They ask, you answer

They Ask, You Answer: Read this book.

They ask, you answer

It’s rare that I find a business book I literally can’t put down, but “They Ask You Answer” by Marcus Sheridan is one of those.

I bought it at CMA Live last year (June 2017) and as Marcus himself was another one of the speakers at the event, I had him sign it for me.

Then it sat there, on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. It actually journeyed with me to the Isle of Mull, America, and a few other exotic locations, but it always felt like hard work picking up a ‘business book’ when I was trying to get a break.

Finally, last week on the train from Manchester to Edinburgh, I decided I would at least read the first few chapters…and I couldn’t put it down. I actually wished that the train ride would be longer so I could make sure to finish it before I got home.

I’ve recommended to all of our Marketing Masterclass members that they read it before the first session (or at a minimum read the first few chapters).

It does an amazing job of actually explaining what content marketing is:

They ask you answer quote

If you’re struggling with content marketing – either the concept, or the doing of it, or the results – it most likely stems from a misunderstanding of what content marketing is actually there to do.

Because this book encapsulates what I believe, have preached, and have done with content marketing for the past six years, ever since I set up The Profitable Firm, I recommend you read it.

Here are a few snippets to encourage you, and get you excited again about content marketing. I’ve applied what’s shared in the book specifically to accountants:

“The line between ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ has been completely blurred, if not totally erased.”

This has long been a misunderstanding amongst accountants, looking at “marketing” as an expense to get the leads, and “sales” as turning those leads into buyers.

Now, it’s time to look at them as one combined effort, from a vague connection with your firm all the way through to the first step of the onboarding process.  

“On average, 70 percent of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company.”

Understanding this will help focus your content marketing efforts. Instead of saying the same things that every other accountant is saying, forget about other accountants. Ignore them, for the most part. Leave them to do and say the same things.

What you want to do is help your prospective buyer to trust you and make their decision – so by the time they get in touch, there’s nothing left to ask except “Do I want option 1 or option 2?”, or “Can I have a proposal please?”

‘This book will, certainly at times, challenge the way you have done business in your space or industry. When this occurs, don’t push aside what is suggested and automatically dismiss its merits. Instead, ask yourself the simple question, “But is it possible?”’

Mindset is absolutely the key. If I could identify the one element that caused accountants to be successful in marketing, it’s having an open mind about what’s possible. Excited about new ideas. Looking at fun and innovative companies for marketing tips.

Thinking about your clients more than you think about your competition. Challenging how accountants have done marketing (or not done it) for years and years.

“Brainstorm every question you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer. If you struggle coming up with these questions, there’s a frank reason why: you’ve lost touch with your ideal customer or client.”

This brainstorm session is how we start every outsourced marketing retainer with an accountancy firm. There is no point in simply leaping in and “writing content” – anyone could do that (and do it badly or boringly).

You have to circle back round to your prospects and clients – and if you’re struggling with it, pour all of your efforts and energies into that. Nothing else will come close to success for you.

“In almost every industry, consumers make poor buying decisions and purchase the ‘cheapest’ products and services, not because they are solely price motivated, but rather because they don’t know any better. They haven’t been educated.”

The question of pricing is a big one for accountants. Do you put prices on your website? Packages? Avoid the question altogether? The key is to have the pricing conversation.

That might look a little different for a small bookkeeping company compared to a larger corporate-style accounting firm with hundreds of team members, but any accounting firm can at least address, up front, the fears and concerns and objections and worries that your prospects have about pricing. They don’t know what they don’t know, about accounting. Tell them.

“If we’re counting on the idea that a prospect or customer isn’t going to find out about that other option…, then we’re sorely mistaken.”

Your prospect absolutely is researching more than one accountancy firm before talking to you – and often they’ll research five or ten or more. They have a willingness to read pages and pages of content and watch hours of video before sending you a message or picking up the phone.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because this person was referred to you, they did no research. Everyone does research: what is your prospect finding out about you?

“One of the happiest moments in the life of any business is the moment that business realises what it is not, and who is not a good fit for it, and then lives by that awareness.”

This is your dream world: you know who you want, you know who you don’t want, and you are perfectly happy to say, “It looks like we’re not the best fit for you. Here’s another accountancy firm who would be better.”

I know several accounting firms who do this regularly – My Accountancy Place is one, and they almost weekly are posting in their Facebook group with specific, real leads that they don’t want. That they are offering to another accountancy firm who does want it, and can help that particular type of business. It’s a beautiful thing.

“Publishing content on your site simply is not enough.”

Content marketing is not a passive exercise in which you write the blog post and wait for the leads to flow in. We’ve advised for several years that the combination of content plus social is extremely powerful: and you can go further than this, too.

Combine content, plus social media, plus the influence of every member of your team. There is no combination in the world which can overcome that, because no one else has your specific team (as well as your unique content and presence on social).

“When people don’t take the time to become well educated, they are most likely making their decision based solely on price.”

This is what you don’t want from the prospects and leads coming to your accounting firm. You do not want them saying “But this other accountant says it can be done for a few hundred quid” or “Why do I need those quarterly meetings?” or “How come you’re charging me for Xero or ReceiptBank?”

All those objections mean that the person hasn’t been educated about what an amazing accountant actually is, and does. And when your content marketing journey does everything possible to educate them, it’s completely okay for you to decide not to work with prospects who don’t care about learning, don’t care about the differences. Those people simply want a cheap accountant. Let them go find one.

“In life, when someone tells you they ‘don’t have time’, what they’re really trying to tell you…is ‘That thing you just explained to me is not as important to me as it is to you.”

This is your challenge when it comes to content marketing. Yes, it applies to your buyer: but most of all, it applies to you, the accountant.

“I don’t have time to learn content marketing.”

“I don’t have time for social media.”

“I don’t have time to write blog posts.”

My encouragement to you is to analyse what’s underneath the ‘time’ excuse, and make time for it. The ROI is absolutely there – and we’ll cover that in our upcoming masterclass.

Please take the time to join us in the Free Marketing Masterclass run by myself and Chris Marr.

All you have to ask yourself is, “Is it possible?”

Is it possible that I could learn a little something which would change the way my firm does marketing?

Is it possible there are people in my firm who would be way more involved with our marketing if we gave them the opportunity?

Is it possible that we could get better quality leads, and turn away the lower quality ones?

Is it possible?