Accountants are often challenged by how to give feedback to designers, web developers, and marketers in general. Most accountants we work with often start the conversation with “I don’t know much about marketing” or “You’re the expert, so we’re open to your ideas”.
There is great value in recognising what you don’t know, and being open to the expert’s advice. Our favourite (and, incidentally, highest performing) clients are those who are always ready to hear our opinion or advice.
Being open to advice and counsel from the experts does not, however, mean that you simply do whatever they say. You do need to have a mind of your own, and finding that balance is something that takes time – particularly for accountants.
Over the months and years as we build a business relationship with an accountancy firm, we seek to help them give us feedback that will enable us to deliver the best possible marketing for them.
Here’s how to provide the right kind of feedback so you get the best in marketing: that which fits both you and your clients.
Remember that your marketing is not for you.
First and foremost, you’ve got to remember that your marketing is not primarily for you. This is absolutely critical.
It’s also something that is not as familiar to accountants, especially if you’re new to your marketing journey. It’s tempting to work on marketing you like, but that is lower on the priority list.
As an accountant you are likely detail orientated, keen to ensure compliance and the ‘right’ answer, and probably a perfectionist. Few of your clients are like this: after all, that’s why they hired you!
- You are not designing a logo for yourself: you’re designing it for your target market.
- You’re not building a website that you and your team like: you’re building it so that your site visitors love it.
- You’re not publishing a blog post that is interesting to you: you’re sharing information with your audience in a way they understand and care about.
So if you don’t love it straight away, stop and think for a moment about your audience. What will they think? How will they respond? Is this relevant to their needs and wishes, or is it fitting in with what you think is clever marketing, or what some other accountancy firm did?
Consider that in your feedback, and if you aren’t sure, ask the experts that you hired to do the work. If they’re worth their salt, they’ll give you their perspective or will direct you to someone else who can.
Feedback is a two-way street. You provide some to your marketing agency; but then they give some back in response.
From time to time, we’ve worked with a firm on a project or a marketing item and they’ve asked us to do something we completely disagree with. Perhaps it’s not best marketing practice, or it won’t fit with the audience they’re going for, or it’s simply a copy and paste job from some other firm.
We will always respond with, “Our strong recommendation is…” and explain why that’s our recommendation. Having six calls to action on one website page is confusing for the site visitor. Offering a free consultation is an outdated call to action. Asking for name, email, address, and phone number for a 5-page ebook is not going to be received well. That sort of thing.
We don’t pretend to be perfect, and marketing is a fluid thing. There’s no right or wrong answer (although there is usually a best practice). So if you insist, we’ll do what is asked for, even against our own preference. But those who are the most open tend to get the best results, because they’re focusing on what will work best for their audience (see the first point).
Identify what, specifically, you don’t like.
Try to figure out what, exactly, you don’t like. Is it the colour? The style? The way the letter sits on the left instead of the right? The shading, or lack thereof? The more you can tell us, the better we can respond.
Generic replies don’t give your marketer any idea of where to go from here. On the positive side, they certainly express that you’re not happy or it’s not a fit for you, but your marketer is going to need a little more than that.
Here’s an example of some feedback not to give:
- “I was expecting it to be a little more interesting”
What’s interesting to you may not be so to your target audience, or even to us. What do you mean by ‘interesting’? Is the style or tone of voice not a fit? Do you feel the blog post is a bit dry, or the entire topic is dull? Can you give us an example of something you do find truly interesting?
- “Could you be a bit more creative?”
Absolutely. We could splash messy paint all over a canvas, or write a song. We could make every image on your website turn and revolve constantly. We could make the font six times bigger, or smaller, or remove the words altogether. All of those things are creative, but ‘creative’ is a word with one of the widest meanings possible. Rather like ‘art’. One person’s creativity is another person’s nightmare.
- “Make it pop”
Please, never use this phrase.
- “Make it look just like this [website, logo, blog, etc]”
We always encourage you to share examples of what you like. That’s very helpful for our designers and developers as they explore options for your content or design item.
Copying someone else’s work, however, is not only a bad fit for your clients and prospects, it also either borders on, or is, plagiarism.
It’s a fine line, of course (see “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon), but the key is to ensure that you have originality. If you like someone else’s idea, figure out the kernel of what you like, and what it is that you like, and why you want to do something similar. But always be yourself: your audience will respect you for it.
More helpful: As you give feedback, think about what you were hoping for that you aren’t seeing. Is there something you’d like removed, or added, or more of? Do you have a few examples of what you consider to be really creative marketing? What aspects of it are you not a fan of and which are you indifferent to? Also, think about why you don’t like it. Is it because you don’t feel it reflects you as a firm, or because it’s too cheerful or too American or too dry or not fun enough? The more you can share, the better.
Be direct and honest, but keep it pleasant.
From time to time, you’re not going to like the work that has been done. It might even be the third or fourth iteration, and you’ve hit your limit. You feel like you haven’t been listened to, or it’s never going to be right, or you had a bad day and this is the last straw.
I would caution you at this point to be careful with sending your feedback. If your heart rate is going up a bit or you’re typing faster than you usually do (or with more force), I encourage you to take a moment, save your email draft, and come back to it in five minutes. Drink a cup of tea, walk around your offices and come back inside. As Andy Bounds says, “your email lasts longer than your mood does”.
Our team works hard at responding to any feedback with “thank you”, and it’s always genuine. Even if you’re frustrated or annoyed or feel like we’ve completely missed the mark, we need to know that.
We’ve had clients apologise countless times for giving feedback, and our response always is that our priority is to get it right (in line with your audience of course, as we noted above).
Remember that (presuming you’ve hired a good marketing agency or marketer), they truly want to get it right for you.