Online profiles – make sure yours isn't boring

Online profiles are everywhere now. They appear on many firms’ websites, on social networking sites and on Linkedin. Actually pretty much all of the points below apply equally to any printed profile or CV you might produce too.

When you’re writing yours please don’t focus on the boring stuff – where you were born, what you did at school or college or your first few jobs (unless you’re very young and they are all still relevant).

Focus instead on the recent stuff, the relevant stuff and how what you do can make a difference. What have you achieved that benefits your clients, your current employer or your current firm? What expertise can you talk about that a prospective client might be looking for? What about a new employer or firm who is looking for a new recruit?

How much the same as every other accountant do you seem to be? Can you highlight real differences, a special focus, a niche?

Even your online profile photo can impact whether or not you look boring to people. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The key thing to stress is that you need to be authentic, consistent (not in a boring way!), enjoy yourself (without alienating anyone else) and evidence your enthusiasm – without going O.T.T.  Keep in mind the sort of people you hope will read your online profile and what they will find of interest. The boring stuff is rarely going to be key.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Online profiles – make sure yours isn’t boring

Online profiles are everywhere now. They appear on many firms’ websites, on social networking sites and on Linkedin. Actually pretty much all of the points below apply equally to any printed profile or CV you might produce too.

When you’re writing yours please don’t focus on the boring stuff – where you were born, what you did at school or college or your first few jobs (unless you’re very young and they are all still relevant).

Focus instead on the recent stuff, the relevant stuff and how what you do can make a difference. What have you achieved that benefits your clients, your current employer or your current firm? What expertise can you talk about that a prospective client might be looking for? What about a new employer or firm who is looking for a new recruit?

How much the same as every other accountant do you seem to be? Can you highlight real differences, a special focus, a niche?

Even your online profile photo can impact whether or not you look boring to people. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The key thing to stress is that you need to be authentic, consistent (not in a boring way!), enjoy yourself (without alienating anyone else) and evidence your enthusiasm – without going O.T.T.  Keep in mind the sort of people you hope will read your online profile and what they will find of interest. The boring stuff is rarely going to be key.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Stop talking about your USP – it’s the same as other accountants

I’m often struck by the difficulty many accountants have when trying to identify what’s special about their firm or practice.

Many assume that they do nothing different to any other accountant. Others have been persuaded they need to claim to have a USP.  But, when asked, most accountants make the same claims about their practice, about the same aspirational service levels and the same so-called distinguishing features.

What’s special or ‘Unique’ about your practice?

Not a lot, it would seem.

Do any of the following describe your firm?

    • We provide a partner-led service
    • We don’t just prepare your accounts and tax returns
    • We aim to be your long-term business partner
    • We avoid surprise fees
    • We’re much more than just accountants; we’re not just good with numbers
    • We keep in touch with you throughout the year
    • We have a special affinity with entrepreneurs who lead their own businesses
    • We understand local issues, because they affect us too
    • We deliver the highest levels of service
    • We tailor our services to your exact requirements and budget
    • We offer competitive rates and unrivalled customer care

Good, good. The list could go on. But what’s special about your firm? Why should a prospective client who is comparing you and your firm with another accountant choose you?

If you haven’t thought about this you should do – assuming you want to win more clients. Your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ (USP) is clearly NOT UNIQUE if it’s the same as the USP pronounced by other accountants. Indeed the more prospective clients hear the same claims by different accountants the more boring and samey they think you all are.

Incidentally, I recommend that you focus on finding a UPB rather than a USP. UPB stands for Unique Perceived Benefit. It requires you to identify a key benefit that your clients recognise and are aware (perceive) they get from you. It focuses your attention on your clients more than thinking about what you’re trying to sell to them.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Helping accountants by talking to NON-accountants

I learned long ago about the value of focusing on a niche and have shared my thoughts on how this can work for accountants in  previous posts on this blog. I’ve also mentioned it in a number of my talks.

From my own perspective it took a business mentor to point out that I was being inconsistent. So shortly after launching the Tax Advice Network I sat back to determine the common theme in my approach. And, as the title to this blog post suggests, that theme was the rather bizarre one of ‘Helping accountants’. At the time I was offering mentoring and consultancy services to accountants. I no longer have time for that any more.  Instead I now focus on writing and speaking to audiences of accountants.

You may however be aware that I also run a Linkedin group called ‘Referrals From Accountants’. This has no accountants in it. Instead its members number hundreds of financial advisers, bankers, solicitors, business coaches and other service suppliers. The one thing they all have in common is that they either want to sell to accountants or to encourage you to refer your clients to them.

Why do I do this and how does it help accountants?

Quite simply, the advice, insights and ideas I share are intended to reduce the number of people who waste your time.

Before I set up the group I ran seminars with the same objectives. These were well received but were too time consuming. So I created an ebook containing the notes and slides (as it seemed a shame just to dump them!).

The seminars, ebook and now the Linkedin group enable me to share essential background information that helps members to better understand accountants. I demolish common misconceptions and I tell them what really matters to accountants. As a result these people are less likely to seek meetings with you that go no where.  You will waste less time as a result. At leat that;’s the intention.

I also know that my insights put many new entrants to the market OFF the idea of trying to work with accountants. In essence they learn faster what they would otherwise only have found out through trial and error. And in so doing they would have been wasting your time.

If you know of anyone who needs to read the ebook please send them to: www.ReferralsFromAccountants.co.uk You might also encourage them to look up the Linkedin group: Referrals From Accountants.

Incidentally, if you have any pet hates, frustrations or tips that you’d like me to pass on through the discussion forum of the Linkedin group (and in so doing help you and other accountants) please add your comments to this post.

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Are your fees high enough?

Let’s start with a truism. No accountants complain that their clients are paying them too much. Conversely there are four main reasons why accountants think their clients are paying too little:

1. They haven’t put the basic fee up to a commercial level;
2. They don’t charge more during their busiest period;
3. They haven’t asked their clients to pay for ‘extras’;
4. Their clients won’t pay higher fees or for ‘extras’ even when asked

If your basic fees are too low then now is the time to consider how to break this to your clients. And you need to decide whether this is necessary as regards all or just some of your clients.

In an uncertain economic climate you would be forgiven for thinking about again holding your fees at the same level as last year. And that may be the right decision for some of your clients. Only you know your clients well enough to know if that will make sense and whether you need to adopt the same position for all of your clients – even the ones who are more of a problem than a pleasure to deal with.

When things are tough the chances are that you will lose some clients – and those that you can’t afford to spend time with are probably most at risk. Either they pay you more or they should move to someone else who can provide the level of help they need at a lower fee. What you want to avoid is hanging onto such clients and then suffering bad debts (which would include building up work in progress that cannot be billed because the client has gone out of business).

I suggest you book a chunk of time in your diary to plan how you will do this and maybe to brainstorm some ideas that will work for your practice and your client base. In my experience whilst there are plenty of issues that are common to many firms, everyone is different so what works well in one firm is not automatically right for another.

I normally suggest that accountants start by focusing on how much they want to earn from their practice. Then you can determine what they will need to do to achieve that ambition. If it’s more than you currently earn you will probably need to consider a mix of increasing the fees paid by  existing clients, increasing the services you provide to existing clients and charging extra for these and generating new fees from new clients. Only you can decide what you want and how you’re going to get it.

When your fees go up you will invariably lose some existing clients but even if you do, overall you are likely to end up with more fees and more time – a win-win situation. And if you also make a reciprocal fee arrangement with a smaller accountant to whom you refer your ‘lower value’ clients you can ensure that everyone is happy.

I’ve addressed related points in many previous blog posts including:

Are you charging enough?

Clients will pay high fees for good advice

What is a fair fee?

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