Line by line critique of accountant’s direct mail missive

This is a follow up to last week’s post about a poor piece of generic direct mail I received from a firm of accountants. I’ve been asked to spell out what’s wrong with it. So here is my analysis of the letter – line by line:

“It was unfortunate that I was not able to meet with you at the [event].

Was the writer actually there? Were they specifically looking out for me, having checked me or my organisation out beforehand?

I would have appreciated the chance to talk with you about your organisation and gain an insight into how we can work together in the future.

Do they know anything about me or my ‘organisation’? They seem to assume that we could work together. And yet the rest of the letter is not about working together but simply describes a typical firm of chartered accountants.

I would like to introduce our firm to you.

And yet what follows is so generic as to be worthless.

[This top 30 firm] is a firm of chartered accountants providing a fully integrated business advisory service across several areas of expertise, designed specifically to save you time, provide you with peace of mind and achieve cost savings where possible.

“Fully integrated” – which means what exactly?

“across several areas of expertise” – do any of them include my business sector?

“designed specifically” – “designed”? what does that mean? And how is that different to what I would expect of any other firm?

“to save you time, provide you with peace of mind” – Even if the specific design assertion was true it would relate to clients generally rather than to me (the recipient of the letter).

“achieve cost savings” – Does this mean they’ll be cheaper than my current accountants? (Won’t that depend on who my current accountants are?) Or that they cut their own costs year on year? (unlikely) Or that they focus on reducing tax bills? (in which case, why not say so?)

We pride ourselves on our ability to understand our clients’ issues, working closely with them to identify areas where we can provide solutions that add value to their business and shareholders. In short, we are here to help you.

“We pride ourselves” – Hmm. And this is different or special how exactly?

“we are here to help you.” – Hmm. Generic communications like this, especially when they contain unusually long sentences, suggest otherwise.

Our clients include quoted public limited companies, owner managed and family owned businesses of all sizes, professional partnerships, regulatory bodies, public sector bodies and not-for-profit organisations.

Is there any business or organisation that doesn’t fit their client base? Am I supposed to be impressed that they claim to be able to service anyone and everyone? I’d be more interested if the letter specifically highlighted their expertise in working with other clients like me.

I will contact you in a couple of days to discuss your requirements and how our approach to service delivery could be of benefit to you and your organisation.

And they’re not trustworthy. A week later and I’ve had no such call.

Further information about our firm is available on our website [here].

What exactly in this letter is supposed to prompt me to bother going to their website?

Signatory – name

As noted in my original post, the position and responsibility of the signatory are not stated. Was it A partner? The senior partner? A marketing manager? Someone who will genuinely be able to “gain an insight into how we can work together in the future”.  Who knows?

Is this analysis too harsh? If this letter has secured new clients for the firm then clearly my assessment is wrong. But somehow I doubt it.

What do you think?

About the Author:

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

8 Comments

  1. paddygahan 20th July 2010 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Mark
    Spot on Like most direct mail pieces I am sure this was probably a waste of time and resources. You might keep us posted on any good communication pieces you come across Paddy

  2. Lesley 20th July 2010 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Stunningly bad direct mail – although they didn’t do my ‘favourite’ sign off:

    ‘Thanking you in anticipation of an early reply.’

    A state of eternal grateful-ness; with no indication of what ‘early’ might indicate!

    Now, would you like to recommend that they might like to talk to me about better mail?!!

  3. […] Remember, she told me to check her out.  Not the other way around.  A real internet guru, such as Mark Lee, would eat her spam for breakfast. […]

  4. Jon Stow 23rd July 2010 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    “a fully integrated business advisory service across several areas of expertise”

    Why do so many firms of accountants claim to be business advisers? Which areas of expertise do they mean apart from accounts, tax, bookkeeping and maybe credit control if they lower themselves?

    If they know who to go to for finance, ISO 9000, ‘Elf and Safety, HR services and marketing etc. then maybe they can call themselves business advisers, but as we have seen recently, some firms can’t run their own businesses properly. Some of us have seen it from the inside too.

  5. Change the world or go home 24th July 2010 at 5:27 pm - Reply

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  7. Suresh madaan 29th December 2013 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    I understand Mark’s comments. This is probably the compilation of many generic letters that has come into one article. A lot of times, some wording is used to encourage further enquiry and discussion. E.g. ‘We pride…’ Yes it’s generic but leaves one with an invitation to come in and ask for further advice. Do you think we would go to an accounting firm who writes: we do the job well but nothing about better than well? Mark, I would be interested to see what you think would be an ideal version of the letter.

  8. David Winch 10th July 2018 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Spot on , as ever, Mark. Another perfect illustration of the three most frequent errors in this sort of copy:
    – Bullshit
    – So blooming what! (Facts that may become important later in the relationship but are irrelevant on first contact), and
    – Take for granted (If you think it sets you apart, ask yourself how many of your competitors are crowing about providing the opposite)

    Keep up the good work.

    David Winch,
    Sales & Marketing Consultant, Cambridge

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