Video marketing the next frontier after social media conquered – for accounting firms was previously published in The Bottom Line, Starting Your Own Firm, November 2016. This is a reprint.
This past February, YouTube celebrated its tenth anniversary. Six months into its launch year, Google purchased the site for a mere $1.65 billion USD. That same year, Facebook let the genie out of the bottle by changing its platform from a restricted student network to an open access social media site offering accounts to anyone over the age of thirteen.
Ten years. It may not feel like a long time. But a lot has changed. Ten years ago the lion’s share of accountants didn’t have websites. Five years ago few accountants had blogs. Three years ago most accountants were still debating the value of LinkedIn.
Today, that’s all a bit otherworldly. Not having a website or even a LinkedIn profile, in many circles, would be considered playing yourself out of the game.
So what’s the point of this little trip down memory lane besides, well, aging ourselves? It’s to take a lesson from recent events to assess the scale of the opportunity with video. Who among us expected the Internet to create this marketing whirlwind, particularly in professional practice? But it did. So, the question is, will video be the next whirlwind?
Adopting what we’ve learned from recent events:
Let’s take a lesson from the accountants and other professionals that were courageous, early adopters of websites, blogs and social media. What were the resulting advantages of their actions and were they sustainable? Should we expect these advantages to easily transfer to video marketing?
- Authority. While prospective clients may not have been initially searching for the services of accountants and other professionals, they were seeking information. So, websites that did a good job of addressing search queries stood out for their expertise, often a long way from any competing noise. This behaviour was eventually rewarded with quality inquiries and referrals.
- Search engine results. Accountants and other professionals, who counted themselves among the early bloggers and web content producers, attained enviable positions on search results, a feat that they managed to hold onto for many years to come. Once competing firms woke up to the new reality of search engine marketing, they faced quite the challenge to get caught up.
- Social influence. As each new social site emerged, accountants and other professionals that weren’t afraid to use their voice to declare opinions, share information, stir up controversy, be friendly and otherwise get noticed, became social media influencers with enviable access to their markets. Their Twitter feeds, LinkedIn blogs and Facebook pages became the trusted go to resources within their respective specialties. Meanwhile gaining influencer status became harder to achieve, as the numbers on social media sites skyrocketed.
The unique advantages of video:
Beyond the benefits we would expect video to deliver simply by mimicking recent events, video also has specific advantages over other online platforms. Some examples include:
- Engagement. The most successful accounting and other professional sites achieved their position by being strategic about connecting with their target market. But because video is the closest online simulation of a human experience, it gives the static written word a run for its money when it comes to being personal. Video takes engagement up a few notches.
- Innovative applications. Video is simply another medium. But this one medium is capable of being repurposed in a multitude of creative formats. The possibilities are quite limitless and many fit especially well within the professional context, since they are all about people. Video biographies. Video blogs. Seasonal video cards. Staff recruiting videos…
- Renew existing web presence. Video can add a layer of interest to any existing web platform. If developed in a cohesive manner, it can make all a firm’s online efforts more effective. Market research has shown that senior executives will choose video over text, when both are available on the same topic. As well, click through rate has been demonstrated to increase significantly when video is included in the subject line of an email.
But is video for everyone?
As we’ve seen, there are certainly advantages to using video. However, there are also built in challenges. For some, video might be a fun and easy way to add a continuous stream of fresh content to their online efforts. For others speaking in front of a camera may be cause for performance anxiety. So, how can accountants decide when and where video is a fit?
- Effective speakers. The world is divided between extroverts and introverts. Though not all of them are clear and effective communicators, extroverts tend to think aloud. They have a natural inclination to express their thoughts verbally, in real time. Introverts on the other hand, prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves until they sort them out. They tend to have a preference to express themselves in writing. There are, of course, lots of other variables to throw into the mix, including skills and talents, experience and interest… Regardless, the first clue if video is a fit for any accountant is how much of a stretch getting in front of a camera would feel from his or her natural communication style.
- Marketing team. The decision about video doesn’t rest alone with the natural communication tendencies of the firm principals. That’s just the first step. If speaking in front of a camera feels unnatural for the key players at the firm, there are other options. Planning and coaching can take a willing but shaky participant from nervous and forced to comfortable and likeable. The process involves writing out the scripts and lots of practice, in front of a camera and with a coach. There’s also always the option of producing video that doesn’t feature the people at the firm, should this issue continue to be a roadblock.
- Personal marketing plans. The firm principals aren’t necessarily the default stars for an accounting video. Consider the possibility of leveraging any natural talent in the firm, at whatever level. If the whole team is involved in the marketing plan, personal marketing plans can be developed at the individual level and they can include video for those inclined. The key to successfully including the wider team in the implementation of the firm’s plan is to ensure that all participants maintain a consistent professional identity.
So, back to the question that got us started. Should accountants market their practices with video?
After considering the many advantages early adopters of other web opportunities enjoyed and the many additional advantages video has over static content, the answer should be a resounding yes. It is, for many. Not for all.
It is a mistake to think that there is a one size fits all approach to marketing for every accounting firm. At the end of the day, the decision about video, as with all marketing vehicles, should ultimately be based on fit. Fit with the firm’s goals, the firm’s resources and the firm’s identity.
Furthermore, it is far more effective to pick a select few marketing vehicles that the firm is deeply committed to and do them extraordinarily well, than to add on new vehicles as they emerge, hoping to have found the magic bullet simply by being inclusive.