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Why marketing isn’t the thing to cut, when you get busy

There could be a number of reasons you’re considering putting marketing on pause. You might be feeling a little out of control due to the loss of a big client (or several clients), feeling like there’s other areas of the business you need to focus on. Maybe you think you already have too many clients and leads coming in and you don’t want or need anymore. It’s possible you’re overwhelmed in business and in life and want to hit the pause button until you feel like you’re a little more in control again.

It could be for a positive reason. You have a lot of new enquiries. Some really big clients who are going to take your time. You tell yourself “I need to give them my full attention and THEN I will come back to marketing, for sure”.

The reality is in business, you will never completely feel 100% in control. Of your clients, of your team, of your services, of your firm as a whole. And that’s a good thing. You don’t want to carry a feeling of stress with you but you DO want to challenge yourself to deliver the best possible accounting service for your clients and feel a level of satisfaction as you do it.

You will change, your business will change. And change is good. It means you are adapting with your clients needs and are not stagnant. BUT change is also scary particularly when you are walking into unchartered territory like marketing.

When something is scary or unknown, our natural instinct is avoidance. The easiest thing to do is to cut marketing, pause marketing, so you feel safer.

Actually, the answer is not to cut and pause. It’s to readjust. Refocus. Instead of cutting or pausing your marketing efforts, dig into where you need to refocus your energies to relieve the burden you’re carrying. After all, marketing is supposed to relieve your burdens. If your burdens are still heavy, the answer is not to stop marketing. It’s to look at what your marketing is telling you.

Cutting marketing is not going to take the fear away

If you put things on pause it might give you some instant relief but when you feel ready (and more likely you will never feel ready) you’ll essentially end up starting all over again.

Think of all the effort and hard work you’ve already put into marketing your accountancy firm. The social posting, the videos, the blogging. How hard it was to get started and then build the habit.

Giving into your fears when things feel tough or heavy end up being detrimental to your business. Like a marriage or any relationship, you have to make a commitment and stick with it when things are hard or just aren’t working out.

In marketing consistency is key and you need to keep the momentum going to get new leads, new clients and ensure you keep the clients you already have. Otherwise, like a big heavy train which has rolled to a stop, it’s going to take a long time to start it up again, start building momentum, chug forward, and then hit your stride. That could be months or even years, even if you’ve only paused for a few weeks or a few months.

Think of marketing as something to relieve you, rather than a burden to add to your already-full list.

First, you need to figure out what the real issues are.

It’s tempting to think the issue is too many clients, or not enough clients, or whatever the most obvious issue is staring you in the face. Often that’s not the true issue: there’s something underneath, something at the root which, when addressed, solves many problems at once.

A great way to help you do this is to make a list of the burdens and issues (both personal and in your business). That practice alone will relieve you and make your fears feel so much more manageable. It will also help you begin to see patterns.

You’ll be able to meet your fears head on. Allow you to work through the things that feel scary at a pace you’re comfortable with. You’ll be able to figure out what it is you really need to make all the plates you’re spinning seem so much more manageable.

When you have your ‘fear list’ look at each item on the list and ask yourself “What do I need to do to relieve this burden or fear?” When you have the answer, write that down. Then ask the “What” question again. “What do I need to put in place to make this happen?” and then again “What team members can help me do this?”

Keep asking yourself the “what” questions till you get to the real root of the problem. We often suggest doing this at least five times to dig as deep as you possibly can.

Here’s an example:

Fear: I’m not bringing in enough revenue to pay myself, the team AND do marketing. It’s just too much

Q. What can I do to bring more cash into my business
A. Reprice existing clients that are not paying for the service we’re providing

Q. What is scary about repricing clients?
A. Some might leave… But actually some I wish they would.

Q. What would happen if they did leave?
A. I’d have more time to deliver a better service to the clients I love

Q. What would a better level of service mean for my business?
A. I could charge more, be less stressed while still increase my revenue

Q. What do I need to build a better experience for my clients so they see the value?
A. Better communication, information through blogs, email marketing etc.

This is an example of a real fear that we often hear from accountants. And being in this position is scary. And yet, from “I couldn’t possibly invest more in marketing right now”, you’ve actually landed on “marketing is the one thing I absolutely need to invest in right now” – even if that only means an investment of your time. Sometimes you need to invest time, sometimes money, and usually both. The balance is up to you.

Marketing is part of all areas of your business and will help you find solutions to these, rather than make them worse.

Taking the time to know what is making you feel scared will help you make the best decisions moving forward.

When you pause your thinking (rather than pausing your marketing), you’ll get further forward in the end. You’ll understand the areas you need to focus your energies on. For example, you could spend hours and hours trying to chase all the leads through social media…when pausing for a moment to look at the leads you’re getting points out the issue really isn’t about getting lots more leads. It’s about reaching the right kind of people. With the clarity you get from pausing your thinking, you’ll be able to prioritise on what your business most needs right now, and that likely is NOT pausing your marketing. Then you can turn your marketing energies to pre qualifying (creating forms and videos, setting expectations, pricing properly from the beginning).

Marketing is there to help you in your time of need.

Below we’ve listed three common fears accountants have shared with us when they are tempted to pause or stop marketing, and we’ll show examples of how marketing can actually help.

1. I already have too many clients: I don’t need or have time for any more.

First, this is a wonderful position to be in! But challenge yourself a little here: are they all the very best clients? Do you LOVE working with every client on your books? Or do you have many who are draining your energy and preventing you from finding the ones you really want?

A lot of times when we hear accountants say “I don’t need to market, I’m busy enough as it is”, it’s coming from a place of being busy, stressed and overwhelmed. It’s very common, especially in the early stages of business, to take on any and all clients to make sure all the bills are covered.

But you could be busy in all the wrong places. Spending energy in areas you don’t really want to. Or with clients you don’t really want to be working with but haven’t had the time to figure out who you DO want to work with. Being busy is not a reflection of successful business and successful marketing. Actually, the most successful people get to pick and choose their own clients, and pick and choose exactly how they use their own time. So being busy doesn’t mean you need to stop marketing: it could mean you’re busy in the wrong places and you need to readjust where and how you’re marketing.

Digging into your ideal audience, their issues and how you could help is a very good place to start:

  1. Make an ideal client list – Think of one or two clients that you absolutely LOVE working with and wish every client was like. Their characteristics, their approach to business, why they’re great to work with. Why do you want more of them? Then look for similarities.
  2. Make an “undesirable” or “problem” client list – these are people that you really don’t enjoy working with. The ones where you really dread their calls. Clients that really don’t excite you. Write down their characteristics and all the reasons they’re difficult to work with. Then look for similarities.
  3. Make a list of things you might change in your marketing to attract your ideal audience and filter through the leads you don’t want – What questions might you add to the contact form on your website to understand more before jumping straight to a discovery call? What content do you need to change on your website? What blogs do you need to write? What changes do you need to make to the videos you are recording or what you’re posting on social media?

When you’re clear on who you want to attract you will be able to craft your brand, website, social media and marketing efforts to speak to your ideal audience and attract the right clients for your accounting firm. Leads will be able to qualify (and disqualify) themselves before even contacting you. Think of all the time wasted on clients that weren’t a good fit! Where could you have spent that time? Training the team? Communicating with clients? With your family?

2. I’m overwhelmed and need to focus on other areas of the business

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little overwhelmed at times and also understandable to want to feel in control of EVERY aspect of your business. However this is unrealistic.

When you feel like things are out of control it’s normal for your gut to tell you to stop. But it is important to dig into that. You can trust your gut as it’s usually right but it’s important to understand why so you know you’re making the right decisions moving forward.

What’s the real reason your gut is telling you to pause or stop? What are the things that are making you feel like you’re not in control? Are you struggling to get back to clients or follow up with clients as promptly as you’d like? This is another opportunity to dig deeper. What’s preventing you from getting back to people in the timeframe you’d like? Go through the ‘what’ question as outlined above. Really dig into your ‘gut feeling’ and understand where that’s coming from to get the clarity you need to make the best decisions.

Yes it’s scary to feel out of control but meet that challenge with marketing rather than stop marketing all together.

A lot of times the need for more control comes from feeling you’re not taking care of the clients you already have in the way you would want. Ask yourself:

  1. What service do I want to deliver?
  2. What processes do I need in place to deliver that level of service?
  3. What team do I need to deliver on what I’ve promised?

For example, you might be spending a lot of time onboarding new clients and think you need to hire someone to manage the workload. But what you really need is a proper onboarding process in place. One that’s automated and streamlined through your website, saving you hours instead of doing everything manually and saving on the additional hire that you can’t really afford just yet.

Building your team is great, but without digging deeper into the real issue you’ll never get to or solve the core issue.

3. I’ve lost a big client (or several) and I can’t think about anything else

When you lose a client or several clients all around the same time it is scary. We’ve felt this at PF and so have our clients.

Your gut reaction is to batten down the hatches, brace for impact or go into protection mode. This might also include cancelling or cutting costs on anything and everything that doesn’t get you an immediate return.

First of all: You will eventually replace the the income from the clients that leave

Losing a client can feel devastating, especially when you love the client. Unfortunately this is part of business. Clients will come and go. You could be doing everything right and they love working with you and are happy with the service you are delivering. But the time will eventually come when they might sell the business or retire. Or it could be they have a major, significant thing going on in their personal life or family life, and it’s affecting everything. It might have nothing to do with you at all.

In some cases we’ve seen accountants lose a client or several clients, and it instantly halves their revenue. When this happens you want more leads so you don’t have the panic when someone leaves.

Your instinct might be to pull back and focus on ‘fixing’. But the knee jerk reaction could end up causing more harm than good. Nine times out of ten this will just be a blip and the worst thing you could do is make a decision in panic mode and make the situation worse. All the marketing you’re doing is building momentum, and when you stop it only adds to the pressure you’re already feeling.

Marketing is a long game and that’s why you need to keep going when things are hard.

The best marketing, which delivers you the best clients you love, isn’t about getting clients magically from one little thing you do. It’s not about an “instant ROI” on that one tweet or those three days of Google ads. Keep showing up and providing enormous value for your existing clients and prospects so when a client leaves, you have great leads already warmed up. Leads who are waiting, want to work with you. Are excited to work with you AND understand the value you will provide.

If you’ve had a big client or several clients cancel recently, here are a few practical things you can do every day to get leads back instead of panicking:

  1. Clients first always – check in with your clients and look after them really well. In having human conversations with existing clients, you can find opportunities to up-serve, resulting in additional work and an increase in fees. Every time you help a client with an issue it reminds you of how good you are and this helps boost your confidence.
  2. Connect with your team and be transparent – If you have a problem or crisis it’s going to flow out into your team and they are going to feel it too. Connect with them. Have an honest talk. Reassure them and get them involved. We have seen this time and time again with the PF team when we’re all pushing and focusing energy in the same direction we hit the targets and meet our goals.
  3. Follow up with any old prospects – Check in with people who already expressed an interest at one point. When you made initial contact they may not have been interested or ready but they might be today! If you can remember any issue or specific thing you spoke about, use that as a way to strike up a conversation again. Be human, be kind. Just let them know you were thinking about them. You might not get anything out of this right away but again just having those conversations is really powerful.
  4. Use social media daily – Find the one social media platform your ideal audience is using and engage. Yes, you need to be posting but that’s not the only way to be visible on social media. Comment on other people’s posts, ask questions, show genuine interest, share other people’s posts, DM people, reply to messages in your inbox. You never know when you might have missed an opportunity. The most important thing is to be present and have real conversations. 5-10 minutes a day is all it takes.
  5. Share your existing content – If you’re not feeling overly inspired to create new content, share content you already have. It’s very possible many people have not seen this content when it was originally created and shared. In fact less than 5% of your audience will see your content the first time you post. Don’t be frightened to keep sharing things you’ve already shared.
  6. Make a list of specific people you want to work with – Like their posts, comment and get on their radar. You might even want to contact them if it feels right. Tell them how much you love their company and ask how they are going, or be curious about what they’re doing in their business. You could even ask if there’s anything you can do to help. What do you have to lose?
  7. Do the thing that relieves you – Go for a run or walk in the woods. Spend time with your family or be creative, take a day trip somewhere. Doing something you know will relieve some stress and pressure, even if it’s just for an hour and come back with some fresh perspective.

Marketing isn’t just about getting leads – it’s part of every area of your business

It will help alleviate a lot of pressure and feelings of overwhelm, save time and make things easier for you and for your client. Here are a few examples of this:

Bringing the BEST clients

Ideally, qualifying will be working throughout all areas of your marketing. From your brand, website, content you’re creating and even social posts and imagery.

To get the right clients and qualify them successfully you need to understand your audience.

Black Sheep Accountants know their audience inside out and have created a contact form designed to only bring the clients they really wanted to work with so that they were not wasting precious time talking to those they knew would not be a good fit.

You can see in the image below, that they have decided not to work with non-profits, trusts, or estates. If a prospect selects that option on the website form they are directed to a blog that explains why Black Sheep are not the right fit for them.

Good marketing divides

Being very specific about who you work with allows prospects to see that you are the accountant best placed to help them. Our blog What do you do to prequalify a lead (so the best ones sign up and the worst ones go away) is a great resource if you’d like to read more about pre qualifying clients.

Onboarding new clients

Onboarding will look a little different for every accounting firm. Even at this stage, it’s important that you deliver on the promises you made during the sales process.

We recently helped Pink Pig Financials update website pages as part of their onboarding system. At PPF, after a new client signs a proposal they are sent a welcome page. This includes a video from founder Cheryl, along with information explaining what’s going to happen and when. It also outlines three key steps they need the client to take to onboard them successfully:

  1. Fill out the onboarding checklist
  2. Set up a direct debit mandate
  3. Give the PPF team access to Xero

This process is easy for the new client to understand and follow. They receive all the instructions at once. It’s organised, the client knows exactly what’s happening and how to submit the information. This also allows the PPF team to focus on other areas of the service delivery as they don’t have to spend hours chasing and gathering information.

Your onboarding process is something that can, and will be adapted over time.

Over the past few years the Pink Pig team identified information required for onboarding startup companies is different to how they onboard a limited company. So they now have a second welcome page just for start ups.

Not only does this improve efficiency for the team it also makes start up companies feel like the system is set up just for them. Building even more trust and showing that the Pink Pig team are experienced in working with start up businesses. This, along with the fun welcome pack they send out to new clients all adds to the overall client experience.

“Our welcome pages make everything so much easier. It’s one place to get all the initial info we need to set them up as a client and get going” Cheryl Sharp, founder of Pink Pig

Follow up

You’ve probably had a fair few prospect calls or created proposals that were never signed and you haven’t had the time to follow up. You’re not alone in this but the guilt of not following up might also be adding to that feeling of overwhelm.

It does take time to follow up with these prospects. But this is something that marketing can help you with.

Using Pink Pig as an example again: When someone is interested in working with them they are directed to a form to fill in. Once submitted, the lead is then automatically set up as a prospect in their project management software and Mailchimp.

From MailChimp an automated email campaign it triggered, sending a series of emails to ensure that Pink Pig stays top of the prospects mind. This automation works great with extra personal touches when you think of the prospect or have time. You can read more about how this might work for you here.

Email marketing is a great way to save you time and the guilt of not following up but you always want to make sure you send a personal email or call when you think of a specific person.

Hiring

Yes, hiring is also part of marketing. We’ve written a whole blog specifically on our 7 stage (yes 7) hiring process. Like you, we take hiring very seriously. Like attracting the very best clients to our agency, we want to attract the very best talent.

You can use marketing principles to get the best people for your accounting firm.

Earlier this year we helped Raedan hire two great new members to their team. We did this by creating a careers page and job descriptions focused on their brand values.

Staying true to your values will not only help you find the right people, it’ll help you KEEP the right people.

Hiring is hard and at times feels like looking for a needle in a haystack but your people are out there! Like qualifying clients, if you’re clear on your mission and your brand values, and live them out, the process of finding the talent will be made so much easier.

By showing your values actually mean something you’re saying: here’s what’s okay and not okay in our business, and in our lives. If you want to work with us, you agree with these. In bringing your values into your hiring process you are showing future team members that your values are not just words posted on your website or office wall. You truly believe in them. You hire (and fire) by them.

Yes, you want people who are skilled and can do the job well but also people that are aligned with the core values of your accounting firm. You want the very best people that reflect and represent your firm in the same way you would. This is how great company cultures are built.

For this reason, your hiring process will look different to other firms. For Raedan the first step was simple. They asked people to fill out a simple form and upload a video. NOT a CV. They were focused on finding people that were skilled, comfortable with tech and would gel well with their existing team.

The applications that did not follow the simple instruction of submitting a video were immediately removed from the hiring process meaning that the team had fewer applications to go through and from the video they could get a much better feel for the candidate and see more of their personality and how they fit the Raedan brand.

When things get tough ask for help

Business is hard. Life is hard. But when things get tough, breathe and seek help.

Whatever issue you’re facing that’s making you want to stop marketing, ask yourself is the problem a backpack, or a load?

Our MD Karen Reyburn explains this in more detail in this blog. A backpack is a burden, yes: but it’s a burden you have to carry – only you, and no one can carry it for you. It feels heavy, but you CAN carry it. You can and you must, because it’s your responsibility and your thing to deal with. The load, however, is a huge burden. Something you literally can not – and are not supposed to – carry alone. This is when you reach out to your partner, your team or an agency like PF for help and support to make the load a little lighter and easier to manage.

To get some perspective on your marketing problem, or to look at booking a discovery call with the team, fill in this marketing diagnostic and we’ll look at how we can help. We might send you free resources, or suggest a few options, but either way you won’t be bearing the load alone.