“Second, there are compliance requirements that force businesses to use certain services (audit and taxes, for starters), so there is a sense that if I must do it, at least I should try to minimize costs.”
The problem, as Lee asserts is, “accounting services become commodities. It’s difficult to differentiate between firms, and fee pressure becomes intense.”
There is nothing worse than being perceived, in the eyes of your clients, as commodity. In fact, if you are viewed that way, you can’t charge a premium fee for a premium service, primarily because you are not viewed as being special.
Lee recommends 7 tact
ics that you can use to ensure you are not perceived as a commodity. The tactics include:
- Become a Specialist
- Become a Visible Expert in Your Field
- Do a Major Study on an Important Topic
- Publish Very Useful Content
- Get Serious About Social Media
- Invest in SEO
- Put Them All Together
My goal with this article is to help you understand why each of these marketing tactics are so important for your accounting firm.
Who is this article for?
I am writing this article for:
- Accountants who have their own firm and currently have clients
- Accountants who work for a firm they would like to help grow
- Any other professional who would like to make sure they are not perceived as a commodity
Why become a Specialist?
When you are a specialist, you immediately separate yourself from the pack, and enhance your ability to attract clients in your niche.
Lee points out that if you become a specialist you will be able to command higher fees, as well as boost the overall productivity of your marketing plan. The question is why?
From a pure marketing perspective, as soon as you become a specialist, your entire brand presence immediately starts to cater to a select audience. When members of that audience find you, they immediately see that you understand their business.
This is a major advantage in one area in particular. It sets you apart from the competition, and makes it easy for people to choose your firm. Why does it work this way?
People want to see that you understand them, and when you make the shift to being a specialist, you immediately start using language in your marketing that resonates with the clients you want to attract.
A client of mine focuses in part on providing accounting services to lawyers. You can see, right away, by looking at her website that she has an expertise in law firm accounting. If you can see it, surely a lawyer or law firm is going to see it as well.
Note also, there is a lot of competition in your industry, both from large and small firms. In order to compete, as a smaller firm, with the big global firms, you must specialize. In fact, I will go so far as to assert that if you do specialize in an industry, it will be hard for the big firms to compete with you.
Why do you need to become a Visible Expert?
I think you would likely agree that no matter how good you are, if people don’t know you exist, they cannot hire your firm. Being visible is critical at even the most basic level. However, there is something more to consider here.
When people choose an accounting firm, or any professional services firm, they start with a “list” that they already have created in their own minds. Sure, they also ask for referrals, but you can rest assured that they already have a list.
The list is typically made up of those firms who are well known, or bigger brand names. An example is PWC. PWC is likely on the top of the list for any big company needing a new auditor. Because they are on the list, they get attention that someone off the list just isn’t going to receive.
There is another benefit to being on this list. Those firms who are top of mind usually command the highest fees. And note, this does not mean that you need to be a large global firm to command higher fees. What it does mean is, because the large firms are so prominent, they can command the higher fees.
From your perspective, going back to being a specialist, if you are known as the go to provider for an industry, you will have that big name brand, even when your firm isn’t very large. The result is you will be able to command big firm fees.
Why do a major study on something important?
Studies, if they have depth, answer the questions your target audience have. You don’t need to go overboard here. Doing these types of studies becomes far easier when you specialize. Once you establish a reputation and a sizable client base in a certain industry, you can start leveraging those clients to create informative studies that other people in that industry will find valuable.
And naturally, studies act as a credentialing tool so that when people find you, they feel much more confident in your ability to serve their unique needs.
Why publish useful content?
There are a number of reasons you need to publish useful content. For purposes of this article I want to focus on the ability of content to facilitate the conversation.
Most of your business is going to come from referrals. It is important to know that even if you are referred, people are going to check you out. The content you publish is the way people will validate the referral, but it is also the way people will provide referrals. What do I mean?
If you create useful content, people in your industry will likely share it, and talk about it among themselves, as well as with you.
Content is great for things like SEO, but for most firms, content should be created as a conversation center piece. When your content is specialized, it automatically becomes useful to your niche, and immediately functions as a conversation starter.
Naturally, the more people are talking about you, the more likely you will be on the list I referenced above.
Why get serious about social media?
There are three big reasons to get serious about social media:
- You can meet people in your industry and network with them all over the world
- You can share that great content we just spoke about, allowing people to discuss your ideas and insights on social media
- People can talk about you and the experience they have had with you, with their peers
Yes, social is a great visibility tool. The risk though, if you think of it this way, is that you will use it the same way you use other marketing tools. You will promote your services.
The problem is, social media is about building connections, establishing relationships and developing your brand as an expert who provides the answers in your field of expertise.
In order to get the most out of social, you need to be there, engaging your audience and helping people answer questions they can’t answer themselves.
Social media engagement, in fact is, one of the easiest ways to find and connect with people in your target audience.
Why invest in SEO?
While a large portion of your business is going to come from referrals, a sizable chunk of clients are going to find you and your firm when they search online.
The idea here again goes back to being on that list. Search engines will rank you high if you produce great content. It is also much easier to rank when you specialize in a niche.
The point is, your firm will keep showing up, over and over again, in front of the people who need your services the most. At the point they need to hire a firm, you might not only be on the list, you might be the obvious choice, without the need to look at other firms.
Why do you need to put all these tactics together?
Throughout this entire piece, I have tried to make it obvious to you why all these tactics are important. I have also tried to imply how each is connected.
When you specialize, your content becomes more useful to your target audience. It is much easier to become visible as an expert in your field.
Once you establish your presence in your niche, you will find that you will rank higher in search engines and you will be much more able to engage people on social media.
All of these things, if done well and done consistently, almost guarantees you a place at the front of the line when people are looking for an accountant. The rest will be up to how well you handle the calls that come in.