Online Reviews, Word-of-Mouth and Recommendations Generate the Most Marketing Trust.

As tax accountants, we all know that the title of this blog article rings true. But why do we sometimes get lost in terms like SEO (search engine optimization), online leads, PPC (pay per click) and other trends that really only bring in a small percentage of new business? The most significant source of new business is existing clients. Increasing the odds of successful referrals and that Web searchers can find you will significantly increase your growth rates.

What do statistics say new business comes from?

Topping the trust charts with a 92% approval rating are word-of-mouth and recommendations from family and friends, according to a recent Nielsen study. In addition, online reviews have become crucial to motivating online searchers to choose to work with your practice. More than 70% of consumers now trust online reviews over traditional print and television ads, according to a Nielsen study. 

Since Google’s last algorithm change in the summer of 2014, directory sites like Yelp.com and TaxBuzz.com are now dominating the top of page 1 on the search results. This is especially true for local search results that are based on location and keywords.

How can a tax accounting practice harness the best results from these marketing trends?

First, do not be afraid of reviews. Be proactive in recruiting your best clients to talk about you online. While Yelp discourages this practice, it is not illegal to actively ask for reviews.

The other suggestion is more blunt.

Be more responsive to your clients’ every need - whether it be how quickly you return calls, staying in contact monthly with your email newsletters or other changes you can make for clients to want to refer you.

Here are 7 ways to get you started.

For the most part, people that leave unsolicited reviews on Yelp and Google+ are going to describe a negative experience at your practice. Many tax accountants don’t even realize they have a Yelp account already that may be turning prospects away. If you want a consistent flow of high quality reviews, you’re going to have to work for it.

  1. Email your clients a review request. Include language that states that your business is built by referrals and that if they feel you have earned their trust to spread the word on TaxBuzz, Yelp or Google+. Feel free to use our sample copy at the end of this blog article.
  2. Include TaxBuzz, Yelp/Google+ links on your email signature.
  3. Include TaxBuzz, Yelp/Google+ links on your website home and landing pages.
  4. Include a call to action and an iPad in your lobby during tax season requesting reviews. Please note: Yelp has been known to suppress reviews that originate from the same IP address.
  5. Family and friends – These are the people that know you best and are most willing to share some thoughts about you online. There is no reason they can’t help you promote your business online. If you’ve done work for family or friends, there’s nothing wrong with asking them to leave you a review.
  6. Ask - If you have saved a client from a sticky situation or feel the situation is right, just ask for the review. You may be surprised how many people are willing to help you when asked. 
  7. Reach out on social media - Your audience is online already, and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to click on your link and review you.

Note: Use a direct link to your TaxBuzz, Yelp or Google+ page that will take them directly to Write a Review.

Optimizing your TaxBuzz, Yelp and Google+ pages

This can get kind of tricky, but a few best practices will help you standing out quickly. Like your website, it is important that you include the categories and keywords for the search terms consumer are looking for. If you are in the wrong category, you will not be found.

Most local search queries on Google+ (Maps) will show just a few businesses, with little more than basic contact information. They lack pictures, testimonials, brand logos, persuasive practice descriptions, videos and the like. You will want to include a unique selling proposition. This is basically a practice description written for local searchers, limited to 200 characters based on keyword and market research.

For example, you want to subtly add your keywords for geography (and service offering into your description (e.g., Miami CPA). You do, however, want to make sure you are writing the description for the human audience, not the Google one.

Our experience has shown that the key factors for generating traffic and buyers are a unique, thought-out practice description, photos that relate to the services offered or people that provide the service, and authentic, well-written reviews.

Case Study: Fab Tax Team

One of ClientWhys’ marketing platform clients - San Jose, California-based Fab Tax Team has taken the approach of using Yelp as one of the primary strategies to growth.

This has been a very cost-effective way for Fab Tax Team to get immediate marketing results. This client was averaging more than 50 new leads per month during tax season. At last check, they had more than 70 reviews (mostly all are 5 stars that crowd out any negative reviews). More importantly they pretty much control page 1 of the Google search results with their Yelp listing, Google+ and practice website on page 1. Most San Jose searchers are more tech savvy and do not go past page 1 of the Google results. After they read through all of the positive reviews and click into their professional modern website, conversion is a no-brainer.

Now think of this. The case study is based in the technology capital of the world, San Jose, which is a very competitive market with many SEO techniques being employed by competitors. If you are in a smaller region with less savvy adversaries, you can easily achieve these type of results for your own firm.

Summary

Your reputation is your most important asset. Protecting what clients say about you online should be part of any tax accountant’s modern marketing plan. New technology does not need to be scary or even damaging to your reputation. Protect and nourish your reviews and you will be surprised at how quickly you will see positive benefits, both in inbound leads and conversion of the traditional client referral.

Some helpful TaxBuzz, Yelp and Google+ statistics

  • Over 250,000 consumers visited TaxBuzz -  within the first few months of launch - Google Analytics
  • 90% of Yelp users say positive reviews affect their purchases. -Merchant Warehouse
  • Yelp does not reward paid advertisers with better ratings or negative ad removal.
  • Average monthly unique Yelp users: 132 million (4/30/2014)
  • Number of Yelp reviews: 57 million (4/30/2014
  • Percentage of Yelp users that have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp: 98% (7/7/2014

Sample review copy

As you may know, our practice is predominately built by referrals from satisfied clients just like you. In today’s modern online world, reviews on websites like TaxBuzz, Yelp and Google+ have become crucial in building our online reputation.

If you feel we have earned your praise, please take a few moments to leave a review on our listings below.

Visit the site of your choice to leave a review or comment. Pick whichever one that you find easiest and most convenient.

Review us on TaxBuzz  Add link here

Review us on Yelp  Add link here.

Review us on Google+ Add link here.

If you think there is something we can improve upon, please reply to this email with your suggestions. As always, we listen to our clients and value your input.

We truly appreciate your online review and will continue to earn your business!

Thank you for your continued support.

Best Regards

  • Lee Reams II

  • I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.

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