Accountants aren’t generally known for their writing skills. Yet in today’s digital world, writing blog posts can be one of the most powerful tools for marketing your firm. Because Google loves websites that frequently add new, relevant, and useful content, blogging is one of the best ways to boost search engine rankings.
And while it’s true that you can hire a freelancer or download posts from your software provider’s library of pre-written blogs, writing your own blog has distinct advantages.
Strengthens your relationships with current and future clients
As accounting and tax services become commoditized, it’s the relationship clients have with their accountant that keeps them coming back. Writing these posts yourself is a way to express your own personality and the distinct personality of your firm. It’s a way to connect with others in your own voice. And because you’re choosing the topics to write about, your posts will reflect the immediate concerns of your clients and community.
Positions your firm as experts and different from the competition
Very few firms put in the effort to write their own posts, so just putting something up on your website can be enough to differentiate your firm from others. It’s a way to demonstrate your unique expertise. Did you recently help a client with a particularly sticky problem? Consider writing about how you helped them. This shows the world that you’re an accounting and business hero.
Saves time answering questions
How much time do you spend answering the same questions from clients? How do I calculate my estimated tax payments? How do I record the purchase of equipment financed with a loan? Can I still claim my kids when they’re in college? Wouldn’t it be great to just send a client or prospect to that post that explains everything in clear detail? This also ensures that clients always get the same consistent answer, no matter who they talk to in your office.
But just as we’ve had to learn how to use tools like 10-keys, Excel and accounting software, writing blog posts is a skill to be learned. It’s akin to writing the essays we all wrote in high school and college English classes. However, writing effective blog posts requires a few additional skills.
Here are 11 tips that help me:
Block out the time to do it. As Michael Hyatt says, “What gets scheduled gets done.” For busy accountants, this is the biggest challenge. Pressing deadlines, demands from clients, questions from team members, and the need to keep up-to-date on industry trends all compete for our time and energy. Putting it on your calendar as an inviolable appointment is the first step to making it happen.
Identify who you’re writing to. If you try to write to everyone, you won’t connect with anyone. Take the time to create an ideal client persona. Who do you like best to work with? What do they care about? What keeps them up at night? What words do they use? Be as specific as possible. Keeping this persona in mind as you write will deepen your connection to your readers. Remember, you’re not trying to attract every possible client out there — just the ones you can help the most.
Develop a list of topics. After making the time to write, coming up with ideas to write about is the next hardest part in writing a regular series of blog posts. Keeping a folder or a running list of ideas will help you find fresh and relevant topics. Brainstorm with others in your firm. Client questions are a great source of relevant ideas, as are the latest developments in tax law or current news stories.
Pick one idea per blog post. The most effective posts cover just one big idea. Focusing on one idea allows you to explore the nuances without getting scattered. It also makes it easier to formulate what you want your readers to do — what their takeaway from reading the post should be.
Outline your ideas. Before you write, list out all the points you want to make in your blog post. Some writers use mindmapping software to get their ideas out. Here’s a review of mindmapping tools. Others — myself included — use a blank sheet of paper and a pen to create a framework of ideas. This exercise will also help you identify areas where you need further research to fill in the details.
Define your intention for writing this post. What action do you want your readers to take after reading this post? Should they call your office and schedule an appointment? Do you want them to look at their own financial or business situation and make some changes? Did you explain how they can take care of an accounting task on their own? Don’t leave them hanging — spell out exactly what they should do next, and always include a suggestion that they contact your office for further assistance.
Write a rough draft. The first draft will not be a masterpiece. It probably won’t read well. It may be garbled and unclear. There may be typos and grammatical errors. That’s OK. Try not to edit and polish as you go — just get the ideas down. As you write, keep your focus on your ideal client persona and on your intention for writing. If you’re hit with writer’s block, that may be a sign you need to do more research. Once that rough draft is done, let it sit overnight or for a few hours.
Include a benefit-driven headline. The best headlines are intriguing enough to entice a reader to click on it while clearly identifying the benefit of reading your post. Clarity should trump cleverness here. Will your reader save money by following your advice? Will they cut their tax bill? Improve the efficiency of their operations? Do you want them to be inspired to save for retirement? Your reader always wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” Spell it out in your headline.
Add subheads for skimmers. Subheads help skimmers navigate your post to find the parts they’re most interested in. They can also help pull skimmers into the text and read more of it. Ideally a reader should get the gist of your blog post just by reading the subheads.
Polish your work. Read every sentence and edit it for clarity. Make sure your intention for the post is carried out. Rearrange sentences and paragraphs so that one idea flows naturally to the next one. Present your ideas in a logical order. Break long sentences into shorter ones. Break up long paragraphs. Rephrase passive sentences as active sentences.
Read your post out loud. As a final step, read your post out loud. If you have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence, consider breaking that sentence into two or more. Make note of any places where you stumble or hesitate and smooth those out. I’m always amazed at the mistakes I uncover when I do this final step. Missing words, redundancies, and confusing spots always jump out.
Your first posts may not be masterpieces. That’s OK. But you’re on your way to expressing the unique personality of your firm. Keep working at it, and it will get easier and better as you go.