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How to test your new great idea for your accounting firm

You started your own accounting firm because you have the entrepreneurial spirit. You’re agile. You continually think creatively about ways to grow, expand and bring more revenue into the business.

When you get to the point of an entirely new service line, a new brand, a new niche, or something BIG, you get excited. Whether it’s a baby thought or it’s one of those light bulb moments, you’re so excited you jumped (or are right this moment about to jump) into action.

The moment you do that, you realise there’s WAY more involved than you originally thought.

Some accountants have come to us looking for a sounding board when struck by a new big idea. Some have already spent A LOT of time thinking and getting excited before they even talk to us. Some have started making plans. Come up with a new name. Purchased a new domain. Are thinking about the new brand they need to create. Had thought about how the website would work. Come up with ideas for social media to attract the right new audience or niche. We love the enthusiasm of a new idea and we are excited with you! And like you as an accountant when your clients come to you with their latest idea, we may ask you to step back for a moment.

Before you get too excited and deeply invested (with time and money) in an idea, take a step back and do some due diligence.

Marketing is about experimentation and trying new things, so new ideas are exciting. The modern world is moving fast and as accountants you have to move fast and adapt with it, and it’s right to do that. Our favourite accountants to work with are the ones who say “what if we…?” and “I was thinking we could…” and we talk about how it fits with their firm.

Having a lightbulb moment is exciting. For those of us with entrepreneurial spirit the lightbulb moments are life. When they come, you might be tempted to go all in. And maybe you have in the past and it hasn’t worked out. And that’s ok.

In business you have to take risks. Make them calculated risks.

When you’re excited about something new you can get caught up in the presentation or the delivery. It’s easy to get sucked in to getting all the pieces set up and looking beautiful. And THEN start trying to find the clients.

But before you do this, the number one thing to begin with is some testing.

Test and make sure it works and is useful to your audience before making everything polished and perfect.

Without testing, you could find yourself making important decisions about the future of your business based on a hunch. OR what you want to believe is true because it’s easy or convenient for you rather than the people you serve and want to buy into what you have to offer. For example, if your brilliant new idea is to create another website for an exclusive niche (of which you have the grand sum of one client, or even no clients yet), the website isn’t the place to start. Websites take time to build and time to get out to the world and time to be found…and you could use that time better to actually talk to humans in that exclusive niche you’re considering. In a sense, you’re going “old school”. Find a few people you know (or get referrals), talk to the humans who run those businesses, and see if it leads to conversations about services for them. After you’ve worked with three or four of them you can evaluate how it’s going, whether you like working with them, whether you’re able to help, whether it’s profitable or could be profitable. All of this before you invest in a new name, a new website, a new marketing campaign.

When making any big decisions for your accounting firm it’s important to do a little alignment check.

It’s possible this new idea has been sparked by something you’ve seen another accountant do. This is common. We encourage creative thinking and stealing like an artist if you’ve been inspired or an idea has sparked from something else you’ve seen. But what works for other accountants may not work for you. Stay true to your brand and who you are as a firm. Make that work for your audience and the way your firm operates. Where appropriate, drop the idea into conversations with your clients and test the water.

After some consideration you could decide you need to stay in your lane and focus on areas of your existing business. If conversations and small testing start to show you the idea really does have merit, there are a few important things to think about.

Before you dive in, think about your audience

Everything you do in your business and marketing needs to have your audience at the forefront. Your business is to serve your audience and provide solutions to issues or problems.

You THINK you’ve come up with the greatest idea. One that will transform the lives of your existing or potential clients. But do you KNOW that they actually do need or want what you have to offer?

Without people willing to pay for what you’re offering, something that you may have thought would be a great easy revenue generator, could end up being rather costly.

The simplest way to find out if there is a need is to ask your clients. Float the idea with a few clients you like and would want more of. Have some questions in mind and when it feels appropriate ask for their thoughts. Most of all, do a lot more listening than talking. Really listen to what they are saying. Ask for more. Question everything. If their feedback isn’t what you were hoping for, dig in deeper and ask more questions. Be open and curious. You’re not going in to tell them about your greatest idea and have them agree with everything you say: you’re asking for their opinion. Listen to their answers, take notes and compare all the answers you get from a variety of clients. This doesn’t mean you have to do what one or two clients say: but if you ask five clients who are your absolute favourite and they are all hesitant, you’ll need to dig deeper.

Having these insights will make it far easier to make decisions about how or IF to move forward.

Consider how this new idea will impact the existing business

What’s the purpose? Do you need it? More importantly, does your audience need it? Why are you setting up another arm/serving another audience? How will it benefit them?

How will you manage the brand(s)? Will it mean a completely separate brand (and therefore website) from your existing business? Or will you run it under your existing business? Do you need a whole new brand and maintenance of a separate website?

Running two separate brands is costly in every way. It will cost you in energy, time and financially. It doesn’t stop at the visual aspects of the brand and website. You may also need to consider how that will impact how you present the new service, approach and feel for the two separate brands and/or the overall brand of the two audiences.

How much time will you need to invest? – Ask this question in relation to both initial set up and delivery. You will absolutely have to work extra hours or take time out of your existing business to make it happen: every new idea takes more time. How much time? Who else will be involved? What kind of time will you give to this?

We almost always underestimate our time so be attuned to the fact that your enthusiasm for the new idea might downplay how much time is actually needed to execute the plan. So many accountants tell us “I’d love to join Accelerator or get help with my marketing but I don’t have time”…and then they come up with an amazing new idea and rush off to spend days or weeks or months on it before it’s tested. That’s a classic entrepreneurial spirit and we salute your enthusiasm! Make sure to stop for even one day and really think about where your time is going and what that means for your firm as it is now.

Do you have all the necessary resources? An idea can be great in theory. But do you have what you need already in place to execute successfully?

  • Will you need dedicated team member(s) to deliver the new service or serve the new audience?
  • This could mean a whole lot of extra energy and time from you as the business owner, pulling you away from focusing on the primary revenue generation of your existing business. What do you need to put in place operationally?

When clients and prospects come to us with an idea they’re serious about we get excited with them: and then we suggest either a foundations workshop (if it’s a serious/major idea impacting the current business model), or a strategy session (if they’re already a client and this is an idea to add to the list). This allows you to look at the goals you have for your firm, and assess what needs to happen with your existing brand and website (and whether you need a new one). Once you’ve reminded yourself of those, the plan for your brilliant new idea can be built which will not hold back your existing firm and the progress you’ve made: it will only enhance it. Read more about what’s involved in a foundations workshop (how long it takes, what work you do, how much it costs) here.

Start small, start safe

Protect yourself by starting with the small things that don’t mean a full overhaul of your existing business or huge amounts of time or financial investment.

Start to make a plan with some small, achievable steps. It could be as simple as mentioning the idea to 5-10 different clients in one month and documenting their thoughts.

Take the time to figure out how it works first. Test and experiment as much as possible. Question everything. Gradually grow and pivot the plan so that you can provide enormous value to clients.

Here are a few small ways you can safely test your idea before having to make any significant time or financial commitments:

Strike up conversations with clients you trust and want more of.

  • Listen to what they are really asking for or telling you they need.
  • The deeper conversations without any agenda can be really insightful. Look out for these opportunities and take notes in these conversations.
  • If you have a note of exactly what your clients have said, this is extremely powerful when it comes to marketing the new idea (if it comes to pass).

Start working with one or two to test the delivery of the service and its value.

  • Testing delivery allows you to check how it works in practicality with a small number of clients. See if it works the way you’d imagined and see what else you need to get in place.
  • You’ll get feedback and social proof for future marketing, so others understand what it is you’re really offering
  • If you start working with one or two clients in this capacity and discover really it’s not that useful to the client. Or you could decide you actually don’t want to do it, or the brilliant idea wasn’t quite how you pictured it, or it’s not actually the revenue or profit generator you thought it was. That’s okay! This is why you’re doing testing. You’ll either adjust and make it better, or go another direction without wasted time.

Build a landing page on your existing site

  • You don’t need a whole new or separate site to start testing
  • If you’re currently working with a range of industries and are feeling more comfortable with the idea of niching you might need a page that gathers information and speaks specifically relevant to that niche. Or if you’ve been having conversations with clients about 1:1 coaching, it’s good to have a place to send them to sign up or join a wait list until you’re ready.
  • A landing page with information doesn’t have to be visible of the menu. As long as you have the URL you can send the link directly to the people who would find the information useful

Start conversations on social media

  • Create polls, record videos and see what engagement you get. Pay attention to the comments and what people are actually saying rather than make decisions based on a hunch.

Create a PDF download as a lead capture

  • This can be added as an additional asset on your site.
  • Although this might seem easy or that you can just “throw it together” it can take a bit of work to set up. Creating content, design and setting up on the site on your website.
  • It can be effective to track how many people have shown interest by downloading without being prompted. (make sure you ask for consent to be able to email and market to them later.

Make the risk a calculated one

Marketing is about experimentation. The testing process allows you to safely consider ALL possible directions for your idea. Yes it will slow things down. But is that really a bad thing? Testing an idea is the only way to minimise the risk and find out if it’s even a risk worth taking.

Testing also prevents you from getting too fixated on one untested idea. You don’t want to miss out on opportunities because you’ve pigeon-holed yourself by getting too invested. It’s possible your idea could completely transform the business in a way that you could never have imagined. It’s equally possible it could distract you and prevent growth in another area. You need to be open and listen to what your audience is saying directly or indirectly. You want everything you do to be focused on solving their core problems.

We love creative thinking about what the future looks like for your business. It’s big. It’s exciting. But before you get swept away in the excitement, start with small, safe actions to test ideas and be prepared to adapt the plan and maybe even your initial idea.

You’ve already put a lot of hard work into your business. Protect yourself against unfeasible time or financial investment

Don’t get caught up on all the shiny things like how it looks or fancy tech to implement the idea. Keep it simple and focus on testing. Get everything set up and working in the most simplest form first. You can get fancy later and spend time deciding what tech is best to help you elevate the experience for your clients.

Approaching a big change in your business is daunting but you’re not alone! If you’re ready to get some outside perspective and need a sounding you can book some 1:1 time with a PF team member by filling in this form and we’ll be in touch!