Don’t make this marketing mistake especially if you are reliant on referrals

Mar 1, 2022 | Marketing and promotion, Networking, Referrals, Social Media, Sole practitioners

I am frequently surprised when apparently successful accountants tell me that they know they should start being active on social media. And that they want to beef up their marketing activity.

Both such aspirations typically reflect a belief in the mystical power of generic marketing and the hype surrounding social media activity. As if these will help generate more of the ideal clients that the accountant wants.

And yet, when asked, these same accountants tell me that most of their new clients come as result of referrals and recommendations.

Why, I ask, don’t they focus their time and effort on trying to secure more such referrals? Occasionally their desire to do ‘more marketing’ is justified when, for example, the accountant wants to generate more new clients faster than might come if they continue to wait for the next referral.

Where relevant I will ask my clients to tell me about their best clients and to identify the type of new clients they would really like to win.

Often these accountants, like many others,  start out with very general aspirations. This becomes even more obvious when we explore why anyone should choose to appoint them rather than any other accountant.

What invariably becomes apparent is that it will be easier to identify, target and secure good new clients by adopting a more focused approach. And once this is agreed I then help them to see that generic marketing and social media activity will be of limited value and benefit.

It will also be distracting.

Rarely are these the same messages they get from marketing consultants and social media experts who need to generate their own clients and see accountants as worthy and wealthy targets.

A related key point here is that it’s irrelevant that YOU may feel capable of being able to service anyone or everyone.

To see the truth of this, just place yourself in the position of a prospective client for your accountancy practice:

Imagine you are trying to choose between two prospective accountants.

The first speaks about their experience, their services, their way of working. They show you their testimonials, their references and give several guarantees about quality. They have a wide range of clients and profess themselves able to help you regardless of your business area, focus and needs. In effect they sound much like every other accountant who is happy to work with anyone regardless of their sector, focus, dreams and aspirations.

The second accountant asks more questions in order to first find out more about what you think you want and need and  your motivations. When they talk about their experience they speak largely to show they understand what makes you and your business special. And they evidence their knowledge of your sector, some of the classic pitfalls that exist, perhaps even those that their generalist competitors have fallen into.

You share some of your disappointments, because you have probably engaged an accountant before.

Together you explore some opportunities and challenges that are specific (or possibly even unique) to your sector.

All other factors being equal, which of these two accountants is going to seem the most credible and appropriate for you? And if they are a bit more expensive, aren’t they worth it? Indeed, you might even expect that.

Conversely If you seem to be just like ‘all the other accountants out there’ you will compete more on price. And this means it will take longer to win more of the clients you really want, paying the fees you need to earn for doing the work you most enjoy.

I practice what I preach. My own ideal mentoring clients are sole practitioner accountants with either no staff or just a small team, as distinct from those who have partners or dozens of staff. We relate well to each other and they routinely thank me for helping them stay focused, avoid distractions and have more peace of mind.  Typically they start out by wanting an independent view on their marketing and social media strategy, or they have a pressing problem, worry or issue that is keeping them awake. They want an independent perspective from a trusted source. I recently started to reference my services as ‘NED-style’ support and this clearly resonated with my newest clients.

As I have stressed previously, you will also secure more referrals if your business associates, friends and even your family are also able to speak about your specialist expertise or business focus. This can be so much more powerful and worthwhile than simply being thought of as ‘just another accountant’.

The ‘mistake’ I referenced in the tile of this blog post is most apparent when smaller accounting practices decide to invest in generic marketing and social media activity.

Doing this will often be disproportionately expensive in terms of time and money relative to the return on investment you can reasonably expect, or are likely to achieve.

And you can invariably secure a much better return on investment if you adopt a more focused approach for your marketing and social media activity.

Indeed, in most cases I end up advising against any social media activity as it rarely lives up to the hype. (NB: LinkedIn is quite distinct, being an online business networking platform and typically well worth using to reach specific prospective clients).


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