The MD of a 5-partner firm of accountants laughed when I asked the question. “You don’t understand, Patrick, we’re sticking to the plan. For a firm our size, profile is everything.”
He explained, Return On Investment wasn’t an issue and he had no plans to start measuring it.
David’s view is far from unique. I’ve seen a sole practitioner spend the annual marketing budget examining his ‘brand values’.
Of course, branding and marketing communications have roles to play. But isn’t marketing about attracting quality new clients?
Change Your Language Change Your Results
A simple change in the language you use can refocus your work and results. Banish the word Marketing(an activity) and replace it with New Business Development (money in the bank).
Scrap the word Budget (money to be spent) and replace it with Investment (the focus is on a return).
It’s so easy to get caught up chasing numbers that don’t really count. Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, website visitors etc aren’t the goal in themselves. They’re just important steps potential clients can take in their journey to working with you.
To be effective they must convert into face to face meetings, proposals and of course new business.
My favourite definition of sales and marketing for accountants, comes from Steve Pipe:
“The whole point of marketing is to get meetings with quality potential clients. Sales is what happens during and after the meeting.”
You’ll hear similar advice from other experts. Martin Bissett the author, speaker and consultant to accountants throughout the world, asks the question:
“If your marketing isn’t getting you meetings with your ideal potential clients you have to ask yourself what is it doing?”
Take The Spotlight Off You And Onto Your Prospects
Most firms focus on their history, high standards, personal service, the issues they’re ‘passionate’ about or ‘pride’ themselves on. To potential clients it’s just the same noise they hear from every other firm.
If you really want to attract their attention, focus on the problems you can help them solve. We talk to hundreds of business owners every week. These are the most common issues they tell us about:
- Falling sales and profitability
- Cash flow
- Stress and lifestyle
- Protecting family and business assets
- Changes in technology and the marketplace
- Succession planning
- Funding and finance
Talk to your existing clients to build powerful case studies and testimonials. Be specific, about the difference you’ve made: Quantify the tax saved, how much profits have increased.
Focus On Perfect Clients Only
Marketing falls flat for so often because firms spread their appeal so thinly. They don’t want to alienate any potential client, so they’ll tell you they work with everyone ‘from one-man bands to multi-million pound companies’.
Focus on a clear target, the clients that benefit most from working with you. They’ll tend to have the problems you can help them solve. They’ll stay with you longer, pay higher fees and be more profitable.
If you offer a vanilla service, you force potential clients to differentiate on price. The lowest fee always wins.
Money In The Bank Marketing
So don’t forget that clients come through proposals and proposals come through face to face meetings. Build a detailed profile of your perfect clients and get them around a table.
You might think the following description of marketing is a bit low end, too simplistic:
“To get more people to buy more stuff, more often at higher prices, so the company makes more money”.
Yet they are the words of Sergio Zyman, the former chief marketing officer of one of the world’s biggest brands, Coca-Cola. If it’s good enough for Coke, it’s good enough for me.
Patrick McLoughlin is the founder of practice growth agency, Accounting For Growth, which specialises in telemarketing for accountants