Not everyone wants to follow the widely promoted advice that you will benefit more from advertising, marketing, networking and referrals if you focus your attention on trying to reach a specific group of people.
The idea being that we can then let everyone else continue trying to be all things to all people. It will take them longer, they will be less successful and probably invest more time and money than if they were to focus their efforts.
So, it will benefit you to read through the rest of this post as I am a tad more understanding and have some simple ways that you can follow this advice that you think is so hard or just ‘not for you’.
Part of the challenge is that, if you are like most accountants in practice you don’t think you have a specialist focus. You have dozens or even hundreds of clients spread across various industries. You don’t want to limit the type of new client you target. You can sort out the tax and accounting needs of most people, most of the time.
That’s fine. I never advocate getting rid of clients just because they don’t fit a new marketing focus. And I intentionally use the word ‘focus’ as that is all we are talking about here.
Even though I’m not in practice any more, I face similar issues. The UK based sole-practitioner accountants I mentor might seem to be a cross-section of the profession. And, initially I thought that focusing here was sufficient. I have served clients in their twenties, in their seventies and everywhere in-between. I have been thanked for my help, insights and advice with growth strategies, recruitment issues, website design and a wealth of other related issues in addition to all the areas that form more of the focus of my marketing efforts.
Realistically though I’m not making it easy for my target audience to recognise themselves unless I focus my marketing messages on a specific sub-set of these accountants and clarify the issues they face. So that is what I do.
It doesn’t mean I can only help those who fit that precise profile. But it certainly makes it easier for those I especially want to attract to recognise themselves. And this then leads to more of the ideal clients I seek.
Typically they are aged 50+, frustrated, overwhelmed and lonely. They face big decisions and want to sense-check their choices as well as to learn how best to secure more referrals and recommendations without getting sucked into expensive marketing campaigns. They are often cynical about get-rich quick schemes (sometimes because they have previously been caught out) and they don’t want to follow a packaged, standard approach to ‘improving their practice’. They prefer the idea of tailored 1-2-1 support that reflects their background, client base, experiences and ambitions.
I have summarised my ideal target audience here simply to prove a point. If you can relate to that description then perhaps you are a prospective client (let’s have a conversation to see!) And if it doesn’t resonate than I have probably saved both you and me time.
Or, are you thinking “No, Mark. By being so specific you are missing out on prospective clients. You can and do serve a wider group of accountants than that focused message implies”.
This is true. And, no doubt YOU can and do serve a wide range of clients. The question though is whether we will reach and attract more clients with broad generic marketing messages or with more tightly focused messages? I am 100% confident that I win more of the clients I want through being focused. And I know that every marketing, social media, networking and lead generation expert I know would confirm this is also true for every business, including accountants.
At the start of the century(!) when I started talking to accountants about practice related matters, I quickly learned to avoid any mention of the M-word as it was evidently a turn-off. Instead I talked about practice development until it became acceptable to talk about ‘Marketing’.
These days there is a 5-letter N-word that many find a turn-off. This is why I don’t talk about finding a ‘Niche’.
Instead, let’s just consider how you might focus your marketing efforts and messages.
Here are seven ways you can choose where to focus:
- Identify the clients who already pay you the highest fees. Want some more like that?
- Focus on those clients who have been with you the longest and who are now paying you more than when they first came on board. These are the ones you know how to grow and support.
- Think about which of your clients you most enjoy working with, advising and helping. Enjoyment is infectious. What are their characteristics, personalities and situations?
- Staying with those same clients, what were the pain points, issues and challenges that they wanted your help with when they first became clients? What do you do for them beyond the basics?
- Do you have any clients who have written unsolicited testimonials or recommended you to other people who are in the same field as them? Can you use these as part of your marketing and messaging to similar client types?
- On balance which would you say are your best or favourite clients? Use whatever criteria you want – it doesn’t have to be about fees.
- Also identify those prospects who you do NOT want to attract – for whatever reason. In my case, I choose not to appeal to or to mentor start-ups, employees or partners. So I try to make this clear to save time. This also makes it easier for me to hone in on those sole practitioners I can best serve and help. (Having said that there is plenty of content on my blog that is useful for those groups).
Find some similarities between the clients you identify through this process. You may have more than one potential focus. That’s fine, but ideally you will pick one to work on at a time. Tidy up and simplify the definition of your focus so that it becomes something you can say and that people can remember. That will then be your focus FOR NOW and you are then likely to win more new clients faster than if you persist with using similar generic marketing and messages as the majority of other generalist accountants.