This week I was talking to one of my clients, an accountant in the States. He had been to a gathering of accountants recently, and the topic went to marketing. My client was sharing about some of the things he’s been working on with us – a new website, blogging, social sharing, email campaigns, downloads, and all the online marketing that we encourage accountants to look at.
And one of the accountants he was speaking to said online marketing actions like this were all very well, but in his opinion (and I quote), “when it comes to marketing, you have to go in there like Rambo”.
For the title of this blog post I have added the “you take them down” bit because it just fits so well….and because it reflects what I see as the ‘other’ perspective on marketing by accountants.
There are essentially two fields of thought here. Actually, I take that back. There are three fields of thought when it comes to marketing by accountants. Two fields of thought that lead to more business, and one field of thought that does not.
1. Marketing takes too much time and I’m busy.
This field of thought is the one that gets no results. Sadly it is the one that is most embraced by most accountants. Now, the interesting thing is that there is a sense in which (if this is your thinking) you are absolutely right. Marketing DOES take time, a lot of time, too much time, and you are busy. The problem here is not the thinking, but the conclusion that you come to.
Those who fall into this first category are the type who:
– Attend conferences and CPE courses. Of course, you have to for your continuing education requirements. But if you put even a smidgen of that time and effort into marketing courses or webinars or events or trainings, results could begin flowing in without your even realising it.
– Buy self-help books and CD’s. You are strongly tempted every time you see a short course for $200, or a marketing CD for £35, and you figure that’s cheap enough, and you buy it and listen to half of it in the car, and then it sits there or gets filed away or lost and you go back to what you were doing before.
– Attend a few networking events. These are easy because you know what to do, perhaps even know most of the people there. You get breakfast or lunch, you chat to a few clients or friends, you might even garner a few business cards. You get inspired, perhaps even a new hot prospect, and life looks good.
– Leave the marketing to someone in the firm who isn’t too busy. You got inspired at a conference once (or perhaps a blog post like this one!) and you thought, yes, I definitely need to step up my marketing. So you went back to the office, talked to your receptionist/admin person/new marketing person, and asked them if they would put together some emails and a newsletter and sort out your database. They agreed eagerly, worked on a few things which got set to the side because you got busy and didn’t have time to review them, and then tax season hit and now nine months have gone by.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Attending conferences is great. Buying self-help books or courses can help immensely. (We’ve been enjoying our LinkedIn for accountants course very much the past few weeks, and we highly recommend it.) Networking can be very powerful, and getting help within the firm is too. But what I’m identifying here is the person who never steps beyond these small items. The CD’s lie dusty in a drawer. You attend two of the eight sessions in an online course. You get business cards at a networking event and forget to follow up.
The thinking that marketing takes too much time and you’re busy is right: but the conclusion that “therefore I will just go back to my work and not do any marketing” is wrong.
The better conclusion is that if marketing takes too much time and you’re busy, then you’ve got to start thinking about how to parcel out your time on the marketing efforts that will be most valuable, and who else will do the rest. Will it be in house? Will you do some and have others do some? Will you outsource most or all of it? Those questions lead you to more business, not less.
Because unfortunately, when this first field of thought is held to, nothing changes because nothing is done.
2. You have to go in there like Rambo. You take them down.
Now, this field of thought is a lot more like it for some of you out there. You’re thinking yes, now we’re talking, it’s all about action. Things are happening, you don’t take no for an answer, and you get new business.
And there is some great value in this! I know some accountants who love this approach – and they win new business regularly. They’re a good example of not just sitting back and waiting for things to happen.
There can be a problem with this thinking, which I’ll identify in a minute.
Those who fall into this first category are the type who:
– Make their own direct phone calls.
– Hand out business cards at networking events.
– Ring up potential clients, send them letters, and visit them.
– Utilise a varied sales approach that is not afraid to say, “Would you like to go ahead?” or “So, are you ready to sign here?”
– Send out direct mail.
– Never give up on a prospect – even if it means six or seven meetings in person.
– Blast through the excuses, realising that objections are simply an opportunity to address the real sales issues.
The problem with this field of thought – if it exists in a vacuum, if this is the only approach you have – is the time involvement required.
See, this approach does often work, and very well. But the time to ring up prospects, follow up, arrange a meeting, hold the first meeting, put together a proposal, arrange a second meeting, hold the second meeting, discuss the proposal, arrange a third meeting perhaps with others in the business, make suggestions, and brainstorm ideas, is a massive investment. I was talking to an accountant in Canada who said that when he uses this approach, he does often win the business – perhaps 60-80% of the time. The problem is that with the phone calls, preparation, driving time, and follow up, he spends perhaps 15-20 hours per prospect. Well worth it if the prospect becomes a $20,000 a year client….but not so much if they end up going elsewhere. Suddenly he has lost 15 hours at $150 per, and he’s wondering if his time could have been better used on a prospect who was actually going to go ahead.
Because if much of the proposal/prospect process depends on you, then you, the partner or owner or director or major player in your firm, at $150 per or £100 per or whatever your chargeout rate is, are spending a vast amount of time on work that may never come to be.
In addition, for most accountants I know, this is not the ideal marketing approach. It’s the harder-sell. It requires discipline and follow up in an area you don’t know as much about. It means that you push a little (or a lot). It draws on skills you don’t feel you have, and it can be a little awkward at times.
The one thing I will say about this approach is that if it’s yours – if this is what you absolutely love, and you shake your head at those other accountants who are a little more shy and retiring, and you think the whole industry should man up a bit, then you just go for it. You knock the doors, you ring the prospects, you chase up, you hold those meetings. You charge in there like Rambo and you give them no mercy.
But if that’s not for you – if the Rambo approach is not quite in keeping with your personality or business approach or firm identity – then there is another solution that is simpler, easier, and requires much, much less time on your part.
And that’s the third field of thought (ours), which is:
3. You let them come to you.
Online marketing operates on the principle that people want to buy when they are ready to buy, and pressuring or pushing them into it can simply push them away. It is a beautiful, smooth, coordinated thing when it works well. This field of thought gets results, but it doesn’t rush anyone (yourself included).
Those who utilise this field of thought are the type who:
– Invest in a really excellent website. You know that your website is your marketing hub – it’s where everyone goes to see what you’re like, to connect with you in other ways, to get a sense of who you are, to take some kind of small action.
– Take the small steps. Writing blog posts on a regular basis. Sharing items on social media. Connecting with past colleagues on LinkedIn. Beginning to put together a database of contacts. Identifying niche areas. Giving a presentation. Sending out follow up emails after networking events. Drip. Drip. Drip.
– Systemise the marketing process. As much as possible, get your marketing to be systemised so that it works without you. Many of our clients work with us to have a marketing system that takes care of things on their behalf. Emails are sent out regularly to the right people, the right categories and niches and industries. Landing pages are created and forwarded to those to whom they will be of interest. The right people are followed on Twitter and the right groups on LinkedIn. Follow up emails go out automatically, on a schedule, to every single person they meet.
– Give things away, for free. You have got to get beyond the thinking that says, “If I give it away, they won’t do business with me.” That is just not true anymore. The internet has changed the way prospects connect with businesses they are considering working with. First, they expect things to be free (downloads, reports, books, webinars), because they are everywhere else. Second, these are the lurkers, the busy people, the kings and queens of skim. And because of that, the chances that they will take your great content and ideas and suggestions and actually implement them with no help from you whatsoever is so unlikely as to be ludicrous. What you’re doing by ‘giving it away’ (your ideas, your thoughts, your suggestions, even templates and documents and assistance) is helping them realise that you know what you’re talking about and the simplest answer is to just talk to you.
Because when you have a good website, with regular content and calls to action and free stuff and a clear edge over the competition, they WILL come to you when they are ready. After browsing and thinking and following and considering and mulling it over, they will pick up the phone or drop you an email or contact you in some way, and instead of spending hours and hours on a prospect who may or may not be ready to buy, you will spend at most a few hours on someone who definitely is ready to buy, and already likes you. Most of the time their mind will be made up before they even contact you.
You see, with online marketing each step, each action, in and of itself may seem small, tiny, perhaps even useless. But combined together, they have a power greater than Rambo.
And you didn’t even have to take them down.