Accountants are every business owner’s safeguard and conscience. Among their best qualities: integrity, ethics, punctuality, meticulous attention to detail. Qualities that they don’t need? A flair for storytelling and instinct for the cutest selfie angles. In any ranking of the driest, least scintillating, and most by-the-book fields, accounting will figure prominently — often in the same breath as “taxes,” “bills” and “my IRA.”
Marketing and promoting CPAs — as individuals or firms — is a rare expertise. Not only do few people know how to mine for the compelling stories in a firm’s day-to-day business, but accountants are oftentimes not allowed to share the juiciest ideas because they’re confidential. Plus, most potential new customers take no pleasure in the search for an accounting firm. They don’t want to focus on securing a paid consultant whose sole job is to advise them in being more careful with their money. They do it because they must.
That being said, an accounting firm is a must for any business and many individuals. A huge part of the struggle in seeking an accounting firm is awareness — what firms are out there aside from the “Big 4″; which firms are a potential match; and most of all, who is trustworthy? When people become truly engaged in a search, it’s usually for a particular expertise — a firm that specializes in startups, or cross-border taxation, or small foodservice business. And this is where content marketing becomes key to reaching qualified leads.
Rachel Arnone on content marketing for the finance industry (and “numbers people”)
The best type of person to speak to this right-brain left-brain collaboration, we thought, was someone who’s spent a lot of time on both sides. So we found Rachel Arnone, a boutique creative agency owner who spent 12 years at a financial advisory firm. Here, we look at how she made the transition from “numbers person” to full-time creative and founder of Graeleigh Creative. We also get her honest opinion on content marketing for the finance industry.
How did you wind up with an accounting firm as an anchor client?
I was actually contacted by an employee that I had previously worked with, and asked if I was interested in helping them.
Can you tell us a little about the pitch process?
I provided a proposal to the partners of the firm, as they have no marketing department at all. I had worked in the financial field for almost 15 years, so I had more knowledge than the average person would have.
What did you do in the financial field before you launched a creative agency?
I started out as a Client Services Manager and then moved to the Director of Communications & Reporting. I have always in some way been involved in marketing over my career.
I am 51/48 left brain-right brain, which isn’t very common. I love being creative, but if you need a pivot table, I am your girl!
You kind of made the dream transition, I think… in a way that many people who work in a dry, non-creative field hope to do. How did you make it happen?
While working for my previous employer, I had an opportunity to work with a casual fine dining restaurant on what was supposed to be a temporary basis… and I have now been with them for five years. Around that time, I decided to see if I could get a few more clients to service in social media marketing, content strategy, graphic design — a mix of this and that.
During the last two years of working at the financial advisory firm, I built a small client base. I realized at the end of year two of me doing both that I would have to choose my own business or I would not be successful. I made a good living at the financial advisory firm. I knew if I didn’t have that safety net, I would work harder to succeed in my own business. And, that is exactly what happened. I don’t have tons of clients, but I have quality ones.
Which leads us back to your by-the-numbers anchor client. Why did they come to you? Do accounting firms consciously realize they need content marketing these days?
Accounting firms definitely need content marketing to stay “in the game” so to speak. My client Aldridge Borden & Company is celebrating 100 years in business this year, and because of their lack of marketing, many people in our area do not know who they are. I am working to create better name recognition for them.
What’s the ideation process like when you’re the only creative in the room?
It can be difficult. I like to write things down when I have a thought, and then will go back to them, and things build from there. I do have a couple of people I bounce things off of.
I’ve had difficulty in the past dealing with clients who were avowed “non-creatives” or “numbers people” because they genuinely don’t see the difference between good and bad content. How do you address this?
I am extremely lucky. All of the clients I have allow me to control the content. When they want something that I feel is not “good” content, I explain why it isn’t good, and we move forward.
What are the hot topics in this category that you basically know will get page views and social engagement as long as you generate quality content around them?
The new tax laws are of course a huge topic, so I have focused on how the changes will affect different areas of your financial life.
Additionally, to commemorate the 100 years in business, we are celebrating all year with a different “give back to the community” project each month. This has all been documented via social media, and people love it.
Is there a point in being on Instagram if you’re an accounting, bookkeeping, tax law or other type of totally non-visual service?
Currently, we do not have an Instagram presence. However, I am toying with the idea of creating one. I do think there is potential to create some momentum if we utilize interesting photos.
More to explore: Check out this CPA who’s using Pinterest to make money-saving an aspirational pastime.
What advice would you give someone who’s never handled this sort of business before, but is presented with an opportunity to pitch for it?
People think that accounting is boring, and realistically… it is. The thing is to humanize the firm, creating interesting topical and timely content, and layering it throughout many media platforms.
Tell us about your favorite moment in your stint handling this account.
It’s the entire experience. I am providing a service that gets results. I have a great relationship with the entire firm and truly love working with them.
More to explore: Still curious whether this kind of content is in your wheelhouse? For a first-person POV from an accountant who does happen to be camera-friendly, check out this Day in the Life vlog from YouTuber millennial accountant Sara Marie.
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