The Sudden Shift to Education Marketing

Our industry has experienced an unexpected and rapid shift to providing online education to clients. There’s nothing like a crisis to force change and accelerate adoption.  What was consigned to the too hard basket before lockdown, has become a necessity, as accounting firms scramble to support their clients.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going - and they have in numbers. We recently surveyed our Gap member firms and pin-pointed a massive shift to the delivery of educational webinars, with 78% of respondents providing these for the first time during lockdown.

 

Why education marketing works

Education marketing is simply the process of educating your existing and prospective clients, rather than pitching to them.  It works on the basis of providing value to clients before you extract value from them.

Firms rolling out regular webinars are discovering this strategy fulfils multiple objectives, both for clients and for them.  Firstly, clients feel strongly supported, to the extent that they become raving advocates.  The current Covid environment is prompting many “What support are you getting from your accountant?” chats between businesses, leading to a surge in referrals.  Secondly, during the delivery of their free webinar programme, firms are able to elegantly position the services they can provide to support businesses through these extraordinary times.  Clients are buying.

Why education marketing works so well is best depicted in the Flywheel, a model adapted from HubSpot.

 

The Marketing Flywheel With Heading

The Flywheel explains the momentum you gain when you align your entire organisation around delivering a remarkable client experience.  It is remarkable at storing and releasing energy.  The amount of energy it stores depends on how fast it spins, the amount of friction it encounters, and its size.  Think of it like the wheels on a train or a car.

This energy is helpful when thinking about how clients can help your business grow, especially when they are recommending you as a result of your focus on teaching them business success.

In the attract phase, you attract clients with practical education content and eliminate barriers by making that education free.  At the same time, clients are learning about your firm and the business development services you offer.  The key is to earn people's attention, not force it.

In the engage phase, you make it easy for clients to engage in your services by offering options that are ‘no cost’, ‘low cost’ and ‘full service’ in nature.

And finally, in the delight phase, you continue to roll out regular education and your marketing momentum builds.

 

Education categories of interest to your clients

The education possibilities are endless.  Consider developing webinar content within the following broad business categories:

  1. Governance.
  2. Leadership.
  3. Organisational.
  4. People Management.
  5. Growth.
  6. Marketing. 
  7. Sales.
  8. Financial Awareness.
  9. Start Ups.
  10. Succession.


Inevitable webinar anxieties

 Webinar concerns tend to fall into five camps:

  1. Delivery.  You may be concerned about presenting the webinar or be worried that clients won't be engaged or will be bored.  Once you’ve run your first couple of events and you receive positive feedback from attendees, this concern will evaporate.
  2. Marketing.  Maybe you’re worried you won’t attract bums on seats for the webinar, or that clients will register but not show up for the event.  You’ll soon discover that email invites and reminders, supported by social posts, work best.
  3. Technology.  Which webinar platform to use and making sure you don’t encounter a ‘death by webinar’ moment are normal anxieties.  Webinar platforms are easy to use and are simply an extension to running a Zoom meeting.
  4. Content.  It takes time to write webinar slides, polish the graphics and develop speaker notes.  We get that.  That’s why we do this for 400 accounting and bookkeeping firms!
  5. Getting a return from your education marketing.  Read on…

 

Getting a return on your education marketing investment

Your primary motivation in delivering a client education programme should be to support clients to overcome business challenges.  Now is arguably the most important time for you to be doing just that.  Getting a return on your investment enables you to continue to invest in that client support.

If you execute a sustained and consistent webinar programme, your returns will come.  They will come in the form of new services provided to existing clients as well as new to firm business.

Having said that, your education marketing requires momentum, requiring your energy and commitment.  Holding an educational event once every quarter won’t get that Marketing Flywheel spinning as fast as you would like it to.  Hosting one or two webinars each month, inviting referral partners and prospects, will.

It's also vital that you master the call to action.

 

Mastering the call to action

Before you even write an education piece, first get very clear on the value that clients will get by participating.  Next, make sure that your education links back to services you can offer.  Now, present a call to action that makes it easy for clients to buy those services.

You don’t want to come across as being salesy, so offer three options.  Offer a free option, for example, a guide or template, so they can DIY.  Your second option could be a low cost option - they DIY, and you run a review session.  The third option will be a full service option.

Plenty of clients will naturally take the free service option, but they’ll think kindly of you for it, they’ll keep coming back to your webinars and one day they will buy.  And if they don’t, they’ll likely refer a new client.

 

Repurposing your content

 Every time you create an education piece you also create a marketing asset.  There are so many ways to repurpose these assets. Repurposing accelerates marketing momentum.

Here are five examples:

  1. After each webinar, send an email with a link to the webinar recording.  Clients will listen at their own pace. This will boost your call to action.
  2. Publish a link to view the recording on your website, using a lead capture form.  This is a great way to win new to firm clients.  Invite them to your next webinar to bring them into the fold.
  3. Post the recording to YouTube or Facebook Live.  If you have a ‘clients only’ Facebook group, add a link to the webinar there to get more views.
  4. Post your most glowing webinar feedback on your social channels.
  5. Create content pathways.  When leads download a video, one week later send them a personalised email with a link to a free, but related resource.

I have often said that education marketing is the softest sell. Let me put that another way - The best marketing is education.

And now for your calls to action:

DOWNLOAD YOUR WEBINAR MANAGEMENT PROCESS GUIDE

WATCH 'YOUR EDUCATION MARKETING PLAN'

 

About the author Viv Brownrigg, FCA

Communication Viv Brownrigg Growth Marketing Value Website