Vikram Rajan
Vikram Rajan

Should CPA Firms Send Out Newsletters?

What you’re missing out if you don’t.

June 21, 2010
by Vikram Rajan

“Do you send a Newsletter?” I asked a CPA practitioner. I was in the midst of a ‘marketing audit’ of a potential client.

“No. It’s just too expensive,” he lamented, “Besides, nobody reads them anyway.”

“Well …,” I wanted to retort, but his points were valid. So I agreed: “Mailing lengthy newsletters can be very expensive. Nobody has time to read those things. What about e-mailing something short?”

He thought about it for a moment: To some, e-blasting is a no-brainer. To others, it is an anathema. Often, it’s difficult to find a happy middle:

  • What to e-mail? To whom?
  • How often? How long?
  • Who’s going to write it? And keep writing it?
  • Who’s going to edit what we wrote?
  • Something with my name on it? I have to see it before it goes out!
  • Will I have to answer a lot of stupid replies?
  • Who’s going to add new e-mail addresses? And what about the bad e-mail addresses?
  • Do I have to do all this myself?
  • Wait, who’s going to be writing this thing again?”

As you know, many accounting firms opt to outsource the whole thing: They basically co-brand the firm’s name onto an old-fashioned newsletter (a mailer) or a new-fangled “educational” e-blast (e-newsletter). You’ve seen them: Sometimes, the logo and contact information just look awkward. Other times, everything looks beautiful, but clearly screams “generic [thoughtless] subscription!”

Most accountants don’t bother sending any newsletters. When they think about it, they think they’re better off. The way they think … maybe they are better off losing contact with their contacts. Thankfully, you’re not like most accountants.

CPAs who feel it’s a waste of time to be in regular, educational, non-billing contact with their clients, should not bother. As many CPA Insider™ readers already know, folks do read short, relevant, newsletters: You’re reading one right now!

Most of your clients come from recommendations. Of course we should grease that wheel! E-mailing simply cuts down on postage costs and remains being a convenient option.

Something Is Better Than Nothing

I’m proud of any attempt at educational marketing. For example, many firms benefit from “generic subscriptions.” Every quarter, something is automatically sent to their clients, stamped with their contact information and logo. “Sure, it’s something,” I shrug. Yet, it’s unnecessarily more expensive and often less effective.

Instead, there are many more benefits to doing a short and simple newsletter yourself, in-house. Writing your own newsletter need not be daunting. Don’t write a lot. They don’t read a lot.

Ultimately, one paragraph every week equals a newsletter.

Four paragraphs is about the limit for reading on a BlackBerry comfortably (iPhones & Androids too). What can you do in this space? Q&A, glossary, quotes, book reviews, news links, even an accounting tip or question.

There So Much to Say

It’s what NOT to say. Keeping it short will be your problem (mine too). Last month, I presented at an AICPA webinar called, “The Future is Write Now.” In it, and past columns, I’ve highlighted ways to make your writing more referral-friendly.

Weekly paragraphs should go on your website. This turns it into a blog. Now, you’re really cutting-edge! After you have a few “blog posts,” do a blog e-blast. (Note: Websites with regular “blogging” like this benefit in search engine optimization (SEO) Google ranking as well.)

Quarterly Brewing Meetings

Every quarter, schedule a personal lunch meeting to plan out 12 topics or titles. Base it on actual Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). This is a great exercise to do with a junior associate. It’s an opportunity for an intern too. It’s so vital, even managing partners should develop this habit.

After a few “blog blasts,” you have the makings of an e-book. Generic subscriptions cannot yield these returns. That’s like renting, not owning.

Moreover, your collective experience or your firm’s voice is unique to you. (Read Stephen Covey’s The Eighth Habit for reference.) Your perspectives and processes are naturally special. Your blog posts or micro articles seed your brand.

Passing Along the News

Short blog posts are novel for now. This, in and of itself, will spark more talk about you. “Check his blog out,” is a convenient way for clients to brag about you.

Keeping in regular contact with all your relationships should be reason enough. Expressing your voice as your brand is another reason. Authoring a book is special; holding it bound in your hands is a proud moment. All this comes from writing one paragraph a week.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.

Marketing consultants, advisors, coaches and trainers help in similar ways. But, we’re not the boss, you are. You have the power to implement a simple marketing system yourself.

Hang a checklist on the wall including — but not limited to:

  1. Write this week’s Question and Answers (Q&A) paragraph.
  2. E-mail this month’s blog blast.

Now you know what to do. I hope I can help.

Additional Resources:   Firm Practice Management

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Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for CPAs. Rajan helps to develop and coordinate Marketing Action Plans for small CPA firms. You can read more marketing ideas on his PracticeMarketingBLOG.com, which receives over 100 hits every day.

© 2010