The 7 ways you can Keep In Touch with clients and contacts

Accountants who want to stand out as caring and being interested in their clients know that they should Keep In Touch (‘KIT’).  You also need a KIT routine if you want to be able to rely on business contacts and influencers to introduce new clients to you.

If we don’t keep in touch we risk being forgotten. When I was younger I used to think that my sparkling personality, wit and conversation would be sufficient to ensure that I would be remembered. Even if I had been right, the fact is that anyone who had met me had probably also met dozens of other people. In time any positive memory of me would be replaced by more recent memories of newer acquaintances.

So what can we do to keep in touch with our clients, contacts and wider network? There are 7 basic options and each has its benefits and disadvantages:

1. Email. Easy. Reliant on sender’s name and subject line engaging the recipient. Personal?

2. Phone call. Easy if you overcome any fear you have of personal contact. Proves you are genuine and not simply sending out a mass email. Skype (or other VoiP) video calls are even better as you can see each other too.

3 . Via LinkedIn. Messages sent within the Linkedin site may standout more than those sent by email. Equally, they may be ignored if the recipient is unfamiliar with their Linkedin inbox. Status and activity updates may not be noticed and are not personal. Endorsements are simply a game and few people pay much attention to them.

4. Via social media. Easy if you are familiar with the platforms and if you know the people you want to reach are active there and likely to see your messages. Direct personal messages may get more attention than longer emails. They are also more likely to be seen than those sent as quick update emails that will be quickly superseded by more recent messages. But are your contacts and connections active here?

5. At networking events. Regular attendees can catch-up with a few fellow group members at each meeting. But follow-up 1-2-1 face to face meetings are normally necessary to build trust.

6. 1-2-1 face to face. Important for building relationships with influencers and business associates. Also invaluable for building your knowledge of a client’s issues and plans so that you can tailor your advice and services accordingly.

7. By post. Snail-mail still has it’s place as well crafted letters and cards can stand out from the mass of emails that everyone receives. Postal campaigns can be pricey though.

Which approach do you prefer – and why? 

Like this? You can now obtain a 10,000+ word book I have written specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

by

Can service guarantees help you to stand out?

One way to stand out and to be different is to offer proof of your assertions. This means going beyond simply stating that you’re the best at what you do or promising to provide a timely service. Indeed, of themselves such assertions mean nothing to a prospective client. They have no way of judging the truth of what you claim. Put yourself in their shoes. Why should they believe you?

How can you prove that you provide a wonderful service? One easy way to do this is to offer some form of service guarantee. By all means add qualifications if you need to but your headline message is that the work you do is guaranteed.

Many accountants are instinctively reluctant to do this. But most commercial accountants implicitly guarantee their work anyway. If you’re going to do this you might as well secure the advantage and tell prospective clients. Doing so will mean you stand out as compared with the run of the mill accountants who do not clearly offer service guarantees. Such guarantees evidence how confident you are that your promises and assertions are reliable. You stand behind them. You’ve gone beyond mere words.

What do I mean by an implicit service guarantee?

Well, simply, if you realised you had made a mistake you would probably rectify this at no additional cost to the client. That’s the most simple service guarantee there can be. “We aim to get everything right for you, first time, every time. And on those rare occasions we miss something we will fix it for you immediately at no charge. That’s a service guarantee you won’t get from many of the more boring accountants around.”

Some stand out firms go much further than this. For example they might offer a 30-day annual accounts turnaround from receiving clients’ books and records. This gives them a competitive advantage when talking to prospects who either value timely annual accounts or have had enough of delays from their existing accountants.

Some stand out firms offer an over-riding ‘customer care’ guarantee under which clients are promised that they need only pay what they believe their service warrants. Again, this is probably less risky than it first appears. If a client wants a fee reduction that seems unfair you wouldn’t want them to remain a client anyway. And even without such a guarantee, fee disputes are generally only ever resolved at a compromise figure that the client considers to be fair.

Finally on this topic, do think about introducing service  guarantees for new prospects; see how it goes, test and revise the wording you use. There is no law that says you need to offer the same terms to all new clients or to all of your existing clients. If you suspect that some would exploit such guarantees don’t tell them until you are confident about how you will resolve such a situation. There is a view that if you can’t trust your clients why should they trust you? Maybe it’s time to part company. Then you can honestly say: “We only work with clients we like and who like us”. That too, can help you stand out. You’re not desperate to work with just anyone.

by

I’m not boring but my firm is. What should I do?

I was recently asked by an accountant whether it matters that his firm has a boring website and boring branding? The individual in question does not come across as boring themselves.

In typical accountancy fashion, I responded: ‘It depends…’.

I believe that firms that are keen to attract business from people who search online for an accountant need to have an attractive compelling website that make it both appealing and easy to get in touch. Or at least that those firms which do this will convert more visitors than those with boring looking websites.

Nb: The look and feel of the website is also relevant to accountants and firms where prospective clients look them up online. This typically happens after an existing client, business or networking associate has recommended or referred the accountant or firm to the prospect. (More tips on accountants’ websites here>>>)  

I also believe that accountants who attend networking events and give out boring looking business cards need to be particularly memorable, special and distinct in themselves. Otherwise there is less chance of the people they meet wanting to follow up with them. And networking without following up is invariably a waste of time.  The more you can tip the odds in your favour here the better. And quality business cards that stand out can only help.  (More tips on accountants’ business cards here>>>)

On the other hand…

Existing clients will be less interested in the firm’s website and branding than in the individual accountants with whom they are dealing.  Other partners in the firm may perceive any changes to the website and branding as a costly exercise that will not improve the bottom line. This may be true in the short term. And, of itself, such changes will not achieve anything. They would need to be part of a review and upgrading of the firm’s marketing activities, messages and ambitions. Should the more standout partners and members of staff push for this?  It depends… 😉

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

by

Why are you scared to lose prospective new clients?

You probably think the title of this blog comprises an odd question. It does and it was promoted by a recent blog post with a similarly odd title written by marketing guru, Ian Brodie: “Break your scarcity mindset“.

The focus of Ian’s post is what he calls a fear of ‘client scarcity’. He says:

“It comes from a mindset of having a shortage of leads and not wanting to lose a single one. Of maximising your chances of converting every lead because they’re in short supply.

And it’s very time consuming.

You end up spending time talking (or giving “free initial consultations”) to lots of people who aren’t perfect for you because you don’t want to miss out on the one who is. It’s a process designed for a world where you have plenty of time but very few leads.”

Ian’s thinking here has echoes of advice I have provided to accountants who want to stand out and to be more successful. Indeed it should resonate more with those accountants who are not desperately seeking new clients all the time. Many accountants have ‘good enough’ client bases. They generate ‘good enough’ fees and provide a ‘good enough’ living. They only lose the odd client each year and generally win a couple of new ones to make up for this. Although these random new clients may not be ideal, at least they were no trouble to win over.

If you have greater clarity as to what makes for an ideal client you can afford to be more choosy when you get approached by prospects who may not fit. Why give these strangers the benefit of your time for free? Shouldn’t you be focusing on existing profitable clients? And encouraging new prospects who meet your preferred criteria?

Here are two things you could do – the first of which I have advocated in many previous blog posts:

1 – Ensure your website makes clear your area of expertise and specialisation (eg: your niche); and

2 – Avoid the generic ‘we’ll charge a fair fee and tell you want this will be after we’ve spoken’

Why not, instead, provide some more positive and proud indication of your fees on your website? The only firms that seem to do this at the moment are those looking to charge lower fees than their competitors for packaged services. This can work of course.

But what if you had the courage to be clear as to the minimum fee that you look to earn from new clients? What if your website supported your marketing and your networking efforts to attract a specific type of client? What if your website made clear your client contract – ie: what clients need to promise if they want you to be their accountant?

Such an approach would, as Ian Brodie says:

“Scare off anyone who wasn’t perfect for you (and in the process attract people who were perfect)”.

Also:

“You wouldn’t have to sell. Not in the sense of persuading people you’re the right person to work with. You’d mutually decide whether you were a good fit.
You wouldn’t need to “establish value”. That would be done long before the person ever spoke to you. They’d establish it for themselves.

And if you lost a few leads along the way that you could have converted with a lot of effort – so what? Plenty more fish in the sea.”

I would add that those prospective new clients that you lose by adopting such an approach would not have been ideal for you anyway. What do you think?

by

How do you reply when asked: What do you do?

Many accountants adopt one of two distinct styles when talking about what they do for a living.

Most are almost apologetic when answering the question: “What do you do?” Experience has taught them that admitting they are an accountant may generate a dismissive or negative reply.

Those accountants who have attended formulaic networking groups adopt a different approach. They have learned an ‘elevator pitch’ that they think will both hold the other person’s attention and also distinguish them from other accountants.

The second approach is much better than the first but it’s usually tacky and contrived. I’m not a fan of such ruses.

So what do I suggest to accountants who want to stand out from the rest?

Actually my advice will lead you to adopt a variation on the elevator pitch. There are 3 key differences though:

1) How you choose what you say;
2) What needs to be going on in your head; and
3) The level of self confidence you display.

I want you to be more confident that what you do is valuable and worthwhile. Your role as an accountant is important to your clients and to society.

Maybe you help business people get a detailed understanding of what’s really going on in their business. Or you help give people peace of mind that their tax affairs are in order and that they are not paying any more in tax than they need to. There are many variations on these ideas. None though is focused around simply preparing sets of accounts or tax returns. The work you do, or should do, is more important than this. It’s more valuable and it’s more crucial.

Talking in such terms can help change people’s perceptions of what it means to be an accountant.

It is crucial though that YOU believe what you are saying. If you just say it because it sounds good you won’t fool anyone. You will simply be guilty of self deception and risk coming across as a slimy salesman.

I’d love to see some examples in the comments section below of what you say – whether or not this post has prompted you to review your ‘standard’ response.

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>>>

by

Beware the marketing bullies

Regular readers will know that on this blog I share, what I hope is, constructive unbiased advice for accountants in practice.

After I spoke at the recent Accountex exhibition and conference I was touched to be complimented a number of times on the style and content of my talks – which echoes the approach I adopt here. I have no ulterior motive, no desire to encourage you to spend thousands of pounds on my services and no ambition to be retained as a consultant to your practice.

One lady said she found my approach very refreshing as compared with that of most other speakers at the conference. “You were very different and so much more believable,”  she said. “You have inspired me to do a number of things that I will take forward when I’m back in the office. So many other speakers tried to persuade me I needed to do something that would involve me spending a lot of money with them.  And, quite frankly I wasn’t convinced that they were being objective.”

More recently I was chatting with an IT supplier who shared his views of such marketing focused suppliers. “Some are just bullies in pinstripes” he said. “They often employ very persuasive salespeople who attempt to scare accountants into spending far more money than necessary. Quite often the accountant is simply being forced onto a ‘me too’ bandwagon, the benefits of which are yet to be proven. But when a strong salesperson keeps on and on, a lot of accountants simply give in – and the salespeople know this is likely; so they persist until it happens.”

I was shocked as, in my experience, accountants are generally reluctant to invest in new marketing ‘solutions’. I would like to think that no one agrees to spend significant sums before creating an effective plan to secure a decent ROI. And bear in mind that there is NO simple quick get-rich formula for accountants looking for new clients.

My advice, as ever, is to avoid spending money before identifying your marketing strategy (and ideally picking a niche which enables you to stand out). As part of your strategy you should determine your objectives and the metrics that will determine whether or not your new activities are successful. Then you can judge any new solution objectively against the criteria you set.

There are many ethical salespeople out there and many of the marketing related services and products available to accountants are well worthwhile. But YOU need to choose which is best for you and your practice. Or, if not ‘best’, then which is going to be cost effective and appropriate for your practice? That may not be the first one you look at or the one with the most persuasive sales patter and follow up system.

Remember that a salesperson’s assertions are not proof, are rarely objective and are not necessarily reliable. What else could you do, or have you done, to protect yourself from the marketing bullies?

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

by

How do you know when a blog is worthwhile?

Regular readers will know that I do not spend time encouraging accountants to blog. Whilst it can be beneficial, too many accountants get encouraged to create a blog but then struggle to maintain it. Some pay good money for the blog to be created and possibly updated by someone else. This often defeats at least one of the purposes of the blog. It can also be an expensive way to secure the related hoped for SEO benefits.

Last year I outlined 5 blogging myths for accountants; my blog post also put the other side of the argument. I had to do that as I enjoy blogging and have been a regular blogger here for nearly seven years. My conclusion though was that all too often blogging is not a worthwhile allocation of time for accountants in practice. Yes, you can derive some benefit from it but this will typically only follow if blogging forms part of a structured marketing plan.

Having said all that, the question arises as to how do you know when a blog is worthwhile? By this I mean, how do you know when the blog has a sufficient following and that if you stopped blogging it would be disproportionately detrimental to your reputation?

In December I explained why I think that: Only one website metric really matters to accountants. The same is probably true of an accountant’s blog. If it’s not evidently helping you secure profitable work then it’s probably not worthwhile.

I stopped writing my Tax-Buzz blog at the end of 2011. I had posted over 400 items over a 4 year period, but for reasons I have explained elsewhere, I concluded there was no point continuing the blog.  Almost no one seemed to notice or to care when I stopped blogging there. Despite my best efforts the visitor numbers rarely peaked above a few thousand a month. I had also noted that the majority of readers were in the US (not a target market for me). This is an important issue. If the people visiting your blog are unlikely ever to become clients what’s the point?

What about this blog then for ambitious accountants?

Well  we had significantly more visitors (>19,000) and more page views (>30,000) in April 2013 than ever before. [Edit: And the figures have been getting much higher than this towards the end of 2013]

My wordpress stats are not identifying any specific blog post or page of the website as having become more popular than the others so the increase seems to be more generalised.

I’m hoping that the increasing level of interest in my website and blog is because readers find what I have to say of value. The level of feedback is pretty low – which is very common I understand. I do appreciate and acknowledge all those who take the time to comment. I hope I continue to share ideas that are of interest and value. If you have any suggestions for topics I might address here by all means let me know by email or by comments below. For the moment though I reckon this blog is worthwhile and so I will continue to update it at least once a week.

 

 

by

The end of accountants?

In early 2013 Professor Richard Susskind published a new book, ‘Tomorrow’s lawyers’. This included some updated observations of the views expressed in his previous book, published in 2008: The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services.

As I share many of Professor Susskind’s views I thought I would pick out one theme for this blog. He has been suggesting that technology and standardisation would make lawyers less important. Even five years ago, in 2008, he felt that this was already having a major impact on the structure and future of law firms. Professor Susskind was clear that he thought the same principles would also apply to other service professionals. Could the same be true of accountants and tax advisers for example?

Professor Susskind effectively urges readers to ask yourself, with your hand on your heart, what elements of your current workload could be undertaken differently – more quickly, cheaply, efficiently, or to a higher quality – using alternative methods of working? The challenge we face is to identify what distinctive skills, talents and capabilities you possess that cannot, crudely, be replaced by advanced systems or by less costly workers supported by technology or standard processes, or by lay people armed with online self-help tools.

Professor Susskind’s view is that the market is unlikely to tolerate expensive advice that can be better provided through automation, low cost online facilities and the support of modern systems and techniques. I would agree. He also suggested that the legal profession will be driven by two forces in the coming decade:

  1. by a market pull towards the commoditisation of legal services, and
  2. by the pervasive development and uptake of new and disruptive legal technologies.

Again, similar changes have been impacting the accounting profession over the last five years. However I don’t think the changes have yet been as dramatic as Professor Susskind was predicting. But in essence I am sure he was right and that there lessons here for ambitious accountants.  I’m not sure that ‘technology and standardisation’ are making accountants less important but the role is evolving – in much the way that some accountancy commentators have been predicting for a lot more than five years.

As I have long maintained, most accountants evolve and change only when they absolutely need to do so. This often means that the extent of the changes are only obvious when we look back and think how different things were even just a few years ago. If you don’t think much has changed then perhaps your memory is playing tricks on you. Or are you resisting the impact of ‘technology and standardisation’? How much longer is that approach sustainable I wonder?

I am relieved that Professor Susskind believes that there will continue to be a market for bespoke advice and that many people will continue to be willing to pay for expert judgment, intuition and the application and communication of complex expertise. I was relieved to hear that in 2008 and I think it is still true now. After all, that’s just what the Tax Advice Network is all about!

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>>>

by

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>>>

by

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>>>

by

A simple way accountants can earn £867 in just 7 minutes

This should be of interest if you have any interest in receiving valuable referrals from bankers.

Steve Pipe and Rob Brown have invited me to work with them on some ground-breaking research into how to get bank managers to give practices like yours more referrals. And between us we would like to ‘pay’ you £867 for 7 minutes of your time taking part.

Steve is, as you probably know, one of the most passionate accountancy gurus I have ever met. He’s the man behind the AVN network. Rob is the author of  ‘How to build your reputation’ and a recognised authority in this area.

Between us we have prepared two surveys. One for accountants and one for bankers. Both have been carefully designed so that the resulting report will reveal exactly and precisely what you need to do to receive more referrals from bankers… of the kind you really want. That report is expected to sell for £295.

But you will receive a pdf copy of the full report for FREE when you spend 7-8 minutes taking part in the online survey that is at the heart of the research.

You will also receive six other books, resources and training programmes we have created specifically to help accountants get better results (worth £572).

Earn your £867 here…

Taking part in the online survey is quick, easy and confidential. And you will find full details here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AVN-AC-Research

Start getting closer to bankers here…

You can also, if you want, send an email to every banker in your area to see if they would like to contribute to the research too. The text for a draft email with a link to the bankers’ survey follows:

SUGGESTED TEXT FOR EMAILING BANKERS

Subject: Can I help you meet your targets by giving you more referrals?

Dear [name]

I am taking part in a major research study into how accountants and bankers can build more fruitful referral relationships with each other.

And the research team suggested that I contact you with a two-step action plan:

STEP 1 – I invite you to take part in the research (which consists of an online survey herehttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/pba-research that is easy, quick and confidential – and gives you £495 worth of professional “thank you gifts” for 8-9 minutes of your time)

STEP 2 – When you receive the full research report (which is one of your thank you gifts) we get together to work out how best to use its findings to build a more mutually rewarding referral relationship.

I hope that sounds as good an idea to you as it does to me?

[Name]

by

Succinct advice to help anyone win new clients

I came across an old Chinese proverb recently:

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop

It reminded me of something my kids said a few years back at the surprise party that my wife arranged for my 50th birthday. My wonderful (teenage) kids gave a speech that included a short description of me as a ‘smiling man’. I’d like to think that my smile is welcoming and infectious. Is yours?

We all need to present a professional image – it needs to be a welcoming image too. Too many frowns and serious looks will not make it easy for new contacts to warm to us. And if they don’t like us, well, this will only serve to reinforce any preconceptions they may have about accountants being boring.  All of us, whether or not we’re in practice, industry or pretty much out of it (like me) owe it to our fellow professionals to overcome that boring old stereotype.

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>>>

by

How’s business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I am keen to present my keynote talks at conferences and events for accountants in the UK.  You may even have received my weekly Magic of Success email or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you’d be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring conference organisers and anyone else who might want a speaker for their event to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 20 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the lack of relevance or credibility most speakers have to his firm?  Or you meet one of the team who are organising a conference intended to attract accountants? Would you think of suggesting that either of them contacted me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help them and to speak at their events.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations, you might be hesitant. Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals 😉

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment, it’s a bit quiet; or
– Still plenty of space for new clients; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years when I was in practice my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

 

by

How’s business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I have this new focus for my talks: Be ReMARKable and show you are more than just another….‘ and that I am keen to present my keynote and after-dinner talks at conferences and events for accountants in the UK.  You may even have received my weekly email containing tips and tricks for accountants or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous. thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you might be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring conference organisers and anyone else who might want a speaker for their event to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 20 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the lack of relevance or credibility most speakers have to his firm?  Or you meet one of the team who are organising a conference intended to attract accountants? Would you think of suggesting that either of them contacted me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help them and to speak at their events.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations, you might be hesitant. [Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals].

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment; or
– Still plenty of space for new clients; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years, when I was still in practice, my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

If you would like me to speak on this topic or a related subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. 

by

The classic mistake made by accountants seeking new business

There’s a commonly quoted statistic that it’s ten times more costly (in terms of time and cash) to generate new work from new clients than it is to generate additional work from existing clients.

But if you’re really honest how do you allocate your precious time? Do you make time for meeting new people and for introductory meetings with prospective clients? If you’re like most ambitious accountants these will be two common activities for you.

But how much time do you devote to your existing clients – over and above the work you do for them each year? How much time do you spend looking for new ways to help them?

Notice how I asked that last question. How much time do you spend looking for new ways to help them?

I specifically didn’t suggest you should spend time looking for new ways to bill them more fees. Clients know the difference between an accountant who’s evidently looking for ways to genuinely help and one whose main interest seems to be to increase their fees.

So as we start a new year why not resolve to look for ways to help your existing clients more and ensure that you make time to do this each week. The more you help your clients the more pleased they will be. The more they will recognise that you are not just a typical boring accountant. The more they will talk about you and the more new work will come your way from your clients and from the people that they know.

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>>>

by

No one cares HOW you do what you do

Can you imagine what would happen if you explained to a prospective client or advocate HOW you do what you do?

  • We complete client’s tax returns using the latest software programme from ABC company;
  • We use the tax research books published by [name of publishing house];
  • Our staff have all been trained by [name of training company];

You wouldn’t do it would you? It’s not relevant information is it? Indeed it sounds somewhat self-centred and boring.

The analogy I offer here dates back to the first time I put my back out. What I wanted was a recommendation to someone who could fix my acute back pain. Frankly I didn’t care whether the practitioners, to whom I was recommended, were physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths or anything else.  HOW they were going to sort my back was of far less interest to me than the RESULTS or OUTCOME I wanted them to achieve for me.

Too many accountants and tax advisers focus on HOW they or their firm operate and how they provide their services too early in the conversation.

You will reduce the prospect of appearing boring and you will find it much easier to create rapport if your initial focus is on your clients, their problem and needs and what you can do for them.

There is an apocryphal story about a group of newly recruited executives at Black & Decker in the days when they only sold one basic product. They were asked what it was that their customers wanted from them.

The standard answer was ‘drills’.

“No” they were told. “Our customers want HOLES.”

In a similar vein the great Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

How do you feel about this concept and the idea of focusing on the hole in the wall that your prospective clients want?  Typically they have problems they want solved or sorted. They will rarely care much about your firm’s internal processes and systems.

The bottom line is that good answers to the question ‘What do you do?’ do not include any reference to HOW you do it.

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

by

9 accountants’ business card mistakes

Over the holiday period I went through many hundreds of business cards I have collected over the last few years.  That led me to post a reminder that: ‘No one refers work to a business card‘. This was a follow up to an earlier post with the same title.

Having reviewed all of these cards, from website developers, solicitors, bankers, PR people, bookkeepers, accountants, tax advisers, trademark agents, answering services and many, many other business people, I thought I would distil some advice for ambitious accountants.

Before getting onto the common mistakes let’s just remind ourselves as to the reason for a business card. I suggest that it is to provide the person to whom it is given sufficient details for them to get in touch with you – and to know why they might want to do this.

The following are among the most common mistakes I saw on all of the accountants’ business cards I looked back at last week. Some are boring, others are naive or just plain daft:

1 – info@accountancyfirm.co.uk

Email addresses that start with ‘info@’ suggest you’re new to email and will prevent you receiving some of the emails you want, for example if you sign up for newsletters etc.  Use your own name. After all, it’s your business card.

2 – accountant.name@ntlworld.com or @yahoo.com or @gmail.com etc

Email addresses that use a generic email service are unprofessional and suggest that you are either new in practice, are not serious about your practice or are very much behind the times. None are great signals. You can get you own email address very cheaply even if you do not have or need a website.

3 – Crossed out email address on card and new handwritten one added

Talk about unprofessional. Think of the impact this has. New contact details means new business cards. There’s little point in finishing off an old batch of cards if the people to whom they are given put them straight in the bin.

4 – Multiple office phone numbers

You should only need one office number unless you operate from multiple offices. Even then you could make it easier for callers by utilising a central phone answering service, installing a switchboard or adding an auto-redirect (when engaged or unanswered) to your mobile number.

5 – Two email addresses on one business card

Why would anyone do that? It’s not like having separate local and city office physical addresses. Make it easy for people to contact you; don’t force them to wonder and to choose.

6 – Flimsy and cheap looking card

Your business card is a memory aid for when you’re not there. Do you want to be remembered as a cheap amateur?

7 – Mixed up personal and business contact information

So many business cards have evolved with little thought apparently given to where newer info should be added. It’s so much easier if the business name, address and switchboard number are evidently separate to your personal name, title, mobile, direct dial and email address.

8 – Tiny font

Either the information on the card is worth including or it isn’t. If it’s too small to read then it might as well not be there. Too many business cards seem to have shrunk the font size to fit on more information such as email addresses, linkedin profile links and a promo message. But if we can’t read it easily you’re wasting your time.

9 – Forgetting to include ‘Accountants’ after the business name

So many of the business cards I threw out recently had business names on them but no indication of the nature of the business service they offer. Of course if you’re ‘tax specialists’ you might put that instead of ‘accountants’.  Remember too that even if you’re a member of the ICAEW and use the authorised logo, not everyone will recognise this so it’s not sufficient.  And whilst a marketing ‘guru’ may have suggested you call yourselves something like ‘business growth specialists’ you still need to use the word ‘accountants’ (or whatever) to make it easy for the person who looks at your card some time after you gave it to them.

Related posts

Feel free to add comments below and share other tips and mistakes you’ve seen if they could be helpful for fellow accountants.

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

by

No one refers work to a business card (follow up)

Over the holiday period I had a tidy up and threw away many hundreds of old business cards. I had collected (or simply been given) them at business networking events and business meetings over the last few years. These days I am more interested in noting whether the person I meet is on Linkedin. If so I will connect with them there.

Many of the hundreds and hundreds of business cards I threw away had little notes on the back. I typically write the date and place we met and add a note of anything I have promised to do by way of follow up. Sometimes I note some facts that may prove useful if we meet again.

I looked at the name and business details of every single business card in my collection before deciding which ones to throw away. Three things struck me:

  1. How few of the people I could remember;
  2. How few of the cards made clear the nature of the business they provide – whether I would have remembered weeks later is in doubt. Months or years later it’s impossible; and
  3. How few of the people had followed up with me. They will have given me their card but could only follow up with me if they had asked for mine. I only offer it on request. Even if they had concluded that I was not in the market for their services they will not have known who I know or to whom I could introduce them. So many wasted opportunities, so much wasted time and so much wasted money. Sadly I think I made the same mistake myself in many cases – but not, I would add, when I noted an action to take as I’m sure I kept my promises.

Back in 2007 I wrote a blog post here: No one refers work to a business card. Reviewing and binning hundreds of them over the last couple of days has certainly reinforced that view, hence this follow up post.

Also on this theme is another post: What makes an effective business card for ambitious accountants? To the list in that old post I would add one thing: These days it makes sense to include reference to your Linkedin profile and/or twitter account. After all, if the purpose of a business card is to make it easy for the other person to contact you afterwards or to connect others to you, it makes sense to list all the ways THEY might choose to do this.

I would add that so many of the business cards I have thrown away, especially those from accountants (I’m sorry to say) were pretty boring and interchangeable. Look out for a separate post soon with 7 mistakes accountants make with their business cards and tips on how to avoid them reinforcing that old boring stereotype.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

by

Five ways general practice accountants can choose a niche

It is generally accepted these days that you will benefit more from advertising, marketing, networking and referrals if you focus on a recognisable niche.  Let everyone else continue trying to be all things to all people.

But, if you are like most accountants in practice you don’t think you have a specialist focus. You have dozens or even hundreds of clients spread across various industries. You don’t want to limit the type of new client you target. You can sort out the tax and accounting needs of most people, most of the time.

I’ve included links below to previous posts where I have explained why this approach will be less successful than one whereby you focus and niche – or even, micro-niche, your targetted new prospects.

Here are five ways you can choose a niche:

  1. Identify the clients who already pay you the highest fees. Want some more like that?
  2. Focus on those clients who have been with you the longest and who are now paying you more than when they first came on board. These are the ones you know how to grow and support.
  3. Think about which group of clients you most enjoy working with, advising and helping? Enjoyment is infectious.
  4. Do you have any clients who have written unsolicited testimonials or recommended you to other people who are in the same field? They already think you have a niche!
  5. On balance which would you say are your best or favourite clients? Use whatever criteria you want – it doesn’t have to be about fees.

Find some similarities between the clients you identify through this process. Tidy up the definition so that it becomes something you can say and that people can remember. That will then be your niche and you will win more new clients faster than if you persist with being the same as every other generalist accountant.

Do share your niches below. Let’s see how varied they are.

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

 

by

5 Blogging myths for accountants

I saw an online promo recently suggesting that all accountants should be blogging. How objective is this idea and does it really make sense?

Given that I’m still an enthusiastic blogger you might expect me to also advocate blogging by accountants. But I don’t and it’s not just because of my experience with the Tax-Buzz blog – although that does confirm my view about the myths surrounding blogging for accountants.

I should stress that I enjoy blogging and have now posted almost 500 items here since 2006. I also have a separate blog on which I have shared hundreds of posts on the subject of The lighter side of accountancy and tax.  I stopped writing my third blog at the end of 2011. The Tax-Buzz blog was where I shared over 400 insights and advice re tax related stories in the media over a 4 year period. I explained why I stopped adding to that blog in a blog post(!) in May 2012.

Anyway, here are my 5 blogging myths – ie: reasons often given to encourage people to blog regularly and why I think that accountants are different. If you disagree, please add your comments below:

1 – Build your credibility – This only works as regards people who see and read your blogs. Most accountants in practice are not seeking to build credibility across the UK, let alone the world. Their target audience is more local than that. Will your target audience (prospective clients, advocates and potential staff) find your blog and read it sufficiently to be influenced? There are certain tools you can use to help here but my own experience suggests that the impact will be minimal in real-life, as distinct from in theory.

2 – Enhance your SEO – This refers to ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. How easy is it for your target audience to find you on the web? Not the people who know your name or the name of your practice but those who don’t know you and are looking for someone just like you. Might I suggest that the best starting point here is to arrange for your website to be Optimised before you start blogging – if this is your objective. I would also suggest that blog articles are typically seen as a great way to access free advice. I am doubtful as to how often anyone will contact an accountant and be willing to pay for advice received after reading their blog online. The web user is far more likely to keep searching for more free advice on the same topic.

3 – It’s fun – I’d agree with that. But then lots of things are fun. How many fun things can you fit into your life? It’s also time consuming.  Is it enough fun to warrant the time and effort? For most accountants I would suggest the answer is ‘no’. It’s nice to think one has been helpful and that lots of people have read what you’ve written. But unless this turns into billable work or trackable referrals at some stage it is simply ‘fun’ and probably less productive than many other fun activities eg: engaging on twitter, business forums and Linkedin (all of which I advocate – to one degree or another).

4 – Emphasise your niche – If you have one. During my talks for accountants I often stress the benefits of focusing on a niche and of highlighting a specialism.  The strength of the argument for doing this sometimes comes as a shock after years of trading as accountants to anyone and everyone. If you have no niche your blog will be just one of many generalist ones. But even if you do have a niche I have the same reservations as set out in the 3 paras above.

5 – Distinguish yourself from the others – I’m a great advocate of the idea that it’s ‘more important to be different than to be better.’  But those features that distinguish you need to be evidently of benefit to your target clients. Being 7 foot tall and always carrying a bright green briefcase will make you memorable but do those differences benefit anyone? In the same way, will anyone feel that they are getting more value for money or a better service simply because you are a regular blogger? I think not.

I was recently a judge in a competition to identify high performing accountancy firms. Some (not many) of the entrants referenced their use of social media as contributing to their success. I was pleased to see this. However, in most cases they went on to explain they were active on twitter, linkedin and blogging. No one seemed able to distinguish the value of different elements of their social media activity. What was unclear was whether any firm that was blogging could identify any of their growth as benefitting from this activity.

The other side of the coin

I’ve been blogging here since 2006. The frequency of my posts varies but it now averages about 2 per week. I get to post my thoughts and ideas here to help readers and I am then able to collate the posts to create articles for the press and for other websites.  I also often adapt my blog posts to create supporting material for my courses and seminars for accountants.

I am aware of a relatively small number of accountants in practice who seem to enjoy blogging. I know of far more who gave it a try and then gave up. They concluded that the benefits didn’t live upto the hype.  I don’t think that’s a reflection on the accountants. I think it’s more to do with the hype.

[This is an updated version of a blogpost I originally wrote in 2008. Beyond my own evidence, through the TaxBuzz blog, that sadly supports my contentions, nothing much seems to have changed in the last 4 years. Well, one thing has; there are now more marketing types encouraging accountants to start blogs and to outsource the writing to the promoters!]

What do you think?  Please add your views as comments to this post especially if you are an accountant who blogs.

I have written a 10,000 word ebook containing marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

by

Are we undermining the meaning of the word ‘specialise’?

I saw an advert recently for the Daily Telegraph’s jobs board. It claims them to be “Specialists in your Industry”. Er, no they aren’t. They can’t be.

They may ‘cover’ every industry. They may have vacancies or jobs for people in “every” (or, more likely, simply ‘most’) industries. But, by definition, they cannot be ‘specialists’ in all industries. No one can. Specialists concentrate primarily on a particular subject or activity. This is the complete opposite of what the Telegraph jobs board attempts to assert.

This reminded me of the nonsensical way that some accountants claim to specialise in working with or advising SMEs. I’m sorry but this is hardly a meaningful specialism either.

Official statistics from the Dept of Business Innovation & Skills show that OVER 99.7% of all UK businesses satisfy the definition of SME business. The stats also reveal that around 4.5 million businesses in the UK rank as SMEs, so it’s not realistic to claim SMEs as a specialism.  And I am firmly of the view that Accountants, of all people, should not perpetuate the myth that the acronym ‘SME’ refers only to the smallest micro businesses (which officially have a turnover of less than 2m euros and fewer than 10 staff).

If you ‘specialise’ in advising micro or smaller businesses, solopreneurs or small family-run businesses you cannot, at the same time also ‘specialise’ in advising those with muti-million pound turnovers and hundreds of staff. (The definition of SME includes those businesses with a turnover of upto £25.9m and upto 250 staff).

Some accountants’ websites misuse the word ‘specialise’ in another way. They list out the industries in which the firm ‘specialises’. All too often, this is simply a list of all of the industries in which the firm has at least one or two clients.

Those firms which truly have a specialist focus generally evidence this by explaining how their focus benefits clients in those industries. The websites have specific pages that talk to prospective clients in those industries and contain specialist information of relevance and benefit to prospects in those industries.

Rant over.  Do let me know what you think on this topic by adding your comments below please.

by

Are your clients standard, super or suspect?

Your clients probably fall into one of 3 categories. Do you make the implicit assumption this supports?

1 – Standard

Those who will never want you to do anything different from what you already do each year. Or would be unprepared to pay a decent fee for any additional services and advice.

2 – Super

Those who assume that as you are their accountant you can advise them on anything and everything vaguely related to their finances, tax, accounts and business. As and when they ever need anything out of the norm, you are the first person they contact.

3 – Suspect

Those who assume that you are unable to provide ad-hoc services beyond those you provide every year. They are unaware that you could provide (or co-ordinate) the additional services they require.

Whilst you might know you have more skills and could do more to help them, they’ve never asked you to do so. And you’ve not really made them aware of your full skill-set – other than possibly some years ago when you first met them…..[Whilst you might remember doing this, is it reasonable to expect them to do so?]. Equally, whilst you may not have the skills yourself you may prefer to introduce them to a suitable specialist who either works ‘through’ you or directly with your client – who remains loyal to you in all other respects.

I suspect that many accountants assume that more of their clients fall into the second category than is actually the case. How would you know? And how exposed are you to other advisers offering their services to address your clients’ wider needs? What can you do to  ensure that clients act more like those in category two (if, indeed, you would like them to do so)?

Does this analysis resonate with you?

by

Reputation matters more than anything

I’d like to recommend a radio programme to you (details below). I suggest you try to listen again or download the podcast before it disappears from the Radio 4 website.

Evan Davis’s guests on the programme are not accountants but they are all, to some extent, selling expertise, ie: knowledge that the customer doesn’t have. The discussion attempts to address the question:

“If consumers are in a state of relative ignorance, how can they shop around? What stops them getting ripped off?”

Clearly this is commonly the state in which prospects find themselves when they look for an accountant.  The programme also asks the question:

When consumers look to buy ‘expertise’ how do they do it?

The interviewees note that it is easier to secure new clients when you’re offering a continuing relationship. Many people are concerned that they will get ripped off when they are only seeking one-off expert advice. One example they explored was the car mechanic. Who knows if they’re any good? How do people choose one? They invariably go by recommendation and effectively therefore by reference to their reputation. At such time as they feel they have been ripped off, given poor service or are unhappy in any other way, they look around for someone new.

Sounds familiar?

The best quotes from the programme include:

We have competitors but no peers

People buy people.

Our reputation in service business is key.

Reputation matters more than anything and this serves everyone’s interests.

Personal recommendations are key

Whilst accountants are not specifically mentioned during the programme, the learning points are, I hope, clear from the points highlighted above.  Do let me know if you listen to it and what lessons you draw from the discussion.

The interviews/discussion were part of the Radio 4 programme, The Bottom Line 23 Feb 2012

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>>>

by

A twitter case study for accountants – and key question

I have mentioned Elaine Clark who runs CheapAccounting.co.uk on my blog previously. Like me Elaine is very active on twitter. Like me she is a big advocate of twitter.

The main difference between us is that I make clear that twitter is no panacea and that you need to make time to understand it before you leap in. Elaine’s approach is to generate enthusiasm first before, effectively, confirming the caveats that I offer. We both do this in articles, blog posts and presentations. Indeed we spoke on the same platform for the ICAEW last year.

I was very impressed by a piece Elaine wrote for HSBC’s small business knowledge centre about how her business uses twitter.

In her article Elaine explains that since she started using Twitter her website visitors have increased by about 50% per month. And, crucially that this resulted in increased sales.

Here are a couple of other things she says in the article:

My tweets [140 character messages] vary, but I always avoid ‘broadcasting’ – using Twitter simply to say ‘buy me’. The key to using social media is engagement and social interaction. I very rarely post any pure sales messages. It’s about getting people to like and trust your brand.

Elaine’s tweets often include links to her blogs and free advice guides. More often they involve general discussion and chit chat with one or more of her twitter followers. She sees this as simply being an extension of her offline networking. I have also noticed that Elaine sometimes comments on events in the news to add to or prompt discussion.

Just like the rest of your marketing activity, social media requires careful planning. It requires patience and hard work, too – success won’t come overnight. Using Twitter should be fun, so enjoy it.

I think the full article is a great case study and contains some excellent advice. I would add, as I have said elsewhere, that I think twitter works for Elaine for two key reasons:

1 – She uses it effectively – as she explains above; and

2 – The CheapAccounting.co.uk website has a clear focused, targeted proposition. It’s inviting and easy to engage with the business. Were that not the case then the increased business driven through Elaine’s activity on twitter would be much lower – and might not even be measurable.

So here’s my key question: Does your website echo your online messages and, in so doing, convert visitors who have followed links from your twitter account (or other social media sites)? If not, it’s something else you might want to address whilst you build up your profile on twitter.

If you are an accountant with a story that would make a good twitter case study, please get in touch

by

6 factors for accountants to consider before paying to be listed on directory sites

In a separate post I have listed the existing and about-to-be-launched online directory sites for accountants in the UK. They are all intended to appeal to people using the internet to search for a new accountant.

The value of paying to be included in any such directory site seems to depend on at least six things:

1) Search results

The directory on which you are listed must appear sufficiently high up the search results and be sufficiently compelling to attract interest from users searching for a new accountant;  Bear in mind that those people will not all use consistent search terms and some will be more expert at using search engines than others.

2) User willingness to use the directory

Sufficient numbers of those users must be willing to ignore both the direct links to accountants who come up in the natural search results and those whose ads appear in the pay per click ads on the right hand side of the search results screen;  And these people need to be the sort of new clients you would like to attract as new clients.

3) Non-search related promotion of the online directory

Some directories may promote and seek interest from users who see adverts for the online directory in the conventional business or personal finance press, on relevant discussion forums and through social media.

4) Site useability

Sufficient numbers of users must find the directory service easy to use and do not abandon their search before finding what they seek.

5) Your directory entry/activity

Your directory listing and/or response to enquiries needs to be more compelling than those of your local competition.

6) Your website / closing ability

If the directory site links to your website, how easy is it for a new visitor to satisfy themselves that they should get in touch? How easy is it for them to find your phone number and a name of someone to ask for? And how good are you at converting such enquiries into new clients?  (I have addressed a similar point many time before on this blog in the context both of social media and of websites for accountants)

Have I missed anything?  What sort of experiences have you had re online directory listings?

by