What do you do with “quick questions” (usually asked by prospects) that are easy to answer, but often take 20-30 minutes of every day, and you’re conscious that you aren’t being paid for answering them?
What happens if you’re generous with your time and knowledge, but no one appreciates it by becoming your client straight away?
It’s also applicable to those heading out into the wild frontier of social media. What happens when you build more of a presence online and people just want free advice without ever signing up?
This is a genuine issue for many accountants and indeed an excellent question.
You know I’m a huge fan of being generous (generosity is one of the Profitable Firm pillars) and of giving stuff away, but I’m also conscious that your profit can be slowly eaten away if you aren’t wise to these ‘quick questions’ and your response to them.
Here are 6 ways to deal with those quick questions:
1). Build an FAQ’s page.
Every time you get a question you swear you’ve answered three times already this week, turn it into an FAQ.
Ensure that each FAQ can be linked to separately, so you can send the link directly to the person enquiring as needed.
Bonus benefit: This gives you more fresh content for your website and something to share on social media. It also points every new prospect back to your website.
Don’t forget: Ensure that the FAQ’s page has a clear call to action – sign up to a newsletter, attend an upcoming event, arrange a call.
2). If the questions have a theme, write an ebook or whitepaper.
If it seems that every quick question is surrounding some element of taxes for startups, prepare a startup guide that you can send them a link to.
Bonus benefit: This is a great call to action for your website. If you have a page for startups, for example, encourage them to download this guide first.
Don’t forget: Some ebooks, like Startup Guides, are a dime a dozen. Everyone has them, and many accountancy firms have just bought them in and stuck their logo on. Choose some way you can stand out – whether it’s a niche, or a different angle, or just really good graphic design.
3). Create a standard response.
You could prepare a draft email which sits ready to be used that starts with, “Hi [name], thanks so much for your question! Here’s a very quick reply [one or two sentences here]. If you’d like to arrange a call, just let me know.”
Bonus benefit: If it helps you save time, you can share the process with your team and save time across the whole firm.
Don’t forget: If you’ve got the FAQ’s, or ebook, or some other call to action, include a link to it in your standard response.
4). Consider charging for your time.
If you literally are so busy that you can’t manage the time to write out answers to quick questions, you can always let the questioner decide whether it’s worth it to pay for the reply. If it truly is the most simple question you’ve ever seen, they can find an answer extremely quickly via their friend Google, and you can carry on being profitable. Again a standard reply can help: “Here’s a link to our FAQ’s – if you’d like a call with me, that time is charged at £x per hour. Let me know if you want to arrange that.”
Bonus benefit: This helps you value your own time, and it also weeds out the tyre kickers, the too-small clients.
Don’t forget: Make sure that however you approach this, your response is always a fit with your firm culture, personality, and purpose. Charging for your time may be the best decision you ever made – or it may not fit with your “we’ll help anyone, anytime” tagline.
5). Use humour.
Sometimes the quick questions make you roll your eyes a bit. “Is it that hard to find the tax deadline?” you think. “Surely you could do a search for that cloud accounting login?”
One option is to address this straight up – but with humour. Sites like this are a brilliant approach to giving the answer, but with a slight sarcastic bent.
Bonus benefit: It helps you loosen up a bit, and not get stressed or angry about these little questions. Remember, they’re coming to you because they know you can help. That’s valuable.
Don’t forget: Sometimes humour doesn’t come across well in emails (no body language, no tone of voice). Be careful with your phrasing, and punctuation. “Here, go look it up yourself” could sound annoyed. “Hey, great question! I’ve got the perfect link for you! J” is a little more friendly.
6). Build an online programme or mentoring group.
One of the best ways to approach constant, never ending questions (particularly if they have a theme or pattern) is to build an online programme or group which will help address these questions to a larger audience. Same amount of time, bigger reach.
This is exactly why we set up the Content Marketer and the Social Marketer programmes, ourselves. I was getting so many questions over and over that I realised there were accountants the world over having the same issues – and I wanted to help. There was no way that I personally could answer each question individually – and nor could my team. But via these group programmes, we can help more accountants worldwide. And that’s exciting.
Bonus benefit: If it’s applicable, you can charge for the programme and have some recurring income.
Don’t forget: If you do decide to charge for the programme, ensure that you are absolutely confident of value, that it’s well put together (in terms of organisation, structure, graphic design, marketing, etc), and that you have a large enough database of people who will truly value this.
I’m conscious that I could do an entire marketing tip on building an online programme – but if that’s something you’re considering, particularly if you have a particular niche or specialism, do speak to us about it.
The best part of all of these is that they will save you time but will also ensure that you build a good rapport with those prospective clients – and eventually, they will absolutely come to find you when they need help with the bigger questions.
If you have burning content marketing or social media questions, do have a look at the Content Marketer and the Social Marketer programmes. They are built entirely on the questions we get asked by accountants every day!
And have a great Friday!