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My content is dry material. How do I spice it up?

Oct 5, 2018

Dry content

When you write accountancy firm content about the problems and issues your clients face, some of that content feels really dry.  Things like…

  • Tax relief
  • Whether to be self employed or set up a limited company
  • Determining whether your employees are contractors
  • Making Tax Digital
  • Which cloud accounting software to use and why

You’re right to recognise that on its own this content is pretty dry, and there’s a lot of content out there already about it. There’s no point pretending that the core issues underlying your blog on MTD or R&D tax claims or Xero vs Quickbooks are truly unique.

To help turn the dry into interesting, do some of these things:

Admit straight away that it’s dry, and there’s other content out there.

One of the reasons you create content based on your clients’ issues and problems is that when a potential new client is searching online for an answer to their question, your blog is the one that will come up. (Or your PDF, or video, social media post, or the event you’re running.) They are not going to be surprised to discover that other accountants are writing on the same topic.

Admitting the topic is dry, and you know fine well other accountants have written on it too, makes it more human.

Example: Paul McCann, one of our Accelerator members, recently wrote a blog post titled “Will forming an LLC save money on taxes?” He shared with us that he was concerned it was too dry, and together we found a way to be up front about that.

The article now starts with :

“WARNING: This is an extremely dry topic. Reading this post may result in drowsiness, restlessness and/or irritable behavior. Do not consume alcohol in excess and never operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery while reading this post.  McCann Advisors makes no warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of merchantability, vague interest by the reader, fitness for a particular purpose, of title, or of noninfringement of third party rights. Consumption of the article by a user is at the user’s risk. Talking to McCann Advisors directly about this post will relieve boredom considerably.

Start with your dry content, and enhance it with one of these four things

You’ve already recognised that your topic – on its own- is a bit dull. To liven it up, include one or more of these four things:

1. Opinion

What do you, personally (or you, the firm) believe about this? What do you have to say about it? Do you have any opinion, or are you straddling the fence on it?

Ideally you will have an opinion, and you will share it. That’s what makes for interesting reading. It’s incredibly dull to be told a list of facts on their own. That’s why schoolchildren (okay and all the rest of us) are bored by history books, and fascinated by fictional video dramatisations.

The point of sharing an opinion is to weed people out. By sharing an opinion, you qualify your potential buyers. They can decide if your opinion seems to match their thinking, too. If you’re the kind of firm they can work with.

I know many accountants are fearful of sharing an opinion because of the ramifications, due to your professional standing. What if I say this is my opinion, and someone follows it, and then their business fails and it’s my fault? I’d encourage you not to over worry about that. In my experience, you’re discerning enough to know how to share your opinion so that it’s clear this is simply an opinion, and if they want professional advice for their particular situation they can come to you and ask for it. If anything, it relieves you even further, because this is simply an opinion.

Example: James Ashford  of GoProposal does a great job of stating a strong opinion on topics that accountants can be divided on. I particularly like this article “Why giving your clients 3 pricing options doesn’t work.” He states categorically that his opinion is that it doesn’t work: and that causes people to make up their own minds in response.

2. Insight

What further thoughts can you personally give which are related to this topic? Are there elements of it you’ve noticed, and mentioned to your clients, and their response was, “Oh, that’s a new way of looking at it. I hadn’t thought about that!” Share that kind of insight.

Don’t hesitate to borrow others’ insights, too. (Just make sure to credit them, and not steal their insights as yours!) You can quote one of the team, or one of your clients, or another expert in the industry. What insights do they have, and do you agree? Back to point one – what’s your opinion on their insight? You can begin mixing and matching from this list.

3. Feeling

How will this topic make your client actually feel? How do they feel now, or how will they feel if they do/don’t address it?

You can de-dry a topic by sharing your feelings about it. Or the feelings a client had when they came to you to talk about it. The feelings they have now that the problem is solved.

Business owners make so many decisions based on their feelings. Even accountants make decisions on feelings (gasp!). Yes, there are also facts to consider: but how do those facts make you feel? Include this in your content and it will de-dry it very quickly.

Example: Sharon Pocock, one of our Accelerator members, was thinking about the power of content that is related to a hot topic. When Xero went down for a period of over 7 hours in September, Sharon saw this as an opportunity to educate her clients, and wrote the blog “Xero is down – what do I do now?

In the blog, she focuses on the feelings: concern that Xero users had; apologetic feelings from Xero; temptation to panic or go into a spin; and (best of all) the reminder that the solution to any problem great or grave is to…brew a cup of tea. Haha! Instilling feelings of peace and serenity, as all of us in Britain know fine well.

4. Story

All accountants have at least one story about the content they’re writing. It’s the whole reason you’re creating this piece of content! You had a client, or a prospect, or someone ask you about this issue: and you want to educate them about it.

What’s the story? Tell it! As Kev Anderson said in our webinar about writing case studies, “Tell the story, warts and all.

If at all possible, name the client and their business. Many accountants say to me, “My client won’t want me to name them.” Here’s one absolutely, guaranteed, fool proof way to find out if that’s true: ask them. Call them, or drop them an email and say “I’d love to feature your business and mention this issue which together we were able to solve, and show how great your business is now, and even link to your website or social media if that’s okay. Would that be all right?” Nine times out of ten they will say “Absolutely!” (and they’ll thank you, too.)

If they have any concerns (perhaps the story is about a business merger or a former business partner or a family issue), you can discuss together how to tell the story in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly on anyone, and still helps other businesses not to make the same mistake. I’ve spoken to so many business owners whose accountant has helped them, and they are literally desperate for the world to understand how amazing it was to have their problem solved. They want you to tell the story. With their permission, tell it!

You can tell your own story, too.

Example: Jonathan Bareham of Raedan (also a Content Marketer/Accelerator member… do you see a theme here??) wrote a blog post to tell the story of how they came to change their brand. They explain where they started and how they felt and the confusions that existed and the excitement that resulted. Here’s the story: Raedan: A new look

Look forward to seeing your opinions, insights, feelings, and stories soon!