Creating an accounting newsletter that works - Brittains Accountants & Advisors

Email has been around since the ‘70s but it’s still our favourite form of online communication. Because of that, email newsletters are a great marketing tool and offer some of the best returns on investment in the industry. So how do you do it well?

Email newsletters
are loved by marketers

The first email was
sent in 1971, which makes it ancient technology in the digital world. You might
think messaging services and social media have supplanted it but, in business
at least, email is still the preferred communication channel for up to 80
percent of people. As a result, marketers say it offers the best return on
investment of all digital channels.

And yet we all have a lot of unopened
email newsletters in our inbox. So how do you create an accounting newsletter
that will get read? And can you do it without investing hours of your precious
time creating content?


Why would you send
a newsletter?

Before creating and
distributing an accounting newsletter, you need to be clear about what it will
and won’t achieve. You don’t want to go to the trouble if it’s not going to get
the results you want.

Don’t think, for example, that it
will go viral and get forwarded around town, bringing you a bunch of new leads.
It’s not a lead generation tool. Quite the opposite. You need leads before you
even get started on a newsletter. Newsletters are for nurture – helping you
build relationships with prospects and clients over time.


Warming up
prospects and reminding clients you’re there

As you know,
accounting has a long sales cycle. You don’t win new clients overnight. It’s
really hard for businesses to change accountant, so things move slowly. And new
businesses often don’t hire an accountant until they have to, which may be
around tax time. Either way, your leads will take months to mature into new
business. That’s where newsletters come in. They’re a way of staying on
someone’s radar until they’re ready to make a decision.

Additionally, an accounting
newsletter will also help you reinforce your value to existing clients, to keep
them happy and onboard.


Newsletters don’t
have to be a big production

Perhaps you think an accounting
newsletter would be a great idea, if you didn’t have to write it or design it.
Well, you don’t. You can create plain-text newsletters using mostly borrowed
(or curated) content that’s still valuable to your clients. Here are 11 tips to
help you get good results on a budget.


1. Send it to the
right people

It may be tempting
to buy a list of email addresses to get started, but try to avoid it. Such
lists are often of low quality, with many contacts who haven’t agreed to be on
them. Most of them will be irrelevant to your line of business. There’s no
point sending accounting newsletters to people who don’t need an accountant. If
you go down this route you might also be penalised by your ISP for sending spam
(unwanted) emails.

It will be slower,
but you’re better off building your own database of contacts. Most accountants
are good at collecting business cards, so send those people an email asking if
they’d like to receive your newsletter. Add the ones who opt in to your
database. You’ll be surprised how quickly your audience grows.

You can also invite
people to opt in for your newsletter by including a link on your:

·       
website

·       
email signatures

·       
social media profiles

·       
business cards and other marketing collateral


2. Segment your
audience 

As with all
communication, people respond better if it’s personalised. That’s tricky when
you’re sending mass communications but try to segment your audience and send
tailored versions of your newsletter.

You don’t want to
create too much work for yourself so keep it simple. Start by creating one list
for leads and another for existing clients. You’ll communicate slightly
different messages with each group, so create different versions of the
newsletter.

After a while, you may get more
sophisticated and split your list into industry categories for example. But
again, don’t over complicate your life or it will become onerous maintaining
different lists and creating many different versions of the newsletter.


3. What’s in it for
them?

Why should people
sign up to receive your accounting newsletter? Giving out their email address
is a risk, so you’ll need to convince them that the reward is worth it.

You’ll probably provide accounting
tips, tax updates, or maybe software advice. If your local laws allow it, you
may even offer spot prizes. Whenever you invite people to subscribe, briefly
explain what sort of content they’ll be getting. Don’t overhype it. Promotional
talk will just come across as pushy.


4. How polished
does it have to be?

Newsletters come in
many forms. In the days of print, they ranged from photocopied letters all the
way up to glossy, full-colour epics. You’ll find the same variation in digital
form. Some companies produce big, well-designed publications that are full of
images, charts and big feature stories, while others send plain-text emails.

There’s a reason why the plain-text
approach hasn’t died, even in the digital age. They work. If the content’s
relevant, well-written and easily readable, then the rest is mostly just window
dressing. In fact a modestly produced text-only email may come across as
genuine, less salesy and more personal. Plus it requires much less work to
produce.


5. How do you
create content?

The most effective
newsletter is the one that people read. You have to make the content
interesting and easy to digest, but you don’t want to spend hours crafting it.
There are agencies that will supply accounting content for you to copy and
paste into your newsletter, but it’s generic.

Your best bet is to
curate content. Find online articles that are relevant to your clients and
write a one-paragraph summary for your newsletter. Include a link to the
original article. Besides a summary, you might like to include a few personal
thoughts on the topic to add some extra value.

Tips for curating
content 

Bookmark 10 or 20 of your preferred online publications and check them during
the week. As you find interesting articles, paste the links into your draft
newsletter and write little summaries for each. Before you send it, go through
the accumulated content and weed out the weaker articles, until you’re left
with really strong content.

As a bonus, you can
also post the articles – and your comments – to LinkedIn. That way you’re
building a wider profile as a thought leader at the same time as creating a
newsletter.

You can produce original material too
If you have the time, or there’s a good writer on staff, go ahead and include
original content in your newsletter. The best approach in this instance is to
publish the article on your blog and link to it from the email
newsletter, rather than pasting the whole thing into your email.


6. Writing tips

When communicating
by email, you have a few main priorities:

·       
Avoid sounding spammy: Use clear,
descriptive subject lines that tell people what’s in the newsletter. Steer away
from promotional language.

·       
Keep it short: People read more slowly off a screen
than off a page. As a result, web writing has become more direct and concise.
That’s what people expect, so don’t waffle.

·       
Be warm: Write the newsletter as though all
recipients are old clients. It needs to be conversational and informal. If your
tone is too professional, it’ll come across as sterile.

More tips on the subject
line

Your subject line often determines whether or not someone opens the email.
Savvy marketers often test different subject lines to see which ones resonate
the most with an audience. You don’t have to be that scientific but it’s worth
taking some time over your choice of words.

The subject line
should be short and informative.

·       
Don’t waste your words on generic titles like “June newsletter”.

·       
Don’t feel like you have to give the newsletter a name. It’s there to
build your brand – not to have a brand of its own.

·       
Choose plain language over clever phrases. People are in a literal frame
of mind when looking at email, so jokes and puns can get lost or, even worse,
may cause confusion.

·       
Keep your subject line short, so recipients can see the whole thing in their
preview pane.


7. How long do I
make my newsletters?

The question should really be how
short? Try to keep your accounting newsletter to one or maybe two stories. For
starters, it will be quicker for you to produce, which means you’re more likely
to keep publishing. Even more importantly, it will make the newsletter easily
digestible. Subscribers will be more likely to open the email and explore the
content if they know they can do it quickly.


8. Don’t oversell

It might be tempting to try to add a
call to action (CTA) to every newsletter entry, but don’t overdo it. Where
newsletters are concerned, the hard sell gets old very fast. CTAs such as
“Click here to find out how we can help!” are unlikely to work well.
To avoid putting off your clients and prospects, limit the CTAs to rare
occasions.


9. Proofread what
you’ve written

It’s a truism that you spot the typo
in your email just as you hit the ‘Send’ button. So be sure to proofread your
newsletter before sending it – it’s easier to see errors if you read a printed
copy. Send it to a colleague first and have them take a look too. Sometimes a
fresh pair of eyes will spot mistakes that you missed.


10. Have a sensible
schedule

Sending newsletters
every day is a good way to annoy people. Weekly or every two weeks is better.
Monthly could work too, but recipients may lose interest if they come too
infrequently.

Whatever pattern
you choose, try to stick with it. People can be sensitive about email traffic
so maintain a consistent tempo that subscribers get used to. You can always
break the schedule if there’s fresh news that you have to share straight away.

Be realistic
When setting your schedule, it’s important not to be too ambitious. An
accounting newsletter is a slowburn approach to signing new clients so you’ll
have to keep publishing for a long time. Pick a sustainable tempo.

Sending weekly emails may seem like a
great idea when it’s fresh and new but imagine how you’ll feel when the
novelty’s worn off and you’re busy with other things. Start conservatively, by
sending something less often. If you’re getting good feedback or finding it
easy to do, you can always increase the frequency later.


11. Measure the
results

One of the big
reasons why marketers love email is that they can use tools to see:

·       
who opens it, and who doesn’t

·       
who clicks on the links, and who doesn’t

This sort of data
will help you see if people are engaging with the content. If they’re not, you
can try writing on different topics or using different subject lines to improve
the results.

You can also drill
down to individual contacts and see what content they’re opening and clicking
on. That information will help you when it’s time to have one-to-one
interactions.

Free email marketing tools will give
you data on open rates and click-through rates.


Free email
marketing tools for your accounting newsletter

You can use email marketing services
to help manage lists, send emails, and track how people engage with your
newsletter. There are a number of providers, such as MailChimp,
Campaign Monitor, and Benchmark
.
Smaller businesses often get free use of these services, which means you could
potentially send and monitor the performance of your accounting newsletter
without spending anything.


Get started

Everything that
used to be hard about creating an accounting newsletter is easy now. You can
curate the content, forget about design, and send and monitor your emails for
free. Plus email marketing services will give you a lot of free advice on how
to write good emails. They’ll also tell you what sorts of open rates and
clickthrough rates you can expect.

If you want to test
it out this year, start by:

·       
researching email marketing services (and see what you can get for free)

·       
building a database of recipients

·       
thinking about how to segment those lists into sub-groups

·       
bookmarking good financial and business publications as sources for
content

And if the results
aren’t great initially, don’t give up. Use analytics tools to try and identify
where you can make improvements.

An accounting newsletter is a good
way to communicate with large numbers of prospects, with relatively little
effort. It’s worth exploring.