How to win new clients from social media

Feb 12, 2020

Don't want to watch the recording? You can read the full transcript below...

So today I have someone with me today that needs no introduction, the one and only Jeri Williams of LinkedIn fame, who is today going be talking about how to win new business on social media. 

So, Jeri, tell us a little bit firstly, as a bit of an intro, in terms of when you started your firm, your story kinda going back to when you first kicked things off and we'll take it from there after that?

Okay. So, I started my business April 2016, so coming up for four years ago. I just left the practice I was working at to work from home. That was the plan anyway, just work from home, do a few accounts, and, just yeah, as long as I could pay my bills, I was gonna be happy with that, so that was what I did. I converted my garage to a little office, and, it sorta went from there, really.

Brilliant, so you convert your garage, what, three years ago now, and then, did you actually hire employees when you were working out of a garage?

I did, yeah, so I started hiring I think in like the July time, after I started in April. Took on an admin person, and then took on, a little bit later took on like a sort of accounts, payroll person, and then, another like bookkeeper, and then we sort of were on top of each other in the garage, 'cause it was a tiny little garage, so, and I had to see clients in there as well and weren't paperless or anything so we had filing cabinets and it, yeah, it was really really cramped, and then the premises that I'm in now, we moved into about 18 months after I started my business, which is where we are now.

Nice. And so did you actually start from the off in terms of social media to win business or were you able to kind of bring some clients over from where you were at before? How did your first few clients come your way?

Yeah, so, I definitely took some clients with me, well they, you know, they chose to sort of come with me. Not a huge amount, enough to get me going, enough to sort of take that real panic away, that I'm not gonna get any business, but, yeah, I took a small chunk with me, and they definitely kept me busy in the early days. But I was on social media, mainly Facebook, from the day I started my business, every single day, so, when it was just me and I had like 40 followers, when I was just in my garage, I was on there every day.

So what was your kind of thinking in your head, were you just kind of reaching out, telling people what you were doing, or were you just kind of messaging people, or just getting yourself known, you know, what was that like back then?

Yeah. I don't, no I don't think I have a strategy, at all. I think for me it was more just like brand awareness, kind of, well not even so much brand awareness, like just, just awareness of me, 'cause I don't really have a brand, so, it was just like, you know, I'm on my own now, I'm an accountant, because I've used social media quite a bit to build up client base when I worked at my last practice, which is quite difficult to do when you're doing it, but the practice isn't, so that, I always won quite a lot of business or through Facebook, and brought that into the practice, so I knew it worked. I knew it was definitely going to work, but I had to start from scratch obviously, so, it was just more a case of just being consistent, and, as soon as people knew that I was on my own, I had my own business, those people that were recommending me anyway, they sort of recommended me even more, because they knew it was now me, and it wasn't another firm. And yeah, I just sort of did it, just day in, day out, just posting on our business page, tryna build up followers that way.

And what kind of things were you posting?

I look back now, it's a little bit cringey. I look back and, I'm like oh god. But I would put things like, just that I was in my office, or like a selfie, or I'd put a picture of like, my new member of staff or what we were doing that day, or jokes or memes or just anything I could find, literally just anything. I could put, try and keep it interesting, basically.

Yeah, basically nothing accounting technical related?

Nothing accounting or technical at all, nothing. Just, look this is me, I didn't do any videos back then either, so there was no videos or anything, it literally was just photos, pictures, jokes, funny things, and just tryna share my page and get people to follow my page, and that was all I kind of tried to do in the early days.

And you found that that got you inquiries as a result of doing that?

Yeah, definitely. And it was, it was more so that I think, the people that already knew me, so all of my existing friends and family and connection and stuff, were very supportive obviously of the fact that I'd gone on my own, so, they were able to share a lot of my posts, and they were able to recommend me so much more on Facebook, if someone put they need an accountant, my friends stuck me straight in there, it'd be like you know, Jeri can help you, and tagging my page. I think they were more inclined to do it because it was me, rather than me working for a practice. They were more inclined to tag me, so then that definitely helps, so in the early days I got quite a lot from Facebook. Not so much now from Facebook, that's definitely changed over the years, but yeah, in the early days it was definitely Facebook.

Yeah and I think that's kind of probably a trend that's continued for you, not doing too much accounting, technical related, it's kinda just posting stuff which is, I guess well, real, isn't it, it's like you said, photos of you, of your staff, of your office, of how you're feeling, of jokes, of keeping a bit lighthearted, so people get to know the real you, and I guess that's how you've managed to grow?

Yeah. I think so, because, I suppose you can go at it two ways, really, with your online presence. Y'know, you can go the more traditional route of technical advice and, you know, tax advice and all those kind of things, which I definitely think there's a market for, and I think it does work if it's done right. I think for me, because I have always been on social media anyway, even if I didn't have my business, I'm still on it all the time, it's been a part of my life anyway, it was a natural evolution for me just to continue what I was already doing, for the business, so, I think when I look at the people I follow on social media, I follow people that I find really interesting and funny and, y'know it's something that I wanna see, so, I try and replicate that as much as possible with what I put out there, and every now and then will drop in, drop in that I'm an accountant, or something accounting related, but on the whole, 90% of it is not that type of stuff.

So, how it translates into inquiries for you, I guess it's just snowballed, but typically nowadays, how many inquiries do you actually get from social media would you say on average, you know, per week or per month?

That's, that's a tough one to answer because, it is a little bit up and down. We might get one a day, we might get, like maybe one a week. We rebranded last year, so our website took a bit of a dip in terms of all the SEO and stuff because it was a completely brand new website, brand new domain, everything, so that made it take a bit of a dip, which I've tried to counteract with the social media side, to, because our website used to get a huge amount of inquiries, I mean it still does, it still gets great inquiries, but it's building back up again. It takes time. So I tried to counteract that with the social media. I think, it's a bit sporadic, with the inquiries, but yeah. It's definitely generated a lot. I think people just know who I am, so the minute, not everyone obviously but, certain people that follow me or certain people that are connected with me on social media, if something goes wrong with their accountant, or all of a sudden they're in the market for a new accountant, or, anything like that, I suppose I come to mind, and that's really what my social media's aimed at. It's kind of just being memorable, and people knowing who I am, what I do, for that time when they eventually might need someone.

Yeah, 'cause there's only so many people out there any given point in time who're probably actually looking to move accountant, it's a very small percentage, but if you kind of look at it, a longer term horizon within the next two years, that jumps up to probably 40 to 50%.

Yeah, exactly, and it's just, it's just, it's just kind of planting the seed. That's what I think a lot of my social media, it's just, it's just general stuff, it's not, y'know I'm not targeting people, I'm not, I'm an accountant, this is what I do. If you need an accountant, come and see me. Like, that is not what my, any of my social media's about. It's just, I enjoy it, and I, hopefully that comes across in the things I post because I do genuinely enjoy a lot of it, so, it doesn't feel like work to me. It doesn't, I don't have to think about it, it's not conscious, I don't have to set time aside, don't do any of that, it just, if I feel like posting 10 things in a day I will, if I feel like posting nothing then I won't. It's just, sort of free-flow stuff.

Brilliant so you basically grew the business through using Facebook mainly?

Originally, yeah.

And, then you weren't really focusing on LinkedIn at all, and then you burst onto the scene, what was it, a year ago, ish?

Yeah, I think I rejoined about a year ago and then started doing proper stuff on it maybe about 10 months or, yeah, maybe like nine to 10 months ago.

Okay. And, what, did you have a different strategy for LinkedIn or you basically brought whatever you were doing on Facebook content and then, start to engage and build?

Yeah, I had already had a lot of videos made quite a long time prior to that, and they were all made with kinda Facebook in mind, and Instagram. They weren't made for LinkedIn at all 'cause I wasn't using LinkedIn, and then I shared a couple of the older videos and they really took off on LinkedIn, like people were, all of sudden I was getting those comments and connection requests and, people sharing it and it was getting thousands of views, and I was a bit like oh, people on LinkedIn like the videos, I never would've thought that, and, I suppose 'cause I was new to it and I still am pretty new to LinkedIn so, I didn't realize that there was a market for that, and it makes complete sense now. So now when I have my videos made, they are made, and probably for the six months, they're made more with LinkedIn in mind, and Instagram, than they are Facebook. The organic reach is incredible as you know, on LinkedIn, and it really isn't on Facebook, whereas it used to be quite a bit better on Facebook, so that has changed over time. Unfortunately when you actually sponsor stuff on Facebook now you don't get great organic reach. LinkedIn is incredible for that, so yeah, so now it's kind of, yes I do, I am very similar on my social media platforms. I don't do much on Facebook anymore, it's kind of died a bit of a death for me in kind of a business. Like I still get the odd inquiry from Facebook and stuff like, I'm still on it, but I don't really think about Facebook that much. I think Instagram and LinkedIn. And yeah, just post similar stuff, really, so.

And so, I guess, with LinkedIn, you're finding that the organic reach is good, which is not available on Facebook anymore, so you've really picked up your connections, and what, gone over 10,000 connections in the space of a year, which is incredible, and, do you kind of go out to get connections? I guess people just want to connect with you and, because they've seen your posts, because they've gone viral or whatever?

Yeah, I think, I don't-- Sorry. I don't, I just put the volume to start, our connection requests, I used to accept all of them, in the early days, just literally accept, accept, accept. I don't ever add anybody. I mean I think, I could probably count on one hand the number of people I've actually connected with myself, like, chosen to connect with someone on LinkedIn. I get quite a lot of connection requests, but I think I've probably got about 5,000 connections, but I've got like 11,000 followers, so it's the difference between, I'm noticing now, 'cause I don't get notified when people follow me but I just see the numbers going up, so actually more people now I think are following me, than they are actually choosing to connect with me, which is great, 'cause I'd much rather have followers, 'cause then it's kind of, like 'cause I don't add people, so it makes more sense to be able to follow me. But generally connection requests, I'll accept most of them, I won't accept anyone that I think, I can't understand why they would add me, if I can't see any kind of benefit or if looks a bit of a strange account, maybe it's a fake account or something like that, then I'm cautious and I don't accept, but, most other ones I accept.

Okay. And I guess you've probably found that, given that you've got this tribe together on LinkedIn, you probably are finding that because you've got this community of people with your raving fans, that they are all also shouting from the rooftops about you, and are you finding you're getting inquiries from people who've been recommended, off someone who is not a client of yours, but may have engaged with you and seen your stuff on LinkedIn?

Maybe I did, awhile ago, but, quite a few months ago I removed, the people can't tag me now. Did that about four months ago 'cause I got sick of getting tagged every day by random people that were just tryna jump on the number of followers bandwagon, and that really irritated me, and I'd just get tagged left, right, and center, so, I just removed it so no one can tag me now. So, people probably, maybe do recommend me but I wouldn't know. So, it's generally people just inboxing me directly. I get that quite a lot on LinkedIn, and saying I need a new accountant, or I need a Xerox specialist, or can you help with this. My accountant's gone AWOL, my accountant's not being very proactive, can we set up a call, and then that, I get a lot of that on LinkedIn. Which is great, which is amazing, 'cause that's what I want, so, yeah.

Yeah, fantastic. And you focus mainly on text-only posts, do you, or do you do image posts? I know you do videos, but, is it mainly text only?

- I think I do a bit of everything. So, but again, it's not really that conscious, but I do think it's probably a mixture of everything a bit, sometimes I'll do a picture and a caption, sometimes I'll just type some stuff out. If it pops in my head, I'll post it. Sometimes I find that it's, quite a lot of pressure, like to keep up that kind of, account, that everyone's following. D'you know what I mean, like not everyone, but you know what I mean, like, all these people are following it and they're kind of following it because they wanna see all the stuff I'm gonna say, and stuff and then, sometimes like a week will go by and I'll think, especially in January, I was a bit like, I haven't really got anything to say, and I'm way too busy. But it was fine, I posted the odd thing here and there. But yeah, sometimes it's a little bit high-pressure but, it's fine like, all the time I think of things, or it's a bit, if I think it's gonna be a bit of a, not controversial but like, if I think it, people will think it's interesting, I'll post it. So.

And would you say that the majority of your growth has come from, from social media itself or do you have other, I suppose you do have other sources of business in terms of referrals and websites, but do you kinda do any analysis and see where most of your business comes from?

Yeah, we definitely do, we do a full analysis, I've got, probably for the last 18 months I've tracked where every leads come from. And I would say it is, our website and social media are on a par with the inquiries. And more so now, with like LinkedIn and stuff, getting a lot from LinkedIn, so, yeah.

So what will kinda convert, and in terms of when you do your videos, your videos are obviously, y'know, very hilarious, got a lot of traction. How do you come up with the content for your videos? Did you go to comedy school or something?

- No, I tend to write, so I think of a subject, whatever that may be, and then usually the night before I'm having a video filmed, I'll sit and write what I want the content to kind of be, so I wanna mention this and I wanna mention that and, y'know if it's company cars, right okay, I wanna say about what the savings will be and why and duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, and I'll write all that down. And then my husband and I will sit there and he usually comes up with funny things. He kinda makes it a bit funnier. Or, we do it together, but, he's quite witty, so he'll come up with like, oh, you should say this, or, y'know it'd be funny if you could get an image of this at the same time or whatever, and, sometimes we disagree. But, you know, he helps me with some of that like, kind of more funny content. And also it comes down to the editing. I mean you know, coming, obviously you've done quite a lot of videos and stuff. If the editing's good then it all comes together at the end.

Definitely, yeah, and would you say, 'cause you've done many of those edited videos, have you done many kind of non-edited? 

No, I've done a handful, I've done a handful, yeah, not that many. Because I think where I had been doing videos for quite a while, and I went straight in for the whole fully edited, polished, you know, professional videos. Quite hard for me now to do, like, ones myself, because I notice how they're not as good, they're nowhere near as good, and I think I've kind of set the bar for myself, in my own mind, I'm like no that's what they should be. Y'know, they should be like that, and then when I do the off the cuff kinda candid ones I'm like, doesn't come across as good.

I know what you mean, and so equipment-wise I guess you go to a studio and they're all recorded, fresh and neat?


And you definitely believe it's worth the investment?

Oh yeah, 100%. Absolutely, hands down, worth the investment. You know, the videos have done incredibly well, they've generated a huge amount of inquiries, they've generated a huge amount of new business for us, so yeah. If, y'know, looking at my spend and where my marketing spend goes, I don't really, it's more my time I guess that is my cost when it comes to marketing, 'cause it's all the time I spend on social media and just that, and other than our website which I pay for, don't really spend anything on marketing, other than the videos, so yeah, they are absolutely worth it, like hands down, I think, because the feedback I've had, y'know, got so many clients just purely off the back of the videos. Where I've said oh I saw your video on that, and like the company car one, it went nuts, compared to some of the others that didn't do quite as well, and I was like, ah that's interesting that, so many people loved the company car one, and they were like, but my accountant hasn't told me that. Y'know, I've seen your video, my accountant hasn't told me, and I was like, oh, that's really interesting. You kind of get to realize what people wanna see.

What's been your best performing post of the year in terms of views, like that sort of thing?

Well I put a post on about, I put, it wasn't a video or anything, but I put a post on about how a client had been like repeatedly rude and how we decided to kinda disengage with them, because they had upset my staff and, it wasn't a good working relationship, and although it was quite a big fee, it was like the right thing for us to do. And that one got even like 200,000 views on LinkedIn, and that was just me writing, that wasn't like a picture or any, on video or anything and, it's just nuts how sometimes it can like, it just hits a sweet spot obviously for LinkedIn, its algorithms and stuff and it obviously goes nuts, and within a week, yeah, over 200,000 views. So.

Amazing, your phone must be going mental?

Oh, I turn off the notifications, I can't be bothered to have it pinging, so I just turn it all off and I just check back and then I end up muting it 'cause I'm like oh, can't keep getting told that someone else has liked it, so just mute it, but yeah, it was, and it, that was, it's again really interesting to me what people, 'cause sometimes I'll put something out that I think is really, y'know, oh this is gonna get people really kind of fired up. People are gonna disagree with this and people are gonna have something to say about this and, you know, you'll get like a handful of comments, and like maybe a couple of thousands views which is, still fine, but you're like and then something like that go absolutely nuts on LinkedIn, you're like, why is that? Why do people love that so much, so, yeah. Then I, it's random, but, it's fun to try all the different posts, see what happens. Put it out there, see what happens.

So what advice do you have, what three pieces of advice to you have for others in terms of how they can use social media to ramp up the number of inquiries that they get from their target audience?

I would say, firstly, it's consistency. So many people I speak to, I can't tell you how many accountants go, oh it just doesn't really work for me, and I'm like, but you don't post on there, like you can't, it's you get out what you put in, y'know like I've, yes I've got, y'know, it's like on Instagram, doing very well now on Instagram so I generate leads through Instagram, but I've been doing that relentlessly for years, like, it's not, y'know, it doesn't happen overnight. You're not gonna put one post out and get someone inquiring, like, you've got to do it consistently. I would say, secondly, LinkedIn, probably, 'cause it's B2B, would be probably the best one of all the platforms, maybe followed by Instagram, now, in terms of reach and stuff. And thirdly, try and keep it interesting. So, too many accountants posting boring content. I, that no one wants to see, okay? Again, it depends who your target audience is, but if your target audience is like owner-managed businesses for example like mine is, then, they won't want to read your blog about upcoming tax changes, 'kay. A small amount will, you'll always get people that will wanna read the technical content, always. But looking at the bigger picture, they're not gonna remember you, over another accountant, if you keep posting boring blogs. So, it's about who your target audience is, and then, what do they wanna see? What's gonna make them remember you? So just being interesting, posting interesting stuff, stuff you would wanna see.

Absolutely. Yep, I agree with you. I guess it's the key point there is, kind of, consistency is a good one, in terms of we are the sum of our habits, right, and people only see the big results that you get now, but they forget, well actually you've been doing this for three years. You've been consistently at it, day in, day out, and what you're seeing now is the culmination of all that hard work that you've put in over the last three years.

Yeah, exactly.

And you can't expect overnight success, as with anything, you've just gotta keep at it and keep at it, and eventually, it will, you'll yield results.

- Yeah. Yeah exactly, and that's, y'know that's what I say to people all the time like, I say it to clients, not just accountants, you know, all my clients, if you're using social media, you can't just post, you know, if you're on Instagram you need to be putting things on your story, you need to be interacting with your followers, you need to be building your following, like, I've tried so hard to build a following on my social media platforms. That for me is key. It's not targeting people and trying to get new clients, that's not what I spend my time doing. I spend my time trying to build my following, and that in turn results in inquiries in itself. Yeah, and the same way that you spend money on your website to make sure that it's visible, and make sure that people are gonna see it if they Google, or, when they do see it, think it's a good website and want to use you, it's exactly the same in social media. If you don't put that time and effort in, you're not gonna get the reward, so you know, it's, it's kind of a no-brainer but people don't, they'll post once a week, or they'll post once a fortnight, and I'm like it's not, it's not enough, if that's, if you're trying to really generate business from it, it's not enough.

Absolutely. Yeah, you gotta be front in mind haven't you, when there's so much noise out there to kinda get heard above the noise, you, be out there consistently.

Yeah, you'll just get lost, you'll absolutely get lost, y'know. Are people gonna remember me because I'm in their face all the time, even if, even if you start to, people get a bit irritated by it, like that doesn't bother me, as long as they know about me. Y'know, as long as I'm visible and I'm, I, it is 'cause I'm in everyone's face all the time, that I get quite a bit of business from it, because I am that person that is constantly on there, and people probably see me in their feed and they, ugh, y'know, but they do see me still. So, it just, I think that's so important.

- Definitely. So just to end, what are your future plans in, Jeri, for world domination?

Gonna have some new videos made in a couple weeks. That batch, don't know what they're gonna be about yet. I'll decide that like the night before. Night before, yeah.

The night before?

And, yeah just keep going with it really, like I don't, it's not, for me as well, I think one really massively important thing, I had a conversation, an accountant asked if he could phone me a few months ago to ask for some help about social media. 'Cause he was wanting to get into it. And I said, oh I don't rely on social media, to, for the success of my business. It's not critical. So because of that it gives me a bit more of a freedom, I think, to say what I want and do what I want on social media, because, if I don't get a single inquiry from it, I'm okay, now, I mean I'm in this, I'm in this space now where I am a lot more confident, a lot more free with the things I post and things I say because, I'm not desperate for business. I think if you come across that you're desperate for business, by posting like I'm an accountant, I'm an accountant, I can help you with this, if you need an accountant, come see me, you know, people, they sense that desperation. So for me, it will continue, I will continue to be, bit more relaxed with it, bit more free with it, and, the knock-on effect of that I think is that you do then generally get more business from it. That's my plan,

Yeah, that's a good point.

Just keep doing it, keep doing the same stuff, 'cause it works. Probably annoy a few more people, but that's fine, I'm fine with that.

At least they'll know you, though, won't they?

Well, exactly. Exactly, Reza.

Someone's asking here Jeri, before we go, they said, they've noticed that you have perfect five-star Google reviews and a lot of them. What's your trick on obtaining these?

Oh, we did a bit of a campaign last year to just really really go out and try and get Google reviews, and like go on and on at people, because people go, yeah, I'll leave one, no problem, and then they don't, and it's like tryna get blood from a stone, tryna get a Google review off a client, it's, I don't understand, so, it was driving me nuts, so we just went all out and I tasked some of the girls in the office to try and get Google reviews, speak to everyone they knew, like, anyone that's had any interaction with us or, give feedback of us. It didn't have to necessarily just be clients, it could be people that go, well we think you're great on social media, like, we think, y'know, I phoned up and I didn't need your services but you were really helpful, like, you know, anything like that or, y'know, it was just, we just went all out and asked everybody and kept on and on and on at people. And now, we get them frequently, quite frequently anyway, but like drip feed ones, which is fine, but yeah, we really campaigned last year to get Google reviews, and I did competition, like on Facebook, so, the first 10 clients that gave us a Google review will get an Amazon voucher. Straight away, people were straight on it. You know, little things like that, you just gotta come up with ideas. So, and it's worked really really well, because now, we've got so many. I think we've got like 100 five-star Google reviews, so when people Google accountant in the area, we find they come to us because, other accountants haven't got any or they've got like two.