Since Beyond was founded, we have grown by around 30% – 40% per annum. We have achieved this without a sales function. I believe the reasons we have had such good growth are quite simple, even if the execution itself is more complex.
It comes down to us having a really clear vision of where we are heading in terms of business goals. And to help us achieve those goals, we have trusted completely in the ‘pull’ approach of content marketing strategy.
Starting off positioning a new brand
When I first made the decision to rebrand and become Beyond Accounting, I assembled a team of consultants to collaborate with. This meant the brand was built with the input of people with specific expertise (design, branding, etc.) who were also external to the business and therefore could give impartial advice.
The initial positioning (modern Irish accounting firm) and messaging (real, down to earth, and talking the same language as business owners) we developed were also crucial to launching our marketing strategy. Although we have evolved since, the core brand promise has stayed the course – a deep understanding of technology solutions and our flexible, customer-focused approach.
Helping people instead of marketing to them
The reason I settled on a content marketing approach rather than more traditional marketing is that it aligned so well with my own business philosophy. Firstly, I’ve never had an issue giving someone some free advice if they needed it. Secondly, because I have a background in business and not just accounting, I’ve always used plain English when talking about financial concepts and not ‘accountant speak’. Blogging regularly to engage with new audiences, create awareness of the business, and share knowledge with our clients was a natural next step for me.
We typically publish two blogs per month, as this rhythm works well for us. I always wanted the blog to have helpful and practical advice, as well as reflect my point of view and our experience as a team. Over the years, I’ve had great feedback about our articles, so I know that Irish business owners are reading them and getting value from them, which is the main thing.
I see some business owners delegate blog writing to a junior member of the team or even outsourcing it to someone with no connection to the business. But this is missing out on the unique experience that senior people in the business can bring and it doesn’t necessarily represent the opinions of the company. The subject matter has to come from you; it has to be real, it has to be current, and it has to be valuable to your clients.
How we bring in new business through marketing
We print a small number of brochures or leaflets every year – typically to tie in with a specific event or issue. We did try a leaflet drop early on and that didn’t get us any results at all. Other than our targeted print runs, we use very little in the way of “traditional” marketing; no radio, print, or TV ads. Apart from direct referrals, all our leads come to us through digital channels.
We have clients ourselves who work in the media/creative sectors, so we’ve always kept abreast of the trends in this industry. We saw how media spend was flooding to online channels and were very aware that our future efforts would be digital and were therefore worth building from day one.
Where our leads come from
- We do get regular referrals, of course. These may represent 10% – 15% of new business depending on how good a fit they are.
- Occasionally, I get a lead because of a personal connection or because I spoke at an event.
- But all other leads come through online channels and because of our online presence. Of these, the vast majority are organic and a fraction come through a paid source such as Google Ads.
You can spend thousands of euros on a small print ad in a newspaper or a radio campaign. While the coverage/audience of that medium may be good, your ad will be briefly seen/heard and is quickly forgotten. When you put that same among of money to work online, you’re still getting a return years later. It’s a different way of thinking about things but the results speak for themselves as far as I’m concerned.
Unless you’re a bigger business, outsourcing is better value
For a company turning over less than €5 million per year, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to hire an in-house marketer. With accounting, SMEs are better off having a bookkeeper, accountant, and CFO for the few hours a month they need them rather than hiring full-time staff. It’s the same with marketing, there are various skills and experience that go into maintaining an online presence: social media, filming, editing, copywriting, design, SEO, analytics, and strategy to name just a few. Finding someone who is skilled and experienced in all of these is going to be as difficult as it is expensive. The alternative, hiring a junior marketer, could see you putting your valuable time into guiding/doing/fixing things or simply not get you any results.
If you take this approach, you are becoming more involved in your marketing process and it can grow with your company in a much more flexible way.
We opted for an outsourced solution from the beginning and have been working with a small local company specialising in the kind of ‘pull’ tactics we were looking to adopt. For the same cost as one marketing manager, we’ve had input from a team with a range of skills and experience. Because I took a long-term view of this and started marketing from day one, the cumulative value from this investment has been fantastic.
If you take this approach, you are becoming more involved in your marketing process and it can grow with your company in a much more flexible way. As a business, you have to become a content creator – this might be material such as blogs and guides, or you might get into creating videos or recording podcasts. I’m seeing more businesses getting into the education side of things too, creating courses to communicate their expertise. It’s really exciting and the democratising effect of the internet means this capability is within anyone’s reach.
How we manage our marketing activity at Beyond
What I like about the service we get at Beyond is that it doesn’t leave any of the pieces of the strategy for us to deal with. It’s a managed service, so we’re not overseeing the work so much as collaborating with it where necessary. If we need an extra service that isn’t covered by their expertise, they will select that third-party for us and manage the relationship. As a business owner, that’s a real advantage for me because I don’t want to be project managing multiple service providers.
But I do need to be behind the content created – it’s based on my advice and expertise, my point of view, my take on things. I would never have the time to sit down and create it all, so this is where a good outsourcing relationship has immense value. The typical way I’ll capture content for blogs is to record my thoughts on the particular topic on my phone. If I speak for around 10 minutes, this is ample material for a blog post. The content writer then takes the audio file and uses it to write up the blog post. Even an expert takes around four hours to write and edit a blog like this one, and it can potentially take longer. This approach saves me a day’s work in just a few minutes.
Using inbound marketing has allowed us to achieve rapid growth year on year. I’ve been able to benchmark our results against other accounting firms and I know we acquire many times more business every year than the average. Because I knew what I wanted to achieve, I found the right fit in terms of our marketing firm and that partnership has flourished over the years to be a real win-win for us both. If you’ve been struggling to grow your business, I recommend you consider this approach rather than pouring cash into traditional marketing.