Is a ‘me too’ Budget summary worth sending to anyone?

Last year I awarded a (notional) prize for what I considered to be the  best Budget night ‘commentary’ that I saw the following day.  The winner, and runner-up to a lesser extent, stood out among the dozens of ‘me too’ pieces that were, frankly, not worth anyone’s time and effort.

Many years ago the Chancellor’s March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April. In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor’s announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.

That was then. This is now. Few tax changes take immediate effect any more, other than the closure of fancy tax loopholes. And when that happens more detailed analysis is required than will ever appear in a Budget commentary. Also long gone are the days when the Budget Night press releases contained sufficient detail to enable accountants to say something constructive. Now we have to wait for subsequent announcements that appear long after the Budget newsletter was published. And most of the next tax year’s rates and allowances were announced a few months back – as has become the way for some time now.

But still many firms produce their own summaries or buy in a commercially produced ‘overnight’ Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I’ve heard the arguments for this. “Clients expect to get one from us.” “They get one from every other accountant in the town.” “They like them” (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These standard Budget emails, newsletters and booklets are of very little value and rarely contain anything more than appears in the daily paper or in generic news (or even tax news) email updates. And they have little in the way of ongoing value.

So why the awards last year? Quite simply because the winner’s approach was distinctive and better than all of the standard stuff that I received from dozens of accountants around the UK.  Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk published ‘Not a Budget newsletter‘. It was client focused and recognised the fact that there was next to nothing of immediate impact in the Budget itself.

This year Elaine has already published her summary of the key tax data that the media will only think to announce after the Budget – despite the fact that the information was announced long ago.

I announced a runner-up award last year for informanagement as they had at least divided up the announcements:

  • Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed

So here is a challenge for readers of my musings and blogs. If you can avoid a ‘me too’ attempt and you adopt a different, client centred approach this year, please let me know. If I agree I will give you the 2012 award (which simply means you get a mention on my blog and a link through to your website).

Of course if you want to argue the case for ‘me too’ summaries I’d also love to hear form you via the comments facility below.

By |2012-03-14T09:22:30+00:00March 14th, 2012|Uncategorized|

About the Author:

Mark Lee FCA is an accountancy focused futurist, influencer, speaker, mentor, author and debunker.

4 Comments

  1. Andrew Nixon 15th March 2012 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    The reality is that the Budget is a good ‘excuse’ for accounting firms to send a freebie to their clients. Of course this shouldn’t be the only marketing they do (and for too many firms, it is), but it’s a useful ‘peg’ on which to hang some simple added value client contact.

    In an ideal world each firm would write their own, customised for individual clients, but that ideal world does not exist and few firms have the skills and resources. Disclosure: we sell them, and I’ll be up all night next Wednesday managing the writing team for ours… Ours contains calls-to-action, tips and a checklist for clients to ask for more help – it’s not just a block of dense tax info. And there’s nothing to stop accountants calling up clients a few days later to discuss the things that apply directly to them… “Did you get our Budget summary in the post? I just thought I’d call to pick out a few things… etc”

    Also, although those of us in the industry know that there are multiple firms sending the same summary out, the idea that these things are flooding the business world is overstating matters, certainly outside the major city centres. Most firms buy a few hundred and send locally to their own clients.

  2. bookmarklee 15th March 2012 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks again for commenting Andrew. If you can find any worthwhile calls to action that come out of the Budget statement – as distinct from those already known to us, I’ll be surprised.

    Your approach and ambition sounds good and better than a bland ‘summary’. But, most people planning to produce what become ‘me too’ newsletters etc plan to do pretty much the same as you. ’twas ever thus. I know. I was on the writing team of 4 different firms at various times during my career. The reality of the output in each case was invariably very different to the ambition that was expressed beforehand. The content of the speech and the available (limited) paperwork are the key constraints.

  3. Andrew Nixon 15th March 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I think the actual contents of the Budget statement is a distinct issue. Of course these days a lot of info is known beforehand and there are fewer surprises… but nonetheless the Budget is a very high-profile Event, and therefore a useful peg, as I said, on which to hang some client contact – and in which to round up all the various announcements, rates etc, no matter when they were first released. (If anything, the media profile of the Budget itself is higher than ever because of the economic climate).

    I would never suggest to firms that sending a Budget summary out means that you’ve ‘done your marketing’ for the year. But it’s a nice, relevant thing they can do as part of the mix. And frankly if many firms cut the Budget summary they’d be doing no marketing or client service activities at all.

  4. Emily Coltman 22nd March 2012 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    I agree, Mark – that’s why I opted to report on the hidden stuff this year

    http://www.freeagent.com/central/what-the-chancellor-didnt-tell-you

    M

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