Marketing for Accountants : Old World Vs New World
By Patrick McLoughlin
Accountants of all people, don’t need telling how the world of work is rapidly changing, especially if you’ve been in practice a decade or more.
The same goes for marketing for accountants. In many cases what worked 20-years ago doesn’t even exist today!
But there’s a temptation to think all things shiny, all things new is the way to go. It’s not. So here’s a sample of the old and the new, the right and the wrong ways to attract your perfect clients.
First Impressions: Reception / Answering the phone
Old World: The hierarchy is clear, the partners’, kiss up / kick down, secretary/s, rule the roost.
Puffed up like toads, driven by status, they’re cold or indifferent at best, to all but the partners and their most prestigious clients.
You can identify them by their elevated nose and comments like:
“Cut me and I bleed (insert practice name)”.
Referred to as the rottweilers, they are despised by all ‘employees’ and ‘suppliers.’
New World : Because you understand how important the role is, you took time to find someone who’s positive, interested and enjoys the company of people.
They might have lacked the experience you wanted, but you chose them because of their attitude and character and invested in their training.
Old World: You know that the more they understand who you are and how you work, the greater the chance they’ll choose you.
So you explain, in great depth: the history of the firm; your high technical standards; how you pride yourself on your personal service, your experience of working with a wide range of businesses………etc etc.
Basically, you turn up and throw up.
New World: The conversation focuses on the potential client. They even do most of the talking. Not only do you listen (that’s listen to understand, not listen to respond), you even increase your understanding through intelligent follow up questions.
You gain a clear understanding of where they are, where they want to be, and what’s stopping them from getting there.
To check you understanding you ask questions starting: “So am I right in thinking…..?”
When they do ask you to tell them about your firm, you ask them what they’d like to know.
At the end of the meeting the prospect compliments you: “you know more about my business, in 40-minutes, than the accountant I’ve worked with for the last 20 years!”
Quotations / Proposals
Old World: Another opportunity to tell them more about your practice, your experience, your high technical standards, your…etc, etc.
You bury the fee on page 6 and say you’ll leave it with them to get back to you with a decision.
New World: For a start you don’t do quotations you agree proposals. There’re no surprises in the document, it simply reinforces the conversation you’ve already had. You demonstrate your understanding of where they are, and the support needed to help them achieve their goals.
You set out clearly how the success of your relationship will be measured and offer options to increase the value they’ll receive.
Be warned, there’s some awful advice out there on marketing for accountants, especially about proposals.
Quoting Bruce Lee or Einstein will not inspire prospects to work ‘sign up’ with you. If the ‘cost is most important to them’, as accountants are advised in a recent ‘Amazon Bestseller’ you need to scrap your meeting and proposal process and start again.
Old World: One clients money is as good as an others. Who are you to discriminate? Get the work in and worry about about doing it later.
You are proud to work with businesses of all sizes. No job is too small, no job is too big. So what if you’ve never done that kind of work before, you’ll learn as you’re doing it. You don’t care who they are, just get them signed up.
New World: You realise you lose money on some clients. And that the most profitable ones respect your opinion and pay a premium to hear it. Naturally, they’re also the ones you love working with.
Your diamond clients tend to have a lot in common: similar backgrounds and similar problems. So the days of hanging out a marketing net, to randomly catch whoever’s passing by are over.
In practice, there aren’t many of your perfect clients out there. For most firms offering advisory services a couple of thousand business tops, might fit the profile on paper. But look deeper and your down in the hundreds!
Old World Thinking with New World Tactics: Increasing awareness of your practice is key success. It all comes down to communications and a high profile.
You embrace the opportunities Social Media brings. If you can just get more Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, Facebook likes, and website visitors, your ‘Lead Generation’ will really go through the roof.
(Only last week I listened to webinar on ROI, Return On Investment, marketing for accountants that advised the focus should be on measuring engagement with your content! Beware the appeal of vanity metrics.)
It’s not about what you say but how many people hear you say it. You know that if you focus on lead generation and feed the ‘sales funnel’ it will all work out in the end.
The Best of Old and New World: Your preferred definition of sales and marketing comes from Steve Pipe:
“Marketing is everything you do to get the meeting with the prospective client. Sales is what happens during and after the meeting.”
You ignore the vanity metrics of ‘lead generation’ and focus on getting face to face with organisations that mirror your perfect clients.
The most important measurement for your activity is RETURN ON INVESTMENT – That’s money in your bank account.
If you’d like to find out more about attending appointments with organisations that meet your Perfect Client Profile, Call Patrick now on 01509 210067 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are the only practice growth agency that’s referred clients by the UK’s leading advisers to the accountancy profession: including Mark Lee, Martin Bissett, Shane Lukas and Steve Pipe.
Now watch this great conversation on the changing world of work.