Back in the days when I was a professional speaker (BC -Before COVID-19) I often asked audiences of accountants to look around the room. And then to indicate whether they felt that they were in any way special and different from most of the other accountants in the room.
Typically only a few hands went up. I acknowledged that some people simply do not like putting their hands up, but the implication was quite clear. And wrong.
Firstly the common instinctive view that accountants are all pretty similar is more a function of confusion. It’s NOT that accountants are the same. It’s only the outputs you create (eg: accounts and tax returns) that are the same, near enough, regardless of which accountant produces them.
And secondly, every accountant I know is unique. You have different backgrounds, experiences, values, interests and styles. Your different clients, colleagues, personalities and approach all mean that clients should see you as distinct from other accountants. Of course if you keep all this hidden, promote yourself poorly and simply process the paperwork with little client interaction, it is no surprise anyone sees you as being interchangeable and easily replaceable.
It’s up to you whether you want this to continue.
If you fail to take personal responsibility for changing people’s perceptions of you and your firm you risk more than simply being seen as interchangeable.
- You will fail to build a distinct personal brand.
- This will reduce the prospect of you being Remembered, Referred and Recommended.
- You will reinforce the reasons you feel invisible, forgettable and left behind.
- You will be seen as just another accountant.
- You will be overlooked and will miss out on opportunities.
- You have to work harder to promote yourself, your business, products and services.
Now imagine you swapped house keys with a neighbour and walked into each others’ houses. Would your families notice? Of course they would. Surely your clients notice the difference too.
What differences do your clients experience when they start working with you?
Do you talk about those differences in your marketing and promotional activities – when networking, on your website and in your online communications?
Here are six ideas to help you clarify and communicate those differences:
- Next time you speak with clients who appointed you after switching from another firm, ask them what differences they have noticed. make a note of the words and phrases they use when they reply.
- Ask a friend to take an objective look at your website and that of 2 or 3 similarly sized accountancy firms elsewhere in the country. If you remove your name and that of your location from your website, how much of the remaining content is interchangeable?
- Think about what you could say that will help visitors to your website notice and remember you as distinct and attractive as compared with other accountants. It’s not all about movement, images or novelty. Those things may grab attention but may do little to stop you being seen as interchangeable.
- Ensure your website content features and focuses on YOU and your colleagues rather than gives the impression that this is just another interchangeable firm of accountants.
- Focus your promotional messages on the differences and value that your clients appreciate rather than simply on what you do.
- Be clear as regards a key business or client focus (niche) that you especially want to attract – rather than trying to promote yourself as being all things to all people. If you do that, you’ll be doing the same as the interchangeable accountants!
Given the long term implications of the lockdown I have had to put my professional speaking career on hold. So I won’t get to ask my favourite question at any events in the near future. If you’re in the audience when I am able to ask it again, I hope you will be one of those who proudly puts their hand up, confident that you are special and different compared to other accountants in the room!