Ignore the hype: Why being the ‘Expert’ isn’t enough for Accountants

May 28, 2024 | Business development, Business messaging and branding

I’ve lost track of all the people who try to convince you that you need to spend time and effort trying to show that you are an expert accountant.  And that, beyond this, you have some specific areas of expertise.

The same people also mislead accountants as to what to write about online, on blogs and on Linkedin.

I am not surprised that some accountants attempt to follow this advice as there does appear to be some logic in it. And, when faced with complex or challenging issues, people naturally seek out the most proficient expert available.

In our world, that expert is likely to be a specialist accountant or tax adviser.

However, most accountants I know are keen to win over clients who rarely know what specialist expertise they need.

This is why trying to be seen as expert doesn’t result in you generating the work or referrals you might have hoped for.

Proponents of this idea charge good money for their advice, and if you try it but it makes no difference, they say it’s your fault for not trying hard enough.

In real life, the reason it hasn’t worked is because the advice itself is flawed.

Except in very limited situations, I don’t think the type of advice I have described here is worth following. There are much simpler ways to build your reputation and to attract the business you seek.

First, let me quickly explain why I feel the need to debunk the hype around being seen as AN expert)or worse, as THE expert).

Here’s the key question:

How often have you pitched for a client’s business and been unable to win them over? In how many of those cases was it because you were perceived to lack the necessary expertise? Or because another accountant was seen as a greater authority?

When I discuss such situations with my mentoring clients, these cases are few and far between. The factors influencing the success or failure of securing a client’s commitment are seldom linked to the client’s perception of the accountant’s expertise.

Instead, the recurring reasons accountants are unable to win over prospects typically include:

  • The prospect decides not to engage an accountant at all. This is common with startups who do not yet appreciate the value an accountant can bring.
  • They choose an accountant who has quoted a lower fee. Don’t fall into the trap of lowering your fees when this happens. Instead aim to learn how to better evidence your distinct style and approach.
  • They stay with their old accountant. Maybe they were only looking to get a lower fee quote to pressure the incumbent.
  • They choose another accountant who has a more effective way of promoting the value of their services, style, and approach, despite charging higher fees.

None of these decisions stem from a lack of recognition of your expertise.

Now let’s consider an analogy.

Assume you meet a decorator who seems to be an impressive, engaging person. Perhaps you hear other people confirming how great this decorator is.

None of this matters of course if you don’t perceive a need for any decoration work in your home or you would be happy doing a quick touch-up yourself.

If that’s the case, you won’t engage their services, regardless of their expertise or testimonials.

Inundating you with evidence of their expertise won’t sway your decision. The crucial issue is whether you perceive a need for their services.

This is why I often point out that the old adage ‘Know, Like and Trust’ only becomes relevant once there is a NEED for the services in question.

Sticking with our decorator analogy, what could they do to try to get your (currently non-existent) business?

If they were posting on social media for example they could write content that might prompt you to look around and appreciate that perhaps your house does indeed require attention.

Perhaps they could shed light on how your friends may perceive your worn paintwork.

Maybe they could demonstrate how vibrant paintwork enhances the atmosphere or elevates your social standing. The focus of their online content should be on convincing readers of the necessity for action, not merely asserting their expertise.

Only once you acknowledge the need for action might you then seek out an expert to assist you. Until then, they are wasting their time flaunting their expertise.

Of course, you will now appreciate why I feel that much of the content marketing online and blogs from accountants is misdirected — an incessant pursuit of establishing expertise when prospective clients and referrers already take this for granted. You’re an accountant, of course you know your stuff.

The fact you and I know that there are, sadly, plenty of ‘accountants’ who are NOT as on top of things as you, is not relevant. Most of the people who will see your online content are unaware of this.

A more effective objective would be to offer business owners and other target clients insights into their own businesses or affairs. Your insights should prompt them to recognise the need for change, consequently necessitating expert intervention.

If your marketing primarily revolves around showcasing expertise rather than enlightening clients about necessary changes, it’s likely misaligned.

Redirect your focus towards your prospective clients’ needs and deliver the insights that compel them to recognise the need for change.

Of course, you would probably need to write more of this yourself instead of leaving it to copywriters, social media ‘experts’ and generative AI.

It should come as no surprise that this is much the same as the approach I encourage when helping accountants to craft effective client stories to share at networking events and when talking with prospective clients and introducers.

How does that sound? Evidence your expertise by sharing insights that illuminate the necessity or value of readers changing accountants. By doing so you naturally position yourself as a genuine expert and the preferred choice for new clients.

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