Debunked: The ‘one thing’ you MUST do. There are 5 if you really want to be successful

Jul 5, 2022 | Business messaging and branding, Linkedin, Marketing and promotion, Networking, Pricing, Social Media, Sole practitioners, Strategy

A popular approach to getting your attention (and often your money) is to tell you that there is ‘one thing’ you must do to achieve your ambitions and succeed.

I see this all over the place, in blogs, articles, videos and social media posts. Those who suggest there is just ‘one thing’ you need to do may be marketing consultants, social media gurus or sales people. Many are relatively inexperienced and keen to promote their services or those of the company that employs them.

They put forward what are designed to be compelling arguments that there is just ‘one thing’ you must do to succeed in practice, to generate new clients, to increase your fees or to achieve your heart’s desire.

You’ve probably seen plenty of these yourself.  And yet each of the proponents will typically reference a different ‘one thing’ they say you need to do.

Whenever I see someone asserting that doing just ‘one thing’ will have a huge impact, I inevitably then start to question their credibility. If they can make such nonsense claims up front, why should I believe what else they recommend – whether it’s their own product/services or other actions we should take?


  • Create facebook or Google ads that will appeal to unspecified prospects (and waste an enormous amount of your money)
  • Film a promotional video that will somehow be seen by your ideal prospects (it won’t!)
  • Draft a fancy elevator pitch that somehow compels people to hire you the instant they hear it
  • Build an expensive flashy website
  • Focus on a niche business sector rather than attempt to be all things to all people
  • Invest in a personalised or custom built app
  • Plan a digital marketing strategy (It’s just part of the marketing mix)
  • Blog regularly or pay someone else to do this for you
  • Enter local business or sector awards
  • Attend local business networking events – without checking whether the ‘right’ sort of people will be there
  • Send out regular emails filled with manufactured controversy to try to create the impression you have a distinct personality
  • Badger people with Linkedin messages ‘adding value’ they didn’t ask for or pestering them to get on a call with you
  • Become active on multiple social media platforms  (regardless of who you are really trying to influence)
  • Become a recognised expert (overnight??) and hope that somehow clients will flock to your door to benefit from your expertise

I’m exaggerating for effect of course. Each of the above will help some accountants to some degree. But rarely in isolation and typically only AFTER you have undertaken significant preparatory work to determine your target market.

Often accountants approach me after they have realised they have wasted time and money pursuing one or more of the ‘one thing’ activities listed above.

I have also seen and worked with enough successful accountants over the years, and especially recently, to be able to say with absolute confidence that they achieved their success without worrying about doing any one or more of the activities listed above to achieve their objectives:

Why do they say it if it’s rarely true?
I think there are 5 reasons why so many people tell you there is ‘one best way’ to achieve your objectives:

  1. If I’m feeling generous I could put it down to naivety. They don’t know any better and are just copying someone else due to misplaced trust.
  2. Similarly perhaps they have seen other people they admire adopt this approach. “If it works for them, it will help you generate business too” – This ignores the fact that your practice, prospects and approach to business might be quite different;
  3. It is often self-interest. The ‘one best way’ is what they want to sell to you and this is their primary aim whether or not you really are an ideal customer or client;
  4. Another common rationale is that their assertion is simply evidencing their limited experience. That ‘one way’ is simply something that worked for them. It may work for you too – but only if your experience, background, client base, targets, interests and ambitions match those of the person making the assertions;
  5. It is the only way they know after having been taught those views on a course and they are unaware of other options and alternative approaches.

My view
I first started to learn about and apply marketing and selling techniques in the mid 1990s.

Then in 2006 I became an independent speaker, mentor and blogger – since when I have learned more than ever before. I’ve read hundreds of websites, white papers and books, watched many dozens of videos and attended goodness knows how many training courses and conference sessions.

I continue to research and discuss related topics with experts and speakers every month (if not every week!) And all this time I’ve been working with accountants helping them to be more successful in practice.

So I can fairly confidently say that, in my experience, there are no magic solutions and certainly no ‘one thing’ that will enable all accountants to win good new clients or to become successful.

The key point
You don’t NEED to do all or any of those things listed above.

There is no ‘one thing’ you must do to succeed. Only what works for you. That may be the same as works for other practices similar to yours, or it may be quite different because YOU are different, your practice is different, your style and approach to business is different and your target clients are different.

In my experience the only real commonalities across all accountants in practice are the outputs of your service ie: the accounts and the tax returns.

Most of the accountants I speak with are almost as cynical of such assertions as am I. All of us with a degree of real life experience know that there’s always more than one way to do things.

And when it comes to being more a more successful accountant, the key is to find a way that works for you and matches your skills and preferences. It needs to be appropriate for your approach to business, your target clients and your objectives.

What you MUST do 😉
Of course, there are some things you MUST do if you want to speed up the process of achieving more success in your practice:

  • You must figure out what you’re great at, what you enjoy doing and what your clients most value;
  • You must find a way to connect with those clients that allows you to add value to them;
  • You must show up on a regular basis in their lives to add more value, build credibility and establish trust; and
  • You must recognise that YOU need to be able to ‘complete’ the deal to bring in new clients willing to pay you good fees, regardless of which marketing and promotion activities you adopt.

There are lots of different ways you can do each of these things.

All of the ‘one thing’ methods work for someone. The trick is to find what works best for you and that you’ll actually pursue properly.

The ‘one thing’ I can promise you is that if you take no action and continue doing what you’ve always done, simply wishing things were different then nothing will change.

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