Why accountants don’t NEED to bother with twitter

A friend suggested I should write a piece about Twitter for accountants as I’m increasingly active on Twitter. Surely then I’m well placed to explain what Twitter is and how accountants can benefit from it.

Instead let me explain why I think that Accountants really don’t need to bother with Twitter.  This is much the same approach as I adopted recently when I wrote about Blogging myths for accountants.

Let’s be clear I am NOT against any of these new communication techniques. Far from it. I love blogging (this is one of three that I write regularly – see links in right hand column of this page). I’m enjoying Twitter and have benefited in a number of intangible ways as a result thereof. I’ve explained how I use it on a separate page of this blog.  I know dozens of people who tweet regularly and I have over 300 followers on Twitter (at the time of writing). [Edit May 2017: Now over 7,000]

But I also understand the accountancy profession.

Accountants

Whilst other commentators may seek to encourage accountants to try new technology, to experiment and to explore new forms of communication I adopt a different approach. I accept that the vast majority of accountants do not aspire to try out these new ideas. They don’t think many (any?) of their clients or target clients are using such tools. They don’t have the time to experiment and to test new ways of doing things.  They don’t perceive the need to do these things.

And actually – I think they’re right. There is no pressing need for them to do so.

Yes, there are ways that accountants COULD use and benefit from Twitter .  Yes, they MAY find ways to use Twitter to help them build their practice and Yes, to do so would put them ahead of the field.

But, will being on Twitter help them avoid client losses? No.

Will it help them to provide pro-active advice to clients? Unlikely

Will it help them to secure more profitable clients of the type they seek?  No faster than any other marketing activity and it’s even less area specific than blogging.

Will it help them to make more money or to increase their profits? No.

Will it help them solve their succession issues? No

The bottom line is that Twitter will not do any of the things that accountants are most concerned about at the moment. As such I cannot advocate the idea that they should explore Twitter as a business tool.

What is Twitter?

I should explain that Twitter is a free online social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as ‘tweets’). Each post or ‘tweet’ is limited to 140 characters in length.

Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them by ‘following’ people in who they are interested.  Users can also send and receive tweets through third party web based applications, iphones and Blackberry devices.  Many tweets contain links to web pages and blog posts.

Anyone with access to Twitter (and one of the third party applications that make it easier to use and understand) can follow the flow of messages and comments, contribute, reply or simply keep up to date.

Regular readers will recall that i recently posted an item: If you’re not on Facebook you need to be on LinkedIn. It’s worth noting that, unlike the Facebook status updates, tweets can be directed at specific twitter users, people tweet much more often than they update their Facebook status, and it is much more acceptable to follow people you have never met on Twitter than it is on Facebook.

I have a number of ideas as to who does and can gain most benefit from Twitter but none of them are remotely connected with accountants in a business capacity so I won’t post them here.

If you are an accountant and you’re experimenting with Twitter do please get in touch, equally if (despite the tenor of this piece) if you decide to try it out. And of course if you disagree with my perspective please add your views as comments to this piece.

[Edit May 2012: For my more uptodate views on twitter please check out the twitter page of this site]

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Use it or lose it – Your clients’ trust

Accountants are expected and trusted to be good business advisers. This puts them in a good position to advice clients during the current troubled financial times.

I addressed this point recently in a post entitled: Accountants need to show they really are business advisers as we move into recession.

I have now seen reports of another survey that only serves to emphasise this point.

It was carried out by the Forum of Private Business (FPB)  together with commercial credit agency Graydon UK, and questioned 400 small businesses on their individual experiences of seeking financial advice.

The results reveal that 70 per cent of those questioned choose to consult their accountants for this type of advice, compared to only 47 per cent who look to their bank managers as trusted advisers.

The FPB comments on the results stress the declining confidence in banks as sources of financial advice.  My take on this is that the 70% figure above is LOWER than I would have expected. It might be a reflection of the respondents – perhaps only 70% had an accountant.

I make no apologies for restating a point I have been making for some months now.

Your clients trust you as a source of business and financial advice.  Now is the time to prove that such confidence is not misplaced. If you do not help clients through the recession you will lose them – either because they will cease to be in business or because they will move to a pro-active commercial accountant who can help them more than you have tried to do.

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If you’re not on Facebook you need to be on LinkedIn

This is my advice to all accountants in business and to those in practice who could face redundancy at some stage in the future.

My reasoning for such advice became clear when talking to my son and his friends on their return from University for the holidays.

A significant majority of the current twenty-something generation have Facebook accounts. When they bump into old friends or meet new people they don’t exchange phone numbers, addresses or business cards(!). They simply undertake to link up on Facebook. This generation instinctively understand how to maintain and build networks. They are networking before they need to do so for business purposes. In the 21st century your network is your key to the future.

Through Facebook the younger generation has the facility to remain in touch with or to get back in touch with all their friends from school, from college, from Uni and their colleagues when they start work.  I have written a number of posts previously on this blog about Facebook which is principally a ‘social’ networking website.  It’s not the exclusive domain of the younger generation and a significant proportion of ‘users’ are over 35 (or even over 50 as I am!).

LinkedIn, unlike Facebook is largely a ‘Business’ networking website. I’m always amused when commentators describe them both as ‘social’ networks.  I think this confuses people who are unfamiliar with them and assume that they are very similar.  A more accurate collective noun is ‘online networks’.

I heard about an accountant today who is between jobs. The company he used to work for as FD has been sold and he’s now looking for a new role. He may have a strong offline network of business contacts on whom he can rely to help him find a new job/opportunity. In the current economic climate this may not be sufficient.

I would encourage him and anyone else without the perfect offline network to register on LinkedIn for the following reasons:

  • You can put your generic CV ‘out there’ showing your career history and key skills;
  • This will make it easy for you to be found by the recruiters who use LinkedIn to source candidates to fill vacancies;
  • You can reconnect (online) and remain in contact with ex colleagues and other business contacts – ie: build and enhance his network;
  • You will have a business environment in which you can communicate without using an unprofessional ‘personal’ email address and as distinct from the Facebook ‘fun’ environment;
  • You can be found online by new contacts who you meet on a day to day basis;
  • New contacts can get in touch with you without having to rely on a scrap of paper containing your scribbled phone number and email address.

Better than this would be to register on LinkedIn before your job/role goes. The additional reasons for doing this are:

  • Your profile can include reference to your current role as your current role;
  • You can get to grips with the LinkedIn website and features before you NEED to use them;
  • You can build your reputation as a helpful person before you start needing help;
  • Those who try to use any online network solely for what they can get out of it will be less successful than those who seek first to contribute to the network.

Readers of this blog who are registered on Facebook or LinkedIn – or who register on them are welcome to look me up and connect with me on those networks.

And if you are on LinkedIn and feel there are other reasons for our fellow professionals to register a profile there, please add your comments below. Equally if you disagree, please provide a contrary view.

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How accountants can beat the recession

Some readers of this blog will be aware that I recently created a new seminar for accountants:  Mastering the credit crunch – Your practice, your advice, your future.

During what was a highly practical and commercial half day I suggested that the credit crunch (or recession as now seems to be accepted as a more accurate description of the economic climate) presents new challenges and new opportunities for accountants.

Simply stated, if we carry on doing what we’ve always done we will probably be LESS successful than in the past. Why? Because more of our clients will be suffering financially and this will impact on their willingness and ability to pay us and to stay in business. Our fee incomes and profits will fall unless we do things differently.

Feedback from the hundreds of accountants who attended the seminar was more positive than I had previously dared hope.  And I will shortly start sharing with the attendees the follow up feedback that is still being collated.

 

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Accountants and the internet – survey results

Last month the Independent Association of Accountants Information Technology Consultants (IAAITC) announced the results of its survey on the effective use of the Internet by UK accountancy firms.

The two specific issues considered by the survey were the effective promotion of firms’ websites and their use of email for communicating with clients.

The key word in the survey title is ‘effective’ and I’m not sure that everyone would agree on the same meaning of that word in this context. In my view what the survey evidences is that a majority of the firms surveyed are not making the most of their web presence. This accords with my own conclusions – both from looking at many accountancy firm websites and also from conversations with thousands of accountants when asking them questions during my talks for accountants around the UK.

However I have also concluded that many firms do not (yet) perceive a need to devote more effort to the internet. In effect they see it as just another advertising medium.  The majority of firms do not have aggressive growth plans, they secure new clients through (what I call)  ‘accidental word of mouth’ referrals and they have enough recurring fees to keep them happy.  As I have explained on this blog previously, an accountant’s website is of little interest to their clients. It’s focus should generally be on helping to secure new clients.

In this context I would agree with the survey’s conclusions.  Out of date material on a website, forgotten listings on third party directories  and unprofessional email addresses (eg: @ Tesco, Sky, BTinternet, AOL, Gmail or any other  third party) may have an adverse impact on prospective clients.  Firms in such situations may lose out to firms who keep their sites and listings uptodate.

Even those firms that have email addresses using their own domain name will be losing out if they fail to provide a named contact on the  website (eg: only enouraging email contact via info [at] accountants [dot] co [dot] uk).  We have to remember that most people buy accountancy services from individual accountants (even if they work for a firm) and not from firms of accountants.

The survey also concludes that many accountants are become increasingly out of touch with current business needs.” What matters in my mind though is whether accountants are in touch with what THEIR CLIENTS and target clients require from them as accountants. Are you confident that you know the answer to that question as regards your own practice?

I suggested one new development in this regard in a previous post: Could you audit a client’s website analytics?

Are there others?


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Easyjet pricing by accountants

Anyone who has heard me speak recently will recall my encouragement to review the way in which fees are set. I’ve also posted numerous previous items on this subject.  A summary and link to them all is included in this one: Negotiating fees when times are tough.

I’ve just had a call from an accountant who was telling me how successfully he has found what he calls the ‘Easyjet approach to pricing’ his services.

Simply stated he quotes a low fee for completing a tax return in April or May and the fee increases as the year progresses.  The fee charged for preparing tax returns in Dcemeber or January is more then five times the fee he quoted for doing the work in April or May.

He doesn’t feel himself constrained by time costs. After all his time and that of his staff are largely fixed costs.  Business clients pay a fee by reference to their turnover – the bigger the client grows the bigger the fee he charges. he spends no time analysing time sheets, worrying about write-offs or under-recoveries.  The accountant’s focus is on the aggregate fees he needs to generate to cover all his costs and make a profit. Anything over and above that is pure profit.

Now I know that such systems are not as simple to operate in practice as they are to summarise in a telephone conversation (or on a blog). But the point is that traditional time costing for recurring accounting services is not going to help ambitious accountants to win new clients in a recession.

What other examples do you have of innovative approaches to pricing by accountants?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads more insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants who want to STANDOUT and become more successful. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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