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Why do you want to promote your firm?

A recent conversation with an accountant I’ve not worked with before started as follows:

Accountant:  Do I need to promote my firm better?

Mark: Probably, but it depends on what you want to achieve.

Accountant: What do you mean?

Mark: Marketing and promotional activities work best for accountants when you have first identified clear objectives. Otherwise you’re likely to waste time and money on exercises that may or may not be worthwhile.

Accountant: I was thinking of promotion to help me win more clients.

Mark: That’s fine. There are still some other factors to consider before you do anything by way of promotion. Anything you do in this regard will be more successful if you start by first clarifying exactly who you want to influence to become clients of yours, what sort of people are they and what sort of messages will resonate with them. Only then can we consider where you likely to find them (be that face to face or online) to influence them with your promotional messages – which may be overt or, often, more subtle in order to be effective.

This accountant’s objective was not unusual of course. Those with whom I have worked quickly come to see the benefits of thinking through their objectives before they start investing time or money in promotional activities. This includes whatever they might do on social media, how they project themselves online, on their website and when attending networking events.

In case you were wondering, here is my list of reasons why accountants might want to promote their firm:

  • To attract and secure more clients
  • To generate PR coverage
  • To aid your recruitment efforts
  • To increase the referrals you receive
  • To encourage more clients to ask for additional services
  • To evidence your ability to provide a wider range of services

Maybe your objectives overlap. That’s fine too. But the clearer you are about the end point you seek, the more effective you can ensure your promotional activity will be.

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Accountants’ adverts are not working any more

Years ago, it was quite common for people to use a hard copy Yellow Pages directory to find an accountant. This concept has all but died out now. It’s also less common to hear that anyone has approached an accountant because they remembered they saw an ad in the local paper (or anywhere else).

Far more people are asking friends, family and online contacts who do they know? Who can they recommend? Who’s a good accountant?  I’m witnessing this happen almost daily on online business forums and on ‘social’ networking sites.

What this means is that your marketing strategy (of which any advertising is only a part) needs to include educating your clients, contacts and family as to the types of referral that would be of most interest and value to you. The more specific you can be the more likely you will be to secure those referrals.

You also need to ensure that your website talks to prospective clients who have been recommended to you – as they may well check it out. Does it confirm what they’ve been told by your advocates? If they highlight what makes your practice different to conventional accountants does your website reinforce that message? Incongruence can be damaging. (I’ve written far more on this topic previously so here’s a link to my earlier posts re accountants’ websites)

Have you had your site optimised so that people in your area who are looking online for an accountant will find your website? If you’re in Harrow for example the ‘search engine optimisation'(SEO) would probably focus on Harrow accountants. A decent SEO specialist and indeed many decent website developers will do this for you automatically. It’s pretty pointless to only have your site optimised for people who search for your firm’s name. The people whom you might previously have hoped would see your adverts don’t know your firms’ name so they won’t be searching on line for it.

Another effective way to advertise on the web is a little counter intuitive. It means getting involved in online forums and networks and being helpful and friendly BUT NOT posting overt adverts and promotional messages. That type of behaviour is ALWAYS counter-productive. The practical issue is that the people you will be helping and who will befriend you could be based anywhere in the UK. Some maybe more local and – this is the key point – as with all networking you are not just networking with them. They will, in time, become your advocates. So, in effect you are networking with all the people they know too.

What type of advertising is working for you? Do share your comments below please – whether  you agree or disagree with this post.  I’d welcome your feedback.

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