If you’re a content writer in the accounting industry, you’re in an exciting space. After spending decades as relatively stable businesses with conservative growth targets, accounting firms are now beginning to make significant investments in growth.
Private equity firms are entering the industry in a meaningful way. Large firms are combining forces to take on new markets. And there are all kinds of niche markets out there that are starting to be dominated by highly-specialized firms.
Against this backdrop, it’s crucial for firms to invest in creating winning content in order to stand out from the competition. Today, many accounting firms are openly sharing value on their blogs and websites, taking the opportunity to showcase the skills and experience their teams can bring to potential clients. This is a significant investment in building relationships, but for many accounting firms, it’s a departure from the norm––one that requires a mindset shift.
As a marketer and content writer, opportunities abound to help firms tell their stories and build these relationships.
But the topic can feel daunting. It normally takes seven years to become a CPA: how are you, a professional writer whose accounting knowledge likely ends with your own tax return, supposed to create meaningful content for an accounting firm?
Provided you take the right approach, it’s not all that difficult. And besides, writing what you know nothing about can be surprisingly rewarding. Let’s take a look at some best practices to keep in mind as you write content for accounting firms.
Rely on Subject Matter Expert Interviews
To write about accounting, you don’t have to be a CPA. But you do have to know some CPAs.
Your best bet for producing high-quality content is to rely on Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews to inform your content production process. These interviews, which you’ll conduct with CPAs with an in-depth understanding of the topic, offer invaluable insight into the vast knowledge that accountants rely on every day.
Not sure how to conduct an SME Interview? We just wrote a couple of articles outlining the process – check them out here:
When you set up an SME interview with an accountant, your job is to understand the right questions to ask them. Do your homework ahead of time by researching the topic, but don’t feel like you need to know everything.
Defer to your interviewee’s judgment about what the most interesting elements of a topic are – after all, they’re the ones who deal in these issues day in and day out.
Advocate For Your Audience
During the interview, remain curious and don’t be afraid to ask your interviewee to explain complicated concepts in simple terms. It’s likely that the audience for whatever you write will not be CPAs. People tend to hire accounting firms because they either have a problem or a business opportunity. In both of those scenarios, they need answers, and that’s what your content is going to provide.
This means you need to present concepts in ways that are easy to understand––not confuse people with the intricacies of the tax code. Focus on explaining things in plain language and try not to get bogged down in the details. Use your position as an outsider to advocate for your audience. Make sure that any content you create explains things in a way the average professional can understand.
At times, this might mean you simplify things so that they make sense to the audience. It’s completely fine, and often necessary, to do that but make sure you emphasize that every situation is unique. People rely on accounting firms for complex, unique projects that are outside their experience: not for broad-brush solutions to simple problems.
Take Feedback & Learn Quickly
Because the content that you’re writing about is likely to be so complex, it’s unlikely you’re going to nail every article on your first try. You will make errors. You might cite the wrong section of the Internal Revenue Code or omit some nuanced element of a definition.
Making mistakes, especially when you’re just starting out, is to be expected. What’s also expected is that you learn from these mistakes and don’t make them again. If the accounting firm you’re writing for feels like they’re constantly correcting repeated errors in your work, it’s unlikely your relationship with them will last very long.
Request feedback on your work and pay close attention to the clarifications that are made. If there’s something you’re unsure of, research it further. If you’re still not sure after that, ask someone to explain it to you. If you don't understand something, it’s impossible for you to convey it to your audience, so invest the time in getting to know the subject.
Capture the Firm’s Unique Value Proposition
No two accounting firms are the same. To be successful in the long-term, any accounting firm needs a clear value proposition: a reason that their clients choose to work with them over the competition.
And accounting firms have a lot of competition. From huge firms with thousands of employees like EY and Deloitte to your local tax preparation shop, there’s no shortage of accountants in the US. To be successful, a firm must have some differentiating factor.
Most firms should be able to articulate what that is. If they can’t, it’s typically an indicator that they don’t have a well-thought-out strategy. Common differentiators might include a focus on a niche market, like real estate accounting or accounting for nonprofit organizations. Or a firm could be focused on a local region and focused on forming close relationships with the business community there.
Whatever the case, make sure that you weave this narrative throughout your writing and feature it heavily in any Calls to Action you include at the conclusion of your articles. The primary reason you’re writing content is to persuade people that the firm holds the solution to their problems. To do that effectively, it’s vital you understand what sets the firm apart from its competition in its ability to do that.
Never Stop Learning
As a writer, you exist in a permanent state of consuming, processing, and creating knowledge. That’s true regardless of what you’re writing about. Embracing a growth mindset and focusing on making each article you deliver better than the last will take you a long way.
Looking for somewhere to continue to build your writing knowledge? Follow along with us on the Hire a Writer blog––we write about everything from technical SEO to how to infuse storytelling and creativity into your work.