stand out online

Everyone else is writing content and is visible online: how does my accountancy firm stand out?

stand out onlineAccountants have actually picked up on this content marketing thing. More and more accountancy firms are writing blog posts, recording video, setting up social groups, running events, updating websites, refreshing brands.

How in the world does your firm stand out? What’s the point of sharing anything at all if someone else has done it faster or better or with more marketing firepower behind it?

This week, my tip is borrowed from my friend Brian Fanzo, who was a speaker with me at CMA Live earlier this year.

Brian is the kind of guy who shares these amazing posts and videos, and usually it’s related to things I’m working through myself, at the same time. It’s great timing, great content, and I appreciate it.

The annoying thing is, I’ll record a video or write a post and then ten seconds later, Brian will post on the same topic…but it will be shorter and more to the point and what I wish I had said.

(What I love is that just makes Brian laugh. He knows, as you’ll see shortly, that everyone’s content is valuable. His and mine.)

He posted something recently which was so powerful I thought I’d just leave it here. It’s about standing out from all the noise.

Brian Fanzo

I’ve fleshed it out a little for accountants, but you could hang that picture in your office, or save it on your phone, and look at it every day to remind yourself of how to stand out.

How to stand out from the noise online:

  • Tell your story

People want to know the human behind the accountancy firm. How did you get to where you are now? Who started the firm? Why? Make it an actual story – not just a dry series of historical dates (“In 1968 Robert Johnson joined with Thomas Mellick to create Johnson Mellick and Co…”). Tell the kind of stories you would tell to a friend. Tell your own personal story.

  • Share why and how, not just what you do

It’s not about telling people what you do as an accountant. Your prospects have a general idea of what accountants do, which is why they’re looking for one. Give them the background (it’s connected to the ‘story’ concept). Why do you want to help your particular audience? How do you actually solve tax problems or team problems or cash problems?

And don’t worry about “giving too much away”. Even if you shared the entire blueprint from start to finish, by the time someone else caught up, you’d be ahead on something else.

  • Leverage video and audio

This enhances any content you’re creating and sharing. Telling a story about a client who thinks you’re amazing is one thing. Actually holding an interview with that client and letting the world hear them say, “My accountant is amazing” is another.

Be ready for video and audio. Until you have other equipment, use your phone. Get one of those little microphones so you can do a quick interview with a client right at the moment they’re so excited. Capture a quick live video at an event, or immediately after helping a client with a particular problem. Bring video and audio into your marketing.

  • Amplify and celebrate those that share your passion

It’s not about telling the world how great you are: it’s about connecting with the right kind of people – clients, prospects, strategic partners, employees. Make it a habit of praising others for the great things they do.

If another firm does something very cool in relation to Xero training, share it. (Don’t sit there worried that all your prospects will go work with them instead of you. If that’s your attitude, why haven’t you set up the Xero training yourself?) When an app that you use comes out with a new feature, tell everyone. If someone wins an award, honour them for it.

  • Show you care

This is what your potential clients are looking for. The accountant they want is someone who genuinely cares about them as a human being, who takes an interest in their business and issues and life. All the accountants I work with are like this with their clients: but ask yourself, is it coming across in your marketing? Does the level of care you have flow into your content, video, events, everything you do?

Many accountants are great at SAYING they care. “We care. We’re friendly. We’re here for you whatever is going on in your business.” But there’s no point in saying it if you’re not showing it. How can you show it?

  • Listen more than you post

This one can feel backwards – how are you supposed to get all this great new business if you’re not posting anything, just sitting around listening? But the key is to listen, and post…but listen MORE.

This means giving your full attention to your clients’ questions and issues. Writing down what they say. Asking for clarification. Confirming that this particular issue is significant, and asking more and more questions.

One of my favourites is the “5 whys”. When someone shares an issue, find out the core why behind it. Perhaps they say their sales are down. Why? Because one of the partners wasn’t around that month, so less selling was done. Why was that? Because only two partners do the selling, no one else on the team. Why? Because the partners aren’t sure that the rest of the team can sell. Why? Because they’re not trained in it. Why not? The partners felt their time was best used in doing the work.

Within five whys, you’ve gotten to the core reason: the leadership didn’t put a value on the team learning to sell.

  • Talk with not at your community

This one can feel the hardest – and certainly for me personally it does feel like a challenge. When creating content, how do you involve your community? How do you ‘talk with’ them and not at them?

Part of it has to do with being interested, listening more than you post, and showing you care, all of which we mentioned already. It also means doing more live sessions, writing in a way that asks questions and involvers people, and remembering that everything is a two-way conversation. You’re not commanding people what to do: you’re sharing what you do and why, and asking questions and answering them…rather like a real human conversation!

  • Be yourself

Whoever you actually are is who your clients want you to be – online as well as offline. If you’re fairly quiet and shy, you don’t have to try to be all aggressive and loud and wildly gesticulating in your videos. If you tend to speak authoritatively, do that in your blog posts. If you love rugby, or gin, or dogs, or video games, or Harry Potter (just saying, it’s an example), then talk about those things too.

You still want to continually push yourself to be better in everything you do: get communication or presentation training; hire a videographer who will work strategically with you; get content writing training.

Here’s a communication training which is, quite literally, world class.

When you follow these principles, then it doesn’t matter if others are sharing their content and their story.

Their story is not yours.

They’re not you.

So everything you have to share is worthwhile.