Successful CPAs are much more than devoted number crunchers. They’re knowledgeable business advisers who can offer insights to their clients on a wide range of topics. It doesn’t matter how stellar your core work is; if clients don’t see you as a trusted source of information and guidance, it’ll be tough to stay top of mind.
How do you make sure your CPA firm is seen as a trusted business adviser beyond core services such as audit and tax?
This is where investing in an email newsletter makes sense. Granted, we here at rasa.io are super into email newsletters, and we work hard to make them smarter and better. But, done thoughtfully, newsletters are a great fit for CPA firms and other industries where keeping touch with clients is a priority despite its challenges. Hear us out.
Why does my CPA firm need an email newsletter?
In the case of CPAs, there is a high degree of seasonality to the work and touch points with clients. For example, most audit work tends to fall at the beginning of a client’s fiscal year, which, for many small businesses, aligns with the calendar year. The biggest chunk of tax work also tends to happen around that time of the year. As a result, CPA firms have a great deal of interaction with their clients during these seasonal “hot spots,” but less of a reason to be in touch with those same clients at other points in the year.
Email newsletters offer a creative, effective and efficient way to strengthen your CPA firm’s content marketing. Most everyone has an email address these days (just over 4 billion of us worldwide, if you’re counting). After all, you need an email to log into a social media account, not the other way around. In addition, your email list belongs to you. You built it. It’s yours.
Another plus: Email is easy to check on-the-go, using a mobile device. As of 2019, mobile devices accounted for nearly half of all website views, according to Statista. It’s important to meet clients where they are, and, increasingly, that’s on their phones.
But why invest in an email newsletter for your CPA firm? Isn’t an email newsletter more 2000 than 2020? It’s true. Email marketing, including email newsletters, has been around for awhile, but it continues to grow as content marketing becomes a growing priority for CPA firms and other professional services.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and sharing information that’s valuable to your audience.
Email newsletters are designed to deliver useful information directly to your audience. Content marketing and email newsletters go hand-in-hand for a CPA firm. Surveys show that consumers still prefer email outreach when being contacted by brands. In a 2017 Campaign Monitor survey, 66% of respondents ranked email as their preferred method of communication from retail brands, followed by direct mail at a distant 26%.
To add onto that, email newsletters are evolving. That’s because technology, ranging from simple GIFs to artificial intelligence (like what we do here at rasa.io), is making it easier to build smarter, more personalized email newsletters. More personalized means more meaningful.
If the goal is to maintain a direct conversation with your audience online and across devices, email newsletters are one of the more effective tools out there.
How should my CPA firm start an email newsletter?
If you already have an email list of customers, congrats! You have a built-in audience who wouldn’t mind hearing from you. If you don’t, getting started is as simple as asking. Ask new and existing customers if you could email them a weekly newsletter with useful information to keep them up-to-date on financial trends, tax tips and other industry- or region-specific information. Not sales pitches or promos, but articles, videos and other content that you think they would find useful. In addition, each time you meet with a new prospective client, add them to your newsletter so your brand stays top of mind as they consider the firm they’ll be working with.
CPAs work hard to set their clients up for financial success, and are often laser focused on advising clients. It’s in your DNA. But your email newsletter should not be dedicated to wading through the intricacies of tax rules. First and foremost, an email newsletter is about building a relationship with people, people who may eventually need help with audit, tax, compliance or other matters. Those accounting needs aren’t the day-to-day focus of clients, so it’s important to think more broadly when creating your email newsletter.
Your newsletter should be about the topics your readers are most interested in on a long-term basis, not just the core topics you would normally discuss.
We don’t have to tell you that investing in maintaining relationships, whether in-person or through a newsletter, is the key to unlocking long-term success. Those new clients with a tax-related question today? They could be a long-term client. You want your accounting firm (or perhaps a link to your accounting newsletter) to come up when a client or someone they know is looking for accounting expertise.
To that end, grow your email list by asking your existing subscribers to share the newsletter with friends and family if they find it useful. Send out surveys asking subscribers what topics they want to know more about. Add a newsletter signup feature on your website. And bring along a tablet to encourage newsletter signups at in-person events.
What should we talk about in our email newsletter?
Don’t underestimate the treasure trove of knowledge you bring to the table as an accountant. A big part of running a CPA practice is helping clients audit their financials and keeping tabs on changes in tax guidance at the federal, state and local levels. Your audience wants to know about useful information in those areas, and not just during tax season. Make it a point to share expert context on key topics, without going too far into the weeds.
Take a breath. That doesn’t mean that you need to sit down and start typing out dozens of blog posts that break down complex tax rules. Much of the content you’re looking for is already online, but your audience may not be seeing it. It’s up to you to share it with them, and an email newsletter is an effective way to do that.
In your regular industry reading and research, look out for articles, videos and other content that do a good job at explaining big-picture trends or key decisions that could affect how your clients do business. (This process, by the way, is called curation and it’s crucial in a successful content marketing strategy. Check out our content curation guide to help you get started curating quality content the right way.)
Perhaps your firm has already started sending promotional emails highlighting news about your firm, recent hires and cases where you’ve successfully represented clients. Think of your email newsletter as an opportunity to do something a little different. Focus on sharing information about the news and topics people care about, whether or not they tie directly back to the accounting services your firm offers.
The topics you choose to focus on should be informed by your clientele and their interests. Think in terms of client personas. A useful newsletter means something different to a 35-year-old who founded her own tech startup than it does to a wealthy 65-year-old dentist preparing for her retirement. Think about your typical customer, what industry they fall in and what their specific needs and interests are.
Crosslin PLLC, based in Nashville, Tenn., started sending a regular email newsletter last spring to clients, which range from construction to health care to religious organizations. The firm sends a weekly email newsletter to roughly 14,000 subscribers every Wednesday morning.
Nikki Crosslin, Crosslin’s public relations director, noted tax-related articles do tend to be most popular, particularly articles that explain any changes in tax rules, notify businesses of upcoming tax deadlines or dive into tax strategy. Amid covid-19, interest has soared in the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, so its email newsletter content has shifted toward that program and its rules this spring, she added.
We live “in an ever-changing world, with new ways to do things, new ways to look at things,” Nikki Crosslin said. “We just want to be bringing information to our customers that is of interest to them, that is helpful and informative.”
Crosslin PLLC offers IT services in addition to traditional accounting services, so the firm’s email newsletter also includes articles and information on IT-related topics like cybersecurity, malware and how to prevent or detect a data breach.
The IT-related articles were initially intended to target the firm’s IT services clients, Nikki Crosslin said. In practice, they’ve found that they actually appeal to a broad set of clients, including some who weren’t aware of the firm’s IT services, she said.
“We are constantly challenged with coming up with new ways to stay in front of our clients. The timing of a service is everything,” said Justin D. Crosslin Jr., the firm’s co-managing principal.
That’s what makes sending a weekly email newsletter so powerful, he added. Customers get a reminder of the range of expertise you bring to the table, he said.
An email newsletter “gives us an opportunity to constantly stay in front of them and let them know the new services we’re offering,” Justin Crosslin said.
Full disclosure: Crosslin PLLC uses rasa.io to send its weekly email newsletter. Why? Nikki Crosslin said rasa.io makes it easy to build and send a quality newsletter, saving the firm’s small marketing department time. Justin Crosslin added that the ability to send personalized newsletters to clients in a wide range of industries was another big draw for the CPA firm. (The rasa.io platform uses artificial intelligence to personalize newsletter content for each subscriber every time you hit send. Learn more about how it works.)
In addition, the firm uses Emma, by Campaign Monitor, to send one-time alerts with urgent, time-sensitive updates, for example, tax deadlines or, more recently, changes in the federal PPP loan program, Nikki Crosslin said.
Many of our customers use rasa.io in tandem with an email service provider, like Emma or Mailchimp. For an idea on how that works, read our blog post on how to use both rasa.io and Mailchimp to strengthen your email marketing.
Where can I find info for my email newsletter?
The best CPA firm newsletters offer a mix of original content and external content. The latter is known as curated content in the online marketing world.
A good guideline? For every 10 pieces of content shared (i.e. articles, videos, social media posts, etc.), shoot for five curated pieces, three original pieces and two pieces that share something personal about your CPA firm.
Where can you find curated content? First, think of the places where your clients are most likely to learn and read about accounting-related happenings. Then think about sources of business news that would appeal to a broad set of clients.
That can include sources like:
- National and local news websites;
- Newsletters that target the industries you serve;
- Industry blogs and social media (as long as the content is accessible to your average, non-CPA reader). Ideas include Accounting Today; American Institute of CPAs; and CCH Group’s Wolters Kluwer blog.
- Tax blogs like TaxProf Blog; TaxBuzz; and The Blunt Bean Counter. See this list of tax related blogs.
- Personal finance blogs like Nerdwallet and Mint Life.
- Media targeting business owners like Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur and Fast Company.
At Crosslin PLLC, Nikki Crosslin said the firm blends in tax and financial coverage from major business publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, in addition to sharing accounting-specific articles. The firm also shares local business news for its clients in the Nashville area.
Striking a balance in local and national content is important since the firm has clients in Nashville as well as nationwide, Nikki Crosslin said.
Check out rasa.io’s Content Library for more content sourcing inspiration.
Where can I learn more about crafting email newsletters?
With a thoughtful approach, email newsletters are an effective way to connect with your clients throughout the year. It’s about holding a conversation.
Want to learn more about how to craft successful email newsletters? Our Pushing Send blog has a whole section on email newsletters for you to peruse.
Looking for email inspiration? The Really Good Emails database includes examples of hundreds of examples of well-done emails, including email newsletters.
Last, for a deeper dive into the fundamentals of curating content, check out our guide on content curation.