Previously on Going Concern, I wrote a post called "Why Accountants Suck at Marketing."
As a follow up, here are four simple ways accountants can do better.
Don’t focus on the details of what you do
Focus instead on how you make your clients more successful.
I love this graphic (from the Intercom Blog).
If you didn’t grow up playing Super Mario Bros., it might not make a whole lot of sense. All you need to know is that the flower is the power-up that makes our customer about 2x larger and gives him the ability to shoot flames from his hands in order to smite his enemies. Pretty rad, huh?
The point is, accountants need to stop talking so much about the details of what they do (the product or service). Our services are but a means to an end. We need to sell the end result.
What’s the end result? That may differ from firm to firm, depending on what you do and who you serve.
If you primarily do tax returns, the end result you sell should be clients who are more secure in knowing that they paid only the tax they owe and no more, and aren’t worried about an audit.
If you specialize in providing bookkeeping and other back-office solutions, the end result might be a client who is able to spend more of his or her time on growing the business, not doing administrative and bookkeeping tasks.
If you do business coaching, the end result might be a client who earns bigger net profit margins thanks to your financial insights.
Whatever the end result is, the key is to show your prospects that they can be more successful by working with you.
Narrow your focus
As Abraham Lincoln famously said (or not), “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Maybe that isn’t the best choice for a quote in a marketing blog post. Hopefully you don’t have to fool anyone to get customers. But I really like the quote because it shows how important it is to choose your audience for your marketing efforts.
A politician can’t gain the support of everyone all of the time. It’s impossible. Temporarily, yes, such as in times of national distress. But long term, a politician must rely on the ardent support of a vocal minority of the population to stay in power.
The same lesson applies to marketing. That’s because politicians are marketers. They sell themselves, just like accountants sell themselves and their firms.
Like politicians, accountants can’t expect to market themselves to the whole population of business owners and get results. We have to choose a segment to market to.
Consider narrowing the focus of your marketing to your favorite industry, or the one that you’re best at serving. If you’re an expert at sales tax for online sellers, target your website, blog, and social media accounts to ecommerce entrepreneurs. If you have lots of lawyers as clients, maybe you should advertise your firm as "CPAs for Attorneys."
You’ll find it a lot easier to write good content when you have a particular audience in mind. You’ll also rank more highly in online searches, and it will be easier to demonstrate your expertise. You’ll also have no problem differentiating yourself from your peers.
Write about the “Why”
This usually goes hand in hand with the previous step. If you’re having trouble choosing a niche for your firm, think about why you are an accountant or bookkeeper serving the public. What makes you passionate about what you do?
Hopefully it isn’t just all about making money. There must be some reason you like accounting other than the stability and financial rewards.
If you can figure that out, the big “Why” of what you do, then you have a huge advantage over your peers. That’s because prospects are attracted to service providers with a mission. They want to know that you are going to do a good job because you’re motivated by a desire to do good work, not just bring home a paycheck. This is what will help them really connect with you.
As Russ Fujioka points out, organizations guided by leaders with a vision dramatically outperform their competitors. The same principle applies to small firms.
Unfortunately — or fortunately, for those of us who do have this passion — there’s no easy way to fake it. Big firms and giant corporations have a hard time faking it, and they have armies of marketers and public relations personnel.
Show your humanity
The last thing accountants can do to be better marketers is probably the thing that makes them the most uncomfortable. It’s to stop being so “professional” and show your prospects and clients who you are as a person.
You don’t have to go so far as to Facebook friend your prospects, but you do need to give them enough of a peek so that they see you and the others in your firm as real people who care about their clients.
One easy way to do this is to make an “About Us” page on your website. Did you know that About Us is typically the most visited page on your website, if you have one? Knowing this, I’m amazed at how many solo practitioners and owners of small firms don’t bother to put up an About Us page, or anything about themselves personally.
If you decide to make an About Us page, be sure to put up photos and bios of everyone at your firm, if you can, not just the partners. Feature your staff both working with clients and having fun outside the office. Hopefully they’ll come across as people your clients would want to hang out with in a non-work setting. (If not, you might have a personnel problem in addition to a marketing problem.)
For examples of some excellent About Us pages, check out HubSpot’s list of About Us pages that are better than yours.
Follow those steps above and you’ll be well on your way to being a better marketer than most accountants. Do you have any other recommendations? I’d love to hear them.