Unmasking the marketing bullies: how to spot and avoid their tactics

Aug 15, 2023 | Lead generation, Marketing and promotion

Regular readers will know that, on this blog I share, what I hope is, constructive and unbiased advice for accountants in practice. Today I offer you a cautionary warning about what have been termed ‘marketing bullies’.

The Believable Approach

A few years back, after I spoke at Accountex, I recall being touched by one lady’s feedback that she found my approach very refreshing as compared with that of most other speakers at the conference.

“You were very different and so much more believable,” she said. “You have inspired me to do a number of things that I will take forward when I’m back in the office. So many other speakers tried to persuade me I needed to do something that would involve me spending a lot of money with them. And, quite frankly I wasn’t convinced that they were being objective.”

Bullies in Pinstripes

More recently I was chatting with an IT supplier who shared his views of such marketing focused suppliers.

“Some are just bullies in pinstripes” he said. “They often employ very persuasive salespeople who attempt to scare accountants into spending far more money than necessary. Quite often the accountant is simply being forced onto a ‘me too’ bandwagon, the benefits of which are yet to be proven. But when a strong salesperson keeps on and on, a lot of accountants simply give in – and the salespeople know this is likely; so they persist until it happens.”

I was shocked as, in my experience, accountants are generally reluctant to invest in new marketing ‘solutions’.

The Quick Fix Illusion

For a long time I thought it unlikely that an accountant would agree to spend a significant sum on a new marketing activity before creating an effective plan to secure a decent ROI.

Of course I was wrong. There have always been accountants who get suckered into investing in the fantasy of a simple ‘quick get-rich quick’ marketing idea.

Plenty of people promoting this idea use their own (distinct and specific) experience as ‘proof’ – with no one recognising that their results are not automatically replicable by everyone else.

Tailoring Marketing to Your Audience

Worse is when the marketing ‘expert’ convinces an accountant to follow generic advice without first considering who should be the distinct target audience for the accountant’s marketing activity, where best to reach them and how best to influence them.

The Temptation of Easy Success

Sadly it seems, many accountants are still getting suckered into believing that someone can generate ideal results quickly and easily for them – for a fee.

This is perhaps only natural if you have yet to realise that some people prey on our desire for instant, low cost, no effort results – that are all but impossible to achieve in practice.

Beware of AI-Driven Activities

The latest innovation of such activities are those that involve the use of automated AI driven activity whether on Linkedin or elsewhere.

Don’t get persuaded or bullied into wasting time and money on these – they may even damage your online reputation and thus REDUCE the likelihood of you achieving the outcomes you seek.

The Dangers of Outsourced Marketing Plans

Recently, one of my 1-2-1 mentoring clients told me that he was considering investing in a marketing plan.

Or rather, he had responded positively to a cold-call he had received from someone offering such services for accountants. As a result he had received a detailed proposal encouraging him to spend a five figure sum with this ‘specialist’.

The last time he had responded positively to such a call he ended up with what he was promised would be, a very cost-effective advert in the National Press. In the event, he told me that I was the only person who ever mentioned having seen the advert. It certainly didn’t lead to any new clients! So, not so cost-effective after all!

Since then, whenever he is considering new initiatives, this successful accountant asks my opinion before committing/risking significant funds.

So he asked my opinion on the latest marketing proposal.

Fact-Finding First

I read the document that had been sent to him and saw that it referenced all sorts of generic marketing and promotional activities that MAY be worthwhile for some accountants running their own practice.

The proposal  started by offering a sort of fact-find which would then determine the specific marketing activities that would follow. This approach made sense to me.

What I didn’t think made sense however was for my client to commit to pay for the full service at the outset rather than initially simply for the fact-find.

This was because I could tell it was a generic proposal, most probably relevant more to firms that are struggling to win new clients and that have not had much success with any marketing efforts to date.

In this case, my client runs a successful and very profitable practice attracting a good flow of new clients who pay decent fees. Of course his marketing could benefit from a tweak or two but I was doubtful that the investment in question would be worthwhile for him.

Expert Advice and Wise Choices

I encouraged my client to instead speak with another marketing specialist I know who would do the fact-find and then recommend what, if anything, he might do differently going forwards.

Avoiding Unnecessary Expenses

Not for the first time, my client thanked me for helping him avoid spending money unwisely. If we hadn’t spoken he might well have been persuaded (bullied?) to make the five figure commitment.

Making Informed Marketing Decisions

My advice, to him, as to so many other accountants, was to avoid spending money before identifying the real objective of his marketing activity. And how he would hope to determine whether any new marketing activities are working for him. Then he can judge any proposed solution objectively against the criteria he has set.

There are many ethical salespeople out there and many of the marketing related services and products available to accountants are well worthwhile.

Your Choice, Your Practice

But YOU need to choose which is best for you and your practice. Or, if not ‘best’ then, which is going to be cost effective and appropriate for your practice? That may not be the first one you look at, the cheapest or the one with the most persuasive sales patter and follow up system.

Cautious Consideration

Remember that a salesperson’s assertions are not proof, are rarely objective and are not necessarily reliable. Don’t let yourself be persuaded to work with one of the marketing ‘bullies’.

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