Keep it simple

This is a root concept of all the best marketing, and the more marketing we do for our clients and ourselves, the more we realise how critical it is.

Part of the reason for this is that you are working with such a visual audience:

Visual wins over words.

They don’t read, they skim. (I bet you’re skimming now.)

No one has any time.

They want to grasp the concept instantly – not have to stop and think about it

Decisions are made quickly.

Calls to action must be clear and concise, or you lose your audience.

Other businesses are visual.

Your competitors (not just other accountants, but other businesses) are increasingly using killer design and marketing – so if yours is bad, it stands out. Badly.


A good example is developing logos or graphics.  We work with a literal army of designers – some of whom are employed by us, and some are freelancers and outsourcers – so that we can access good design for our clients. And the more we develop imagery, the more we discover that the “clever” ideas lose every time.

You know the type I mean.  It’s the logo (or name) that has been thought about for hours, or days, and there is an extremely calculated reason why the raccoon’s head is actually a triangle, which represents change, which is signified by the symbol delta, which is the first word of the title of a new white paper that the company has written.

See what I mean? I lost you at “triangle” (or possibly raccoon).

Simplicity is the key

No matter how clever it all is, simplicity is the key.

Think of business names like Apple. Starbucks. H&M. Jaguar. Or something like “The London Underground”, which is simple and self-explanatory….but we all just call it the Tube.

Some are just descriptions.  ReceiptBank – an online storage place for all your receipts. WordPress. All your words compressed into one place.  BBC – the British Broadcasting Corporation.

We come back to my rallying cry: “Not perfect, but done.” (Naturally that does not mean that you go with the first word you think of – a little bit of thought and research never goes amiss! Read more here.)

The challenge with keeping things simple is that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. Or cheap.

Some of the simplest names we know probably pack a very powerful branding and marketing punch.

Apple (and the associated “i” products – iPad, iPhone, iMac, etc). The Apple website is one of the cleanest and most beautiful ones I know – but it’s also easy to use, and it flows well.  That does not just happen.  Many people sketched out customer journeys and sat in coffee shops and brainstormed with clients and team and friends.

How will you keep your marketing simple?

Here are a few things to consider as you keep your marketing simple:

Simple message.  

One of the things we do when developing a campaign brief or a website brief is to identify the “one key message”. Only after we know that do we move on to the secondary messages.  But knowing the one key message is critical to the success of the campaign.

Simple call to action.  

The agonising cry of your website visitors and email readers and clients and future clients is, “What do you want me to do?”  If you don’t answer that for yourself, there is no way you will be able to answer it for your clients.

Note – this does not mean that you push them to the same call to action every single time.  You still want them to be the ones who decide – will they download your ebook? Watch a video? Sign up for your blog posts? Attend your next upcoming event?  Let them make the call.

Simple name.  

Whether it’s a brand name or logo, a graphic image for your new campaign or event, the most important thing is that it is memorable.  Say it aloud. Ask a few people what they think, and ask them the next day if they remember what it was.  Try it out on a few people who are your target market.

SIDE RANT:  Please, please, please do not use your fellow accountancy firm partners, the wife or daughter or uncle of your fellow accountancy firm partners, your existing clients to approve the new logo or design or name. This annoys and frustrates me no end – the number of brilliant design ideas I have seen rejected by those who are not the target market is ridiculously high.

You are designing this to get a certain type of client: so ask them. If you don’t know how to find them, ask your strategic partners.  Want to reach creatives but don’t know any? Ask me. I know loads of them.  Want to reach those in the hair & beauty market? Send a quick email to a few of them.  If you don’t know any, put it up on Twitter.  People love to give their opinion, but you need the opinion of the right market.

My only warning in asking for feedback is that you will never, ever get everyone to agree. You might ask four clients, and two of them like option A and one likes option B and one came up with his own option C that he thinks you should use.  But ask them anyway, and listen to the feedback, and then let the Profitable Firm decide. Ha, ha! Only joking. Sort of.

Simple emails.

One of the reasons we tell you to set up a MailChimp account if you don’t have an email system already is that it is so remarkably simple. Their templates have modern, clean lines, and not much in them. Header, title, content, footer, done.

You know as well as I do that emails are subject to the “flick – glance – click” process. And if that click is the delete button, your hours and hours of effort on the perfect email are lost.  So keep it simple.  One key message, a few sentences, one clear call to action.

Simple solutions.

I am excited about the number of accountancy firms who are giving their solutions a name, a focus, even an image or brand.

The reason this is exciting is that the simpler your solution is in concept – whether it’s credit control, management accounts, raising finance, business planning, or management buyouts – the easier it is for your clients and future clients to understand what it is.

And if they understand what it is, quickly and easily, they are far more likely to buy it.

Similarly, if you and your team understand what it is and can explain it in a few seconds, you are far more likely to offer it – which means more of your clients will buy it.

Simple website.

Remember, when I say “simple”, I don’t mean “basic and thrown together in an hour”. If you desperately need a web presence that can be done – but that is just the beginning.  The simplest of websites have been developed with great thought (see my example of the Apple site, above).

However, if your existing accountancy firm site is old, outdated, ugly, crowded, or all of the above, there is nothing wrong with getting a very simple and clean site developed – just so that you have something to use as a starting point for all the amazing content you are going to add to it. (For help see our outsourced marketing packages.)

Just remember that at some point you are going to want to think about your simple messages, simple calls to action, and simple solutions so that your site displays who you truly are – not just a clean fresh look with the same old content.

So that is all from me this week – keep it simple!