You Don’t Have to Be the Next Generation; You Just Have to Work With Them

Here’s a list of things that are not being used anymore:baby of african descent squeezing parent's finger

• CDs
• DVDs
• USB sticks
• Email
• Facebook
• Paper receipts
• People at store checkouts
• Telephones with cords
• Watches
• Cash

Most of these may not surprise you – after all, perhaps you have an iPhone, and use a debit card, and the self-serve checkouts at Tescos. But email? And Facebook? And DVDs?

The thing with technology is that it moves so fast that by the time you have come round to using something like Facebook, it’s already becoming extinct. Because parents are realising how much of their childrens’ time is being spent on Facebook (and the things they’re sharing), they are beginning to use it, too. And so their children, having joined Facebook in the first place to escape the ever-present eye of mum or dad, are finding other ways to connect. YouTube is still the second biggest search engine after Google, but the new video option is Vine – only 7 seconds long. Keep it very, very short and sweet. If I don’t ask “what’s that?” every few days with the young people I know, I very soon become a dinosaur.

Are you feeling extinct?

As the owner of an accountancy firm, you may already be feeling a little extinct. Most accountants have been in the game for twenty or thirty years, and in that time a lot has changed. Perhaps you are managing to stay abreast of the times, or at least not too far behind them – maybe your firm has an app, or finally signed up for social media, or you are beginning to realise that your cutting-edge website is not so cutting edge anymore.

But the new generation of business owners may already be far ahead of you – and if that is the case, there’s the possibility that you’re missing out on business. I addressed this in another post (“I am your prospect”), but here I want to highlight a great attitude that will help you immensely as the world continues to change at lightning speeds.

And this is it: Admit that you are behind the times.

Unless, like the Dancing Accountant, you are publishing new videos each week, or unless you have 40,000 followers on Twitter, you are probably just barely catching up. By the time you finally get round to setting up your Facebook page, the new and young business owners are using Stumbleupon. When you publish that great new marketing CD, half of your prospective clients don’t even have a CD/DVD drive in their laptop.

And that is okay. It’s okay that you are not at the cutting edge of technology, yourself, every single moment. I am still learning new things every day, and in spite of being pretty switched on there are things being used I haven’t even dreamed of.

But you do need to recognise that the business owners you wish to connect with, the ones who are starting businesses and owning multiple companies and managing enterprises before they are 30, are going to find their accountant in ways you may not yet be switched on to.

How to stay switched on (and plugged in)

And if you do recognise that, you will do a few things differently:

Hire those who are better at this than you. Interns, students, your children, university graduates – young people. They learn this stuff like breathing, and they know what is hip and what is used and what is outdated. And they absolutely love to show off their skills. (And they are cheap.) Let them!

Admit that social media is a valid form of referral. Yes, accountants get a lot of business by referral – but have you considered that someone who refers you on Twitter is just as valuable as one who refers you face to face?

Have multiple streams of new business. Online marketing is extremely powerful – but it is absolutely okay to focus efforts offline, too. If a prospective client downloads something from your website, and you send them a follow up card by post, those two things can work together very well. Or perhaps someone refers new business to you, and you email them an Amazon gift card. Let the two marketing engines work side by side – not in a constant battle one against the other. If you fight online marketing, you are wasting huge amounts of energy that could be getting online marketing to work for you.

Be who you are. It is absolutely okay, also, not to use apps or tweets or imessages or location services yourself. You do not have to groaningly drag yourself into the 21st century – as noted above, you can hire people who are happily there to do it for your firm. But, if one of your clients does not reply to your phone calls and emails, you may want to ask one of your team to Facebook them.

If you’re “old school”…

One of our clients is a self-professed “old school” accountant. “I use the phone,” he told me in our first conversation about online marketing. “A real phone, not one of these smartphones. I don’t send text messages, or download apps, or use Facebook. I am the old generation, and my clients expect me to send them letters and ring them up to talk instead of sending an email. But this is not the way forward – to do business with the likes of me. When I’m out with my son and I ask him where we should eat, he pulls out his phone to see what’s nearby. In the pub, a football quiz comes up and everyone is checking online for the answers. It’s a different world out there, and even if I don’t do business that way, the entrepreneurs of the future are doing it that way, and if I want my business to survive, I have got to get my firm into this new world. Our offline efforts are good, but they are far too labour intensive, and we need to filter out the warm and hot leads, and focus on them.” (Matt Donnelly, AD Plus Accountants)

I told Matt that I loved what he said so much that I was going to share it with all the accountants I spoke to – so listen up to Matt’s words. We are currently working on a redesign of Matt’s website, so his firm can engage with both the old generation and the new.

Image Credit: Microsoft Images