Is Bark worth the money, time and effort when you can advertise directly with Google Ads? Which option generates the most qualified and cost effective leads for your Virtual Assistant business?
Completing your bookkeeping and start up training is the first step in becoming a successful business owner. Your next task is to find clients, and not just any clients either. They have to be the right clients. So—where will you start running ads, and which ad channels will give you the best return on your advertising dollar?
Furthermore, would it be more cost effective to outsource your lead generation to a marketing agency?
What is Bark?
Bark promotes your bookkeeping services to business owners who need your skills and expertise. They earn their income by sending you inquiries from potential clients and taking a lead generation fee.
Although they have the marketing budget to advertise heavily and attract customers, it’s important to note that you are one of MANY Xero Bookkeepers that they have listed on their site and you’ll be competing directly with them for every lead. It’s what is know as a Project Bidding Site.
What we find most interesting is that the digital marketing tools that Bark use are available to all bookkeepers and one of those options is Google Ads. In this scenario they COMPETE directly with Google ads of bookkeepers to offer potential clients:
- A Quote in Minutes
- Ratings and Reviews
- Amazing Services
If you really want a quick quote you can visit a bookkeepers website and see if they show their rates. Ratings and Reviews are already available at Google and Facebook. These project bidding sites make good money from small business owners who don’t have the skills to do their own digital marketing.
This is an example of their Google Ad.
How much does Bark charge?
“Bark credits” are paid for upfront by the advertising business. The standard price for each credit is $1.80, but you can bring that cost down if you buy in bulk – it’s almost like a dating site!
The number of Bark credits required to buy any single lead varies from 3 to more than 20, depending on the scope of work and how Bark decides to value it.
What Bark has managed to do with their business model is to earn a fee per lead from bookkeeping businesses. In our experience a ‘lead fee” can be between $20-$70 and these marketing models are used everywhere, including home repairs and maintenance with websites like HiPages.
What you’ll get for your money
In our research Business owners seeking bookkeeping services through Bark typically fit the following profile:
- They are looking for cheap, once-off or ad hoc labour. e.g. only required annually.
- They are a sole trader or micro business that doesn’t have the hiring resources (or turnover) to find a bookkeeper for their business.
- They want as many bookkeepers to contact them as possible and then focus on price to make their final decision about who to hire
- They have an urgent requirement to ensure compliance with the ATO.
This type of client is NOT an ideal prospect for most people starting their own bookkeeping business. You could spend a lot of time and energy for little gain, and run the risk that there will be little long-term potential for your bookkeeping business.
Despite the reduced odds of finding your ideal clients through Bark, it is possible to make money. Jo-Anne (Melbourne BAS Agent) spent $6,000 in Bark advertising and generated about $40,000 in income as a result and it’s important to understand the potential long term value of a bookkeeping lead. However— she also had extensive business experience, having worked in the corporate world for many years prior to starting her own business.
National Bookkeeping Business StartUp members get access to our interview with Jo-Anne and other bookkeepers who’ve built successful bookkeeping businesses.
Google Ads will build your “brand”
Google Ads works by displaying your ad when people search online for the products and services you offer. It allows you to build a brand by pointing ads to your landing page and getting leads directly that way.
- There’s no minimum spending commitment.
- You set and control your own budget.
- You choose where your ad appears.
- You can measure your ad performance.
You can also integrate your ad campaigns between different platforms. For example, you can share your message on your website, on social media and on Google Ads simultaneously. This helps to increase the flow of traffic from Google to your website AND grow your followers on your social media channels.
How much do Google Ads cost?
You’ll only pay when your customers engage, for instance, when they click your ad to visit your website, call your business or view your video ad.
This type of advertising is called Pay Per Click (or PPC) and it is centred around you bidding to have your ad shown for selected “keywords” and “keyphrases”. The costs can change all the time and depend on location, the quality of your ad and landing page and many other variables.
Google also offer “display ads” where you pay a cost per 1000 views.
What you’ll get for your money
By taking ownership of your lead generation you will attract clients who more closely fit your model of an ideal client. They are likely to stay with you longer, pay you a reasonable rate and refer you on to new clients.
What you might find is that you spend a little more than you need to as you learn about the balance between the words in your ad, the information on your landing page and your initial offer to potential clients. But in the end you’ll have the knowledge to put the best ad campaign together.
DIY Marketing or Agency?
When you need to get your business off the ground quickly and don’t have time to learn everything about marketing from scratch, you have an option to outsource your lead generation to an agency.
Not all new bookkeepers start out with the experience or confidence required to market a small business effectively.
Under this arrangement you would pay a monthly fee to a marketing agency to get you discovered for bookkeeping work. They would typically run your Google Ads, manage your advertising budget, capture leads, and handle initial enquiries. You would then have a qualified list of prospects to contact and introduce yourself to.
Benefits of outsourcing:
- Saves you time
- Less stressful
- Lets you stay focused on your core business (bookkeeping)
- Focused on building your services
How much does an agency cost?
Marketing agencies normally charge an initial set up fee, plus an ongoing management fee of 20%.
For example you might pay $1,200 for the digital and content marketing set up, and then a weekly fee of $199 to cover advertising and management costs.
In addition to running ads, an agency might also:
- Publish your online business profile on related industry websites.
- Create and manage your social media accounts.
- Make cold calls to local accounting practices regarding referral opportunities.
- Assist you with building and managing a website.
- Write articles and blog content that links to your website or online business listing.
Most importantly, an agency will teach you how to convert your sales leads into paying clients.
We believe it is FAR better to build your own brand and get website traffic to your own landing pages. From there you can have a lead generation form to collect and act on leads.
This is a much faster way to understand the level of demand, understand if the offers are working and get contact details directly, without having to compete at a marketplace site like Bark or AirTasker.
Listing Your Xero Bookkeeping Services On Bark—Is It Really Worth It?
Project bidding sites such as Bark and AirTasker may seem like an attractive way to find new bookkeeping clients, but who really wins—you or the middle man?
Outsource Your Lead Generation to a Marketing Agency
Get ongoing enquiries for your new bookkeeping business by letting an expert manage your marketing.