There’s a big old elephant in the marketing room and it’s called pricing.
Pricing is such an important topic to address specifically in your marketing and yet, time and time again, it’s the one most commonly neglected by accountancy firms. The one which has the least content written or created about it.
I mean it makes sense. Pricing up accountancy services is complicated: it’s tailored to every client and it also can vary wildly from firm to firm. Pricing advice you’re getting sometimes talks about your services as if they’re shoes or computers, but accounting is primarily relational, not transactional. You need to take each PERSON on their merits (remember, you do business with people), and deliver a price which reflects what they actually need and want..
The pricing elephant wants to be seen: because your potential clients want to see it. Think about it from your buyer’s perspective: Buying any kind of thing can be scary, but buying accounting services can be scary in a different way. Your clients are investing money, often up front for services they don’t yet have clarity on in terms of the value. They’re full of fear. So before you can expect them to buy, you need to build trust.
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.
To make the experience better for your buyers, you need to first walk a mile in their shoes.
Remember, this is going to be a major purchase for them. Accounting services come at a monthly cost to their business and when you consider the average lifetime of a client is more than 10 years, the pressure to get the decision right starts to mount. They’re worried they’ll make the wrong choice, potentially wasting their money and damaging their business.
Have a think back to the last time you went to buy something with literally no idea what it was going to cost. (Maybe even when you explored getting help with marketing!) You probably had a figure in your head you HOPED it would be, likely plucked from thin air (see Karen’s blog on budgets here) and when the price quoted didn’t match your expectation you were disappointed. Or confused.
That’s how your clients feel every time you put a new quote in front of them without giving them what they need to prepare. Setting expectations and having the reality live up to them is massively important when creating a good customer experience. It doesn’t mean you need to be cheap either. To charge a fair amount for something, make sure your brand encourages them to hurry up, not hesitate.
Now you understand their thinking, create content to remove their fears.
Now you’re at one with your customer it’s time to put them at ease. There’s a reason we recommend They Ask You Answer to all new clients at PF. The book does an amazing job at helping you to visualise these fears as literal roadblocks stopping your prospects from buying. You need to remove them one at a time.
Start by taking a look at your website. Now, you probably can’t give them a price before they enquire but what can you give them? Try these:
- A pricing page. This is a page on the website dedicated to how and why you price the way you do. This page by Raedan is a great example of how pricing is not only about the numbers. It also addresses what the client can expect and how they like to work as a firm.
- Blogs and regular content. These posts should focus not only on the mechanics of pricing but also the value your clients receive. Here’s an example of a great blog post by Complete HQ. Not only do they tackle the question head-on but to make it easier for the reader to understand, they give examples of scenarios and cost them out for them.
- Social media posts. Social media is a great way to invite a discourse around pricing and helps to demystify it. JGBC for example regularly post encouraging social users to ask for a quote.
- Badges and pricing tools e.g GoProposal. Services like GoPropsal pride themselves on clarity around pricing. They even give you badges to prove it! Pop one of these on your site to help show you’re trustworthy. This pricing page by Avalon for example includes all of their Xero accreditations to help build trust.
- Video. Video is quick, personal and by far the most effective way to put people at ease. It’s also a powerful tool when talking about pricing. Check out this services page from Red Earth, complete with a video explaining exactly what their philosophy is and making a great comparison to mobile phone charges!
The key is not to only focus on the money itself but to educate potential clients on the value of your specific methodology and why they need that in their life. When they understand the value AND they can see the logic behind your prices, they’re well on the way to building trust with you.
Don’t try to marry them on the first date.
We all get a little keen sometimes but when it comes to pricing you need to play the long game.
You can’t just expect someone to find your site cold, have a little scroll and then BAM! hand over all their money. You need to build that relationship first. Create a little romance.
At PF we call this creating a progression model. You offer a pathway to your ultimate goal by creating smaller paid things your prospects can try first to get a feel for working with you. In accountancy terms this could look like:
- Charging a small fee for a Xero review using Xavier.
- A slightly larger fee to action any recommendations highlighted in the report.
- They realise how awesome you are and decide to take you on to ensure the accounts don’t get into such a mess again and they have access to real time reports and info.
Make each step relevant to the next, and have them gradually increase in value and therefore commitment. Let your buyer choose the timing.
It makes the whole process a lot less scary for the client and has lots of benefits for you too, as you’re then able to get a feel for their fit with the firm before you invite the parents round for dinner.
It won’t work on everyone, and that’s ok.
Being up-front about your pricing will cause some people to leave, and that’s ok. After all you as a firm don’t just work with anyone, you work with your best kind of clients. Having clients who are well suited to you will make you more efficient, more profitable and happier!
If you’re getting too many enquiries from sole traders wanting a cheap tax return and that’s not what you want, it could be as simple as adding a line to your site saying “Fees starting from X per month”. After all, the purpose of your website is to pre-qualify clients for you, so you don’t have to spend precious time having calls with prospects who ultimately aren’t going to be a fit.
Remember: a prospect leaving the buying process doesn’t necessarily mean they will never come back. Yes, on discovering your prices (or price range) prospects might be uncomfortable at first, but when your content does its job and showcases how right you are for them, there’s a good chance they’ll come back once they’ve explored what else is out there. Or even better save up until they can afford you.
You will have the fear that sharing anything about your pricing could send away “a really good prospect”. What if they were just the perfect company but they saw your ranges of prices or your pricing approach or a demo proposal and they left? What if you could have won them over by having a meeting?
Listen to this because it’s very important: if you are open and transparent about your pricing, and shared as much as you can share, and they were turned away by it: you can be very glad. They would not have been a good client. They would have questioned or queried or quibbled or asked for discounts or had an entirely different perspective on pricing: so your pricing content has done its job and sent away the wrong kind of person. They were NOT a good prospect.
Create some content and products which keep them connected to you until they’re ready to commit.
By this point you’ve worked on your website and you’re no longer afraid to talk about pricing. You’re putting out blogs, posting on social and creating videos and this has led to some interest, both from people who are ready to buy now and people who may buy later.
Ultimately you want to keep the people who ‘may buy later’ around so they don’t drop off, or just get busy and forget you exist. To do this you’ll need services and products you can offer, that are of great value to the prospect and also make sense for your firm financially.
It can be free or a small fee: the aim is to be accessible and relevant to the kind of person you want to work with. It fits with the narrative you’ve created. Let’s say for example you’ve decided to offer the Xavier review free to anyone that’s happy to connect their Xero account. You’ve also articulated that having a healthy Xero account means access to better reports that allow them to make better decisions.
A way of keeping them connected might be to offer a monthly review of their profit and loss report, with a little video explaining what it means and what they should look out for. Like management accounts lite. It takes you 15 minutes a month to take a look and put together that video, but the client gets a bitesize snapshot of their numbers and some timely advice from a professional for a small fee. Now they’re impressed and still in your arena ready to buy more later.
Remember: you are valuable. Never apologise for your prices. You’ve set them at these levels for a reason (or, we trust you have reasons!) and the right clients given the right level of education will understand them.
Talking about money can be hard but it’s worth it.
Lastly, well done. This is an uncomfortable subject and talking about money can be hard. Ultimately it requires confidence to state your prices and be proud of them. Developing that confidence in yourself is the hardest part and it’s easy to take the path of least resistance by not talking about the uncomfortable things.
Having worked with many amazing accountants, I’m here to tell you from experience: you are worth it. You and others like you are changing lives daily, making business easier and sometimes even saving livelihoods in the process. You deserve the best clients, and to get them you need to give the pricing elephant in the room some love.