All businesses have dealt with unprecedented change this year. Indeed, ‘unprecedented’ is one of the buzzwords of 2020. As they fought to survive the economic onslaught of Covid-19, companies have also had to change their way of working overnight as video conferencing software replaced face-to-face meetings, the cloud replaced paperwork and working from home became the norm.
In addition to these challenges, one major consequence for the accountancy industry was the sudden and almost complete disappearance of the ability to network face-to-face. To make matters even more challenging, this all-important route to new business has closed indefinitely in a climate where:
- Clients are struggling to survive and even going out of business
- HMRC’s Making Tax Digital has simplified many aspects of tax for business owners
- Cheap offshore and software-based competition remains a factor
All these factors mean one thing; now is the time to take action to build strong relationships online to communicate how crucial your services are and to make sure your firm is all set to flourish in the future.
Change is never easy but this period of enforced transition can be used as an opportunity to take stock of what clients value about you, what opportunities are available, where you stand in comparison to the competition and what you need to do to get that message across in a way that will ultimately cut through the noise and lead to valuable new business.
Demonstrate how you outclass the competition
All accountants are well aware of the issues stated above and the fact that relying on compliance work is no longer an option. Accountants also know that no matter how sophisticated and user-friendly it is, an automated system will never replace the need for the business advice of an experienced accountant. However, potential clients looking to save money in challenging times may not appreciate this. So, it’s vital that your marketing conveys the clear message that investing in expert support during the Covid era is more important than ever.
Adding more value
In the face of these challenges, how do you drive home that message home? Simply put, your potential clients need to know that preparing for the year-end is only a small part of the services you can provide for them.
If you consider the unique value you can provide and highlight services that would be difficult to offshore (and would be impossible for a machine to emulate), you’ll find the golden opportunities. For example, services like proactive reporting to support the future of the business, or financial reviews to help the owner to stay on course to avoid problems waiting to happen are far more valuable than ticking a box and filing a VAT return or completing simple bookkeeping tasks.
As you know, applying proactive thinking to a business’s needs is a world away from merely delivering a basic service. And while your clients may now be able to complete some simple tasks online, your expertise and in-depth understanding of their needs as a business are an essential component in their future success.
It’s okay to brag (even though it’s not very British)
As an accountant, you go through years of training to become an expert in your field. However, your success is often dependent on a skill you receive no training in; namely sales. Although networking (whether online or offline) offers an affordable opportunity to meet potential clients, there’s always someone else offering the same services. Regardless of their professional skills, those that do well in these situations tend to have great sales instincts.
Whether in person or online, sales and marketing can often feel like the realm of the extrovert – and therefore unappealing to a professional who prefers focusing on what they’re good at as opposed to self-promotion. The good news is that it’s possible to communicate your attributes in a meaningful way to the very people who need to hear about them.
This is because we’re in a digital age where we have access to countless advertising messages every day. As a result, we can actively seek out authenticity and authority on the topics that interest us. This is why it’s key for you to have a deep understanding of your customer, what they need and what they really value about you. This directly relates to what content you can create around these topics in order to make your marketing generate a return on investment.
In a digital context, bragging means you’re just saying what you would ordinarily say to a new client in person. You’re merely communicating real-world examples over a digital platform to build your credibility and get your name out there. After all, if you don’t do this, you’re not only depriving someone of a valuable service by not promoting yourself, you’re losing out on valuable business
The importance of a brand personality
Once you identify what you’re going to talk about to your online audience, it’s just as important to decide how to communicate it. Every business needs a brand personality to ensure a consistent and appropriate tone across all platforms.
Brand consistency is especially crucial in the wake of COVID-19, which has necessitated clearer communication channels online as opportunities to engage face-to-face have diminished. Even when the pandemic is over, we are likely to see the world embracing a new normal that stops costly and less convenient methods of client interaction once and for all. Digital marketing will be at the heart of this new way of doing things.
Being active online may seem daunting or labour intensive to the uninitiated, but it needn’t be. The key thing is to keep your brand values at the forefront of all your online activities so that your authenticity will come across to your ideal client, who will be able to recognise that you could be a good fit for their business and will want to find out more.
One size does not fit all
Every industry comes with its own unique market, and each service you offer relies on a clear understanding of that consumer in order to market to them effectively.
You need to be making the most of the channels available to you in order to showcase your expertise. Luckily, not all channels are applicable, so don’t worry about learning how to Tik Tok.
Through newsletters, LinkedIn articles, press releases, videos, Twitter and other platforms, you can establish a real authority on topics that matter to your ideal customer, ultimately answering their needs. A continuous feed of informative content of this nature builds trust and ultimately, loyalty. This stems from one of the fundamentals in sales and marketing; referred to as Know, Like and Trust:
Know: get your clients to feel like they know you and that your values align with theirs through a consistent online presence.
Like: show your brand personality and share your values so that they’re more likely to recognise you’re the kind of company they want to work with.
Trust: demonstrate your credibility through great content, awards, public speaking and qualifications.
After all, if you’re adding value to your clients’ digital experience, in addition to impressing them with your valuable business support services, you’re well on your way to keeping them on the books for years to come.