First, can we all agree that “chatGPT” does not exactly roll off the tongue. This hasn’t been cleverly crafted (by marketers!) to impress as a name – it’s a thing which has become a thing at faster speeds than anything else.
It got to one million users in five days (a feat which took Netflix 3.5 years and Instagram 2.5 months).
It reached one HUNDRED million monthly users in 2 months (and this took Instagram 30 months, TikTok 9 months).
Whatever we thought we knew about speed of adoption is still being broken.
Now, as with all things fast, it has its limitations.
It’s often overloaded (partly because of the speed of takeup they weren’t even anticipating). You can pay a premium fee to get in ahead of everyone else, but even the premium fee payers sometimes aren’t able to get in.
It’s machine learning, not true AI. It gathers and collaborates from content publicly available, and it’s smart and fast and learns quickly and responds to prompts, but it has been called a “glorified copy-paste algorithm”.
Copyright and legalities are a grey area. It’s grown so fast and gathers from so many places and has so many capabilities, some organisations (such as schools or universities) are panicking and banning anything machine-written as plagiarism.
It takes effort. The better the prompts you provide, the better the output you receive. If you ask for “4 reasons doing your own bookkeeping is problematic”, you’ll get a fairly generic, slightly dull, rendition of the reasons you probably could rattle off the top of your head, too. But when you ask it to repeat those reasons in KJV Bible style, or gangsta rap style, it starts to have fun and you do, too.
There are some things it won’t do. A bit of a morality compass which can be confusing to users – why will it write a joke about men, but not about women? A praiseworthy poem about Biden, but not Trump? Who’s controlling the direction from within, we wonder?
All that being said, ChatGPT is still a tool you can use – like Google on steroids – and it can be really fun. Really creative. And really helpful!
As with any tool available to you, chatGPT can be great. Like automated email software and social media scheduling tools and blog topic generators, it can help you and inspire you and yes, speed things up.
It can also be used as a way to avoid really digging into who you truly are – you personally, your firm, your team, the clients you serve – in a rush to “generate content”.
What does unique content look like for your firm – and does it really matter?
This has always been the dichotomy of content creation. Isn’t there enough? Why write a blog post on the pitfalls of doing your own bookkeeping when surely hundreds if not thousands of other accounting or bookkeeping firms have done the same? Isn’t the information already out there?
Yes, it is. And clearly, ChatGPT is able to find it at rocket speeds. (Unless it’s overloaded.)
But marketing content for your accounting firm isn’t primarily about information. It’s about information together with your style. Your voice. Your opinion.
After all, a thousand accounting firms have onboarding processes. And serve the kind of clients you serve. And do tax returns and management accounts and payroll for those clients. But how do YOU do it? What is it which makes you, you? And how do you get that across in your marketing so the buyer (who, remember, makes 70% of their buying decision before they ever get in touch) is made aware of it and feels it and begins to have some of their doubts and fears allayed?
We’ve been talking with accountants about this very thing for years. As buyers of professional services ourselves, we get it. One of the team had determined in her mind she wanted to look for a therapist, but it felt like a big decision and the task kept getting moved to the bottom of the list. As we talked about breaking it down into small achievable tasks (the atomic habits 1%), she suddenly said ““Ahhh I just realised I’m in the buyer progression model!” She realised it really helped to think of it like that. She said, “We talk about potential buyers needing time to build that trust and have lots of small interactions with your brand before they take that first step, so I need to flip the script and let myself be in that position!”
When a buyer comes to your website, your marketing, your blog post – whether you wrote it all on your own, or had help from ChatGPT, or help from PF – the point is that they feel who YOU are. They feel a little more confident and less nervous about getting in touch, and when they do get in touch, every interaction confirms that all the marketing you’ve done is for real. All the things you’ve mentioned aren’t just sales speak, they happen. The team members you mention are real humans, not stock photos.
Our team took to the chatGPT screens to try it out
We’re a creative agency with content writers and designers and website developers and relationship managers. We pride ourselves on creating genuine, unique content for every accounting firm we work with, and we care immensely about the quality of the content we create collaboratively with our clients.
So we figure, it’s our responsibility to take a look at ChatGPT with you – because we know you’re going to use it anyway, and we absolutely encourage creativity. Thinking differently. Using all the tools at your disposal. And having a little bit of fun.
We assigned our Head Content Writer Camilla, and our Marketing Director Steph, to play with ChatGPT in the course of their daily work, to consider what ChatGPT is able to do, what it isn’t, and how you as an accountant can use it.
Here’s what we found.
What ChatGPT is best for (and not for) in your marketing
The principles we identified for using ChatGPT (particularly in your marketing) boiled down to these four:
- Use it to improve, not create
Even if we set aside the legalities of borrowing public content for your own, the point is not to rush to some words. It’s to consider the message you most need to share, and to whom, and then make that message better. If you have absolutely no idea what to try in marketing, asking ChatGPT will simply give you some generic points you probably knew anyway. But if you have a blog post idea, you can run it past ChatGPT to flesh it out, expand on what you have, and help you make your own ideas better.
- The more specific the prompt, the better the output
If you’re stuck on copy for an ads headline or a punchy social media statement, you can get help turning your ideas into more focused messaging. “Give me three subject lines for an email about a new service” is going to produce some really generic subject lines (possibly click-baity) because you haven’t given ChatGPT much to work with. Instead, “We are launching a new payroll service for creative agency owners so they don’t have to spend time on payroll anymore. Give me three subject lines for an email to these owners about it”. And keep going. Whatever it gives you, try another prompt and another until you think “ohhh, there it is!”
We’d still suggest considering the tone of voice and making sure it’s truly yours (not just interesting or fun), because this is coming from you, not a machine.
- Build out ideas and structure
Using the blog post example, you could identify a topic and some key points, and have a messy draft (what Brene Brown calls the SFD, the Shitty First Draft). Part of writing a great blog post is not simply getting a few points across, but creating headers and subheaders which tell a story, and helping the reader grasp it quickly.
- Involve your team in marketing
Whenever we have a full accounting team join the Accelerator coaching group, it’s inevitable at least one (if not all) of the team members will express concern, or fear, or doubts about being involved in marketing. They’re not marketers, they’re accountants! They got hired to do payroll or taxes, not write blog posts and social media posts. How does this relate to them? ChatGPT can help ease their mind, let them try things and ask questions and see what comes out – and they can use their judgement about the content it generates. Does it make sense? Is it in a style which fits your firm? Will it really help this specific client they have a call with tomorrow? And they can have fun with it, too.
- Creative motivation and fun
When I asked ChatGPT to write out the potential pitfalls of doing your own bookkeeping in KJV Bible style, I actually laughed out loud (ALOL) at the results. I shared it with the team and we had a laugh at the Verilys and the thees and thous. I shared it with my Mum, who (in classic Mum style) said it was probably more like “Bookkeeping doth require”, not “Bookkeeping requireth”, and that’s ChatGPT schooled!
Things to be aware of that ChatGPT doesn’t do
As you’re using ChatGPT, remember:
This is content only (at present), not visuals. A lot of marketing involves visual assets – taking the content or message and sharing it in a way which is more appealing for your audience. Or creating videos, or website pages, or PDF guides. ChatGPT doesn’t offer the creation of visual tools, or examples you can steal like an artist from.
It doesn’t generate strategy. ChatGPT does what it’s told. It doesn’t know you personally, and your firm, enough to identify what is best for you personally. It doesn’t take into consideration how you want to use your time, or your family or geographical limitations, or your personal motivations. You can explain these, but it will take a lot of time and you could end up gathering a strategy from “everyone else” and applying it to you, and realising that’s not really what you want.
Lack of human connection. This is machine learning, gathering information for you. It’s not thinking about your “audience” as Paul and Kate and Shanya and Joe, individual humans with needs and cares and hobbies and personalities, like you do. It’s gathering them into a mass group who are like each other, and like every other company out there doing the same thing. Take what it provides and apply it personally. Remember when you’re writing an email, you’re not writing it “to clients”, you’re writing it to Paul, who wants to hire more people and isn’t sure when the right time is. Or Kate, who has her mother doing her bookkeeping and is worried her mum will be offended if she has your firm do the bookkeeping instead. These are real, human concerns and your marketing must be aware of them.
Some fun prompts to try
- Write this [content you’ve prompted] in the style of…KJV Bible, gangsta rap, a Taylor Swift song
- Team retreat ideas for a [explain your type of team and length of retreat]
- Give me a five second intro for a TikTok video on [topic]
- Create a lunch menu for our team made up of two vegans, one dairy-free, one vegetarian, and two meat eaters
- Create a points-based system for identifying if the Managing Director [or another team member] needs to attend a [type of meeting]
- Write a LinkedIn post about [topic] which mentions [type of person] and their feelings of [issues and problems]
Literally anything goes, so pick a prompt or create your own and off you go! The fun is in the adjustments – “same as above but change the style to be less formal” or “create it again without the dairy-free option” or “add more emojis and hashtags to my post”. The more you help it along, the better it will learn and the better output you’ll get.
Above all, ask yourself: are you using ChatGPT to avoid work or original thought, or are you using it to enhance your own creativity? To be fair, we might be thinking, when it comes to it, is there any such thing as original thought?
I still believe there is. You as a human are unique, and so am I. Your tone, your opinion, your approach to something is what makes it yours.
After all, I wrote this blog post from my head. I used ChatGPT and met with Steph and Camilla and we thought about what it’s great for and what it’s not, and tried it and played with it and summarised our findings together. Writing this content took me about an hour (after I’d done that prep and work), and I believe that was a better use of my time than trying desperately to explain all of these factors to the machine and hope it comes out with a helpful article for accountants who are considering ChatGPT. But then, my purpose is not to identify facts about what it can do, but to give you my opinion on how you as an accountant can use it and what to be aware of as you do.
So yes, let’s use – and play with, and enjoy, and laugh hilariously at – ChatGPT and the things it can help you come up with. Here’s the link, by the way. Or you can use Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which now includes ChatGPT as part of its search. We’d love to hear how you get on!