A Hairy Tax Season

5 years ago by in Breaking News, Featured Articles, Social Media


Yesterday completed my 11th tax season as a professional marketer. It was my first at H&R Block after spending 10 over at TurboTax.

What hasn’t changed in the 18 months in between my different tax marketing gigs was the relief brought about by the end of the sprint of a season. It was great to be back in the middle of the business I know so well even if the venue was new. Luckily, I’m surrounded by a group of other dynamic leaders and have a social team here that made the year a special one.

While it’s still too soon to share some of our results here, I feel proud of what our team was able to accomplish in such a short period of time. When I walked in the door, we had no social content strategy to speak of, no coordinated social presence at the retail level, and a slim budget which didn’t allow us to do what we needed to do to help the business. Fortunately, that all changed and we were able to get our motor running quickly and with staggering good results.

In just a few months, we were able to steal away social share of voice from all of our competitors with a content strategy and a content hub we’d sorely been lacking. With the launch of Block Talk, our blog and content hub, we brought to the tax game some of the best contributors and information a taxpayer could want. Whether it be timely tax content or stories, stunningly good infographics, or humorous campaigns, many are looking at H&R Block differently than they did last fall. Our content was spread far and wide to sites like The Huffington Post, Wired.com, Forbes.com, USAToday.com, and on, and on. Despite being late to the dance, we certainly cut a rug and people started to notice the 54-year-old brand had some new moves. While we’re not as smooth as James Brown just yet, we’re getting there and it won’t be much longer before we’re right where we should be. In this mobile and social world, content is king and our content continues to set the pace for diverse and entertaining information on taxes and money.

While we became a prolific content producer this tax season, we also started on another journey that’s difficult for our competitors to repeat. After the start of 2012, we rolled out local Facebook pages specific to a large group of our 10,000 locations. Thanks to a great implementation by our platform partners at Expion, those local offices quickly adopted, and used, Facebook to market to their local clients. They’ve seen and benefited from the power of local social marketing in a way the tax business has never seen. Whether it be referrals, client service, or the timely sharing of useful tips and content, our field marketing team, and local office managers, opened a new frontier for the nation’s largest retail tax chain. We’re proud of what they were able to do in such a quick and nimble way. The future looks bright on this side of the fence and we can’t wait to roll it out wider.

And then, of course, there was the Stache Act and Million Mustache March on Washington, D.C. The social content campaign, to benefit a worth charity in Millions From One, helped us reach new clients 18-34 in a way we had not even attempted before. It’s humor, quirky nature, and ability to tap into a sub-culture full of light-hearted commentary, helped us move the needle and even create buzz equal to one of our largest competitors. Thanks to the help of celebrities Ellie Kemper, Kristian Bush, Wayne Brady, John Axford, Jason Falls, Christina Bennett Lin and Sarah Glendening, and Jimmy McMillian, we connected with our younger clients in a way which will benefit us for years to come.

On a personal note, the campaign was especially gratifying for myself and AMI co-founder Aaron Perlut, and the rest of the stellar team at Elasticity. Since we first attempted to do it 3 years ago when I worked at the other tax company (they said “no” because of the political nature of the campaign), we were chomping at the bit to unfurl it on the American public. That company wasn’t down for the hairy upper lip so the idea and campaign sat. For H&R Block to believe in the idea, and its odd nature, shows that it can make fun of itself and be a part of something just a bit wacky. It worked with great results which can be documented with a Google search and a few minutes of your time. The entire H&R Block team is proud of how it all went down. Now, wait until you see what we have for next season!

Despite all this great sexy mustache-related content, and our core tax and personal finance content, we also did our best to help our clients in need via social. By fully integrating with our Client Services team, we were able to help tens of thousands of clients via Twitter and Facebook. A dedicated team of folks spent day-in, day-out monitoring and responding with world-class results. In fact, while others may have more “Likes,” the H&R Block Facebook page had more reach, more engagement, and better serviced customer service issues than anyone else in the tax game.

When you look at the numbers below, you can see the engagement and interactions with our clients is second-to-none in the tax industry – both retail and digital. Despite having half as many “Likes,” our clients are engaged and so are we. It’s not the macro numbers that matter, but how much are you getting your community to interact with you.

I’ll be the first to tell you that social networks aren’t the best customer service channels. Outside of using Twitter as an escalation tool, or to answer quick questions, it can be cumbersome and hard to manage. Despite those challenges, and changes to how we do that next season, I’m proud of our partnership with our CSO team and how we handled issues – particularly on Facebook. Look at these numbers and see how we were able to handle a huge volume of contacts and also respond when folks were upset:

Not only did we have 6x contacts than the next closest competitor, but we also responded faster (36 min average vs. 3hr 40 min), more frequently, and overwhelmingly bested our competition with customer who were negative for one reason or another. Also, we were close to being the brand with the lowest number of negative posts (TaxAct, as a %, beat us out) while TurboTax had the highest %.

We also were able to reach, via social, more possible clients and prospects despite ranking #3 amongst “Likes” on Facebook. We trailed both TurboTax and Jackson Hewitt (both with significantly higher Facebook ad budgets) in Likes yet were able to reach a larger number of potential Facebook users.

That’s just a taste of what a great tax season our social business team had here at H&R Block. The tax business is very competitive, and we’re up against some great competition. The top three tax companies are all maturing in the social space and the competition to drive both engagement, conversation and conversion will only get more heated.

The competition and increased awareness of the social space as a marketing, acquisition and retention toll for all us means it’s going to be a tough battle.

Even though we’re playing catch up, we’re running fast and the gap is closing. Thanks to my entire team and to the entire H&R Block system for a great tax season.

Let the next season begin!



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5 Responses to “A Hairy Tax Season”

April 18, 2012

Scott, you guys rock the house!  What a tough season for your first year. But your great team adapted and overcame and was an invaluable help to those of us in the trenches every single day.

SDGully SDGully
April 19, 2012

Thanks Kathy…appreciate the kind words for the team.

Jerry Green
April 19, 2012

I love James Brown.

Team H&R Block
April 19, 2012

:) We rock!

Kevin Magee
April 19, 2012

The only mistake I noted was a reference to Jason Falls as a celebrity. What's next, a reality show?

Great capture of the season, challenges and successes. Congrats.

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