As an accountant, you are used to looking at the numbers. That’s what you’re best at and it’s why your clients trust you the way you do: you help them with and advise them on their numbers so they build the best businesses for them.
When it comes to marketing you’re also looking at the numbers. You question whether your investment in marketing will give you the return you’re looking for and you have concerns about wasting your money and time and not seeing the results you want to.
We understand those concerns and fears. One of the questions in the Diagnostics form asks exactly this, so we know where you’re coming from if you’re considering working with us. The second last question on the form asks, “What’s your biggest fear or concern about marketing?” Here are a selection of answers accountants have shared with us over the past 3 months:
- “My chief concern is spending a significant amount of time and money with the wrong people or in the wrong areas.”
- “That I will be wasting my time and money.”
- “Not having enough time”
- “Wasting my time and money, which is what I have done so far this year.”
- “No ROI”
- “Wasting money with no results”
- “Spending money and not seeing a return on it”
- “Wasting money and time”
Can you see the theme? I want to dig into this concern and fear you have about wasting time and money on marketing, and find out where this concern is coming from. When you discover that, you can then get to the really great marketing stuff which helps you take on more clients you love and build your business in the way you want to.
When you invest in your marketing in the right ways for you, you see the results which matter to you. Marketing is not one size fits all. It’s not the case that everyone does the same thing and we all get the same results. What you might consider a “good result”, will be different from what another accounting firm does. Your marketing needs connect to both your personal and business goals Your goals will be what drives your marketing and helps you to achieve those results you’re looking for.
Circling back to your concern over wasted time and money, let’s dig into that some more.
It’s not only the wasted time and money you’re concerned about.
Every month you’re likely spending time and resources (so money) on clients who you don’t love working with, doing services and work which isn’t the type you want to do and isn’t the most profitable for your firm. Doing the work for these clients is a drain on your time and resources (so again, money), and yet you still do it month in, month out.
When you first set up your firm, you prioritised spending time and money on other functional areas of your firm which you called “must-haves”: IT, accounting software, HR support. You were willing to invest in all these areas of your business because you recognised you need them to help you do your best work. Which is why you set up your firm in the first place: to help people the best way you know how.
So it’s not the case you’re not willing to invest time and money because you already do, in your clients and your systems and your processes. So what is it that holds you back from investing in marketing? Because you know you need it in order to do the best work for the best clients for you.
I wrote this blog earlier this year celebrating the incredible numbers our accountant clients had achieved in 2020 & 2021. Here are some of the highlights:
- 389% increase in proposals
- 226% increase in acquisition via organic search (these are the numbers you can’t pay for)
- 119% increase in total number of visitors
- 29.5% increase in social media referrals
When we looked at what each of these accountants had in common, we saw they invested, most cases heavily, in their brand, websites and ongoing monthly marketing. They’re committed to sharing content which has been created for the audience they serve so when their ideal client is ready to buy, it’s them they buy from because they already trust them and understand their value.
Now I know we can tell stories all day long and yet you’re still thinking “that’s grand for them but what about me? I keep reading great stories and numbers and results from other accountants but it doesn’t work for me.”
I hear you and I’m not going to pretend to you it’s easy.
Consistency in marketing is HUGE. And it’s exactly what all these accountants have done. They’ve shown up day after day and committed to their marketing. None of these results have been quick wins. In most cases, these accountants have been consistently sharing and creating content for 3+ years. When you feel like you aren’t getting the same results, or won’t get the same results, challenge yourself a little on how consistent you’ve been. Have you shared a few social posts and written a blog or two and then given up because clients didn’t come flooding through your door?
We’ve had accountants tell us they really want these results and they’re willing to do anything for it. When we then tell the answer is to be recording a video every day, or writing a blog every week, they do it for a week or maybe even a month, and then it trickles away and a few months go by and they say “this isn’t working” and we gently remind them it only works if you do the work.
The accountants who are getting the results they want are those who have fully integrated marketing into their business. They record videos, they write blogs and encourage their team to do the same, they invest in their systems and processes to support their client experience, they’re present on social media and invest time and money in marketing coaching for themselves and their team. Marketing is a part of the every day running of their firm and this consistency is one of the reasons they’re seeing the results they want.
You also need to be consistent in the same direction. Create a pattern and stick to it. For example, let’s say you decide to focus your marketing energy and time on LinkedIn. You share your posts, include some videos here and there, maybe the odd poll. You need to consistently do this for a period of time (minimum 6 months) and not be distracted by all the other things you could be doing. That is what will waste your time in marketing: jumping between different things and not keeping your focus or sticking to a pattern.
The responsibility of being consistent does fall to you. When you say “you don’t want to waste time or money on marketing”, what’s behind that is you’re concerned you won’t be consistent with it. You won’t stick to your plan and see it through.
You may be surprised to hear that you’re already being consistent with one area of your marketing: showing up every day to help your clients with their problems.
That is marketing. You’re showing your clients your expertise and helping them with their issues. It’s now time to show your very best clients the same thing.
Now we’ve dug into time and money not actually being what’s holding you back with marketing, let’s look at where your concerns are REALLY coming from.
You lack trust and faith in yourself and your own understanding of marketing.
You don’t distrust PF or another marketing company (unless you’ve had a bad experience in which case we’re sorry to hear that and this blog will help you work through it). You’re putting your own fears and concerns onto us and others. But that’s not the core issue here.
You distrust yourself. Now this most definitely isn’t because you’re not trustworthy (in fact, from our experience, accountants are some of the most trusted people we know). It’s because you doubt your own understanding of what marketing is and how it can help your firm. And what we don’t understand, we fear and we shy away from.
One of our Accelerator members shared with us recently, “As an accountant, we want to help but we’re scared to sell.” How many of you reading this share this same feeling?
Yes, a part of marketing is selling. But it’s not the cold “only acting with your own interest at heart” way to sell. That’s not true selling. It’s just making money.
You, on the other hand, actually want to help business owners and you want the right ones to find you and do business with you. That’s the whole reason you set up your firm in the first place. So your selling is really helping. Helping the right people at the right time so they know you are the person or firm they want to work with.
When it comes to marketing, you need to look at selling with a different mindset:
- Its goal is to help your clients the best way you know how, not to get them to buy something they don’t need or want
- You are clear on how what you’re selling will be helpful to them and their business
- Recognising they always have choices and freedom: true selling doesn’t make people feel like they HAVE to buy something
- Giving them space to ask you questions and take as much time as they need to mull over the answers
James Ashford shares these words in his book, Selling to Serve:
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By not showing your clients and prospects what you’re capable of doing, you’re delaying their decision and they won’t buy as quickly from you. James shares “All we’re ever doing in selling is selling the value.”
Once you start to look at selling as being healthy, and necessary, you start to better understand how marketing will help support your healthy selling and ultimately, get you the results you’re looking for.
When we chatted to Cheryl, owner and founder of Pink Pig Financials about her marketing journey, she shared “I was scared of marketing because I didn’t understand it. So I put it off.”
When we don’t understand something, we put it off. We don’t like not being good at something or not understanding it. We tell ourselves we should know it all. Especially as accountants, the expert, the one people come to for answers…you may feel embarrassed about your lack of knowledge on a topic and thus shy away from it, rather than admitting “I don’t really understand this” and asking for help. You set up your firm so people could ask you for help. And yet you don’t ask for help yourself.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and imagine what ‘d you say to them if they came to you and said “I don’t understand the differences between being a sole trader and a limited company.” Would you scoff at them for not knowing? No, of course not. You’d help them.
In the same way your clients don’t know everything about accounting, it’s not your fault you don’t know everything about marketing. You’re an accountant, not a full time marketer. But in order to work with the very best clients for your firm, you need to understand the role and value marketing brings to your firm.
A lack of understanding about marketing starts with these uncertainties:
You don’t know who your ideal client is and so you take on anyone who needs help.
It’s tempting to take on whatever clients come to you who need help. After all, 35 clients is better than 30 clients. But what about those really difficult clients? The ones who need a lot of hand holding and chasing and never get anything to you in time?. The ones you end up spending twice the amount of time you’ve billed them for? Those clients aren’t going to help you get the results you’re looking for and they’ll instead be a drain on your time and resources. You need to identify who your ideal client is and they need to be:
- Profitable for you
- You have to like working with them
- You need to be able to show you have experience working with this kind of client
If either all or some of your current clients don’t fit in these categories, then you must spend time working out who your ideal client is. To get started, think about your most favourite client:
- What do you love about them?
- What motivates them?
- What do they need help with?
- How have you helped them?
- How has their business changed since you became their accountant?
You can use the answers to these questions to really dig into who your ideal client is so you know exactly who you are speaking to and who you want your brand and all your marketing to appeal to.
You have a brand, but you don’t know it as well as you could and aren’t confident in the message it’s sending to your prospects and clients.
If you don’t know the message you’re sharing, how are you going to share it? And how are you going to share it with the right people (your ideal client)? You need to dig deep into your values and your brand needs to show them so sharing content is that much easier as it’s simply a reflection of you.
I saw this quote the other day and felt it summarised branding and marketing so perfectly, “Marketing is the equivalent of asking someone on a date. Branding is the reason they say yes.” – Ren Jones
Your brand is the personality behind the business so if you aren’t confident it’s a reflection of the work you do and the clients you serve, it’s going to be challenging to show your brand to the right people.
You don’t feel like you have any control over the above.
You then put the blame onto marketing and how it “won’t work” but really it’s deeper than that: you have fears around not knowing your own identity/values and how you show these to the right audience.
This is how marketing actually helps you achieve the results you want. By knowing your audience and showing them how you can help them (through your brand and marketing), you’ll work with more clients you love and who you can do your best work for.
Comparing yourself to others only holds yourself back in your marketing.
How often do you find yourself looking at other accountants and wishing you had what they had. The number of followers on LinkedIn, how many new clients they signed up that week, the wins and victories they share. You tell yourself, “I’ll never have a following like them” and “I’ll never be able to get to where they are.”
You aren’t alone in this: we all compare ourselves to others. It’s human nature. So let’s turn it around and think about it this way: constantly comparing yourself to other accountants will only hold YOU back in your marketing. And it’s a waste of your precious time, because you’re focusing on the wrong audience. They’re doing what’s best for their clients and you need to focus on the same for yours. Use that time to focus on the people you want to serve and try to ignore the noise around you.
Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ shared these wise words when we caught up with on this marketing journey (you can watch the full interview here):
“What’s hard in the accounting world, particularly when it comes to marketing, is you see a lot of other people doing a lot of other things and you think you need to jump on that bandwagon. Instead, you need to stick to your guns, stay in your lane and come up with a plan for what’s going to work for your business.”
You can read about Andy’s success here which comes largely from focusing his marketing on speaking to the clients he wants to work with and not letting the outside noise distract him from his plan.
Shut out the noise from people who aren’t your ideal client.
So you’ve started to get your head around how your money and time can be well spent in marketing. You’re thinking about writing a blog post, or recording a video, sharing some useful content with your audience. But wait. What if no one reads it? What if no one watches your video? And even worse, what if you say something wrong? Or someone disagrees with something you say?
This is when you ask yourself: “Who is my marketing for? Who do I want to work with? Is it any of these people?”
The answer is no.
It’s for the people who you want to work with more, the clients you enjoy working with and for. The ones you can do your best work for. When you focus your energy and attention on them, that’s when you stop thinking about what everyone else is doing and focus instead on what you’re doing for your clients. Often the people you’re most worried about turn out to be another accountant, an ex-colleague, or a client who is making life difficult for you and you don’t want to work with anyway.
When we let outside voices and opinions distract us from our focus in marketing, we’re the only ones who lose out. You’re an expert at what you do and there are clients out there who need your help and WANT to hear from you. Focus your time and invest on these people, and shut out the noise from everyone else who you aren’t speaking to in your marketing.
ROI is not the only way to measure results.
When you talk about “results”, what does it really mean to you? What do you consider a result? More clients? Increased revenue? Higher ROI? All of these do contribute to a successful accounting firm but when it comes to marketing, these aren’t the only results you need to be focusing on. It’s not possible for you to look at marketing results on an individual basis. It won’t work to say “I invested £1,000 in monthly content marketing this month and so I want to see an increase of £2,000 in client spend”. This isn’t quite how it works (or if it does, there are a lot more factors than simply spending money) and if your mindset towards results in marketing stays like this, you’ll never see the results you want to.
Let’s say you’ve looked at your forecasted numbers and you need to take on 5 new clients in the next quarter to achieve your financial goal. You need to take a step back and ask yourself: what’s the best way to achieve this? Do I need more clients, or could I increase the service offering I’m giving to the current clients which I love and want more of? How could I do this? By investing in your marketing and SHOWING these clients your expertise and experience. Rather than taking on another 5 clients who aren’t your ideal and who’ll you’ll likely end up wasting time and resources on because you haven’t invested the time in showing them your value and expertise. How will they understand your value if you haven’t shown them in? This is where marketing your firm is critical to achieving your business and life goals.
More clients doesn’t necessarily equal higher ROI. You are building trust and relationships with your clients and that takes time. You must be patient. There are no shortcuts. The accounting firms who are getting the “best results” (defined by much more than just ROI and more a focus on a steady drip feed of leads which are their ideal clients), are in it for the long haul.
Here are some other ways you can measure your marketing “results”:
Relationships with your clients:
- The Buyer Progression Model explains the journey your clients take from starting in a place of never having heard of you to paying you a monthly retainer. It takes time to build trust and relationships. This is the number one thing you can do with your marketing. By showing your ideal clients who you are, how you work and what you’re an expert in, you’re building relationships so by the time they’re ready to buy, it’s you they buy from. (You can download our free guide here!)
- Net promoter score (NPS): You know those emails you get after you’ve made an online purchase or booked a trip away which include a survey with the question “how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” This is them gathering data for their NPS score. Kinder Pocock used their NPS to measure the experience their customers have working with them… you can check out their impressive results here!
- Spend per client: If you have lots of small clients spending small amounts every month, you can look at how to either increase their fees (question whether you’re really charging your value, or look at what other services you could be offering them). Both of these things can be done by showing your value and expertise through your marketing.
- Quality of leads: Success in marketing is hard to measure and that’s why you tend to look more at the numbers. The result you want is a steady drip of the best leads for you. Enough work for you to build your business, support your team, invest in new systems and processes. If you’re getting 30 leads every month, but none or almost none are your ideal client, then you won’t achieve the ROI you’re looking for. They won’t be profitable and you won’t do your best work for them. When you create content which DOES speak to your ideal clients, this is when you start getting BETTER quality leads (not more).
- Type of client you’re taking on: Taking on every client who comes through the door won’t help you achieve your results in the long term. All it will mean is you and your team are in a constant cycle of working with clients who aren’t profitable and for you and your team can’t do the best work for. I can’t imagine that would ever be one of your goals for your life or firm. Address this head on through your marketing and invest in speaking to and ONLY speaking to your ideal clients (and send everyone else away).
Shift your mindset about what marketing really is and ask for help.
Go back to section 1 of this blog and dig into where your concerns about marketing really are. Here’s how to do this:
- Marketing therapy (here’s our dedicated Instagram account you can get started with)
- Join the next Accelerator coaching group so the PF team can support you in figuring out who your ideal client is and how you can market to them, and only them
- Seek out your own coach/mentor/therapist – whichever one it is you need
- Talk to your team: they’re the ones working with your clients day in day out so there knowledge is valuable and helpful and can and will support you in your marketing
- Book some time with the PF team: we can help you identify where you need help with most in your marketing and help you to overcome the concerns and doubts you’re having
- Take responsibility for the concerns which are holding you back: consistency, the comparison game, fears around being wrong and seek help from either our team or elsewhere to help you work through these
You need to shift your mindset as to what marketing is all about. It’s not about selling people something they don’t need. You need to change the story in your head to: “I am helping people who need my help.” In the words of James Ashford, “Selling is simply helping them to feel CERTAIN about their decision, so they can make the RIGHT decision…. for THEM.”
Imagine being able to show up and be your complete self and show the type of clients you want to work with who you truly are. At the heart of marketing is authenticity. Now that word gets thrown around a lot, and sometimes it’s misused. It can’t be in your marketing: it must match. Anywhere your brand or your content isn’t authentic, you will slow your prospect down in the buying process and they will take longer to make their decision.
Your marketing is not about you. It’s about your ideal client.
“If you want to level us an accounting firm, your brand is the first thing you need to address. Our rebrand levelled us up: it made us who we knew we were all along and shows it to anyone who is interested in working with us. It was such a relief to take the ego out of it: our brand is not about us, it’s about our client.” Amy Walker shared these beautiful words with us after she rebranded Walker Agency.
Your marketing is not for you. Your website, your brand, your social posts, your processes. Not one of them is for you (we got into more detail in this blog).
It’s all for the clients you serve. They are the reason you set up your firm in the first place. They are people you want to help build a better business and life. Marketing supports you in doing this.
As an accountant, you are the person your clients trust to tell them investing their money in areas which will improve their businesses is the best way to build their business and achieve their personal and business goals.
You aren’t following your own advice. You also need to be investing in the areas which will help you reach your goals and this must include marketing. It all starts with your ideal client and showing them your true self and how you can help them. You can start by investing a little time and money in our Accelerator coaching group: you’ll learn how to put your clients first by showing them your expertise and how you understand you can use it to help solve their problems. That is marketing.