Differentiation: Does your accounting firm have to dance?

You may have heard of the “Dancing Accountant”, or seen his recent video of him dancing along to a Proclaimers song at a train station.

Of course, this video has gone viral. (I say, ‘of course’, because which one of you has published a video like this recently? Yes, exactly. He stands out.)

Now, I work with accountants every single day.  I know what you’re like.  Most of you reading this – or watching even a portion of that video – are thinking:

“So? Big deal! He stood on a train platform and danced to a song, and then read a newspaper.  What does that have to do with accounting?”

Well, in one sense it has nothing to do with accounting at all – as you know it.  But he has shown his true colours.  He sat, quietly and unobserved, reading a paper, someone nobody knew. And within a few seconds the entire train station was watching him, and at the end they all clapped…and he went back to his newspaper, looking almost ashamed.  He revealed his character, his personality.  That is what marketing is all about.  People who connect with him will want to connect more with him.

“No WAY would I do that.  It’s embarrassing, and pointless.”

Yes, that is totally fine.  You are not the Dancing Accountant, and you don’t have to be.  I am not advocating that all of you get out there and start taking requests on your Facebook page and put on a tutu and dance to Swan Lake. (He did that, by the way.)  But, what WOULD you do?  What are you doing?  Who’s sharing your video?

“He doesn’t even say anything!”

Yep, that’s part of the brilliance of it.  I’ve said it before, but you’ve got to get it out of your head that marketing is about telling people who you are, how great you are, and what your products and services are.  It’s about sharing who you and your firm are – in terms of culture, personality, and connection – and letting people decide who they work with. Remember, people do business with people.  How are you helping them decide that you’re the kind of “people” they want to work with?

“Sure, it’s the new craze – but in a few days or a few weeks he will be forgotten for some new video that’s gone viral.”

Hmm, and how’s that critical attitude helping your marketing?  I googled “dancing accountant” and got his Facebook page.  Interestingly enough, I did not find a website.  I found a Facebook page, his YouTube channel, some videos, a Tumblr page, and a gmail address.  If you want to connect with him, do it using social media.  That means that if I like his page (which I’ve now done), I will get little mini notifications every time he does something new – once a week.  Sure, I can get bored and give up on him at some stage; or he might forget to post a few videos and lose some followers. But if he sticks at it, and is consistent, he’ll just get more and more and more people who know who he is, like what he’s about, and email him for some accounting help.

So, what about you? Where’s your differentiation?

So, now that we’ve addressed all the reasons you want to mock or dismiss or otherwise ignore the Dancing Accountant, what about you?

Do you have to start dancing, too?

Of course not.  Matter of fact, that’s probably not the best answer anyway, since this guy (I don’t even know his name) has cornered that market for now.

But you can do your own thing.

Here are a few quick suggestions for differentiation for your accounting firm:

Differentiate by Client Niche.

Identify a few types of businesses (or people, or geographical areas) that you serve, and serve well. Focus on it. Email about it.  Design a new website on it.  Talk about it at networking events. Make it the focus of everything you do and everything you are, and pretty soon you will be getting more clients of that ilk.

Differentiate by Your Own Personality.

What are you, the owner of the accountancy firm, like? What is it about you that identifies ‘you’ to those who get in touch?  One of our clients has a tag line that says, “Serious about business success”.  When I asked him about it, he said “I’m a pretty serious person. I consider things carefully, and I deal straight – nothing underhanded or iffy when it comes to business practices. And our clients know that about me, and they like it.”  See, he doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not.  He doesn’t go out dancing to the Proclaimers.  But proclaiming that he is serious works for him – and for his clients.

Differentiate by Your People.

Naturally, your own personality will affect those you hire.  I know a firm near Plymouth who are just really fun people. One of the partners did a presentation on their firm culture, and explained that they had a “Changing Rooms” team exercise in which the team got to completely redecorate the partners’ offices – painting, new furniture, the works.  One went for a Mexican theme, complete with yellow walls and a sombrero.  Some accountants I know draw back in horror from this idea – but of course the team are just reflecting the partners’ personalities.  I would strongly recommend hiring people who are like you (so that you understand them and connect with them) – and then be willing to hire some who are not like you at all, so that they click with other types of clients, and bring you more business.  Differentiate your firm by what your people are like – and let them be themselves.

Differentiate by Service Packages.

This is a really, really tough way to differentiate your accountancy firm – mostly because everyone is creating service packages complete with gold, silver, and bronze levels, and everyone pretty much charges the same amount for the same things. If you’re going to have service packages that are different, be really, really different.  One firm we work with offers a £50/month option for startups and small businesses. It’s simple, it’s not hugely expensive, and it weeds out those who don’t even want to spend that much on their accounts.  What packages do you offer that no one else does, and how can you keep it extremely simple?  Or, can you combine this with your niche areas, and offer specific packages for dentists, or medical practices, or someone else?

Differentiate by Timing.

You could choose to be different by promising your clients that they will get their tax return turned around in 10 days.  Or their accounts finished within two weeks.  Or whatever it is.  Bear in mind, if you are going to proclaim to be super fast, you had better meet your targets. Every. Single. Time.  When you proclaim expectations, you have immediately raised them – and you will be held to them.  Make sure your systems are spot on, your team are trained, and you are ready to deliver. Every. Single. Time.  Also make sure you’ve explained clearly and simply when it is not your fault – don’t have ten pages of terms and conditions, just say “This all depends on you getting this info to us by this date. If you don’t, we can’t meet our deadlines.”

Differentiate on Social Media.

I don’t mean just getting on various social media engines – most accountants have figured out that’s a must-have these days.  But, which social media engines are you using? What about the ones most accountants don’t use, like Instagram, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Skyrock.  I picked a few of those from YouTube’s ‘sharing’ options.  If you want to share a video, these are some of your options. I’ve never heard of Skyrock, but YouTube has more than a billion visitors every month.  They probably know something I don’t.  So, think about how to differentiate yourself – differently – using social media no one else is using.

Differentiate in Some Other Way.

There are many other ways you can stand out, and I’m thrilled to say that I haven’t thought of all of them.  Perhaps one of you has found something I haven’t mentioned and you’re doing it brilliantly.  (If so, feel free to comment, I’d love to hear about it!)

In a final word, the best thing you can do is to make sure your clients and prospects understand who you truly are, and how that is not like anyone else in the world.  Not like any other accounting firm. Not like any other accountant – even a dancing one.