Everyone thinks CPA's are totally boring, right? Well, there's no reason people have to have that impression! Just recently, I was searching YouTube for some interesting samples of how accounting firms have integrated video marketing into their marketing strategy. As expected, I found plenty of really bad and boring examples out there. But I also found some really good, interesting, and believe it or not... even fun…videos from CPA firms.
So, want to be famous? Well, maybe that's an overstatement, but… a B2B marketing video so entertaining that it's gone viral is not completely unheard of. In fact, I was searching for some informative Q&A type of clips, but what I found a was a great example of a company stepping out of the traditional CPA box, connecting with an audience, having fun, and being likeable (no, seriously!). This reminded me that a few years ago a client of ours sent us a link to this video by the same firm, WithumSmith+Brown. Watch it. Whatever your reaction, I can guarantee you will be entertained.
And then there was the second video...
Ok, maybe a viral video is an extreme expectation (though not unattainable), but I figured there have to be some interesting takeaways, lessons learned and best practices to be learned from WithumSmith+Brown (WS+B). So, I contacted the firm's Senior Marketing Coordinator - Interactive Marketing, Sarah Cirelli, to get some further insight. I had so many questions… What was the inspiration? Who was the audience? What reactions has the firm gotten?
WS+B videos are deeply rooted in the company's culture. In fact, they were developed for internal purposes-- for team building, as well as to ramp up for the New Year, gain buy in and excitement from the staff. And it worked.
Here's the breakdown...
Whether internally or externally-- clients, prospects, or recruits -- everyone realizes the web and social media is saturated. Firms not only need to provide valuable information, and great service , but they also need to be entertaining to hold attention.
Video marketing can help achieve many different goals. The initial goal for WithumSmith+Brown in debuting their video was internal team building and excitement for a firm-wide annual strategy session. Ultimately, WithumSmith+Brown released the video publicly and went on to integrate video marketing into the firm's overall strategy. In this case, the goal was to: reinforce the firm's culture, fight the traditional CPA reputation, increase brand recognition, and do something different.
After WS+B's internal meeting and unveiling of the video, the firm decided to post it to their Web site and sent an email link to everyone at the firm. Google analytics showed the most traffic to the Web site ever, including media hits. Visits to the site lasted longer. Increased traffic continued with consistent sharing via social media channels, which resulted in an increase in followers and subsequent click-throughs to the Web site.
So, did they get new work? According to Cirelli, indirectly, yes! The increase in web hits and social media followers has resulted in greater brand awareness and eventually leads. New clients know of and have mentioned the video, even if they don't sign on because of it. Videos are a part of an overall strategy for building the firm's brand, displaying a unique culture, gaining exposure to a large audience -- all of which lead to greater possibilities for building business.
When you aim to create a video with such entertainment value, some might ask, "Was there a risk in alienating some clients or coming off as ‘unprofessional’?". I brought this up to Sarah. What she told me is that the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from clients, prospective clients, employees, and recruits, as well as the general public. Of course, there were a few (very few) negative comments via YouTube, but for each negative comment there were multiple comments of support. Overall, the entire experience has been a definite positive. In fact, the firm is ready to launch their next video in the New Year.
The initial videos have been successful, but inevitably the initial spikes in Web traffic wane over time as people move on to the next thing. So, what can you do to give your efforts longevity as well as integrate it into showcasing the firm's expertise? Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. There's more to video marketing strategy than creating the fun video; it’s important to engage your targeted audience on an ongoing basis. Some ways WS+B has done this are to embed smaller clips into blog posts, integrate them into CPE presentations, and play the video at conference booths.
It's Your Turn!
Now are you ready to break out of the mold and tackle a fun and entertaining video? Here are some tips from Sarah Cirelli and WithumSmith+Brown:
Strategize first. Don't simply copy something else that you see, or jump into a video just to get it done. Understand who you want to reach. Be sure to identify your firm’s culture, personality, and differentiators. Take a step back and stay true to your firm's message. Spend time developing a plan for what you want to project and to whom rather than producing a program that doesn't suit your firm's integral values.
Play to the firm's strengths. WithumSmith+Brown was founded on the principal of world class client service. One of the biggest qualities that makes them unique is their internal firm culture. WS+B's video worked for them because it was a way to display the personality, character, faces, and essentially invite the audience inside the firm. Stay true to the firm's culture and its overall personality and the project will be successful.
Start with a small budget production. For WS+B, video was never a part of the marketing plan until they tried it out internally and found success. For them, however, Managing Partner and CEO Bill Hagaman is a marketing champion. In fact, he saw economic downturn as an opportunity to invest in marketing -- as a means to differentiate. They shifted other areas of the firm's overall budget to marketing. The reality is, partners and management often won't buy in until they see success. But, there's a starting place for everyone. WS+B's first video had a humble budget. With a great concept, you can start out by using iPhones, flipcams, etc... YouTube is free, getting the message out is free, and you can work with videographers on editing prices. A project doesn't need to be high budget to be successful.
Experimentation is important. Don't be afraid to fail, just do something different. Once you have some videos that work, integrate those into other content. As mentioned above, WS+B eventually populated their own YouTube channel, and began integrating videos into blog posts, and CPE programs and sharing with clients, and of course as a recruiting tool.
Hopefully WS+B has inspired other CPA firms to start the New Year by trying something new (hopefully prior to tax season!). The key takeaway is that you need to make content interesting, and there's no better way to do so than showcasing culture and personality. Every good salesperson knows that key decision makers are just people, and people buy from those who they know and like. So -- show them your personality (even your dance moves) and earn a following, and even the affection of your clients and future clients.
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