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Does your brand cause people to hesitate, or hurry up?

Nov 22, 2019

branding project accountancy firmYou can get business even though you have an ugly logo.

People can still decide to work with you even if your accountancy firm name is boring, or your website is indistinguishable from most other (bland) accounting firm sites, or you aren’t creating fresh regular content.

It can happen.

It just will take much longer than if your brand and associated marketing were immediately impactful and impressive.

We still get accountants saying “but I get most of my business from referral”, or “word of mouth is still the number one way we get new clients”.

Which may be true, but what process are those referred people following? When someone says “this is the firm to talk to”, what does the referred person do next? 

They do a little – at the very least a little – of their own research. Someone has told them you’re amazing in whatever way, but they don’t drop you an email straight away. Or pick up the phone.

First, they go to your website. They might check out your social media accounts. They’ll read your blogs, if you have any. Watch a few videos, if you have any. Look at the photographs and names of the people who work for the firm.

Then, after that, they get in touch.

Sometimes, they do all of this and aren’t very impressed. They’re not completely put off –  maybe because their expectations of accountancy firm marketing are pretty low to begin with – but they’re not seeing anything that moves them. “But [person] said they were really good, so I guess I’ll try anyway” is their thinking.

And you don’t know anything about it.

You don’t know they considered giving up and trying someone else. That they checked out six or seven other accountancy firm websites at the same time, and some of them were significantly more impressive than yours. Or they followed a few other firms on social, or found one that focused specifically on their niche, or got recommended to several firms and are deciding between them.

This is how the buyer decides. 70% of their research is done before they ever get in touch – because they can do it that way. Because most people and most companies are generating content everywhere and all over the interwebs, so that’s what they’re used to.

Your brand is not simply your logo: it’s who you truly are, represented…

  1. Visually (logo, marketing materials)
  2. Verbally (words, style, tone of voice)
  3. Personally (the behaviour and attitude of the people who work for the firm)
  4. Invisibly (impressions, ideas, the things no one talks about but knows to be true)

What the buyer sees online is the visual and verbal elements of the brand, and (hopefully) some of the personality. The invisible element is communicated throughout all of these things, and in any other interaction they have.

So the question is, does your brand – all of it – cause the buyer to hesitate? Even for a few seconds or a few minutes? 

Or does it encourage them to hurry up?

Because the slightest delay can result in your potential buyer saying things like, 

“I’ll get in touch later.”

“I’ll check with some of their clients first.”

“I’ll think about it.”

That’s what people say when they’re not sure. When there’s not enough to cause them to take action. When it’s not a no yet, but it’s certainly not a hell yes.

I’ve said for years you can still get business from an ugly logo. A bad website. People do it every day.

But there’s absolutely a delay which is preventing people from doing business with you as fast as they could: and the question is, what is that delay costing you? 

Is the buying cycle taking 2 months instead of 2 days? Or 20 months instead of two?

Is the buyer coming to a discovery meeting with hesitations, uncertainties, confusions? As opposed to coming with enthusiasm and interest, but with a few questions to be answered?

If there was any area I could encourage accountancy firms to pay attention to (more than anything else in their marketing) it would be their brand. And this is because when you know your brand – and it is truly reflected in every way, visual, verbal, personal, and invisible – the only delay that exists is one that must be there. It’s the minimum possible delay, and it’s normal for your firm and your target audience.

PF’s buyer cycle is an average of 18-24 months. This means from the moment an accountant comes across PF in any way – sees a social post, hears a talk given, watches a video, reads a blog post – to the day they sign up to work with us on a regular basis, it takes them that long to work through their concerns and questions.

We have no problem with that. It’s normal, it’s typical, it’s expected to us.

It’s because we know our target audience: and we know accountants are often careful. Considered. Many of you have been burned in the past, treated badly by marketers. You have a bad taste in your mouth because an agency or a person told you “this will work” and you tried it and spent money on it and maybe even hired someone to work on it and…it didn’t work.

Or maybe you haven’t done any marketing, because you didn’t feel like you needed to. You “got all your business from referral”.

But now, wherever you’re at, you’ve realised what you did before didn’t work, and someone told you about PF or you came across us, and you’re considering things. You’re not sure yet. You are exploring and reading and watching and waiting. You don’t want to be burned again.

That’s no problem. We expect the 18-24 months. Sometimes it’s longer, sometimes it’s shorter. That’s your call.

But our job is to help you get there as swiftly as you really WANT to get there. 

And we do this because we genuinely want every accountant who considers working with PF to have all the information they need before they get in touch. We don’t do it perfectly, but that’s really important to us because we don’t want you to have wasted time.

And most importantly we want to show you by example what you can do for your prospects.

Because they feel like you do, in a way.

They have been burned by an accountant before. They don’t realise it’s possible for an accountant to be able to talk with them about more than simply bookkeeping: but also strategy and people and systems.

Or they’ve never had an accountant because they’ve been doing it themselves, and they have a vision in their mind of what an accountant is. Like the images appearing on Google – calculators and paper printouts with the word “TAX” on them, and stiff, smiling people in suits and ties.

So your brand’s job is to answer the questions they do have, and the ones they didn’t even know they had. As swiftly as possible, bearing in mind your target audience and their speed of making decisions. (Your buyer cycle might be 2-5 days, or 2-5 years, depending on the person or type of business.)

Here are some of the ways you can evaluate whether your brand is causing people to hesitate, or hurry up:

1. Does your firm name represent well who you truly are?

If your firm name is Surname & Surname Ltd, or Cloud Accountants Extraordinaire, it doesn’t have a lot of personality. There’s not much they can infer from your name, so they’re going to have to go to all the other items below.

You can still have a great brand presence with a fairly traditional name, but it’s a little harder and it’s often only possible for larger or more established firms (the kind which have been around for a hundred years, literally).

The name says something. Are you proud of what it says?

2. Do you have clear values, and are these specifically stated somewhere?

Whilst values are not simply a few words you stick on an About Us page, they’re still important to know.

Stating them is one thing: but living them out is another. “Show, don’t tell”. What does your website and other marketing actually show? If your values are family orientated, fun, and friendly, is that message coming across in every image, every section of the site? Or do you have boring stock photos and accounting-speak?

First, you identify the values.

Then, you restate them in a way that is you and only you.

And then you live them out for years and years, so they invisibly permeate your entire firm.

That’s what you want prospects to feel when they research you.

Any confusion on this will delay them, even slightly. Because they’re still trying to work out who you are.

3. Are you clear about the kind of people you work with, and is this easy for the prospect to find and identify with?

Having an industry niche is the easiest way to be clear about who you work with – dentists, creatives, tech start ups.

But even if you don’t have an industry niche, you can still be clear.

Female business owners. Family owned businesses that have been in the family for more than three generations. Startups in this particular geographical area.

Or you can go with values (theirs and yours) – people who are ambitious. Driven. Adventurous. Or people who are patient, steady, like a rock.

The more clarity you give in all of your marketing about who you work with and why, the quicker they can make up their mind as to whether they fit. 

And don’t over-worry about sending people away: that’s your brand’s job. It’s supposed to bring you the right kind of people, and send the wrong sort away.

If your brand is bringing you everyone, it is not doing its job well.

4. Do your logo and brand colours match the above items (who you are, your values, and the people you serve)? Are they appealing to that kind of person?

Now that we’ve looked at those three areas, think about what impresses those kind of people. The people with those values and characteristics and businesses and locations. Will they be drawn in by your name, your colours, the words and stye you have?

If you work with tech startups, does your website look more like a tech startup than an accountancy firm?

If you work with startups, does your messaging get to the point super fast, and do you have lots of free stuff to give away?

They’ve got to match. The less they match, the longer it takes for the buyer to decide.

5. Do the messages on your website sound like you, or do they sound like anybody?

How easy is it to find and read these messages, or do they disappear in a flood of “professional speak”? If someone read your website, and then talked to you, would the message be the same?

One of the most interesting (and the most boring) things you can do is to search “accountants [name of city]” in your area.

Just search it and then look at every single website that comes up.

Most of them look and sound exactly the same. Modern. Forward thinking. Cloud accounting. Personal and business goals. Free consultation. Contact us today.

When that happens, you’ve just added time to the buyer’s research cycle. Shorten it by using words and phrases that sound exactly like you – or better yet, exactly like the kind of person you want to work with.

We call that “marketing gold dust”: when you take words or phrases directly from the mouth of your clients, and then rework it into marketing content.

The more your content sounds like you, the faster your buyer will build trust with you – and the faster they’ll make their decision.

6. Are you on at least a few social media sites, and are these linked from your website?

Does the branding on those social media accounts match the branding on your website and other marketing materials? The buyer needs to feel consistency across all your marketing. Same kind of colours, style, wording, imagery in your socials as well as your website and other content.

Also, do you have at least one post within the past week on all those social sites? I’ve been to websites and then went to their social media (which was linked conveniently from their site), only to discover the last time they posted something was in 2016. Or they’ve been posting regularly, but it’s really boring, inhuman content. It tells me something about the company.

And if it’s boring or dated, it delays the buying decision.

7. Do you have more than one video on your site, from people who actually work for your firm?

(This does not include a generic “welcome video” which doesn’t really say much)

Video is the fastest way to establish rapport and build a sense of trust. The more personal, real videos you have to share, the easier it is for the buyer to think, “Do I like this firm?” or “Do I connect with this person?”

That’s what they want to know, anyway. So you can shortcut it by sharing regular videos that sound like you, look like you, are the kind of communication they would be having when they met you in person.

For those of you with a larger team, involve more people than simply the owners or directors or partners. Get the team members recording video on a variety of content. The buyer will start to get a sense of the entire firm – not just one or two spokespeople – and your true brand will be revealed.

If you’re not comfortable with video yet, the only way to get there is to do more of it. A lot of firms went through a flurry of creating these sort of ‘welcome videos’, which have a few interviews with team members and some swooping footage of the offices. That doesn’t give the full, human experience of the whole brand to your buyer. You want them to be able to watch and listen to what you have to say over a period of time – and the more videos, the better.

Create videos on topics & questions your buyers tend to ask. They’ll be far more likely to do business with you faster (or to go away, if they never were going to do business with you anyway).

8. Are you creating and sharing fresh content on your own site (blogs, articles, new pages, products) regularly?

Having a nice looking website is helpful. But if it merely looks nice, and it’s not supported by great content, your buyer will still experience a delay.

Because if it seems impressive as a shop front, but there’s not much substance behind it, they’re still wondering things. Is this firm for real? Are the people my kind of people? Will they respond quickly and deal with my issues like they really care? Will it be expensive? Will it be worth it, even if it is expensive? What happens if I make the wrong decision? Have they worked with my kind of problems or business before?

The more of these questions you can answer before they ever get in touch, the faster they’ll get in touch.

It doesn’t mean they won’t ask a single question once they contact you: but it does mean the buying decision will be quicker. They’ll know faster whether you’re their accounting firm, or not.

So….

….that’s what a good brand does.

It helps your buyer make a decision, as fast as they truly want to make it. 

To explore the answers to these questions one on one with the PF team, book a branding workshop today.