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Why you the accountant should never write website content

Sep 4, 2015

Writing website content is the worst possible use of your time as an accountant, and here’s why.

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Here are a few truths about you, the accountant:

You are an excellent accountant.  You know off the top of your head things about taxes and payroll and bookkeeping software and capital gains and bank loans that many people would spend hours if not days researching (and still come up with the wrong answer).

Your time is valuable.  Most accountants are beginning to turn away from hourly billing, but if you were to bill by the hour it would be within the £100 – £200 per hour range, at least.  Some of you quite a lot more than that.

You never have enough time.  No matter how many times you get caught up – clean out your email inbox, finish that one-off project for that big client, help another client achieve great results – it just keeps coming. This is a good thing, because it means you are good at what you do and your clients and prospects realise that, but it also means that you’ve stopped kidding yourself that you’ll ever action those “great idea” items that you scribbled down at the last conference you attended.

Digital marketing, creativity and design are not your primary skills.  (If they are, stop reading this post, quit your job, and come work for us. I’m not joking.) But for the rest of you, those who are good at accounting and tax and business growth and funding or whatever area is yours – that’s your expertise level. And that’s the reason you hire people to build a website, prepare graphics, design a business logo.

For all these reasons, writing website content will take you a lot of time, and will likely not result in what you’re hoping for.

I might even go so far as to say that writing content of any kind is not the best use of your time – but some of you do actually enjoy writing a blog post now and then, or putting together some content for a PDF or a how-to guide.

That’s different than website content.

There are a few reasons that website content particularly is not a good use of your time:

It’s not just words that you need.

These days, the best websites are heavy on image4ry, good design, and calls to action.

The content and words are there, but you may only have about twenty words on your home page spread over six sections with imagery and video and easy-to-click buttons.

Look at the websites you like the look and feel of (regardless of the type of business): they have a clear message, lots of scrolling, good imagery that takes up a lot of your website ‘real estate’, and they don’t belabour the point.

The worst thing you can do when building a website is have someone give you a “good design” and then you fill in the words afterwards.

The best websites have been properly strategised beforehand to address:

  • Who is your audience or buyer?
  • What are their characteristics and preferences?
  • What words do they use?
  • What is it they’re looking to achieve?
  • How do they feel when they have this problem?
  • How will they feel when you solve it?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • What do you want them to do?

As you can see, that’s a lot of work to do – and once you’ve done it, your answers will make it very unlikely that you write something like “XYZ Accountants provide accountancy and business growth support for your growing business. Call us today.”  (If you do, congratulations: you now sound like all those accountants with a bog-standard template website.)

So it’s more than just words you need. It’s strategy, and then design and website layouts, and then words.  And you don’t actually need very many of those: you need the right ones.

Your tendency is to understate, rather than overstate.

Most accountants I speak to are not in a hurry to make unequivocal statements.  Part of this is because you’re used to work that doesn’t always have a hard and fast answer.  You need to gain more information before you can say one way or the other about this tax credit or that nominal code or the bank reconciliation issue.

Unfortunately, when it comes to writing website content, meandering around the topic and exploring all the possibilities can turn away your site visitors.

Our attention spans are short.

Those visiting your site have a problem – either perceived and known, or as yet unknown and you are going to bring it out.

So they need to know:

  • What the problem is
  • How you intend to fix it
  • Where to begin

They may also want to know how much it costs, but that’s an entirely different marketing tip.  Read more about pricing your accountancy services here.

So when it comes to content for your website, it needs to be short and sweet. It’s better to say directly “Get funding now” than hedge about with “We may be able to possibly help you with some funding, if the planets align.”

You think more about what’s in it for you than what’s in it for your audience.

I’m afraid this is an accountancy firm classic.  Your tendency in marketing is to think first and foremost about how much money it will add to your bottom line. How your profits will improve.  How many more clients you will have than you do now.

In one sense that’s what makes you a good business owner: it’s the same advice you would give to your clients.  Know your profitability. Track and measure. Analyse and report.

But when it comes to writing marketing content, it’s imperative that you write based on their need, not your own.

So your tendency might be to say, “Choose one of our monthly management accounts packages to improve your profits”, and you’re congratulating yourself that you focused on their needs. See? Improve profits! You’ve got this!

Sadly, what most of your prospects see are what’s behind the words, which is, “We want to sell more management accounts packages.”

It’s not about the packages. Or even the monthly management accounts. (What does that even mean to your clients, anyway? Read on to the next point.) Get yourself into the head of your prospective clients so that when they read it, they feel understood.

If you do enjoy writing, you will do a lot of it. Words upon words upon words.

Whenever I read website content that an accountant has written, I always want to cut out about three-quarters of it immediately.  Too many words.  (Back to our original point about the website pages being more about design and calls to action than the words themselves.)

Words are not a problem in and of themselves: I fully support your writing 1200-word blog posts.  Or giving us those words so we can develop a 40-page whitepaper.  But for website landing pages, the sheer volume of those words are going to detract your reader from their mission, which is to click on the download button. Or the event sign up.  Or the webinar registration.

If you enjoy writing, please do loads of it.  Just don’t put them on the home page or unique landing pages on your website.  Send the words to us (or your own copywriter or marketing team) and let the marketing people put those words in the format which will be best accepted by your readers.

Or, if you want to have some input but you don’t want to spend hours writing, just dash off a few bullet points or forward us an article you enjoyed reading. That will give us insight into what’s important to you – and hopefully, to your audience.

You use buzzwords or terminology that only you understand. 

This goes along with a previous point – in marketing, particularly on your website, it’s critical that you show how what you know translates into the reader’s perspective.

Acronyms, accounting terminology, business buzzwords – you may or may not use them in a particular context, but a good bit of thought – and strategy – has to go into it first.

For example, if you’re writing content for a website page about IR35 for contractors, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the term ‘IR35’.  Your audience likely knows about it and perhaps is even searching for those terms on Google. But if your audience is broader, you’ll want to rethink what you say and how you say it.

Go back to our point about your audience: write in a way they understand, and use words they would use.

All of these reasons are why every website we build at the Profitable Firm includes the writing of custom content for every page of your website.  We spend time getting to know you, your firm, your style, your tone of voice – and the words you would use. Then we incorporate those into your website so that when someone reads it, and then they come to meet you, the two go together.

(That’s also why our websites are expensive.  Reassuringly expensive, as we discussed last week.)

Because it’s all very well coming up with a particular turn of phrase – but if it sounds a little too ‘posh’ for your casual, friendly style, or too ‘chill’ for your professional, formal approach, then your audience isn’t engaging with you. They’re just reading words.