You may not think of yourself as a marketer – you’re a professional accountant, after all. But every time you send an email to your client, meet a new prospect at a networking event, or log into LinkedIn, you’re actually marketing your accountancy firm.
If you’re serious about growing and scaling your firm, then you’re going to have to evolve your marketing activity and get yourself into ‘the marketing mindset’. But how you can cultivate the habits of a marketing professional and equip yourself to make positive marketing decisions?
The answer is to be both innovative and genuine in your marketing – and to truly get involved, at a personal level, in making your marketing stand out from the crowd.
Changing your marketing mindset
The basic reason for marketing your practice hasn’t changed – you want to raise your profile, attract new leads and retain your existing clients. But the outlook, approach and techniques that you now use when marketing your firm have changed a lot.
There’s a real marketing mindset that, if you grasp it, leads to a better quality of leads, and higher profitability in the long run. This new mindset stems from the fact that competition is higher than it has ever been amongst accountants, and yet opportunity is even higher still.
The reason for this? Your clients are now made up of highly educated buyers:
- They’re better informed about their finances because they have access to a wide choice of cloud-based accounting products and FinTech tools.
- They do most of their research before they ever connect with an accountant, searching online to find the firms that fit their increased expectations of a modern accountant.
- They come with highly-educated opinions about things like cloud apps, scalable technology solutions and strategic business thinking.
In short, business owners – particularly the kind most modern accountants are looking for – have high expectations of your firm before they even get in touch. So there’s an imperative to up your game and meet those needs (if you haven’t already).
Engaging with your own firm’s marketing
Our experience of working with accountants is this: the ones who’ve seen a massive level of success are those where the business owner, the lead partner(s) in the firm, are those who have taken a personal involvement, interest and curiosity in their marketing.
These marketing-engaged partners want to learn new systems, implement innovative ideas and push themselves and the practice outside the comfort zone. Once profits come in, the firm can begin to outsource much of this marketing activity, but in the early stages there’s real value in you – the practice owner or senior partner(s) – being fully involved in your marketing strategy.
It’s not about spending more money on marketing: it’s about being personally interested in marketing, and having that ‘marketing curiosity’ to drive you forward. The more curious, hungry and passionate you are about your business, the more you’ll engage with the kind of prospects and leads who fit the mould of your ideal client.
So if you’re just doing the client work, coasting along and waiting for the leads to appear then you’re likely to find yourself getting more and more disappointed with any marketing efforts.
Balancing client work with marketing time
The challenge of this approach is balancing your fee-earning client work with the time and energy needed to get directly involved with the firm’s marketing.
If you’re already working extremely hard, the thought of taking on this marketing responsibility can sound exhausting. You may also be tired of marketers telling you about the newest thing and why you should be changing your marketing methodology.
The encouraging thing is that none of this is actually new. You might be using social media and mobile apps as channels for your marketing, but the underlying principle is the same – you’re building relationships, getting to know your clients and helping them solve their business pains. None of that is new; in fact, it’s based on some very tried and tested principles.
If marketing is about getting your firm’s message in front of the right people, you can’t do that anymore by merely paying someone and then leaving them to get on with it.
To get your message across in a way that’s personalised, genuine and unique to your firm, you need to be involved in the marketing creation process. Involvement, care and enthusiasm are the traits that win the day for the highly successful firms.
The key ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’
To pick up on that last point, the key to effective marketing of your firm is to make your content, collateral and messaging personalised and unique.
And that inherent uniqueness makes it very difficult to say what may be right or wrong for your firm as a marketing idea. But the beautiful thing about content marketing, and the concept of the ‘visible expert’, is that there is no magic formula.
We can’t tell you what will absolutely work (or vice versa), other than giving you some fundamental marketing principles; for example, that content marketing + social media marketing = the best quality leads. But even then, you can write blogs every day and push them out on social media and still get nothing, when another accountant may publish one post on LinkedIn and gets a client out of it. (True story.)
So, the key dos and don’ts are more principle-focused, aimed at giving you a sound grasp of the foundational elements of good marketing in 2016.
Here are the ‘Dos’ when it comes to the marketing mindset:
- Do be human – before anything else, you’re a person.
- Do be transparent and honest, and open yourself up to be known by your prospects.
- Do care about people – and let them know that you care.
- Do be generous with your expertise and time even when you’re not sure where it will lead. At the same time, do value your own expertise and time in terms of charging for it.
- Do involve your team – in marketing, in strategy and in the big picture of the company.
- Do be humble. You may have 10, 20 or even 50 years in business, but a 19-year old junior can sometimes have insights you’ve simply not considered.
- Do think about your accountancy firm as a business, first and foremost – and the more you have the hunger to drive forward, the better.
- Do get excited and try things. ‘Not perfect but done’ is one of Karen’s favourite phrases!
There are also some ‘Don’ts’ to be aware of, as well:
- Don’t ONLY spend money. If you throw money at things and aren’t personally involved, it can backfire because you’re waiting for the magic formula to kick in – and your expectations are too focused on someone else, rather than yourself.
- Don’t wait too long. We talk daily to accountants who wish they’d started this marketing mindset – properly – a lot earlier in their journey. It takes a long time to catch up if you’ve avoided it for a while
Be curious and get involved
If there’s one thing to take away with you, it’s the concept that there’s no point just dipping a tentative toe into the marketing ocean. If you’re truly going to feel an impact from your marketing, you’ve got to dive in headfirst before you see what currents there are, and where they can take you.
Get involved, come up with your own marketing ideas and truly put something of yourself into your content and collateral. By doing that, you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of you finding the leads, prospects and clients you’re searching for. And when they find you, they’ll be far more likely to think you’re the accountant who fits the bill.
Be curious, throw yourself into the marketing mindset and take your first step towards a better, more human kind of accountancy firm.
It’s what Paul did at My Accountancy Place, and you can watch the whole recording here.