Is your business name sufficiently memorable?

Most professional advisory firms are simply named after their founders. Some retain the names of just the first two or 3 partners, Others might extend to 4, 5 or 6 names. The longest I have found, unless you know better, was a small Los Angeles entertainment firm, once known as: Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf. I pity the receptionists required to reel that off when answering the phone!

Firms often combine their names when they merge. By way of example, the firm I trained with, named after the founding partner Mr Wood, was Wood & Co. Then it became Wood King, next Chantrey Wood King, then Chantrey Vellacott and now it has been absorbed by Moore Stephens.  None of these iterations tell anyone anything about the nature of the business.

It remains the norm for smaller professional firms to be named after the founder(s), possibly with the addition of: “and associates” or “& Co” (even when they work alone). If your name is sufficiently distinct and memorable this may work fine.  And there’s nothing wrong with this approach in any event.

But a firm named after an individual will rarely STAND OUT from the crowd. This may not matter if you have a strong tag-line or if you and your practice STAND OUT for other reasons. But why not also consider choosing a distinct STAND OUT name for the business?

Many historical restrictions by professional bodies on the naming options available to their members ended long ago. Some people have chosen one-word business names that STAND OUT as they are distinct. Sometimes the word is one that is favoured by the founder. There may or may not be a simple story that explains the choice of word and how it links to the business of the firm. Told well such stories can help the business name to be better remembered than might otherwise be the case.

The largest professional firms have all retained elements of their traditional names even if now limited to just one word/name or a set of initials (eg: Deloitte, KPMG, Linklaters, Baker & McKenzie).  I suspect that some people running their own practices want to give the impression that they are bigger than perhaps is really the case. Perhaps this is the reason for retaining the same naming convention as the larger firms in your profession.

Some of the STAND OUT business names for professional firms I have encountered recently include:

Numbers + Beyond – Chartered Accountancy and Virtual FD practice run by Linda Foster

Virtuoso Legal – Law firm specialising in intellectual property

Grow Smart Finance – Chartered management accountancy practice run by Liesl Davis

The Will Bureau – a will writing practice led by Andrew Edwards

Signature Litigation – Law firm specialising in litigation work

Simply bookkeeping – Bookkeeping(!) practice run by Coral Hamze

The Tax Guys – Tax and accountancy practice run by Jonathan Amponsah

Cheap Accounting – Accountancy franchise established by Elaine Clark

I assume that some experts believe that the best business names are abstract words – as there are so many of these around. My preference, if you want to STAND OUT is to adopt a name that makes clear what your business is. For the same reason I’m not a fan of coined names (that come from made-up words) as, in the absence of a large marketing budget, these are unlikely to be as memorable as real words.

Finding a business name that is simple enough and easy to recall and spell isn’t always easy. Unusual words may STAND OUT for the wrong reasons as they may be hard to recall and tough to find on line if people cannot recall the spelling.

Regardless of whether you use your name, a real word, a made up word or a combination of words, do not make a final decision until you have checked what shows up when you search for that name online, that you can obtain the domain name and that  can register it at Companies House (even if your company/LLP is to be dormant if you operate as a sole practitioner).

Do you have or do you know of any other STAND OUT business names for professional firms? Please share them below as comments on this post.

 

 

 

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Is it really about the competition or is it about you?

I recently offered some help by way of comments in response to an accountant’s query in an online forum. Most of my observations and advice are of more general application so I am sharing them here too.

The questioner has been in practice for 3 years and is struggling to build up his client base. He has already lost a number of those he picked up in year one. His question was headed: How do I compete? He has identified 127 other accountants within a 5 mile radius of his home and wants to know if he can ever expect to get onto page one of Google.

Here’s my reply:

——

Reading your original post and your comments I suggest there are a number of issues to address:

Prospects vs suspects

You think you are good with clients but you seem to struggle with converting prospects into clients. I wonder if they are all even prospects. Some may be simply ‘suspects’ – for example those who you say are not ready with their business model. Is the service such people require different to what you’re offering? Maybe they need help building their business model?

Can you distinguish suspects from prospects? The latter are not just people who want an accountant but people you have found out enough about to know that you could provide what they want/need and that you can provide those services.

Online promotion

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about ensuring your website appears high up the search results when people search for the services you are offering. You’re right. It will be hard to compete with 127 other local accountants all offering the same thing to the same people.

There are typically two types of people who search online for an accountant:

A) Those who just want an accountant (be it their first one or to switch from a bad one)

B) Those who want an accountant who specialises in helping people just like them

It sounds like you’re hoping to be found in (A) regardless of who is looking. While there will be fewer people searching for a specialist accountant, more of them are likely to be pay good fees and you will face less competition.

‘Closing’

Do you have the confidence and skills to ‘close’ a prospect – ie: to help them to want to engage you as their accountant? This demands both conversational skills and the right paperwork at the right time.

Local competition

Ah yes, this is what you suggest may be the biggest issue. You may be right. But equally if you can distinguish yourself, your service and your approach from the others you can build a sustainable and profitable practice.

Again, there are 2 issues:

a) Are there enough prospective clients in the area? (Almost certainly ‘yes’ – tho you may need to wait for their current accountant to mess up before they will move to someone new – you!)

b) Can you position yourself as the accountant enough of them should aspire to be serviced by? Having a half decent website (or better) and high ranking on Google is only part of the story and not a crucial one either.

Referrals

This is always referenced as the ‘best’ source of new clients for accountants. I am aware however, that many who claim this are not looking to build up their practice quickly. They are happy winning a few new clients each year to replace the few they lose each year.

Establishing a sustainable referrals strategy is absolutely worthwhile. Again though it’s easist if your clients, friends and associates can say something distinct, when referring you. Something more than simply that you’re an accountant (just like all the others).

Happy to discuss this further. I love helping accountants who want to STAND OUT and become more successful without spending a fortune on marketing and branding. By all means book a call here: www.calendly.com/bookmarklee/phone

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What do clients pay you for?

Are you one of those accountants in practice, who still charges fees by reference to the time you spend working on a client’s affairs?

Even if you have moved to fixed pricing, menu pricing or value pricing you may still complete timesheets to show how much of your day has been devoted to each different client.

Thinking back to when I was in practice it was many years before I realised that a timesheet may have uses as a management tool but that it did not ‘prove’ how much time had been spent doing anything. It was a guide, nothing more.

After I left practice in 2006 I continued running training courses (very different to the talks I give now) and I asked accountants what they would bill in a variety of situations. The varied answers proved that the timesheet was simply a guide and that the ‘time costs’ that it reveals are rarely the same as the fees billed (or that could be billed).

A quick search online reveals that many accountants websites still assert that “Accountants sell time”. What nonsense. This is a sad misconception. It’s based on a misunderstanding and it’s misleading. Some accountants may try to determine SOME OF their fees by reference to time. They may try to charge fees by reference to their time records but TIME is not generally what accountants sell. If it were then the corollary would be that TIME is what people who want an accountant set out to buy. And they don’t.

In my view accountants sell (or should focus on selling) Trust, Confidence and Peace of Mind. These are 3 of the key qualities, if not THE 3 key qualities, that clients seek when they want to appoint an accountant. If prospective clients do not quickly trust you, have confidence that you will do the necessary, and gain peace of mind that they can rely on you, you will not keep them as clients; indeed they may not appoint you in the first place.

Yes they may have more specific needs – such as to prepare accounts, complete tax returns or resolve issues with HMRC. They don’t really care how long it takes you to provide your services. They just want things done. What do you think clients pay you for?

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What do you enjoy doing?

Just stop for a moment and consider how you would answer if someone asked you: “What do you enjoy doing?”

Now think how much better that reply sounds than what you normally say when someone asks you: “What do you do?”

In formal business networking situations your reply to that ubiquitous question may be one of your prepared and rehearsed ‘elevator pitches’. You would choose the one that will resonate best with the person asking the question. (It helps to find out about them first!)

In more social situations the same question can be answered very differently. The question is often being used as a variation on the ‘how are you?’ question everyone asks without expecting a reply containing any form of detailed medical information.

You will STAND OUT, positively, if your reply to standard questions like this is more interesting and distinct from everyone else. One easy way to do this is to imagine a slightly different question has been asked.  eg: “What do you enjoy doing?”

You can also ensure you STAND OUT by asking more interesting and distinct questions to other people – even in social situations. Instead of asking “what do you do?” when you meet a stranger, consider instead asking them “So what do you enjoy doing?”  If they enjoy their job they may choose to talk about that, and, if not, you have invited them to talk about something else they find more fun and worth talking about. Answers to this question can also lead to more interesting conversations.

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5 tips from Stephen Lansdown’s entry on The Accountancy Rich List 2015

I was intrigued by elements of the Accountancy Rich List 2015 published by economia magazine.

The magazine itself, as distinct from the online list, contains pen portraits of ten of those on the list, described as “inspiring entrepreneurial chartered accountants”. In each case a sentence or quote has been given explaining ‘How he made it”. One of the quotes stood out as offering important lessons that are more widely applicable.

Stephen Lansdown – ranked 5th on the Accountancy Rich list 2015 – is one of the founders of Hargreaves Lansdown which began life in 1981. It has since grown into one of the UK’s best-known financial services firms.

In the box summarising ‘How he made it’ Stephen is quoted as saying: “It was a combination of marketing our business, getting clients or potential clients on board and then convincing them to do business with us.”  Having been on the receiving end of Hargreaves Lansdown’s marketing for some years I am inclined to extrapolate some specific tips from this quote:

  1. Marketing is key. People need to be aware of your business before they can buy from you.
  2. Prospects need to know exactly what you can do for them and how they can benefit from using your services.
  3. You need to make it easy for prospects to decide they want to do this.
  4. You need to keep in touch with clients so that they keep coming back and doing more business with you.
  5. You need to follow up. Getting in touch once and hoping someone will remember you when they need your services is rarely sufficient. Following-up effectively is key and this is why it is one of the 7 key elements in my STAND OUT framework.

 

 

 

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When you DO get a second chance to make a first impression

During the summer, at The Magic Circle, one of our more distinctive members gave a short lecture. Laura London stands out in a crowd even though she no longer wears the tight leather outfits she did a few years back.Laura London, entertaining Prince Charles

She still has bright red hair and lips which I am sure command attention wherever she goes. However, despite her distinctive look, Laura adopts a softer, gentler approach to many of her close-up performances and ensures that the spectator appears to be doing the magic themselves.

Laura is a firm believer however that “It’s not about the magic, it’s about you. The first words you say, the way you look, the person that you are and the kind of personality you portray are the first things that people judge you on.”

In Laura’s case I imagine that many people she meets assume her character will be something different to how she comes across one on one. I am sure this works to her advantage.

It got me thinking though. Normally we say that ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. The implication being that the first thing people assume about you will determine what they think and remember about you. I have always taken this to mean that if you don’t create a positive first impression you won’t get a second chance.

Watching Laura deliver her lecture and chatting with her afterwards has caused me to rethink the idea which I now see as too simplistic.

If the real you is distinct from the first impression people perceive, this can work for or against you. For most of us there is a risk in cultivating a degree of incongruity, which is what Laura does. It works well for her and the ‘real’ Laura is typically less ‘outrageous’ than her appearance might lead one to expect.

If someone forms a less than positive first impression of you as a professional or a performer they may well switch off.  Typically you will struggle to recover from this disadvantage. If however the initial impression you give commands attention. you want to avoid disappointing people unless what you do or say is truly impressive and memorable in its own right. This is what I think Laura does and it’s not easy.

Who else do you know, or know of, who stands out through their appearance and first impressions but which seem to be misleading as compared with their natural style and approach? Does the incongruity work for them or against them?

 

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Connecting through social media

I was amused by an email I received out of the blue this week and thought you might find it helpful to learn why. The salient part read:

“At [ABC] we understand that social media is becoming more important in running a business than ever before. My name is [XYZ] and I’m reaching out to select bloggers (like you!) to gather your stories about how you connect with customers through social media. Do you answer their questions promptly? Share their feedback? Start a conversation?”

I was amused as I think the questions betray a lack of understanding about social media. Another possibility is that the questions are intended for someone with a very different profile and business to me – and my clients.

You see, I rarely “connect with customers through social media.”  I connect with prospective customers and prospective clients. However I only rarely get questions from them via social media. Most such queries also come by email and email is again the communication method of choice for most of my clients too.

If someone sends me a question via twitter or Linkedin I always try to reply promptly. And yes, I love to share positive feedback – though I only tend to do this via twitter and on my website.
As I have long pointed out, Social Media is NOT important to ALL businesses. And far too many people misunderstand the medium. I have heard a number of people telling me recently that they don’t know how to do it themselves so they have engaged some young person to do it for them. This is largely pointless. Few of us can effectively outsource all of our social media activity. The key piece we invariably have to do ourselves is the connecting with people (whether we already know them or would like to know them).
The clue is in the word ‘social’. You cannot avoid going to parties by sending someone in your place and expecting them to engage with any ideal clients they meet there on your behalf. Either you go yourself or you have to find other ways to connect with these people.
You can use social media to connect with existing clients IF THEY ARE PRESENT AND ENGAGED on the social media sites in question. This is why, for example, I am not active on instagram or pinterest. They may both be very popular social media sites but it wouldn’t be a good use of my time. I just cannot imagine that I would encounter enough prospective clients or customers to warrant the time and effort. Do you know on which social media sites you could find the people you want to engage and contact? Start with one (and if you’re unsure I recommend Linkedin) rather than trying to learn about all of them at once. It will just be a waste of time and money.
Social Media is a great way to short-circuit the face to face networking process. You can use it to connect with prospective clients, influencers and introducers. Having connected you still need to speak or meet to determine whether a business relationship is going to develop.
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This accountant’s new website is already ten years out of date

One of the thousands of accountants with whom I am connected on Linkedin recently posted a link asking what did people think about his firm’s new website. I replied privately but thought I would share my feedback as it may be helpful to others.

I have no desire to embarrass the accountant in question so nothing below identifies the firm or the website.

The site

By way of background let me describe the site. It has just 5 pages (which is plenty in my view – if used well). The page titles are:

Home : Our firm : Services : Publications : Contact

The Home page is dominated by a picture of the city landscape in which they operate. The background colour is very bright. There is no suggestion of any design work. If you scroll down there are two very heavy paras of text talking all about the firm. Nothing about clients or visitors to the site.

Our firm – This has 7 paras on the firm. Nothing about any individuals but there is a definite suggestion that this is more than a one man band. (It’s “a team of highly motivated individuals”)

Services – This contains the ubiquitous list of anything and everything you might expect from a firm of accountants.

Publications – This page invites us to keep in touch to see what new monthly articles will be released. For the moment there are simply links to 3 external organisations (incl ACCA)

Contact – This only invites communications using a form on the website. Scrolling down I find there is an info@ email address, a postal address and a phone number. But the only form of communication that is encouraged is the form. This is hardly user friendly.

The firm

The practice has been going for under 5 years and has a good locally focused name. However their postal address is nowhere near the area of the city mentioned in their name. When I googled the firm I found their old (unfinished) website at the top of the search results. At that time it was simply a bookkeeping practice.

My feedback

I’m not sure what you had there before. Congrats on moving forwards and I hope the new site is good for you. Sadly though I doubt it will be – as it stands.

 

Let me start by saying that if it works for you then keep it as it is.
I hope your request was for honest feedback rather than just platitudes.

 

I am doubtful the site will be very helpful for the following reasons:

1 – The home page alone contains a number of minor typos – but these suggest a lack of attention to detail or poor use of English. There are more typos on the other pages.

 

2 – It’s all very text heavy. Will the right prospective clients bother to read it all?

 

3 – Even the ‘your firm’ page is not reader-friendly. It would benefit from sub headings and maybe a picture or two of you and your colleagues.

 

4 – There are no clues as to who you are. No names. No personality. No indication of whether a prospective client would like the person/people behind the firm or who would service them.

 

What would you say if I asked you who is the site for and what do you want them to do when they visit?

 

Most accountants would say it’s for prospects and to help them decide if it’s worth them getting in touch. And if so, to make it easy for them to do so. I don’t think your site even gets close to that I’m afraid.

Your site looks like thousands of others did ten years ago I’m afraid.

 

I’m sorry to be harsh. As you may know I do not design, sell or promote websites. I am a humble commentator on practice focused matters and an adviser to firms that want to be more successful without spending a fortune on marketing and branding.

 

If you want some further tips re accountants’ websites, I have shared many on my blog in the past. eg:
http://www.bookmarklee.co.uk/websites-for-accountants/

 

I hope that helps and wish you well for the future.

As I have recommended in previous blog posts, all that really matters is whether your website works for you. Having said that I regularly hear accountants saying they get nothing from their website or that they’ve only got one because they were told they needed to have one.

What you ‘need’ to have depends on our objectives. At a minimum I’d suggest it’s worth having a simple website that people can find when they are recommended to you, or if they want to check you out after meeting you. Such websites do not need to be very sophisticated or have loads of pages. Their purpose is to help prospects confirm that you are the sort of person they would like to have as their accountant.

This is all very different to having a website that you want to attract work from strangers who are searching online for an accountant. Which of those strangers are the ones you’d be happy to have as a clients? What can you say to convince them to get in touch? And how easy can you make it for them to find what they want  and to contact you?

You don’t need to spend a fortune on your website. But you do need to be clear what you want it to do for you.

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Are your clients indifferent or do you get all the referrals you want?

Some professional advisers, such as accountants, claim that they secure much of their new work through word of mouth referrals. This suggests that clients are making positive comments about them. They may do that if they’re particularly happy but in the same way any unhappy clients will be quick to share their negative views even if they don’t express their disappointment to your face.

I’ve heard a large number of people talking about their accountants in recent years and it’s fair to categorise those views as good, bad, or most often – indifferent. Well at least it’s not ugly!

Let’s explore these different views and the wider lessons we can learn.

Good

Expressing a positive feeling that the accountant is doing a good job should mean that everything is good enough (or great!). Clients imply that their accountant does what they want, when they want it and for a fee that they consider to be good value for money. A good feeling is even more likely if the client indicates that they get pro-active advice and are very happy to recommend their accountant to friends and family.

Bad

Negative perceptions are sadly all to common. These clients feel that they’re putting up with bad service, high fees and/or get little of value. They certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone they know to use the accountant.

Indifferent

This is how I describe those clients who think their adviser is ‘okay’ or ‘good enough’. This might be because the accountant doesn’t wow the clients with great service nor do they feel that the accountant is charging excessive fees.

Sadly it seems to me that a high proportion of people think their accountant is just ‘okay’. The fact that they haven’t complained doesn’t mean we can assume that they think their accountant is ‘good’. It also means that the client is more at risk of moving to a new pro-active client than their current accountant might assume.

‘My accountant is great’

I saw this comment on a business forum a while back. I asked the person concerned what made them say that? Here’s the reply:

“He keeps things very straightforward in his explanations not that I have any particularly complex matters to deal with but he acts quickly, keeps costs to a reasonable amount (not cheap but sufficient value), makes himself available as and when needed and I get comfort from the fact that he has a successful practice, nice small modern offices and polite and helpful staff. When I have required explanations re: overseas investments, capital gains tax, what I can put against tax to minimise it legally, he delivers his knowledge in an easy to assimilate manner”.

I think that’s about it in a nutshell. Of course different clients want different things from their accountants. And different elements of your service and style will appeal to different clients.

Conclusion

If your clients are getting the service and attention  they want from you at a price they’re happy to pay then they MIGHT be expressing a positive view about you to other people. They’ll only do so when asked though. Are you consciously doing anything to ensure that your clients see you as good, rather than bad, or do you risk them being indifferent?

It’s only if your clients think you’re really good that they’ll be saying positive things about you. And if you rely on word of mouth referrals for new clients, you may find that we are moving into an age when you need to adopt a more active approach to encouraging these.

What do you do to actively encourage positive word of mouth referrals?

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Being memorable isn’t the same as being referrable

Not everyone wants to STAND OUT in the traditional sense. Often we assume that you need to be an extrovert to STAND OUT, and that it’s necessary to dress in a distinctive way and to be supported by bright and loud branding.

I accept that all of those qualities can make you STAND OUT and may consequently ensure that you are memorable. But. there is little point in being remembered without also benefitting from recommendations and referrals. What you’re really after is securing a competitive advantage.

In the late 1970s a famous drinks company produced a wonderful series of comedic TV advertisements for a fortified alcoholic drink. The popular adverts all starred Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Legend has it that the series ended when it became apparent that it was boosting sales of a rival brand of similar drink. The adverts stood out and were memorable but, it would seem, for the wrong reasons, as not enough people remembered the specific drink they were promoting.

In many ways I stood out from my colleagues early in my career. But only because I was different. Not always because I was better at my job. Looking back, I like to think that I did learn, quite early on, the benefits of adopting a range of techniques to stand out from the crowd and from my peers. And it is those same techniques that now form part of my 7 point framework of ways anyone can STAND OUT from the crowd.

It’s not a question of simply ensuring you are remembered. The impressions you have on the people you meet and their consequential memories of you need to be positive. And linked in some way to the services you provide. You don’t simply want to be remembered. You also want to secure more recommendations and referrals. You want to maximise your competitive advantage.

 

 

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The 3 factors that will determine your social media success

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the game of chasing followers, likes, connections and social media klout. It may be fun to keep track of these metrics and to keep increasing them. But, in real life, they are not important by themselves.

There is little point in simply pursuing these metrics. You need to have key business focused targets instead. It may be that you want to raise your profile and to become a go-to person for media comment in your area of expertise.  Most accountants and lawyers for example, are experimenting with social media to generate additional fees.

And that is the key metric that you need to measure. How much of the additional fees you generate can be attributed to your online social media activity? There will rarely be a quick or short payback in this regard.

It is also important to note the 3 factors that will influence the speed with which you can gain a payback. These factors are all relevant whether your social media activity is focused around facebook, online forums, blogging, twitter or Linkedin.

The 3 factors are:

1 – Effective use

How effective is your use of the social media platform? How consistent and congruent are your messages, your profile and your online activity?

2 – Your website

Most accountants using social media will include links back to their website.  Your social media activity may be exemplary but your website could be a turn off. Does it reinforce the messages you have been promoting on social media? Does it engage visitors? How easy is it for them to get in touch with YOU (as distinct from a faceless ‘admin’ person)? Does your website even reference your name and profile?

3 – Offline follow up

Just like with any other form of networking, personal contact is crucial. If you are not leveraging your use of social media to meet with people face to face or at least to speak with them on the phone, you will wait longer to secure a valuable ROI.

Agree? Disagree? Are there any other factors that will determine your success of your social media activity?

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How much experience do you have, really?

One of the 7 ways in which professionals can look to STAND OUT from their peers is through their different experiences.

Everyone’s experiences are unique. One of the keys though is to ensure that the way you reference your experiences is relevant to those who are hearing or receiving your message.  This is a point I often stress during my talks and mentoring sessions.

There is another related issue that few people discuss openly. This relates to the quality of their experiences as a professional adviser. When you claim to have built up, say, 10 years of experience, do you ever consider whether this has been truly cumulative or simply repetitive? Have you been building on what you know and what you can do, or simply repeating that first year’s experiences time after time over the ensuing ten years?

In some respects this is as much a question for prospective clients to ask before choosing a new adviser. It’s also one of the reasons why they might notice a big difference if they move from one adviser with limited experience (despite their years in practice) to another adviser who has built up a wealth of knowledge and experience through a varied client base that has prepared them for all manner of issues, challenges and problems.

Whether this distinction is important to you depends on what you do and who you look to serve as clients. Where clients want a pretty simple service they may well prefer someone who has done that for dozens or hundreds of clients over the years. Such clients may not be prepared to pay extra for someone with wider experience.

This is all quite distinct from the question of whether to focus your marketing on a specific niche. Although if your experience is quite limited then maybe you could reference this as a strength when pitching to prospects who fit the same criteria as your previous clients. Another solution could be to collaborate with someone who has wider experience than you – or seek out a mentor who can help you to fill in the gaps.

How much experience do you have, really? What is important I suggest is to be honest with yourself, honest in your marketing and honest with your clients. Also to know what is your back up plan if a client should require advice that goes beyond your experiences.  That, in itself, can help you to STAND OUT from competitors who are less trustworthy and who will found out eventually.

 

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How I manage my time on social media each week

How long do you need to spend on social media to build up a decent following, contribute effectively and secure a good level of engagement?

I’m not sure much has changed over the years since I started to use social media in 2006. The answers to those questions depend on your reasons for getting involved and using each of the social media platforms.

Sure, there are some agencies and individuals to whom you can outsource much or all of your social media activity. This MAY make sense for well-known brands but in the main I doubt it’s worthwhile for many professionals.

I am often asked how I manage to spend so much time on social media and whether it’s worthwhile. It’s all a matter of perception and probably takes less of my time than you might think. I am very selective as to which platforms I use and where I engage with people online. My approach works for me. I am realistic as regards what I can achieve on each platform. Social media is not a place to promote and sell your services. It’s simply a new starting point for building relationships that will grow only through direct contact, whether by phone, skype or face to face meetings.

What follows is the fourth summary of my approach that I have posted here. The first was in 2010, the second was in April 2012 and the third was in March 2014.

It is clear to me that the time I spend on social networking sites continues to reduce over time. And the time I do spend online is more focused than ever before. Despite my enthusiasm for social media I still consider it to be over hyped as a marketing tool and widely misunderstood as a communication tool.

As ever the time I spend online each week depends on what’s happening, my work priorities and the meetings I attend. I often find that I am more active online when I am out and about as I tend to check my phone for updates while waiting for people and while commuting.

So how much time do I allocate to social media?

Business online networks

LinkedIn

I believe Linkedin is quite distinct from the social media sites identified below.

Because it is a business online network I spend more time here than on any other such platform. I use it for lead generation across all areas of my business activities. I use Linkedin to look up almost everyone I am due to meet, have met or who contacts me by email or phone. I ask to connect with people and accept connection requests from most people who approach me – once I know why they have done so.

I am not convinced there is enormous value in posting long form blog posts/articles on Linkedin. My efforts in this regard have not proved worthwhile to date. I do however check out the activity on my home page, contribute to relevant discussions in key groups, administer requests to join my groups and monitor all new connection requests and messages most days.

Total time: Around 2 hours a week.

Social Media

Facebook

I have started to use this more than before, largely because I have got to know so many members of the Professional Speaking Association. There is a popular facebook group to which many members contribute. Doing so is a way of helping each other and keeping one’s profile high.

Beyond this most of my use of facebook is related to keeping in touch with old friends I haven’t seen for a while. I still see the site as being largely for fun, family and friends rather than for business generation.

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Google+

It’s never grabbed me and recent developments vindicate my longstanding advice to ignore it.

Pinterest and Instagram

I spend no time on either platform. I doubt any of my business prospects are active here or would be likely to engage with me here.

YouTube channel

BookMarkLee – takes no time in a typical week (No change). I am planning to post more videos on line over the coming year. It is more time consuming than I would like but I note that YouTube is an important channel for professional speakers.

Micro-blogging

Twitter

I am now even more focused than I was previously. I still rely on a plugin to my main blog to post a random item every few hours. As there are over 600 posts to choose from this means no repeats for over a month. It also means that I appear active even when I am otherwise engaged. I supplement these posts with links to current blog posts and replies to and RTs of other tweets and links I think will be of interest to my followers (who number well over 6,000 – and more than 10 times the number of people I follow).

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Accountancy website

AccountingWeb

As consultant practice editor I write weekly articles and I always seek to engage with those who comment on these. I also check out and comment on other articles and contribute to ‘Any Answers’ every couple of days. Total time (excl paid-for writing): Upto an hour a week

Blogging

WordPress – The STAND OUT blog and my Blog for ambitious accountants

These are the regular blogs I update every week or so – you’re reading one of them now.  Total time: Probably an hour per week to post one or two items and to review and reply to comments.

Blogger – The lighter side of accountancy and tax

My fun blog. I cut and paste ad-hoc items here. I seem to have reduced the time I spend adding posts here. Total time: No more than 10 minutes a week.

Conclusion

It all adds up and of course my online activities are quite well honed now. I’ve been experimenting with many of the above since 2006.

How about you?

Like this post? You can now access the ebook I wrote specifically for accountants who want to get more value from the time they spend on Social Media. Click here for full details>>>

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Why aren’t you more memorable?

If you are like most people who provide professional services you suffer from a common condition.
That common condition is, familiarity.

This is most apparent when a majority of the prospective clients, introducers and influencers you meet assume that they know what you do. And they assume that this is much the same as the other providers they know who offer similar services.

What this means is that they have limited interest in getting to know you or in understanding why you are well placed to help them or their clients.

If this is happening to you it also explains why your conversion rate for work is lower than it could be, why you feel that networking is a waste of time and why your marketing activities are not generating the results you had hoped. Essentially, you are not sufficiently memorable. You lack impact.

A classic example
Accountants are a classic example of the familiarity problem. We all know what accountants do. Or at least we think we know. And we assume that they are all much the same. How do we choose which one to engage or to recommend to someone who needs accountancy services?

Accountants themselves fall into two groups. There are those who have identified ways to distinguish themselves from all the rest. And there are those who accept that they are indeed much the same as all the others.

Even if you have a good story to tell, the chances are that the people you meet and with whom you engage will only keep you in mind for a short period of time. If you are not very memorable they may have all but forgotten about you by the end of the day. And even if you are memorable the question is what can you do to increase the likelihood that these people still remember you after they meet someone else, who seems to do just the same as you?

You need to appreciate that almost everyone you meet or who you encounter online will also come across other providers of those services that you offer.

If you do not stand out then any memory someone has of you will probably be replaced by the next similar type service provider they meet or engage with. Indeed your initial impact may not be sufficient to dislodge the person’s memory of other similar providers they already know. You are competing with those previous and future service providers in your desire to win work and to be remembered, referred and recommended.

What’s the solution?
There are plenty of marketing and branding experts out there who will tell you that their solution is the one that will work for you. They may be right. But most of them will be attempting to encourage you to invest loads of time and money in their solution. Or you may fall back on your firm’s reputation. However good it is this is rarely going to be enough for you to win all the work that you could.

You may have been told that you need to write a book or become famous for a specific area of work. While these might help in some situations, they are not universal solutions. And they both take a lot of time and effort that you might prefer to devote elsewhere discover here.

My advice, instead, is much simpler. Be yourself. Be the best version of yourself you can be. Think about those things you do and say that influence what other people think of you and how they remember you. And focus on changing or enhancing the simple and easy attributes that can have an immediate and positive impact on others.

I have shared many insights and ideas as to how you can be more memorable and STAND OUT on this blog.  I will continue to do so. Please keep reading and sharing anything you find useful.

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Lessons for accountants from ……a sales training expert

During a recent dinner with my old friend, Andy Preston, I got to thinking about how some of the principles he mentioned are more widely applicable.

Andy is a sales training and cold calling expert. He speaks at conferences and training courses for very large companies all over the world. Our dinner took place in Cape Town, South Africa. I was on holiday. Andy was in the middle of a hectic series of talks.

I was impressed that he kept referencing the benefits of STANDING OUT and assumed he was referencing my work in this area. I was amused later to realise that Andy is the creator of the STAND OUT selling system. Its purpose is to help sales people stand out from the competition, close more deals, and win the business – even when selling at a higher price!  This clearly dovetails nicely with my own work on how Accountants can STAND OUT from the pack.

When it comes to applying the experience of sales people to accountants, I must admit I have always known two conflicting ‘facts’.

On the one hand, accountants generally do not like to operate as or to be considered to be in ‘sales’. On the other hand, it’s hard to build a service based business, like accountancy, if you don’t do any selling!

One of Andy’s firm beliefs is that, these days, it is no longer appropriate for sales people to base their presentations on the ‘features’ and ‘benefits’ of the products they want to sell. This is a traditional approach that no longer works (if it ever did).

These days most purchasers do their homework online before they start shortlisting vendors. The purchaser typically already knows which products suit their needs and uses online comparison sites which invariably focus on the features and benefits, as well as the costs etc. Sales people who do not build rapport with prospects are unlikely to survive in the 21st century. (And it’s one of the reasons Andy is so busy). Who’d be a professional sales person?

The lesson for accountants, I would suggest, is that it is now more important than ever to STAND OUT in ways that prospective clients understand will benefit them.

You’re an accountant so they know you can do the work (or at last they assume you can). In what way will engaging YOU, rather than any other accountant, ensure that the client gets what they want and need (and more)?

As Andy suggests, a great deal hinges on the extent to which you are able to build rapport, to engage the prospect and to get them to know, like and trust you. This does not mean talking about yourself though. It requires effective questioning techniques, evidence that you’ve been listening to them and convincing responses to their questions about how you operate (if they ask).

A failure to execute these key ‘sales’ skills, will mean you don’t win the client, just as it means the salesperson fails to make the sale.

[If you think it would be good to improve your skills in this area, take a look at something I produced recently for accountants. Perhaps it could help you too? Full details here>>>]

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What are your top skills and expertise?

The top ranked personal skill or expertise on my Linkedin profile is currently ‘strategy’.  It has been moving up the list over the last year.

I am flattered that hundreds of people have endorsed me for ANY skills and expertise on Linkedin. Until recently ‘Accounting’ was top – presumably by reference to my background in and knowledge of the UK accounting profession.

The reason for this post though is because of the question in my mind since I started considering why hundreds of people were endorsing me for ‘strategy’. As I admire so many other strategic thinkers and advisers, I am quite thrilled anyone should feel this word is relevant to what I do.

After I comment on this below I share some lessons that may be of use to you re your Linkedin profile.

Do I do ‘strategy’?

I have not, to date, referenced ‘strategy’ as a skill, topic or expertise in any of my online, author or speaker profiles. So why does it appear to be so popular among my Linkedin connections?

It could be simply a function of Linkedin’s algorithm such that it is the most often promoted skill when anyone visits my profile on Linkedin. Or it could be a down to the impression people get through much of what I write about, speak about and share. Or, most likely, a combination of these two reasons.

This has caused me to reflect on the impression others get from what I do.

I frequently find myself debunking over-hyped ideas and forecasts about the speed of impact of changes on the professions. I also tend to discourage anyone from chasing the latest fad without first thinking about their target audience and focusing on ways to engage with them.  And I always encourage my audiences to clarify what it is they wish to achieve; then I recommend having a plan rather than just experimenting with new ideas all the time.

Hmm. And what is business strategy all about? It’s about identifying your objectives and creating a plan as to how you will achieve them.

So, yes, perhaps I should reflect on how others see my advice as being strategic. If you agree by all means add your endorsement to my Linkedin profile

How much importance do you place on the endorsements you get on your Linkedin profile? Remember, that endorsements are very different to recommendations.

The skills and expertise on your Linkedin profile

When Linkedin introduced their endorsements facility in 2012 I saw it as a bit of a game. I determined that it wasn’t important to get loads of endorsements. I have however long maintained that it was key to only accept onto your profile endorsements for skills you really have and which you want to promote. (See: What I like about Linkedin endorsements – October 2013)

Linkedin asks visitors to your profile, with whom you are already connected, to endorse you for a range of skills. Some of those skills may already be on your profile. Others are on the profiles of people who Linkedin thinks are a bit like you. In theory people who know you should only confirm you as having skills you really have. But, in practice, many users think they are helping you if they confirm you have skills as suggested by Linkedin. There’s no guarantee that they really think you have those skills.

Over time though it seems that Linkedin stops asking about random skills – especially if you haven’t added new ones to your profile even after people confirm you have them. This is certainly true in my case. I don’t recall the last time I had rejected the addition of a new skill that someone had endorsed me for (prompted, no doubt, by the Linkedin algorithm).

I would encourage you to reflect on the top 5 skills/expertise currently showing on your profile. Do these reinforce the message in the summary of your profile and in your profile title? Or will these skills/expertise confuse your message?

My advice is to delete any reference to skills/expertise that you do not have or that you know are not relevant to what you wish to be known for. And then, maybe ask some of your close connections to visit your profile and to endorse you for just 3 or 4 skills/expertise that you genuinely feel are relevant and justified.

This will serve three purposes.

  1. It will help you to understand what people really think you’re good at;
  2. It will encourage Linkedin’s algorithm to focus more on those popular topics when it invites other people to endorse you; and
  3. It will enable you to revise your profile to better reflect what you’re known for which should make it easier to achieve your business or career objectives

So I suggest this is a sensible strategy to pursue 😉

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Does anyone care or remember what you look like?

Whilst I recognise the name, Lennie Kravitz, I admit to not having listened to his music. So why did recent reports of his live performance at Wembley Arena catch my eye?

I think it has much to do with the emphasis on his appearance some 25 years after he first played the venue. Apparently he was “dressed in trademark aviator shades, ripped denim and leather”. His image has evolved though as previously he was worn “a white catsuit and red, high-heeled platform boots”. So not consistent across the years but sufficiently well known to be recognisable and highly regarded.

Of course the real focus of each of the reviews I saw was his music, performance and showmanship. But, I submit, if he didn’t look the part this would have been held against him. He was performing largely to fans who already knew him so he had little to do to influence their views.

Attention to your Appearance is the first The 7 Principles anyone can adopt to STAND OUT from the pack. We never get a second chance to make a first impression. Do you want to come across as confident and powerful or as a nervous novice? Your Appearance has a huge impact on people who have not met you before. Many will form an instant opinion that, if it’s inaccurate, you will need to work hard to revise.

The Appearance of your online profiles will also have a similar impact. What impression will someone you don’t know get from the profile or absence of such on your website? Or of your profile on Linkedin and on social media sites? The reaction someone has will determine whether or not they then get in touch with you.

You can access a free guide to craft a powerful Linkedin profile here>>>

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How to use the 3Rs when you’re seeking more work

In an educational context we refer to the three Rs as being those crucial elements that all children need to master. That is, Reading wRiting and aRithmetic. This is somewhat ironic given that only one of the three topics actually starts with an R. (The phrase is used as each of the three words, when spoken, has a strong R sound at the start).

Professional advisers keen to win more work would do well to focus on a different set of 3Rs.

You want to be Remembered, you want to be Referred and you want to be Recommended. Let’s consider each in turn, in a slightly different order (for reasons which will become apparent):

You want to be Remembered

How might you become more memorable – for good reasons?

One way to do this is counter-intuitive. Instead of talking a lot about yourself and your practice, develop a natural curiosity and interest in other people.

It can be really helpful to learn how to ask good questions and then to listen carefully to the replies. The more genuinely interested you are in someone else the more they will remember you as an interesting person. Yes, this means you talk less but your questions may themselves, if well worded, evidence your experience and credibility.

You want to be Recommended

This can only happen once your clients have experienced your advice and can express an honest opinion about your work.

Think about any service provider who has done work for you. If you are really pleased with their service you will gladly recommend them when someone asks you if you know a good decorator, plumber, mechanic, dress-maker or whatever.

You want to be Referred

Again I am grateful to Andy Lopata who helped me to understand the distinction between referrals and recommendations and also how these differ from tips and leads.

  • A tip – This is quite simply a piece of information. It rarely includes contact details and may even be based on a misunderstanding. Nice though it is to receive tips, they leave us with plenty of leg-work to do ourselves to determine if they are each worth pursuing.
  • A lead – This is more than a tip, in that you may receive contact information, but a lead is little more than the first stage in the sales process.

When someone gives you a name and a number and says ‘You need to speak to this person’ they are simply giving you a lead. If they invite you to use their name when approaching the prospect that is simply a ‘warm’ lead.

The other side of a lead is when an introducer recommends that someone looking for an accountant gets in touch with you; but the introducer is unable to recommend your services as they have not experienced them.

Referrals are much more valuable than tips and leads. Andy explains that there are three steps to referral heaven. In the context of this blog post these three steps would be:

  1. The person referring you identifies someone who needs a professional like you to help them.
  2. They talk to the prospect and determine that they are interested in speaking with you.
  3. The prospect is then expecting your call which will follow after the introducer passes on the referral to you.

Can you see how much more valuable this would be than a tip or a lead?

The importance of these 3Rs is a key reason why I speak on the subject of how you can STAND OUT from the pack. It’s so that you can win more work, but also so that you  and your colleagues are better Remembered, Referred and Recommended.

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What if you don’t want to go for a niche?

There is no doubt in my mind. The more focused you can be as regards your ideal clients the more chance there is that other people will recognise when they can recommend and refer you to people who need your services. But it’s not the only route to success.

You are not alone if you find the idea of focusing on a single niche or target audience too limiting. Perhaps you feel it’s too early in your career to choose a niche? Or maybe you don’t want to be restricted to one target audience? You might also be concerned about alienating existing clients who do not fit that niche?

I have seen how referencing a niche or specialism can be a successful strategy for many professionals I know, be they accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, speakers or whatever. I have also shared insights and ideas, as to how you can identify your niche, in numerous blog posts and articles over the years. But I also accept that not everyone is comfortable with the idea.

There are many reasons for resisting the advice of those who would have us be more focused than feels comfortable. Not all such reasons stand up to scrutiny but many do so in my experience.

However, I have also worked with plenty of successful professionals who run practices or businesses that have a pretty generalised approach. Others appear to have a focus that is, in reality, very non-specific. Many years ago I was a partner at BDO when their focus was on ‘Growing Businesses’. It felt like a specialism or niche but in reality it was little more than a simple a way of saying we’d deal with any clients who could afford us.

The modern equivalent is probably claiming to specialise in SMEs. Those who claim this focus probably feel they can tick the box of having identified a specialism. Except that they haven’t, as over 99% of all businesses in the UK fit this definition. So the claim to be specialising doesn’t really mean anything.

It is clear to me that many professionals don’t want to limit themselves to a niche. Even if they understand the logic and potential benefits of doing so, they are reluctant to do so. This is typically a mistake but it’s a common one and, in many cases, it is possible to compensate for this by choosing to STAND OUT from the pack in a different  way.

Regular readers will know I have identified and reference the My 7 point framework of fundamental principles that professionals can use to win more work and to be remembered, referred and recommended. No one needs to apply all seven. But it’s clear to me that the more principles you adopt the more effective will be your efforts.

Plenty of general practice accountants, generalist lawyers, financial advisers and those who work in larger firms are reluctant to reference a specific niche. I suggest this means they need to work harder on applying more of the 7 principles. This is more likely to be a successful strategy than claiming to specialise in a whole list of business sectors in which your clients operate. This approach tends to undermine the meaning of the word ‘specialise’.

By they way, the focus of this blog post is on those professionals who do not want to focus on a single niche target audience. Is this you? Do let me know what you think.

 

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What makes your practice different and memorable?

Back in 2007 I wrote a chapter for a book (BusinessWise) to help Entrepreneurs with ‘Finding, Choosing and Using an accountant’. I tried to ensure that this was more practical and real-world advice than the generic and incomplete advice which appears on a variety of business and accountancy websites. I explained some of the ways that entrepreneurs could distinguish between different accountants and the sort of things that are worth finding about before appointing anyone.

In this short blog post I am extrapolating a couple of key points from that chapter and from my work with professionals, not just accountants.

The question is what can you do to best highlight the real benefits to a prospective client of engaging with you rather than with anyone else?

Firstly – many of, what we might think should be, the key distinguishing factors are taken as read by prospective clients. For example, whilst many accountants talk about their qualifications and membership of professional bodies, the public are less interested. Specifically they are unaware that anyone can call themselves an accountant. They assume anyone calling themselves an accountant is qualified just as they assume that all ‘lawyers’ (sic) are qualified and regulated by the Law Society.

It matters not if you think that prospective clients SHOULD take more notice of such differentiators. In practice they are often far more interested in personal recommendations and testimonials from happy clients. If you’re going to rely on your qualifications etc you’d best work on ways to explain that they are not all the same and how you being fully qualified benefits the client. Bear in mind that unqualified advisers win plenty of work by highlighting the benefits that their status provides.

Many professionals will claim that their personality is a key differentiator. But this misses the point. You, as a person, and how likeable you are, will often only become a factor after the prospect has agreed to speak with you or to meet you. Until then your personality doesn’t help.

So here’s my top tip: Highlight what makes you different in a positive vein rather than simply repeating all the standard stuff that most prospects will probably take for granted. Remember they’re not experts. When comparing one professional’s website with another they will read into each profile certain material that they think is probably true of all such professionals – even if it isn’t. The prospect doesn’t know. So they assume – unless told to the contrary. It’s well worthwhile clearly stating what makes you different and spelling out how clients benefit from this. Use the ‘so what?’ test. For each statement you make that is intended to evidence your credibility, imagine a prospect responding: “So what?” Make sure you can answer this question effectively.

Feel free to add comments to this blog and to share what makes your practice really different.

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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The Business Hour – Radio interview with Mark Lee

I was delighted (in November 2104) to be invited onto Margo Manning’s radio show: The Business Hour on HCR.  [Edited: Sept 2016: Sadly the recording is no longer available].

Margo started by asking me to comment on a couple of news related issues. We then moved onto talking about how businesses, business owners and professional advisers can STAND OUT from the pack. And the value of having more powerful conversations.

You can find key elements from the interview using the time index details below:

  • 0.00 – 01.45     Music
  • 01.45 – 04.38   Introduction by Margo.
  • 04.38 – 08.00  Discussion re Duke of York’s recent suggestion that British Businesses need to be less polite, more competitive and embrace the Chinese market. Should we be more pushy or assertive?
  • 08.00 – 18.08   Possible differences between an employee mentality and a professional mentality.
  • 18.08 – 18.52    How to be more assertive without being pushy in sales
  • 19.00 – 20.15    The 7 key principles that can help you to STAND OUT from the pack
  • 20.15 – 44.58    How to have more powerful and impactful conversations
  • 44.58 – 49.00   Adapting the principles to online conversations
  • 49.00 – 54.59    Adapting the principles to networking events
  • 54.59 – 57.52     Final tips and thoughts

The free materials referenced at the end of the interview are available here>>>

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5 lessons on collaborations from….Tony Bennett, Sting and McFly

Those of us who are of a certain age were surprised recently to see the classic American crooner, Tony Bennett, performing alongside Lady Gaga.

They started singing together in 2011 and, despite a 60 year age gap, they have recently released an album of jazz standards, ‘Cheek to cheek‘. They also appear together in the H&M holiday advertising campaign.

Similarly Sting has teamed up with and performs live alongside Paul Simon (of that classic duo, Simon and Garfunkel). And for less mature readers there is a new pop rock ‘supergroup’,McBusted who have been touring and recording together. McBusted is made up of most members of two boy bands; McFly and Busted.

What lessons can we draw from these unexpected collaborations?

  • However long established you are, you can still ring the changes and find new audiences by collaborating with someone from a different generation who has their own fans, contacts and clients;
  • You can also reach new audiences by collaborating with someone of a similar age as you will each attract your own fans, contacts and clients. In so doing they are exposed to a wider range of work and activities than if they only came to see you;
  • Your collaboration could well be newsworthy and generate positive PR – possibly more so than anything you have done alone;
  • Longer-term collaborations develop over time and are built on friendships and small steps before the big reveal of a full scale collaboration;

Although I am unaware of the specifics I would expect that, in each of the cases identified above, the performers’ managers were involved in the financial negotiations. I recall from my own experiences advising professional firms on their merger negotiations, that this topic, more than any other, could scupper a deal. In the simplest cases you may be able to identify a simple split of income and expenses. But ‘normal rates’, differing perceptions as to relative value and distinct past experiences may all need to be considered.

I have been fortunate to have been invited to collaborate with a number of providers of complementary services and presentations over the years. None have become permanent partnerships, nor was this ever the plan. In each case we were simply looking to secure those benefits set out at points 1 and 2 above.

Who do you know and who knows you well enough to be happy to collaborate with you to reap similar benefits for your business?

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Proof that positive first impressions are not enough

At a recent private networking lunch, one of our number was a chartered surveyor.

After we’d spent a few hours together the group sought feedback from each other. Having heard me talk about the importance of STANDING OUT from the pack, the chartered surveyor, who was new to the group, asked what we would remember most about him.

He was surprised that two people (and then the rest of the group) spontaneously referenced his introduction to us. He had said he was a male stripper, before admitting he was joking and referencing his ‘real’ profession.

He then asked us to amplify our answers as to what we thought we would remember about him. Our views were all pretty similar. He had created a good first impression. We thought he was professional, fun, likeable, distinct and memorable.

I made some notes at the time as somehow I knew the conversation would be the basis for a blog post. This is that blog post but it’s not turned out to be what I had in mind at the time.

Two months have passed and I can now say with certainty that creating a positive first impression is not enough. I remember the conversation. I don’t remember the individual. Had I met someone who required the services of a chartered surveyor I might have dug out this guy’s business card. Now he is just a distant memory and will be quickly replaced in my mind by the next chartered surveyor I meet.

I vaguely recall that he told us, when pushed, about some specific type of work he does. But he spoke in language that makes more sense to property professionals than it did to me. I thought I followed what he said when we met but I can’t recall it now. So there isn’t much chance of me referring anyone to him.

In terms of the 7 key principles you can adopt to STAND OUT and to be remembered, referred and recommended, what did this surveyor do?

He tried to be clever and witty initially when referencing his business activity – but that simply detracted from what he really does. When he talked about his business he was insufficiently specific and distinct.

That still leaves 6 other principles any of which he could have adopted to help him STAND OUT. The classic one of course is the 6th principle: Follow up.

As I type this blog post I remember that I did send him a quick note and asked to connect with him on Linkedin. I don’t recall if he agreed. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember seeing any form of follow up from him. If that was a conscious decision on his part it’s fine. And yes, I’m aware that his memory of me may be equally as fuzzy. I could have followed up better myself but chose not to do so as this was an experiment to facilitate a blog post 😉

I suspect that he hoped that somehow his first impression would carry him through. That is, he hoped he had done sufficient on the day to secure referrals from a varied group of business professionals who enjoyed his company for 4 hours. If I’m right then he was wrong.

How often have you done something similar and hoped it was sufficient – possibly after spending much less time with a new acquaintance? Even if you STAND OUT somehow when you create a first impression, it’s not always enough.

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You’re hosting a professional Networking event. What outcome do you want?

I was recently invited to attend an evening reception hosted by a top family law firm in London. When I arrived I realised that this was the first time for ages I was at an event where I didn’t know or recognise a soul.

No matter. I’ve been attending networking events for long enough to feel quite comfortable striking up conversations with strangers. I endeavoured to practice what I preach so I made a point of listening carefully, taking note of people’s names (especially those without badges) and applying the 4 suits approach to powerful conversations.

This blog post is part of my promised follow up to a conversation with the managing partner, Gavin Scott. I was particularly taken by his response when I asked him what did he hope to get out of hosting the reception/party?

I should add that the guests were quite a disparate group and went beyond the normal range of attendees at professional business networking events hosted by lawyers and accountants.

I asked for and obtained Gavin’s permission to note down his reply and to incorporate it into a blog post (with attribution). He explained that his primary motivation was to make valuable connections for his clients. He explained:

“I am keen to build relationships with other professionals who can help our clients do things that we cannot help them to do ourselves. We do our utmost for our clients but there is a wide range of areas where we cannot provide help in-house. So building good new connections makes me happy”

Clearly elements of Gavin’s reply are a consequence of his practice being a family law firm rather than a full service law firm or accountancy practice. But, at it’s core, Gavin’s reply told me he is a client focused professional and I was impressed.

The firm, of which he is Head of the London office, is the largest UK family law firm so has a high profile and a powerful brand in its niche sector. The lawyers working there can rely on that to a degree in their efforts to STAND OUT from the pack. This is but one element of the STAND OUT principles they could be using of course. Nevertheless Gavin’s attitude also makes him STAND OUT in my view.

Do you agree?

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Do you focus on just one approach to STANDING OUT?

Have you noticed how many so-called experts try to convince us that there is just ‘one secret’ to doing something well? I have become more aware of this since formulating my Framework containing the 7 fundamental principles that can enable professionals to STAND OUT from the pack.

What I have realised is that most other people seem to focus on only one or two of these 7 principles. Regular readers will recall that the 7 principles start with the first 7 letters of the alphabet, so as to make them easier to recall.

Yes you can choose to ensure you STAND OUT by wearing outlandish clothes, an extrovert nature and an over the top approach to your business branding and messaging. But there are other, less extreme, ways to achieve a more long lasting and positive impact.

In my framework ‘Appearance‘ includes how you look and present yourself face to face and also how your profile presents you online. Is your image consistent, relevant and memorable? Do you have charisma, create a positive impression and invest in yourself? There are many other factors that can apply here too including some that are otherwise addressed as personal branding.

Business messaging and branding covers a range of typical marketing focused messages and how you present your business as compared with your competitors.

Beyond these two headline issues my framework goes on to emphasise the value of 5 other fundamental principles that can enable you to STAND OUT positively from others who do what you do:

Conversational impact
How well do you listen and tailor your conversation so that the person you are with feels engaged and interested? How good are the stories you tell about the clients who have similar issues to the person you’re with or to people they know?

Dependability and trust
How much effort do you put into evidencing this so that you STAND OUT from those others who do not do this?

Experience and Expertise
How tailored and relevant is your reference to your credibility or do you simply repeat the same relatively meaningless assertions as to how ‘qualified’ you are?

Follow up
Do you do this routinely and regularly? And do you ‘follow up’ BEFORE you meet with people too?

Giving and sharing
Those of us who adopt a giving and sharing mentality tend to STAND OUT positively as compared with those who are more stand offish. No one is suggesting you give away your IP or your ‘billable advice’ but adopting a helpful, caring and sharing approach will pay dividends if you want tow in more work, be remembered, referred and recommended.

Do you focus on one of the above or on something completely different?

If you’d like to better understand those 7 principles simply ask for your copy of:

The 7 key ways to Stand Out from your peers

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