Some CPA tax practitioners find they are able to garner new clients and better maintain ties with existing ones by blogging on tax topics. Beyond providing an electronic soapbox, they say, a blog can be a powerful way to disseminate information to existing clients while revealing to prospective ones the writer’s professional expertise and views on matters of concern.
Joe Kristan, blogger-in-chief for Roth & Co. PC in Des Moines, Iowa, is a self-described Methuselah in blog years, having started his firm’s blog (www.rothcpa.com/taxupdates.php) six years ago. It evolved naturally from the firm’s client newsletter that had been distributed in print and then by e-mail. The latter medium seemed more conducive to short takes on a variety of tax topics. Kristan realized he could make the items still more immediate by posting them on the firm’s Web site as he wrote them rather than collecting them for a week or two.
Kristan says the blog has generated client referrals via readers, especially other financial professionals and attorneys who might pass along a tidbit of information. It also has become a resource to the local news media, who sometimes call Kristan for comments in their own tax articles—an additional way for the firm to be noticed.
“It’s really part of the referral process,” he said. “It doesn’t replace personal contact.”
Kristan also posts on Twitter (twitter.com/joebwan), which he says is a good way to draw traffic to the blog. Twitter’s 140-character limit lends itself to headlines with a link to the blog or short takes on a wider variety of topics. Although his blog allows readers to post comments, Twitter is more readily interactive (see also in this issue “How to Leverage Social Networking,” page 26).
Linda Keith (lindakeithcpa.com/blog.htm) in Olympia, Wash., blogs in her niche practice of bank consulting and training, advising lenders on how to analyze borrowers’ tax returns to assess creditworthiness. “I think the important thing about the blog is it demonstrates very quickly to your clients the level and depth of your expertise,” she said. “It also shows your personality.”
For practitioners considering a blog, Keith and other CPA tax bloggers offer these suggestions:
Target your writing to your client base. “My blog posts need to be keyword-rich, so that when someone goes on Google, there are enough of my blog posts that have those words in them that I’m going to appear early in the results,” Keith says.
The Web may be worldwide, but your practice is most likely local. That’s not a problem if you also include a local focus in at least some of your posts.
Consider how your blog fits in with your overall online presence. Chances are, your firm already has a Web site, and as you add a blog, you might reassess its design and effectiveness. Even though free services such as Blogger, WordPress and TypePad make it easy for anyone to build a blog, consider hiring a Web developer and perhaps a marketing professional to make your entire site appealing and effective. Along with search engine optimization (helps your site appear higher in Google “hits”), this can probably be done for between $5,000 and $10,000. For learning more about Internet marketing, Keith recommends conversationmarketing.com.
Writing can become overwhelming or take away from necessary tasks unless you approach it in a disciplined way. What works best for Keith is to devote a block of time every other week or so to writing items she then parcels out for posting at intervals. For Twitter, TweetLater.com allows users to schedule their tweets for automatic posting.
Use a blogging service that allows you to include a search bar on your site. Keith says: “One thing I say to lenders in my training sessions is, ‘If you have any questions, go to my site and type it into my search engine.’”
Don’t limit your blog to professional topics. Personal reflections and hobbies can sometimes spark a connection with a new client. Keith, for example, blogs on financial literacy for young people under the heading “Pigs Can Fly” and miscellaneous topics under a category marked, simply, “Fun.” Even when writing about finance, she sometimes finds a way to draw an analogy to her pastime, sea kayaking. And a touch of levity can make the whole effort more readable. Says Kristan: “Some bloggers might try to be very serious, and they end up being just very boring.”
By Tax Practice Corner editor Paul Bonner. His e-mail address is email@example.com.