What being an abundant accountant really boils down to is being able to earn more for working less. But how do you find quality clients that will allow you to do this? Digital marketing may be the missing link. In this episode, CPA, content creator, and digital marketer Katie Thomas leads us on an exploration of digital marketing for accountants. She shares are powerful story of how an accountant added $70k in monthly recurring revenue to his firm by following her step-by-step process. If you’re wondering how you can use content and social media to get the clients you want, then this episode is definitely for you. Tune in!
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How An Accountant Added $70k In Monthly Recurring Revenue To His Firm With Katie Thomas
In this episode, we have another special guest. Our special guest is a content creator, a 40 Under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, and an Ignition Top 50 Women in Accounting in 2021. She’s also the Owner of Leaders Online. Leaders Online helps accounting and technology professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through leadership and digital marketing. She has a digital marketing agency. Before we welcome our special guest to the show, if you are feeling underpaid and overworked in your firm, make sure to keep reading.
No matter what’s happening in your firm, I do know it’s 100% possible to work with fewer clients, work fewer hours, and get paid a lot more money. I know that all around you, there are accountants, CPAs, and bookkeepers who are working long hours with lots of clients who are probably scratching their heads, wondering why they grind fourteen or more hours a day yet have little to nothing in their bank accounts to show for it? That is not how we do things here at the show.
We show you how to create the firm you have always wanted, bring the revenue you desire, serve only the clients you choose who is also happy to pay you premium fees, and have the time to do the other things you’re passionate about. If you’re ready to make a change and start creating the firm of your dreams when you start this firm, book a call with me and my team at TheAbundantCall.com. We can walk you through step-by-step the game plan on what needs to get done so you can have the firm of your dreams. Let’s welcome our special guest, Katie Thomas, to the show.
Welcome, Katie, to the show.
Michelle, thanks so much for having me.
Thank you so much for being here with us on the show. It’s an honor to have you here and for you to take out the time to be here with us. Before we get started, can you share with everyone what it is that you do and what you’ve created? I’ve already done your bio, but I always think it’s more powerful to come directly from you.
I am a CPA but also the owner of a digital marketing agency where we help accounting professionals and tech companies increase their impact, influence, and income through digital marketing. I’m not sure how far back you want me to go but I’m happy to dive into how I went from CPA to where I’m at now.
A little short story on that would be very interesting for the audience. Defining what a digital marketing agency is for those who don’t know what that means would be great as well.
I got started in marketing and sales way before I got into accounting. That was when I learned about websites, copywriting, sales skills, and all that fun stuff. When it came time to go to college and get a degree, I knew I would end up in the business world. I was incredibly fascinated with entrepreneurship. I had a dream of becoming a business owner. Unfortunately, that’s not a degree in college. You can’t say, “I want to be a business owner,” and get a degree.
I remember asking around, “What should I do?” I felt like all the smart people were saying, “Accounting is the language of business. It’s a great degree to have.” I thought, “Let me try Accounting.” I took my first class and loved it. Fast forward, I had my degree. Once I had my degree, it led me down this path of, “I might as well get my CPA.” I passed my exams. To be licensed, you have to fulfill working requirements. I found myself working for one of the big four companies. While I did my experience there, my love for marketing never went away.
It was interesting because I noticed that even at one of the largest firms, I would have conversations with senior managers and even some of the partners. They mentioned how they were nervous to start having to do business development. If they were responsible for that business development, they would talk about how they didn’t like it. They didn’t feel prepared for it. They didn’t have the tools and resources. I got this hypothesis. I was like, “If the big firms are feeling this way, how do the accountants at all these other firms feel?”
I left with this hypothesis that if these big four accountants are struggling, I bet there are a lot of smaller firm accountants struggling. I could combine my love of marketing with my experience in the industry and knowledge of the accounting industry to help firms out. That’s how I got to where I’m at now. We work with accountants that range from quite small firms. Maybe it’s just a partner and a few staff all the way up to firms in the top 100 as well as accounting tech providers. It’s a lot of fun. I feel lucky to wake up and do something that I love to do every single day. It’s exciting.
That is exciting. I help on the sales side of the conversion but unless you have the leads and the prospects to communicate to, it will be hard to increase revenue. Bringing digital marketing to the world of accounting and tax firm owners is important. You have a process that we’re going to talk about. We’re going to dive into that. It’s always important to get other people’s input on it, but for you, there’s a difference between sales, marketing, the world of digital marketing, and how that supports the marketing side of the business more so than the actual collecting on the money side even though they do go hand in hand. What’s your take on what you do on the digital marketing side and how sales are different than marketing in a firm?
Marketing is more so about spreading awareness of your services, creating demand for your services, and putting offers out there. This can look like a wide range. They don’t know you so you’re introducing them to your firm and what you can do. You’re creating that demand to call them to action. There’s an overlap between sales and marketing. They have to work together but marketing can’t fix your sales problems and sales can’t fix your marketing problems. They’re both essential and they complement one another but they’re separate. You need both.There's an overlap between sales and marketing that they have to work together. But marketing can't fix your sales problems, and sales can't fix your marketing problems. Click To Tweet
That’s good to get that distinction out now. With the digital marketing agency that you have and working with big firm owners, small firms, and one–man shows to a few people in the firm, what are the four steps of the process that someone should get started with when they’re ready to start spreading awareness and creating demand for the different services that they might offer in their accounting or tax firm?
This is a process that I came up with when I started my marketing agency because what I found is even with professional experience working in marketing, whenever you go out to start something new, what do you do? You go to Google and you’re like, “What’s the best, the greatest, and the latest? How am I going to get this going?” As soon as I typed in this question to Google, “How to start your marketing agency?” there was an arm and a leg full of results. Even with this experience in marketing, it’s like, “What’s the best for me?”
At that time, no one knew me. I didn’t have a following but I knew I had to start getting visible to ideal clients if I wanted to have a business. When I got down to the nitty-gritty, it was like, “I could pay to get in front of people with ads.” That does work but when you’re getting started, usually you have more time than money. I could do email marketing but I didn’t have an email list. I could post on social media but I didn’t have any following. I could do blogging.
This takes a lot of time. Maybe at that point, my mom would read it, so I was stuck. I was like, “I need a process where I can start bringing in leads. It can’t take years to see results and can’t cost an arm and a leg.” This was when I stumbled upon this 4C Process. The cool thing about it is that anyone can use it. It doesn’t matter if you have a big audience, a small audience, you have a lot of money, you’re constricted, or algorithms change. It works. We can go ahead and dive into that now.
Let’s do it. What’s the first step?
The first step is going to be to Choose The Platform You Want To Be On. When it comes to choosing the social media platform that you want to be on, there are three things that you want to ask yourself. Question one is, “Where is your who, your target market, ideal client, or niché? Where does this person hang out?” Where they’re hanging out might be a lot of places. Maybe they’re on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. The next question you want to think about is, “On those platforms that they’re hanging out, where can you easily reach them?”
For example, if they’re watching YouTube, it’s hard on YouTube to go out and search for these people. You want to make sure that you can find them. They’re congregating somewhere. You can search for them. Something allows you to find them. The third thing is, “What platform plays to your strengths?” Let’s say you’re like, “I can easily find my ideal client on Facebook and Instagram,” but if you don’t like taking photos or posting videos, then you should use Facebook because Instagram is a visual platform. Facebook supports you in writing textual posts.
LinkedIn is super common for accountants because they can easily locate key decision-makers but if you don’t like LinkedIn, don’t use it. You have to choose your platform. I always recommend picking one and going all in. You can always expand over time but you want to master one before you try to move on to the next one. I always say, “It’s easier to boil a pot of water than it is to boil an ocean.” You want to get started on one and hone your craft.
What did you do? When you were figuring this out and saying, “I’m going to help accounting firm owners work. I’m going to create my digital marketing agency and help tech people and accounting firm owners,” where did you go all in on?
I chose LinkedIn because of the fact I could find my ideal clients. I found that it was a great platform when I started. This was years ago. No one was posting videos. I found that my content was able to reach a lot of people. LinkedIn still allows content creators to have that nice reach of content, but you will notice that over time, platforms start to dilute themselves and their reach. An example is TikTok. People can grow fast on TikTok. I picked LinkedIn, but anyone can choose whatever platform they want.
People are all over social media. Figure out what works best for you by going through those three questions, and then make sure you take a little bit of time to update your profile picture if it’s not a professional-looking headshot. You don’t want it to be blurry or distracting. If there’s a banner photo needed, you can use Canva to update that to be branded to you. Make sure it’s clear who you help and how you help them, whether this is in your tagline or bio. Whatever platform you’re using, you want to optimize it to help whoever you’re connecting with understand what you do.
What’s the second thing after we chase the platform, go all in on it, and update our backgrounds, photos, and all the other fun things that we need to do to make it look professional?
Having that platform chosen is not enough. You have to go out and connect with your ideal clients and your who. There are a variety of ways you can do this. One, you can find people directly. For example, LinkedIn makes this super easy. You can say, “I work with nonprofits in Florida. I always connect with the decision-maker.” You can go through filters, use Sales Navigator, and find these people directly. Another thing you can do, which I have seen so much success with, especially for accountants, is leverage influencer audiences. Determine who already holds the attention of these people you’re trying to connect with.
For example, we worked with a firm. He was niched in working with online health coaches. We went out and identified a few business coaches for these online health coaches. We got him connecting with those influencers and then also their audience. He was able to go right to the source. Those people have already built the time to build up this audience. You can look at this twofold. You can see who’s in their audience. You can also say, “Maybe there’s a way that you can collaborate with that influencer or person holding the attention of the audience.” That’s such a powerful strategy.
For an accounting firm owner, if you’re working with health coaches, what are a few examples of how that person was able to contribute, go in through the back door, and leverage the audience that was already built? How did they make some collaborations?
Business coaches for health coaches were helping those health coaches build their businesses. As an accountant, you’re like, “I’m a key piece of you building your business. I’m helping you understand your finances, set aside money for taxes, and understand your profit margins and where you need to cut expenses.” They worked with them on recalibrating their team members. These health coaches were hiring new team members and what they should be paying them.
There’s so much that goes into these health coaches’ businesses or any business owner when it comes to growing their business. If you can identify someone who holds the attention of your niché, especially if it’s related to them growing their business as a business coach, you’re aligning your goals already. Those people that are in the audience want to grow their business, and you can help them.
Are there any messages you think could work if a firm owner wants to reach out to a certain business coach or something along the idea that you’re sharing? I think it’s a good one. It’s probably the least amount of time for someone who’s not too keen on social media to gain the interest of that health coach. A CPA is one of the most important parts of any coaching business or any business in general. Did you see any certain emails or messages that were sent that worked well?
People always want to connect with accountants. People are curious about how it works, whether it’s accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, or cashflow management. If you can reach out to these people, reach out to them with honesty, like, “Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s who I’m helping. Here are some of the things we help them with. Would you be interested in exploring if there are ways that I could serve you and your group?” If it’s tax time, you offer to do a webinar about how they can review their expenses over the past year and talk about some things they might not be thinking about, including their return.
Maybe it’s the middle of the summer, “Here are some things you can do to get back on track if you aren’t reaching your goals. Here are some things you should be thinking about as we’re heading toward the end of Q2.” You can come up with some ideas based on the timing of the year that you’re seeing your niché or your ideal clients struggle with. Take that to the industry leader, “Here’s how we could help them through this.” Lead with a servant mindset. You will be shocked at what can return. Don’t go into it trying to make a sale or not develop a relationship but to serve. Most people would love to have an accountant come into their group and provide value.
I agree 100%. It’s a very great idea and an amazing way to achieve step number two, which is Connect. What would be the third step in the process for a firm owner who’s looking for some quality leads?
You’ve got to go out and talk to people. We talked about this from finding that influencer but if you’re going directly to the people, then you’re also going to have to talk to them. I always say, “Imagine if you walked into a cocktail party. You knew no one. You stood in the corner. What would happen? Probably nothing.” You have to go out, talk to people, and start building relationships. You have a few options for how you can do this. You can start a conversation with a direct message.
It’s funny. People forget that they have been starting conversations with people their whole life. They’re like, “What do I say?” I always recommend remembering that people love to talk about themselves. If you can do a little bit of research on them, ask them a question about themselves. People usually love to reply. If all else fails, you can ask them what they’re working on or if they have goals that they’re looking to achieve this year. People are receptive to, “I came across your page. I’m curious. What led you to start your business?” It opens up the door. Try to start a conversation with them.
You can also use groups, for example. You might even see people posting online. We didn’t talk about this in the last C for Connection but you can use groups. People will post online, “I’m looking for an accountant.” You could comment back to them and say, “I checked out your website. I love what you do. I would love to learn a little bit more about exactly what you’re looking for in an accountant, plus share some ideas with you. Can I send you a direct message?” It’s as simple as that.
That goes with step three, which is talking to people because commenting on people’s groups goes back to your first step. You need to choose where you are going to hang out. If Facebook is your platform, then it’s doing Facebook groups, commenting, coming from a servant mindset, and being forward with serving and helping. I always talk about how all the firm owners are the most valuable asset to any business owner and the number one priority of the team that a business owner should have in their back pocket.
You can even take a more personal approach. Let’s say you’re on Instagram, “I came across your Instagram. I noticed you have two kiddos that look around my kid’s age. They’re adorable. How old are they?” They’re going to look at that message. If your profile is set up right, they’re going to come to it and understand what you do. If they need your help, they can ask about it. It’s starting that conversation.
Starting the convo, seeing where it goes, and making sure you have a good follow-up process in place is the other thing to make sure you can’t reach out once. I’m sure that when you’re conversing after you connect with someone and choose where you’re going to see them, follow up. I don’t know if you have a C word for follow–up but it’s important.
Especially even if they say that they’re interested, depending on what CRM you use. Maybe you’re even tracking it in Excel. You want to make sure that these people don’t say, “I’ll grab a time on your calendar. I’ll send you an email,” or however you’re having people take that next step. Set a reminder to see, “Did they do this a week later?” If not, you need to check back in with them. We talked about how you have to choose your platform, connect with people, and talk to them.
The fourth step is where a lot of people try to put the cart before the horse. It’s creating content. You hear this a lot when people are like, “I’ve been posting on social media and nothing is happening.” It’s because you haven’t taken the time to build an audience, engage with them, and let people get to know you. You’re hoping that it goes viral. That can happen but it doesn’t happen often.
Our content is there to support. When those people come to our profile, we want them to know what we do and that we do it well. We want to demonstrate our expertise, answer common questions, and build the know, like, and trust. That’s what your content should do. I’m always hesitant to even talk about content because you can’t say, “I’m doing social media to gain access to new clients or build relationships,” but you spend your whole time creating content. It has to come last.Our content is there to support. When people come to our profile, we want them to know what we do and that we do it well. Click To Tweet
When you’re creating this content, and maybe you have a solution, one of the biggest complaints I hear from all my clients, even to this day, is, “I need more time in the day. I need more than 24 hours in a day.” I’m going to guess that you’ve heard a lot of firm owners say, “I don’t have the time to do all this.” What would you suggest for them?
You have to decide what’s important to you. Maybe you’re at a place where you don’t have the time but you have the resources. You can either outsource this social media process or your content creation to someone good at understanding your business, your voice, and how you like to communicate. That’s great, but if you’re someone who’s like, “I’m not quite there yet,” then it goes back to what your priorities are. Creating content is going to help you in your sales process. I firmly believe that because you become more confident about what you’re speaking about or writing about. It helps you further hone your craft.
If you’re short on time, this is important and you have to do it yourself, then put it on your calendar. Maybe give yourself twenty minutes three times a week that you’re going to dedicate. One of those twenty-minute sessions is coming up with topics. The other two are like, “I’m going to crank out two posts in each of them.” You don’t need to be posting every single day but there needs to be enough content that if someone comes to your page, you’re still active, even three times a week. Don’t try to burn yourself out. That goes back to also not trying to be on every platform.
You’re going all in on one.
If growing your business is important to you, then you have to prioritize it.
It’s always a priority. Can you share a story with us of a client that you took this through or an accounting or tax firm owner, and they were a 1 or 2-man show, what they did, and what they implemented on all four Cs? If you need a refresher on what the four Cs are, Katie can share them. Choose the platform you’re going to be on. Connect, converse, and talk to people. You can’t go to a cocktail party, stand in the corner, and then put up a plan to create your content.
She’s suggesting three blocks on your calendar, twenty minutes each. One day, you are creating a plan, and the other two days, you’re posting, educating, connecting, and creating content. When that exact ideal client or your who of who finds you, they see that you are active and you are engaged. Do you have a story of a firm owner that did this exact process using the four Cs and what results they got in their firm and how it helped them generate enough leads to convert them eventually into revenue?
We can use that health coach focused on health coaches. He was around the $10,000-a-month recurring mark. What happened after he went through this process was he got a few of his ideal clients by focusing on connecting directly. From those ideal clients, he got some good testimonials that he could then share as social proof whenever he was going to more influencers.
At the three-month mark, he had worked with some health coaches. He was like, “Here are some people I’m working with. Can I serve your group?” His business blew up. Over the next 6 to 8 months, he was doing $80,000 a month. That’s all because he went all in. This was done through Facebook and leveraging the power of focusing on those conversations, connecting with them, and then creating that content as the loop or the final piece of the process but it wasn’t like he was on a hamster wheel creating content all the time. That was the last piece.
He probably realized what content he needed from all the questions that all the health coaches were asking.
Something important to note as part of this is you don’t have to stay using this organic process forever. You can run paid ads. They have an email list that you’re sending emails to. Do all the other things. Those all work but this is always in your back pocket to go back to if you want to have a more organic strategy or maybe you want to add a few more leads to your pipeline. This is always there for you.
I love it. It is brilliant. For the audiences out there, a lot of you know that’s how I started this whole business. I was contributing my sales expertise to other communities that you and I have met at, be it Profit First, Tax Rep Network, Certified Tax Coach, or any of those communities. What your gentleman did with the health coaching aspect, and I’m going to guess, is he took over a lot of the bookkeeping for all these health coaches if he went from $10,000 a month to about $80,000 a month in reoccurring revenue. That’s monthly services of some sort with CFO services or accounting and bookkeeping.
It’s a great way. Once you choose where you want to hang out, be it Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, and figure out who is that person you truly want to work with, that makes you excited and happy. Katie, thank you so much for being here and sharing this with us. Is there anything else that you want to share that we didn’t get into yet that you’re like, “I need to share this before we go?”
It’s important to say that social media is not just for attracting clients. This is also important for you to help attract staff, get access to speaking gigs, build your network in general, find mentors, and even make new friends. The opportunities are endless but it requires you to be social. You have to get off the scroll. If you want different results, you need to take a different action. Following this 4 C Process can help.If you want different results, you need to take a different action. Click To Tweet
Thank you so much for being here with us. This was a fun and very-needed conversation. I don’t know what your client’s name was, the person that reached out to the health coaches, but we will call him the Health Coach King CPA. Look at what he’s created. It doesn’t take that much effort. It takes consistency. If you want different results and if you want to increase revenue and your reach, you have to do something different. Thank you again for being here.
Thanks so much for having me, Michelle. I appreciate it.
Thank you all so much for joining Katie and me on another amazing episode. I love how the Health Coach King CPA went all in and served. He not only had a servant mindset but delivered value to a lot of people. A health coach doesn’t know what to do with their books and accounting. They need guidance and people like me, Denise, my business partner, or an entrepreneur. They all need you in their corner. It’s time for you to choose which platform you’re going to be on and find somebody.
As I was sharing with Katie, that is how I started this business. Some of you might be a Profit First professional. I worked closely with Ron when I started this business, “How can I help your Profit First professionals sell more services at premium fees?” That’s what I did. I got to go to Profit Con a couple of times where Dominique Molina, a Certified Tax Coach, was presenting and teaching sales and helping them sell more tax plans so you can help taxpayers reduce the amount of money they’re paying the government and put that extra money in your pocket. Still, we have a great relationship. I’m always learning and teaching her clients the sales.
If you’re an EA or CPA, that’s a great place to learn high–level tax planning. Eric Green at Tax Rep Network works with all tax resolution specialists and EAs. I was in Vegas at his event, and I went all in. My approach was going more all in with text messaging, phone numbers, communicating, and connecting in person through events.
That was the approach I did, unlike the Health Coach King CPA. Maybe he didn’t do events. He was working more in the online area through their Facebook groups. It’s a great way to connect and for you to be the expert in that area, serve, and help so many people that truly need you. I recommend you open up your calendar and block out those three twenty-minute slots because we know that if we don’t plan for it, it’s never going to happen.
If some of you want a little help on how to convert better and put these efforts into play, we have helped a few clients with these few strategies as well like Ross. He ended up adding over $10,000 or $18,000 now in monthly reoccurring revenue to his bookkeeping practice. He sold his house in the United States. He, his wife, and his kids travel all over the country to different countries, remotely running his practice 100% virtual. It’s possible for you too.
If you feel underpaid and overworked, you might want to listen for one more minute because no matter what’s happening in your firm, it is 100% possible to work with higher–paying clients and fewer PITA clients, work fewer hours, and get paid way more money like Health Coach King CPA, Ross, or any other clients that we have worked with did. It’s all around you that firm owners work long hours. They have to take on all these clients. They scratch their head and wonder why they’re working so hard and burnt out in 14 to 18-hour days, not having anything to show for it, and never going on a vacation.
Here at the show, that is not how we do things. You can create the firm you have always wanted like the King of Health Coach CPA or Ross did in creating a virtual firm, selling his house, traveling to different countries, and being a digital nomad with his family. You can bring in the income you desire and choose the clients that you truly want to work with, which is Katie’s step number one.
You have to choose. Who is your who? I call it an ideal client. Who is that person? You get to spend the most time with the people you love. If you want support in making this happen, having your dreams come true, and having transformational results in your firm, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. Me and my business partner look forward to connecting with some of you. Thank you so much for being here with us. It was an honor to be here. We will see you in the next episode.
About Katie Thomas
Katie Thomas, CPA, is a content creator, 2021 & 2022 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, Ignition Top 50 Women in Accounting 2021, and the owner of Leaders Online. Leaders Online helps accounting and technology professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing.