Accountancy Marketing: Examples in Differentiation
By Craig Baldwin
Many of Patrick's previous posts revolve around the idea of taking marketing, sales, and growth seriously in the professional service world. As someone who's been the marketing director at a top US Xero partner firm in the States, I'm here to tell you that taking marketing and business development serious is table stakes. If you want to stay in business for years to come, you better stay relevant.
Unfortunately many professionals confuse relevance with existence (seems easy enough, right?) Accountants are lauded for their conservatism, however many marketing successes come from taking risks, albeit well calculated risks.
Yesterday at the AICPA's Practitioners Symposium and Tech Conference I watched a wonderful presentation on creating a growth culture. The biggest takeaway? Clearly defining your most worthwhile target market and telling your story to them (with content, social, and even traditional business development).
When you drill down on this message a little further, focusing on niches is really about differentiation. If you properly define your target market, client wins will be driven by the quality of your message to that target market.
What does differentiation look like at your firm? Do you deliver the best estate planning advice for a particular area? Do you know how to leverage technology for the sake of your clients better than anyone else?
What message must you deliver to separate your firm from the pack that of practitioners also targeting the same profile of potential clients?
Let me give some examples to get your brain running. All 3 of these happen to be web related, but that doesn't how to always be the case.
Here's what we did in the early stages of Upsourced Accounting to set us apart from the pack.
Now remember, we did this in 2012 when almost no one in the States was promoting cloud accounting solutions to the market. Fortunately for us, when the wave began to hit 4-5 months after the start of our business, we experienced a massive uptick in business.
Another great example of differentiation is from a good friend at Growth Group, Alexis Kimbrough. Implicitly she is promoting herself to a younger audience with the look and feel of her website, while also saying - "I understand technology." Explicitly she's taking a stand as one of the best accountants for musicians and artists. If you're on the road 2/3 of the year, Alexis knows the digital tools for you to be using to make accounting painless.
Some of you may be thinking, that's great for young firms to create a while new brand but our practice has been around for 50 years. How do we shake things up? One of my favorite examples is from a firm in Oregon called Delap. They recognized a market opportunity to serve SMBs with tech-enabled services. Did they do it with their same Delap brand? Of course not. Check out Revmode.
They're clearly speaking to the young business owner. But now that we have a lot of firms who go for the "fresh and cool" look, how did they take things a step further?
Delap put their cards on the table by saying - we know the tech, but we also have almost 80 years of experience to service any need a client may have. Consulting, business coaching, and taxes. And when Revmode clients are large enough for their first compilations and audits, where do you think they'll go? That's right, Delap.
These are three examples of firms who went out of their way to show and tell why they do what they do better than anyone else. For those firms feeling strong fee pressure, work backwards and differentiate yourself on other factors. Ask your partners and management team, "what do we do better than anyone else in the world?" And look for you your people for those answers, too. You'd be surprised what those younger members of your firm can come up with.
Focus on provision better value than any other firm out there for your target market, and the fee discussion will soon diminish.
Craig is a former accountant turned marketer at Upsourced Acocunting. He's now the CMO of Sqrl, a platform to automate transaction communication for professionals service providers. In his free time he loves cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes and cooking delicious BBQ.