The reality is that the clients you want to work with — the ones who value your expertise and are willing to pay for that expertise — will respect you more and see you as an expert if you’re willing to share your knowledge.

By sharing your knowledge freely, your audience will view you as someone they can rely on to do the hard, complex work of figuring out how the tax laws and the financial rules apply to their situation. Being a fount of useful information will increase the loyalty that prospects and clients feel for you.

It’s true that some readers will take what you put out there and use it themselves. But those aren’t the ones you should be pursuing. The do-it-yourselfers are rarely a profitable bunch. However, they may refer you to their friends and family. Research from Hinge Marketing shows that up to 81.5% of referrals can come from people who have never worked directly with your firm.

That 81.5% comes from people who know enough about you to send their friends and colleagues to you. How do they find out about you to inspire that kind of trust? Put enough information out there for free, and those referrers will find you with Google.

Google loves websites that are constantly updated with fresh information. Your search engine rankings will rise as you add new information.

Google is constantly updating its algorithm to punish those who try SEO tricks to increase ranking and to reward those who provide the most useful information. This can best be accomplished by providing quality content that provides readers with valuable information they can use — by teaching them.

Think of yourself as a conduit for ideas. Your prospects and clients know their businesses, but they aren’t experts in tax and accounting.

That’s where you can shine.

By translating opaque IRS regulations and accounting standards into simple ideas that non-accountants can understand, you’re providing value to your audience.

If you explain complex concepts simply and clearly enough, many of your delighted readers may even be fellow accountants who willingly refer you to friends or clients who need help in that area of your expertise. Or they may invite you to collaborate on some interesting (and profitable!) projects.

Sharing your expertise is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Most accountants keep their knowledge a secret, and just state that they’re experts.

My late brother Geoff was fond of saying, “If you don’t believe me, just ask me!” This is the approach many accountants take on their website. They simply state that they’re experts in tax or GAAP without demonstrating it.

Showing is more powerful than telling. By demonstrating your unique skills and knowledge you can attract your target market. You can reassure skittish prospects. And your clearly demonstrated expertise justifies higher fees for your services.

Providing information builds reciprocity. When you provide useful information to others, they feel obliged to return the favor. We’re wired that way. We can’t help it.

Master marketer Dan Kennedy uses this technique to justify his stratospheric fees for personal consultations (starting at about $20,000 for a day with him). He intentionally delays the sale by providing loads of useful information to prospects.

This stream of information builds trust that he’s an expert in marketing. As more and more useful information is provided, his prospects become insensitive to his high fees. And they want to work with him more as they learn more.

Sharing information is a way to show your personality. It’s true that this may turn some prospects off. But if they don’t like what you share with the world, then it’s likely you won’t like them in person.

Wouldn’t you rather work with clients who like you, who already have formed a favorable relationship with you through your teaching? As Dan Kennedy wrote in his book, No B.S. Trust Based Marketing, the higher up the income ladder you climb, the more you’ll find that people get higher fees for their services because of who they are, not for what they do.

One of the easiest methods for teaching your audience is by adding blog posts or articles to your website. If you find yourself answering the same question over and over, write down the answer and post it on your website. Then you can point all queries to that article whenever the question comes up.

You’ll get the most benefit from your blog posts if you don’t just put them on your website and forget about them. They can be the foundation of your newsletter (as this one is). You can post them to social media. You can compile a group into a short ebook or special report that you can post on your website. You can even read them aloud and use the recording as a podcast. They can be the basis of a video posted on your website.

If you want to do this yourself, there are excellent resources to help you improve your business writing. My colleague Helen Wilkie has a book and a new video course geared for accountants to help with their writing.

But many accountants have neither the time nor the desire to improve their writing. A freelance writer (like me!) can help you by writing blog posts, articles, ebooks, white papers or special reports for you.

However you decide to teach your audience, keep it up consistently. And get started today!

Need help figuring out the best teaching strategy for your firm? Call me at 505-440-3317 or email me at liz@farrcommunications.com and I’ll help you find a way that works for you!