As a senior content writer who writes exclusively for accountants, I spend hours with our clients mapping out engaging content. It’s in these conversations they regularly share they’re often concerned about what people think of their career. More specifically, the fact they’re an accountant must mean they’re dull, boring individuals.
A quick Google brings up a plethora of firms who want to make it clear they’re not monotonous, conversation-dry, human calculators. They’ll go to great lengths to clarify to any prospect they’re everything but the “typical, stuffy accountant”. Ultimately, the word stuffy boils down to being seen as boring.
At PF, we know the stereotype exists for a reason but it sure as heck doesn’t apply to the accountants we work with. However, we have learned when a client mentions they’re “not stuffy,” it’s often because deep down they believe they actually are.
As marketing experts, this presents us with an interesting conundrum. We’re regularly given a list of “we are nots” by accountants and it’s our job to reflect that list back to them through visual design and creative content.
The trouble is, when you have a perception of yourself even you’re not aware of, it can really muddy the waters. You have thoughts of what an accountant should be, often resulting in believing you can’t fully show yourself through your brand. Sure, you want to prove you’re not stuffy, but you might still have the hang-up you’re “just” an accountant.
It’s that reductive thinking that will prevent you from fully embracing a brand you’ll love (and, by extension, prospects and clients will love too). It’s crucial to align who you are with how you show up in your marketing and brand because when you communicate authenticity, it appeals to the people you want to attract. When you attract those people, it invariably leads to more business.
The accounting industry has been cracked open by innovation.
Whether you’re a traditional accountant or carving out your own path, we all work completely differently these days. It’s 99% less paperwork, all digital and 24/7 communication (depending on your preference). Nowadays, an accounting life is fast paced, varied and sometimes highly pressurised. The technological wave has altered a largely rhythmic, pattern-based accounting industry into one that can change from day-to-day.
The way you do your work is intuitive, cloud-based and instant (with a steady stream of finance tools and apps always around the corner). There’s a wealth of daily information available to clients meaning they’re involved in their finances in a way they never were before. They’re asking questions, raising concerns, and hiring in strategic advice. The very clients themselves are varied, hyper-involved and often have multiple revenue streams.
Today’s accountants are straddling a really interesting moment in time for the industry. You don’t need to keep receipts, you don’t have neat stacks of paper on a desk. The “stuffy” accountant just doesn’t make sense in this new context because you don’t need to work that way anymore.
Given you’re experiencing a tech revolution first-hand, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out you’re functioning well in this new world while unknowingly holding onto ties from the last.
There’s nothing wrong with labels if they correctly describe who you are and what you do.
There’s absolutely no problem if you’re thinking: ”I like old-school, that’s who I am!”. Stuffy is not synonymous with “traditional”.
There’s a strong market for traditional accounting, and if you’re a traditional accountant with a business that aligns with who you are and what you want to achieve, you’re good to go. It means your brand is authentic and your ideal client will be drawn to you because you are who you say you are. There won’t be a conflict and ultimately you’ll appeal to your prospects.
However, it is an issue if you say you do things differently but knowingly or unknowingly emulate traditional accounting methods and behaviours.
It’s also an issue if you say you’re traditional but knowingly or unknowingly defer from traditional accounting methods and behaviours.
Both are just as problematic as each other and here’s why.
A disorientated brand shakes the trust between you and your prospects.
Going out of your way to avoid associations with the word “stuffy” can result in you making brand decisions you’re not fully behind and that quickly becomes a problem when a prospect interacts with your business. It goes both ways, whether you’re conservative or alternative.
For example, if you’re actually quite conservative but you don’t want to be labelled as “boring” you might choose colours, images and social platforms that don’t fit your brand.
This type of disoriented brand might look like:
- Having a TikTok account but lacking the enthusiasm or knowledge to know what to post
- Electing for bright brand colours that clash with the voice you use in your content and communications
- Adopting an edgy tone of voice you wouldn’t necessarily use yourself
Equally, if you’re not a traditionalist but you think you need to “look and sound like an accountant” to be taken seriously, you might still choose colours, images and social platforms that don’t fit your brand.
This type of disoriented brand could look like:
- Sending formally worded emails that don’t feel or sound natural to you
- Choosing typically “financial” colours (like blue or green) for your brand without thinking what you really want
- Even wearing a suit to every meeting
Now, it doesn’t just boil down to two types of misdirection when it comes to branding, but the impact of the types of decisions you make and how you make them are the same across the board.
When your brand decisions are subliminal reactions, rather than proactive choices, it causes one major, long-term issue. It attracts prospects you don’t connect with and sends away the ones you would.
Let’s defer to your “consumer mind” for a second. When you visit a website that doesn’t look, sound or feel like you: what do you do?
You click away. You don’t feel a connection. You forget about them.
That’s what happens with a disorientated brand. It alters the synergy between themselves and the customer. When they get it wrong, it’s powerful. It can be an instant deal breaker or worse: send them to someone they will connect with.
When you get that synergy right, and your brand shows up for a prospect or client in the way they were expecting (and need) it will completely transform your business.
Here’s some indicators your own preconceptions are tripping up your brand.
These small things will tell you if how you market your brand and how you show up are aligned.
Do you write more formally than you speak? Not to be confused with being respectful, if you write differently to how you interact with clients on the phone, it’s worth checking if you’re putting on an accounting jacket that doesn’t really fit.
Your tone of voice
In all of your content, from your website, through to your social posts, through to your emails. Does the voice of your content authentically align with how you communicate – across the board?
Instant aversions to design and tone of voice
This is a good temperature check. If you’ve outsourced design or content in the past, and the results have made you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. Of course, your personal taste might come into this, but if you found yourself saying “that’s too much” or “I can’t speak like that” – ask yourself why.
Preconceived notions of how to look or act
Do you ever find yourself saying: “I can’t do that” but you want to? Think tattoos, swearing, sharing social posts, sharing opinions on social media, different working hours, sharing personal information or wearing certain clothes. Of course this is dependent on what you feel comfortable with, but if you have a preconceived notion that an accountant needs to be a certain way, it’s definitely worth lassoing that thought and investigating why.
Being yourself isn’t unprofessional.
Jonathan, the founder of Raedan and a PF client, realised if he wanted his business to thrive, he’d have to “unlearn” accounting behaviours he’d unquestionably adopted in training.
At some point early in his career, he’d learned to write to a client like he was writing a letter to the editor of the Times. No matter what his colleagues were like to their clients in person, they just would not communicate the same way in their written communication.
Fast forward to when he had his own accounting business, he realised if he wanted to appeal to his type of client, artists and all-out creatives, he wasn’t going to gain their business if he spoke this way.
Then a lightbulb moment. He had a choice. He could drop the act (and it worked).
It turns out using contractions is normal. Speaking like the queen? Less so.
Stop telling the world what you’re not. Start telling people what you are.
Now, let’s talk about the popular line: “not your typical accountant”. As a senior content writer, I try to avoid using it at all costs for a few reasons.
- It’s used a million times over. Rather ironically, it’s turning into a bit of a cliche! There are way more interesting parts to who you are and what you do. Tell your audience about those bits.
- Never punch down. Just because you might not be traditional, doesn’t mean you need to throw shade on someone in the same industry.
- It perpetuates the stereotype for the industry, it doesn’t dispel it. Know the phrase, “thou doth protest too much”? Yep, that!
Telling the world what you’re not instead of what you are, is way less impactful. Sure, you could be “not stuffy” or you could be, “quick-thinking techy humans who are great with numbers”. However you market your brand, it tells a prospect who you are and what you care about.
If you’re spending valuable content space telling them everything you’re not, you’re dramatically reducing the opportunity to tell them all the positive things you are. It’s a “show, don’t tell” situation. If you’re not stuffy, show how unstuffy you are through all of your choices.
You define what an accountant is. It’s not the other way around.
In holding back on your humanness and the defining, unique qualities that make you attractive to your ideal audience, you’re tying one hand behind your back and robbing yourself of the opportunity for connection with a prospect.
If you’re an accountant, and you’re also really into heavy metal, you’re still an accountant. That doesn’t change and that’s a good thing. Mentioning it on your social media or in conversation with a client humanises you. Crucially it’s not getting overly familiar or “cutesy” with a client, it’s just showing them you’re a person too.
Humanising isn’t about getting a prospect or client to like you by revealing private information. It’s about building a line of trust, honesty and connection between you and your clients. The sooner you do that, the longer they’ll stay, the more people they’ll tell about you and the work they trust you with will keep coming. Also, it’s important to say, you’re in control of what you let them know. But, let them know something about you because they’ll almost certainly return the favour.
When your brand represents who you really are, and what you really think, it reinforces the relationship between you and your client. It won’t threaten it. Good marketing divides, and playing it safe won’t win you any favours. It just turns away the clients you’d like to see more of.
We’re all different. And your clients love you for it.
Have the courage to run the firm you want, your way.
Our clients are great examples of what an accountant looks like nowadays. They’re a generation of professionals driven by purpose, intent on using their business to bring about change (for themselves, their family or their community). They’re app-using, connected accountants operating in every single corner of every single industry, a lot of them remotely. They’re all very different from one another but ultimately want the same thing: to proudly own a business as authentic as they are and help their clients do the same thing.
They’re sharp, strategic experts who prefer to make proper human connections with their type of people, whatever that looks like to them. They’re into getting the right imagery and colours and utilising powerful wording. They’ve learned they can choose who they work with, and often have refined, niche channels of clients who depend on them wholeheartedly. They really care about how they market themselves.
A discord between brand and owner puts a wedge between you, your clients and prospects. If you act one way but appear another through your brand, you will attract the wrong clients. You send away the ones who would actually love to work with you. Most importantly you’ll be dissuading ideal clients who would otherwise cultivate a powerful, positive energy within you to keep doing what you’re doing.
The pressure of being someone you’re not melts away when you embrace the type of accountant you really are.
Internally battling a stereotype is an unwinnable fight because you’re really just fighting yourself. Better to grab the bull by the horns and learn what type of accountant you really are and show that through your business.
Totally traditional? Great, communicate and reflect that in your brand and whew, things feel a lot easier. Prefer to do things differently? Fabulous – we love to see it!
Whoever you are, just make sure you tell the whole damn world.
Matching our clients with a brand that truly reflects them is what we do.
Reflecting clients fully within their brand is our jam. We do it through meaningful, structured processes that really dig into what you care about. Some of our clients call it marketing therapy.