Accounting Humor: Oxymoron or Brilliant Marketing Strategy?

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The answer can sometimes be a resounding “both” as illustrated by a series of video blogs (vlogs) produced by a creative senior auditor at Brown Smith Wallace in St. Louis, Missouri.

Adding video to your company website is an effective way to boost SEO and communicate with new audiences. Despite that knowledge, many accounting firms have found the concept difficult to apply to their industry. Accounting suffers from a general perception of being staid and dry, definitely not the YouTube crowd. Kyle’s CPA Video Blog shreds that image, approaching hipster levels of irony with its self-mockingly exaggerated lack of animation and lame accounting “jokes.”

Kyle’s latent talent began to emerge when the firm asked employees to make videos for use in the recruiting area of their website, where video is a particularly good fit. He produced and starred in three of the entries, gaining the notice and admiration of Mike Bowlan, Brown Smith Wallace’s director of marketing. After another of Kyle’s videos left people in hysterics at a company event, Mike began to realize the videos were a strategic marketing asset and encouraged Kyle to make more. He’s now done several, including a vastly entertaining list of the Top Ten Reasons Accountants Are Cooler Than You Think and his newest vlog that educates viewers about aspects of the new healthcare legislation commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Says Mike, “We generally get the best results from our email campaigns when we cover tax subjects so when we saw an item about the “new” mileage rates from the IRS, which basically hadn’t changed, I figured this was a great place to start with humor – it would be hard to offend too many people with this topic. So, in February, we launched “Kyle’s World Premiere.”  The video made quite a splash. “CPA Trendlines immediately picked it up and featured it for two weeks on the homepage. When I sought feedback on various LinkedIn marketing forums, I was flattered by the responses from many of the marketing, business development and social media leaders in the profession whom I admire for the differences they make. They recognized the clear differentiation it provided our firm, the personality it showed and the ability of the firm to think outside the box.”

It wasn’t only marketing folks who appreciated the vlogs. Measurable results matter for social media marketing just as they do in any other kind of campaign, and the numbers from this strategy have been impressive to say the least. “Kyle’s videos are now over 10,000 views. Our website traffic has increased more than 30% in a YOY comparison. Our repeat visits increased over 70% in that same comparable period. During June, when we ran the Letterman campaign, 14% of our website visitors came because of Kyle’s vlog and nearly 84% of these were new visitors.” More recently, Mike did some homework and found that the company has added over 3000 backlinks to their website through Kyle’s vlogs. Besides web hits, the vlogs brought extensive exposure to the firm through more traditional accounting media. Mike reports that, “In addition to having been featured in CPA Trendlines twice, we have also received home page coverage from CPA Practice Advisor, appeared in Accounting Today and Accounting Tomorrow and been featured in The Summa Blog of Professor David Albrecht, one of Accounting Today’s top 100 most influential people. Kyle’s vlog was also featured in the Hinge Marketing Agency’s blog post, ‘Top Ten Branding Ideas for Professional Services Firms.’”

We asked Mike if he’d run into any pushback from the firm about using such a lighthearted marketing tactic and he admitted there had been resistance. “There was absolutely concern about how the vlogs would affect the firm’s image, of course, particularly with clients. So, we started with the non-controversial mileage rate topic. We are still in the trial phase of this strategy, using social sharing and media relations to test the waters and obtain coverage. What we really need to break through is for an organization to come to us because of seeing Kyle’s vlog and tell us they want to work with us because we have a unique personality. I may be dreaming, but I’m sure hoping there’s some at least one young – or older, hipper — successful entrepreneur out there who will fulfill that vision for us! Realistically, of course, we’ve enhanced our calls to action and are making tangible offers for the subject at hand.”

As the firm continues to improve and upgrade its technology, it expects to expand its use of video and other hi-tech approaches to business and marketing. We asked Mike if the firm had future plans for creative exposure and here’s what he had to say: “For sure! We have a serious video channel coming soon. It will take a different approach besides humor and we’ll support those videos with more detailed ones that we will produce using Prezi. These new vlogs will be product videos, if you will, so we can provide information via video for prospects at different levels of the sales funnel. We’re migrating our site to a better CMS soon, which will enable us to introduce a more traditional blog vehicle, which we’ve wanted for a long time. We’re also introducing a new proposal process and document and presentation templates, again leveraging technology. I’m also promoting the use of iPads for more of our prospect-facing people.” Those changes, along with others in the works, should keep the firm on the cutting edge of business and accounting as well as marketing.

Video is a relatively new tactic for firm marketing, but Kyle’s CPA Video Blog is a wonderful example of the creative things that can be done with it even by industries that, like accounting, are most comfortable with the more conservative tried and true approaches.

We’d like to give a big “Thank You” to Mike Bowlan for spending the time to help us learn how this great vlog series came about and what it has meant for Brown Smith Wallace. You can contact him at mbowlan@bswllc.com. If you’d like to explore video and other innovative marketing strategies for your accounting firm, bbr marketing would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

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Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.

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