Category Archives: Website Marketing

How Do You “How To?”

by Enzo F. Cesario

“How to…” are two words that end up in search engines quite frequently. The Internet is 100 percent information transmission — someone has something to share, and others have things they want to gain. The how-to phenomenon exemplifies this dynamic like few other events can. People no longer have to go out to the store to get a book on car maintenance or pot roast recipes — they just hop online and grab the information for free.

Ah, but that’s not to say there’s no money in how-tos. How-to celebs like Kimberly Clayton Blaine and Michelle Phan have made substantial headway in the world of how-to videos, with their once quiet video sites gaining major cooperation from organizations like Lancôme and Yahoo! as a result of their rapidly-growing popularity.

But what exactly makes a good, solid how-to video? What parts need to be included in a proper series in order to encourage people to keep coming back for view after view?

Part 1: Choose a Topic People Care About

It might seem like a given, but a lot of marketers seem to forget that people have emotions and minds of their own, and they can tell when someone isn’t giving their all. Someone who is obviously “phoning in” a performance is likely to get dismissed out of hand compared to someone who obviously is knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen topic.

There are a lot of ways for a presenter to show they care about a topic. Great how-to artists — and when done well, it truly is an art — like to diverge from the main discussion to give a very short aside, such as a recipe specialist sharing an anecdote about mixing up salt and sugar in an icing recipe. Others might offer tips about how to circumvent official channels for acquiring supplies and share knowledge about secondary, less expensive sources. In short, the great ones don’t just share the hard details, they also behind-the-scenes information to help spark their audience’s interest.

Part 2: Ensure Purity of Purpose

That said, small asides that showcase personal interest in the topic are good, but the stress must be on “small” or short. The average attention span of most web users is not terrifically long — there’s so much to see, do and learn, so a how-to video must capture interest and hold it without fail for the duration. Thus, make sure that every element included in the video is absolutely necessary to the message being conveyed and/or to capturing the audience’s hearts and minds.

If a small aside illustrates a more personal interest and helps the viewer connect, great — keep that in. If, on the other hand, it’s just kind of funny, nix it. Focus on the details and make sure that everything in the video is bent to the task of fulfilling the how-to process. Always remember that the viewer is present for a reason: to learn what information is available.

Part 3: Allow for Style

Each person has his or her own style, without question. Style is a complicated thing: It’s composed of accent, pattern of speaking, physical mannerisms, personal attire and more. Does the presenter actually show up in the video, or does the video conceal his or her face? Is the video shot in real time, edited for sectional content or does it use a stop-motion process so that the presenter is never visible throughout?

No one style is appropriate to every venue, and styles can be stretched to odd degrees. One might find it odd to adopt an exceptionally formal tone when presenting a how-to on baked beans and cornbread. On the other hand, this kind of style might be exaggerated for comedic effect, and this human element of irony might keep the viewers coming back. In short, don’t be afraid to experiment with a few different styles, possibly under alternative accounts, until finding one that works.

Step 4: Take the Time Needed; No More and No Less

YouTube is a popular venue for video how-tos, for obvious reasons. The default length for most videos is 10 minutes, which provides a reasonable benchmark for simpler how-to guides. It also has become a benchmark for video tolerance in general simply because of the sheer number of users growing accustomed to videos based around this length. That said, YouTube recently increased its maximum video length to 15 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on viewers’ habits.

Indeed, the issue of time can be a bit tricky for a how-to. Ideally, unless the procedure is a particularly long one, the how-to should be kept to a single video. This may mean taking multiple shoots to see how various treatment lengths work for the project. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to let the video expand to several “episodes” if the how-to in question is large enough. Something as complicated and involved as building a backyard deck can reasonably be expected to require several videos to encompass.

Step 5: Cross Promote

The currency of the web is reputation. If people think poorly of a site, it gets poor views. Having a good attitude and a cooperative spirit is often the best way to get a good promotion off the ground, and this includes how-to videos.

For example, a site might consider promoting a fellow though unaffiliated how-to expert if their videos cover a gap in the site’s own knowledge. A cooking site whose patrons ask about a type of cooking none of the site’s staff specialize in could refer them to a colleague who just happens to know what he’s talking about. Additionally, one might promote webzines and non-how-to sites that cover similar topics.

About the Author

Enzo F. Cesario is an online brand specialist and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to or visit our blog at

Accountants: What’s the Best Way to Find New Clients?

by Brian O’Connell

When folks learn what I do for work they often ask me the same thing, “What’s the best way to obtain new clients?”

That’s not an easy question to answer. There’s no one answer. Whole books have been penned on that topic. It’s dependant on the type of practice you have, where you’re located, where you’re trying to take your firm, and of course, your character. Each firm needs to craft a marketing scheme appropriate to the talents of it’s people but I’ll give you a short, generic, abstract to kick-start you.

There’s almost no immediate benefit to networking, but get started on it right out of the gates anyway.

Networking may be the life’s blood of any successful firm, but it’s a long term strategy. Take the time to cultivate prospects. At first the time will feel wasted. It will likely seem to be frustrating and senseless at the start, but as the years pass and quality prospects start contacting you you’ll be glad you did it. The most thoughtful, wisest business people rely on networking to find their accountants. Period.

In the meantime there are a lot of rank and file clients to be had, but there are also a lot of accountants competing for them. When you first get started these people will form the bulk of your client base. These clients are what used to be called “walk-ins”.

Ten years ago direct marketing was very effective, but times have changed. Direct marketing is pretty much useless these days. You could track down recent business licenses in your area and try to contact the owners by phone. For many years I made a a good living out of this strategy. It just doesn’t work any more, though. I don’t recommend it.

Get yourself some business cards (with web address and tag line) and network your butt off. Give them to everyone. And don’t forget the tag line. Every time you hand someone your card give them a reason to visit your site. Don’t be shy. Get cards. Just ask for them. Get phone numbers and email addresses. Once you have them, cultivate them. Sign them up for your newsletter. Send them an Email wishing them a happy thanksgiving.

In my admittedly biased opinion the internet is one of the best sources of clients. Get a good website and a monthly email newsletter. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a lot of work and very slow and expensive, but it’s also an AWESOME prospect magnet. For the long term it’s worth investing in. For short term just buy ad space on Google using Google Adwords. Also, get your business on Google Maps and optimize your site for Google Places (Local search). This will probably also require some investment on your part, but local search is a let cheaper and easier to get a good ranking in than old-school SEO. Expect a one-time cost of about $500.

So how can websites help accountants network?

The basic strategy of networking is to identify a prospects need, then to offer a solution to fill that need. It’s all about demonstrating the benefit of your service to the prospect. As an accountant you’re in a unique position to offer solutions to problems that really matter to people. Perhaps they’re buying or selling a house. Maybe they’re saving for their children’s education, or retirement, or maybe they’re not certain if they should buy or lease an expensive piece of equipment for their business.

Don’t misunderstand the purpose of this kind of marketing. Prospects will almost never be so impressed with that value that they’ll fire their CPA and hire you right there on the spot. It won’t rack up billable hours for your firm. Networking is a long term marketing strategy. The goal of your networking efforts is to demonstrate your value to the prospect. You’re trying to put your brand in front of the prospect and keep it there so that in a year, or two, or five; when the prospect is ready to switch accountants; yours will be the first name they think of.

A well designed accountant’s website can significantly impact your networking power. Online financial calculators and a libraray of financial articles will bring visitors back to your website over and over. As we’ve already established, when networking your job is to figure out what that persons needs are and demonstrate your value by presenting a solution. Your website can help with that. Next time you hand a prospect your business card you can offer a solution that takes them to your website, complete with your brand at the top of the page and your phone number at the bottom.

Learn the art of the Tag Line. Nobody is going to call you or even visit your website unless you give them a compelling reason to.

These “walk-ins” will pretty much take care of themselves if you do a good job setting up your website. Just pop into your adwords account from time to time and make sure you’re not getting outbid by too many competitors.

It’s time to get busy networking again.

Learn to use online social networks too. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook…

Then network your butt off. Everyone is a potential prospect. Parents, friends, vendors, everyone. Be careful not to judge prospects. That’s a trap. Nobody is too poor for a business card. In 5 or 6 years they may well be standing someplace very different.

About the Author

Brian O’Connell is the CEO and founder of CPA Site Solutions, one of the country’s leading web design companies dedicated entirely to websites for accountants. His firm presently provides websites for more than 4000 CPA, accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation firms.