Of course as business owners and accountants, we always know that we should prepare for a rainy day. But let's be honest, how often do you push this thought to the back of your mind? Take the 2008-09 recession and the current Covid-19 pandemic as primary examples; many business owners were and still are being hurt by these recessions. (And many more will be as the COVID-19 recession really starts to bite.) So how can you do things differently? What steps can you take to prepare your business to weather this storm, and future storms, so that you can emerge from them even stronger? These are the two most common questions that we are being faced with lately, hence the reason for this article series. This article series is based upon a webinar we did with GI on how to recession-proof your practice. Click here to download the whole recording. Here is part two of a four-part series on how to survive a recession.
Step 2: You need to increase your marketing activity
Facebook marketing expert, Mari Smith said, “Content is King but engagement is Queen, and the lady rules the house!” Although the King gets all the glory, he would fall apart without his Queen. While everybody knows how important it is to get content out there, without engagement, it makes no impact.
What does this have to do with the recession? During an economic downturn, accountancy practice owners tend to tighten their purse strings, especially when it comes to marketing. That's not a surprise; it makes sense to cut certain expenses when reserving cash flow. What doesn't make sense, is that a lot of accountants tend to also stop their marketing activities at a time when they need it most.
In a recession, you need to be visible in the market place to grab the opportunities out there. As part one mentioned, business is still going on! People are realising that they aren't getting the service that they want; they are looking elsewhere. Increasing your marketing activity (it doesn't always mean spending more), ensures that you aren't just surviving in a recession, you are thriving.
Key marketing tasks for surviving in a recession
It's all well and good saying "if you want to know how to survive a recession, you need to increase your marketing activity," but what exactly do you need to do? What activities should you be focusing on?
1. Review the current effectiveness of your marketing
You can't make positive changes if you don't know what is already working, so review your marketing and business development plans. (If you don't have a marketing or business development plan, download one here to get started...) What do you need to stop, start, or continue?
To help you review what is working and what is not, here is a list of questions for you to go through:
- What are your growth plans for your practice? What are your goals? (If you don't have a growth plan, download and listen to our recording of our how to create a growth plan which you are energised to implement)
- How far are you from reaching your goals?
- Which marketing activities are you currently doing and how often? (If you don't have a marketing plan for your activities, click here to download one)
- What are your KPIs and how are you measuring them?
- Do you know the marketing reach and the return of investment for each of these?
- What are your clients saying?
- What are your competitors doing and what is working for them?
- Are there other marketing activities should you be doing (that will move you closer to your goals)?
When reviewing your marketing and business development efforts, you want to try and identify which activities are giving you the biggest bang for your buck and which are taking up too much time or are not making the impact that you want. When you have this information, you can focus on the tasks that provide more value and invest any money where it is actually needed.
2. Revisit your client personas
As we mentioned in part one of the blog series, recessions are cleansing times. They get rid of all the deadwood clients, the ones who create all the noise and take up a lot of your time, so that you're left with your core clients; the ones who actually make up the majority of your business and who pay well for your service too.
If you want to know how to survive a recession, taking stock of your best clients is very good practice.
- Who are your favourite clients right now?
- Who do you enjoy working for?
- What do you do for them?
- Who pays the best?
By revisiting your client personas, you can make sure that all of your marketing activities thereafter are solely aimed at acquiring and serving the types of clients that you actually want. Having clear client personas is the key to writing copy and content that makes an impact as you can specifically tailor them to the client's needs.
3. Refresh your website copy
Once you have your client personas to hand, you should now be looking at updating the copy on your website. While you may be thinking "is this really essential when I'm worrying about how to survive a recession?" the shorter answer is: yes.
The world has changed in the space of a few months, people are experiencing unique challenges and as a result, businesses are trying to come up with unique services and creative solutions. With many potential clients looking for help, now is the ideal time to be really clear about what you do and how you can help them. Use our website checklist to see if your website is currently fit for purpose.
Here are a few things that must be answered when you refresh your website copy:
- What does your ideal client need from your firm right now?
- Make sure you know their pain points/what are they currently struggling with?
- Are you clear on your firm's real strengths and specialisms?
- What is your promise/charter to your clients?
- Why should they come to you over your competitor?
- Can you add any up-to-date testimonials to back up what you're saying? Anything that reflects your level of service that you have given clients during the Covid crisis?
According to some recent research by McKinsey, they found that for the first time in history, B2B buyers are more likely to go and look at your website online before they ask for a recommendation or referral. Are you still thinking that refreshing your website to make sure it's up to date isn't necessary? Use our website checklist to see how you can improve your website's effectiveness.
4. Write and share relevant and useful content
Writing good quality content consistently is a key marketing activity anyway, so what needs to change now? You need to write about topics that are relevant and helpful, topics that your target audience is going to want to read about. Surviving in a recession is something that every business owner is trying to do right now.
To help you make more of an impact with your content, here are a few things that you can do/think about:
- What are your client's pain points right now? What are they struggling with the most/looking for help for?
- Use Ubersuggest to find the top keywords that they would be searching for and write pieces of content targeting these.
- Use our free content plan template to help you plan your content in advance
- Update your clients weekly via email on changing rules, government help, relevant topics to them and/or content you've written.
- Share your content on your social media channels (especially LinkedIn) to encourage engagement/discussions.
For more advice on how to survive a recession, read part one of our blog series: How to recession-proof your practice (part one: choose the right mindset)
5. Engage on LinkedIn
Remember the quote at the beginning of this article about how content is nothing without engagement? This is where LinkedIn comes in. Using LinkedIn should be a marketing activity that you prioritise as it is a hub for professionals to connect and engage.
So what should you be doing on LinkedIn? Here are some main activities that you should be aiming for.
- Expand your reach to well-placed introducers and potential new clients.
- Post up daily, but make it personal (think “human first, accountant second”). (Use our 50+ ideas for content on LinkedIn to make sure you are never short of words again)
- Comment regularly on posts by well-placed introducers and potential new clients.
- Proactively ask to connect with well-placed introducers and potential new clients. (Use our 'cut and paste' LinkedIn conversation starters to make it quicker to connect with people and start a conversion.)
- Have a dialogue, as if you were at a networking event, with prospects and introducers via private messaging.
- Use up to 3 hashtags on a post to get more search traffic to your posts.
It has long been known that connections are powerful. After all, it really is about "who you know, not what you know," so it's no wonder really that we're recommending using LinkedIn as a tip for surviving in a recession. Networking is the key tool to growth and LinkedIn is the key to networking.
6. Optimise your profiles
Effective marketing isn't always about having that frequent and consistent activity (although, it mainly is); it is about having a joined-up strategy.
There are so many avenues where potential clients can find you, so you have to make sure that all of these are up-to-date. In this context, we are specifically talking about these two avenues. To make sure that all of your profiles (a.k.a marketing avenues) are optimised to getting the right clients in this current climate, consider doing the following activities:
- Rewrite the copy in the Xero, Quickbooks or Freeagent Accountants Directories to highlight your particular specialisms.
- Optimise your Google My Business profile to ensure that you have the right keywords in the right places.
- Ask clients to put a review on Google and/or your local Facebook page.
7. Call your clients and cold prospects
Our last key task for how to survive a recession is to call your clients every month to see how they are doing. The same goes for any prospects who went cold. This may sound strange, but when you think about it, we are all struggling in different ways so a call to ask how we are with no other intention is really appreciated.
From a marketing point of view, a call to your clients every month will allow you to take a temperature check of them personally but also their business. It will help you serve their needs better. Perhaps they have a problem that you can help them with or maybe there's a way you can alter your service to better suit what they need currently.
Whether it's existing clients or potential new ones, a personal call is pretty unforgettable and it leaves quite the impression. When there's an economic upturn, who do you think they'll remember? The people who they didn't hear from or the ones who stuck by them and helped them get through the storm?
Recession-proof your practice by increasing your marketing activity
While it's tempting to minimise expenses and to cut back on certain things while trying to navigate through a recession, don't forget about your marketing. Clients need your help now more than ever so you need to be visible. You need to be positioning yourself as the person that can help them.
To do this, you need to increase your marketing activity. Start by identifying what is working and what key tasks you need to be focusing on (these 7 points above are the perfect ones to start off with). Once you've done that, you need to go full steam ahead to write topical content that your target audience wants and to pair this with stimulating and interesting engagement by sharing it on LinkedIn. Don't forget, the King is nothing without his Queen!
Need more help with how to survive a recession? Don't forget about the full webinar on how to recession-proof your practice! It contains all 4 parts of the blog series - Click here to download the whole recording.
Get your practice ready to thrive in a recession
Download the recording of 'How to recession-proof your accountancy practice' and you will discover:
- The top 3 areas to investigate to find the quick wins to cut your firm’s cost base
- Ways to reduce your practice overheads without having to make anyone redundant or reduce their hours
- Advice on how to get 4-8 decent leads every month without having to spend a fortune on marketing OR spend all your time on marketing - even if marketing and sales is your weakness
- How to make the time to recession-proof your accountancy practice even if you are overwhelmed with client work right now
- How to get clients to pay for the services they need even if they plead they have no money