Accountants Marketing: 10 Best Books to Grow Your Practice – Part One
By Patrick McLoughlin
The biggest factor distinguishing fast growth firms from the rest is their ability to successfully win new business. And not any old new business, but the clients that gain the maximum benefit from the relationship: their ideal clients who happily pay a premium for their support.
To help you get the greatest return from your business development investment I’ve recommended my favourite 10 books focusing on growing your bottom line. They are all practical, easy to read and packed full of examples and case studies. So in no particular order, here goes:
1) ‘At the Crossroads’ by Gale Crossley & Debbie Stover
If you are employing marketing staff or spending money on marketing without seeing a noticeable return in new business, this book is for you.
‘A few years ago Inside Public Accounting’s Benchmarking Report noted that the average fee growth in the survey was approximately the same, whether the firm had marketing professionals on board or not.‘
The truth is many accountancy firms don’t link marketing to growing the practice. ‘At the Crossroads’ is a story of a Managing Partner’s journey from ineffective marketing to focused, profitable new business development. Success follows a change in focus away from traditional, marketing communications. ‘the nice-to-have marketing initiatives that don’t contribute to increasing revenue‘ to winning new fees and new clients.
The book sets out the steps taken to identify and target the form’s most promising new business opportunities. It also explains the fundamental shift in attitude needed by a firm’s senior management to make the process work.
They suggest a change in job title from Marketing to Practice Growth: ‘Next include him or her in all partner meetings of strategic content, even if only as an observer.‘ They continue: ‘Ask your renamed director of practice growth to rewrite the job description, including goals and compensation scheme. Tie the person’s goals and compensation directly to practice growth.‘
2) ‘Effective Pricing for Accountants’ by Mark Wickersham
How you price your services is critical to your future prosperity. With downward pressure on fees increasing, to avoid working harder for less you must understand and present value as your clients see it. ‘Effective Pricing for Accountants’ is a comprehensive look into setting and presenting fees. It’s such an important book I must recommend it to an accountant every other month.
It explains how some firms charge a multiple of the fees most firms would charge, and why their clients are delighted to pay them.
Best of all it’s short and sharp and the suggestions are easy to implement.
3) ‘Conversations that Win the Complex Sale’ by Erik Peterson & Tim Riesterer
This is the only book in the list that doesn’t focus on professional services / accountancy marketing. But it’s so good I just had to include it. If you judge a book by the number of corners folded for bookmarks, we have a winner.
You know how difficult it is differentiating your services from your competitors. But as 90% of accountants new business conversations feature the same claims and benefits any firm can make, it’s easy to see why.
The authors talk you through simple to follow processes helping you identify the special value you can bring certain clients. You can find out how to change the sales message / conversation to your advantage.
The book guides you through how the brain makes decisions and what you can do to engage and convince. It’s packed full of effective advice and examples: the chapter on ‘You Phrasing‘ will change how you write your marketing copy forever.
Particularly relevant if you want to improve how you: identify, communicate and present the value you can bring to prospective clients.
4) ‘Professional Services Marketing’ by Mike Schultz & John E. Doerr
I’ve probably developed more blogs from this book than any other. It is just over 300 pages of fantastic advice and opinion on growing a professional services practice. It’s equally valuable to you if you’re involved in marketing or running an accountancy practice.
The authors Mike Shultz & John E. Doerr run RainToday.com, the largest online magazine and membership site focused on selling business growth for service businesses.
As in many of the books on the list ‘Professional Services Marketing’ warns against the perils of marketing communications, and to focus on Return On Investment business development.
The latest edition is also co-written by Lee Frederiksen of the Hinge Group. If it’s anything like the content Lee puts out at Hinge or on the blogs he’s written for us here, it’s going to be a must read.
‘It’s common for firms to throw down the gauntlet with a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) for revenue growth. But while they might have the eyes for growth, in the end many don’t have the stomach. Serious growth usually requires serious investment in both marketing budget and time.
Even with proper investment, growth does not happen overnight. The truth about marketing for professional services firms is that success requires patience and persistence to give the investment time to pan out.‘
They pick up on the theme later in the book: ‘Firms dig up the lead generation tree by the roots after two weeks to see if it’s growing yet. (This is not a good way to grow a tree.)‘
5) ‘The UK’s Best Accountancy Practices’ by Steve Pipe
There’s no substitute to reading the real stories of real accountants that have gone out there and succeeded.
Steve’s book covers the achievements of over 40 practices. Everything from how a start up sole practitioner, Allan Woods of Woods Squared, built a practice with average fees of £8,900 per client to how Robert Brown of Landers coped and thrived after his business partner retired from illness with just 3 hours notice!
If you are stuck for ideas on transforming your firm’s profitability this is certainly the book for you. It covers far more than new business development. You’ll also read about practical examples of value pricing, team building, expanding your services, outsourcing, branding, seminars, strategic alliances…
As Steve says in the introduction, to get the most from the book read it with a highlighter in hand, make notes in the margin and draw up an action plan that suits you and your circumstances.
In the unlikely event that you haven’t come across Steve Pipe before, Steve launched and ran AVN, The Added Value Network for accountants. The book is proof of the benefits AVN membership brings. Whilst I have no affiliation to AVN I am an enormous fan for one very simple reason. The AVN members that I have worked with have consistently converted more opportunities into clients with far higher average fees than non members. They know how to help their clients take control over their finances and grow their businesses. They deliver value as their clients see it and are well rewarded in the process. You can see a past AVN member describe their success here.
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