Are you so concerned about being professional that you’re not being real?

Weird 60's Businessman

Your buyers are faced daily with people proclaiming to be good at what they do, promising help and support, proclaiming that their services are the ones to buy.

What your buyer wants from you above all is to know that you are genuine. Authentic. Real. They not only want to hear your case studies and stories, and read your expert advice – they need to have confidence that you are who (and what) you say you are.

In addition to determining which ones are telling the truth, your buyer’s next step is to choose, from the truth tellers, the one they like working with. The personality and brand and style that matches their own.

And thanks to social media, and webinars, and Facebook live video, and Snapchat, your buyer has more opportunities than ever to determine whether you are legit. To determine whether all your marketing is good noise, or good business. To find out if you’re their kind of person, and whether they would enjoy working with you.

Remember too that thanks to all these things, the line between ‘personal’ and ‘business’ is becoming quite blurred. Just as you wouldn’t start a business meeting without at least a little chit chat, or asking after family or holidays, so too your prospects expect that from you in your marketing.

Accountants have worked hard to be, and stay, professional. This is a good thing, because this professionalism is integrated in the buyer’s mind with your expertise.

But are you spending so much time being ‘professional’ that you’re not being real?

We’re getting to a stage in marketing where ‘real’ can win over apparent ‘unprofessionalism’ – a quick iphone video, shot and shared within minutes, can help you more than waiting eight months and spending thousands of pounds on one professionally shot introductory video to your firm.

Naturally, you still want to be professional – and I’m sure that nothing I tell you here will prevent that, anyway. But professionalism goes beyond wearing a suit and using the right words. It goes deep – and if you have it deep within you, in terms of expertise and integrity and wisdom, then you won’t destroy that by sharing a live video on Snapchat.

Here are a few things to consider in your marketing, while you are being the professional you are.

1. Write and speak like a ‘real person’. Corporate-speak doesn’t work.

This is a marketing trend I am very thankful for. I’ve never liked content that I’ve had to read four times before I can vaguely figure out what is being said. Your audience doesn’t have time to re-calculate meanings in their heads: they want to know what you’re saying, quickly, so they can decide quickly whether to keep reading or to give up. Make it easy for them.

2. Use real photographs of you and your team.

There is a real resistance amongst accountants to use real photographs of yourself and your team. Sometimes, the firm owner is fine with it (you’re used to having a headshot for speaking engagements or articles), but your team is resistant. They just want to come in to the office, put their heads down, crunch some numbers, and go home. But the days of the buyer wanting to work with that kind of accountant are becoming quite short. People want to know who they’re talking to on the phone, and who’s on the other end of the email. Make it clear. Your potential buyer will be grateful.

3. Use video.

There are far too few accountants using video. From what I can understand, the primary excuse is that it’s too expensive. Yes, that could be true, if you’re hiring a professional videographer to shoot ten case study videos on location at your clients’ premises. But you don’t have to start there. Hire a startup photographer with great skills and low prices; or just set up some equipment in your office, on a tripod. Share stories, ideas, tips, and advice right when it happens. You’ll be real, and you’ll show your expertise.

(Interestingly, the website for one of our clients, My Accountancy Place, includes high quality video shot at their own and their clients’ premises. It’s what many accountants avoid investing in, but everyone loves the website and wants one like it.)

4. Be active on social media.

One of the reasons your buyers want you to be active and engaged on social media is because it’s harder to hide things there. They can see how you engage with people. The words you say. The pictures you share (and don’t). The language you use (or don’t). It’s another opportunity for them to determine if they like you and want to work with you. And remember that your goal is not to please everybody, to work with every potential buyer. You want to work with those who are your kind of person: so it’s okay if some of them aren’t.

5. Admit mistakes.

Every once in a while, things go wrong. One of the beautiful aspects of the new marketing is that, rather than damaging your credibility and professionalism, your mistakes can sometimes be a springboard to proving your humanity and ‘realness’, and actually bring more potential buyers to you. (Granted, if the mistake made is a drastic, serious, or even illegal one, it’s going to take more than a quick apology to fix: but your professionalism means that these instances are rare, if they exist at all.)

We recently sent out an email about the Chaser Marketer, and the link on the button was wrong. It sent people to the wrong resource. We sent out another about an hour later saying “Whoops…wrong link! Here’s the right one!” The second email was opened and clicked on by four times as many people. It wasn’t a marketing ploy: it was the truth. We sent the wrong link, and then we fixed it. We’re humans.

6. Be willing to try something that is a bit more casual.

This could include Facebook, Snapchat, a quick video shot in your office or even (gasp) in your home. Just see what kind of response you get. It’s worth trying: and you can still retain your professionalism.

7. Deliver some of your marketing ‘live’.

Be on video when you run a webinar. Set up an online community and respond swiftly to questions and comments. Set up a live interview and stream it. Whatever you can do that is in the moment will help prove you are a real person, a real firm, in real time.

Some of these may feel uncomfortable for you, and I understand that. I’m not asking you to action all 7 of them today. But considering that your buyer wants to know you and your firm in a real and personal way, you may want to consider at least one of them.

– Karen