Actually, it’s best to work with experts when it comes to anything, but as we all have experienced, the process goes something like this:
- You start off figuring it out yourself.
- As your time becomes more and more precious, you learn how helpful it is to part with some cash so someone else does it for you, while you’re focusing your time on what only you can do.
- After a time of using “someone” (or possibly “anyone you can find”), you begin to discover that there are gaps in this person’s capabilities, so you invest more to train them, or you pay up to get someone with more skills.
- Eventually, you hire an expert, who costs a lot more than you would have ever considered in the first place but impresses you with their knowledge and/or speed.
Interestingly, this is the exact same process your prospects are going through when they choose an accountant.
Some of you will be at level 2 or 3, but most of the accountants we work with are at level 4.
This means you’re an expert, you know what you’re doing, you charge well for it and you work hard to earn it. Your clients like you and respect you, and they value what you do for them.
When it comes to marketing, my advice once you’ve found the expert is:
Get Out Of Their Way.
You see, the unfortunate result of steps 1-3 are that you imagine you’re kind of an expert yourself. You’ve done some blogging. You’ve dabbled in SEO. You set up a few social media accounts. Your brother’s cousin’s daughter is pretty good with websites. And so by the time you get to step 4, hiring the expert, it’s really tough to just let them get on with what you’ve asked them to do, because you’re saying “You’re the expert, but can’t we just -?”, or “Thanks for that, but actually I think -“.
Accountants are especially prone to this. You’re fiercely protective of your business, your clients, your work, your ideas. And that’s normal business behaviour (and business owner behaviour). But sometimes this extends even to being fiercely protective of your logo or colours or the words you wrote in an email four years ago or your job titles.
But when it comes to marketing, especially digital marketing and cloud solutions, things are changing so incredibly fast that even the things that worked brilliantly a year ago may not work at all now – and the experts are the ones who can tell you this. And they’ll be aware of the constant change too.
A year or two ago we were still telling accountants that if you write lots of blog posts, you’ll get more traffic to your website. That was true then, and in some ways it’s still true now. You absolutely need to be blogging and we would recommend you do it at a minimum once a week. But whereas in the past you would have organically been found by Google after some time, now you pretty much have to pay something when it comes to ads or lead generation or your amazing blogs will never be found, and neither will your site. It’s fine to have ideas and things that worked for you in the past (or worked for someone else), but the experts should be helping you make sense of what you have done and what you want to do, and be giving you guidance so you don’t make the same mistakes everyone else does.
And in order for the experts to do their job, you need to get out of the way.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you should just step back and let someone else make all the marketing decisions for your business. The best experts in the world won’t do that because there’s no one who knows your business and your clients like you do.
But you can get out of the way when you’ve given the experts a job to do, by doing some of these things:
Ask good questions.
Understand why they’re recommending this or that action, and make sure they understand your reasoning too. There are times when our team comes up with a brilliant new idea, like a great image to use on a website, and our client points out that another organisation (in an industry we are less familiar with) is using that type of image and it could be confusing.
Be open to new ideas (truly open).
This can be difficult to do, and the best experts will take your brilliant ideas and make them better (and best of all make them happen). But if we suddenly come up with a brand new and little wild idea, maybe kick it around or give it a go. (I’m still wishing an accountant would agree to be the Mad Hatter Accountant. I’ve got all sorts of design ideas. You would need to be a little bit mad, and willing to wear a very colourful hat.)
Defer to the expert position sometimes.
True experts will give you guidance and direction but will never force you to do something against your will. I’ve worked with a few accountants in the past who just balked at a certain idea, so we dropped it. If it’s not a fit with your style or personality, that’s okay. But try simply saying, “Okay, we will give that a go” once in a while.
Make decisions quickly.
The number one thing that prevents your marketing success is indecision. We have had a few clients who agreed in the space of an hour what they wanted, and just gave us full reign to make it happen. Unsurprisingly, they had new website pages and downloads and sign up forms and clever branding in a very short space of time – all while they continued doing what they normally do. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave it with the experts and be excited about what they create.
Absorb what the experts teach, and teach it to others (rallying the troops).
When it comes to marketing there is a great deal of education. These marketing tips, our webinars, the FAQs page, all of our content is structured around helping you to truly understand how this digital marketing world affects your accountancy firm. And we completely appreciate that this takes time. We encourage you to understand, to learn, to ask questions. But if you have more than just yourself in the firm, it’s important to get the team on board as well – and that can involve sharing what you’ve learned with them. It’s true that you don’t know how much you don’t know, until you try to teach it to someone else. So, if you’ve picked up some new learning about blogging, explain it to a fellow business partner or someone on the team. If you get stuck, or end up saying things like “Or something like that, I’m not really sure”, then maybe a little more learning is needed.
Try something outside your comfort zone.
I’m actually extremely impressed with how many of the accountants we work with are doing this. They’re setting up a new website even though they were pretty sure their old one was “fine”. They’re running a webinar even though they’ve never done it before. Signing up for Xero because it’s new and in the cloud and modern, not waiting to completely understand the ins and outs. Rebranding the whole business. Getting a videographer in. Trying something that makes you a little nervous is a bold move – and bold accountants stand out online.
Get a second opinion.
Experts aren’t infallible. In a way I hesitate to consider myself an expert, even though I’ve worked for and in the accounting industry for almost 20 years. But perhaps one of the things that helps my expert status is that I’m regularly bringing in other experts. I know a little about Infusionsoft, but our Infusionsoft experts know more. I can give you the basic lowdown on SEO, but we have an analytics team because they could give you Google algorithm chapter and verse if you wanted it. But no matter how good we all are, there’s no shame in just checking with someone else. Ideally your second expert, if they disagree, will do so pleasantly and helpfully, without “bashing the competition”.
Focus on being an expert yourself.
As an accountant, you have a remarkable amount of expertise – far more than you even realise. I’m genuinely astounded by how much my clients know about certain areas of tax, charities, property, certain industries, even their local area and clients. You are absolutely an expert, and if you don’t know it yet, get some help in having that drawn out of you – a niche area, a hot topic, a key issue. And once you have that, your marketing becomes remarkably easy because you can simply share your expertise with your world.