Mistake 1: Forgetting to differentiate
The average business owner who is in the market for a new accountant isn’t exactly starved of choice. In fact, the issue for them, is knowing how to choose. In their local area there might be between 5 and 15 accountancy firms, so choosing between them, on face value alone, isn’t easy.
The common reason for this dilemma within prospective clients is the lack of differentiation from accountancy firm to accountancy firm. And of course, by differentiation, I don’t mean the look of the logo or how many years the accountancy has been helping clients.
Differentiation is about adopting a clear stance regarding who the accountancy is and how it helps clients. This stance needs to clearly show the firm to be different and that those differences make the firm more appealing to prospective clients. Differentiating does take effort and to some degree, a little soul searching to decide what kind of practice yours will be and what the true issues and emotions are within clients that you want to address.
Ironically, the lack of differentiation across accountancy firms is actually a gilt-edged opportunity for the few firms that, strategically, decide to stand out.
Mistake 2: Only marketing what you sell
If your marketing is only focused on your services then you are probably missing opportunities. It might seem logical that if you’re going to run marketing activity then the objective of that activity is to ‘sell’ your services. I’d encourage you to reconsider.
For accountancy firms, the objective of any given marketing activity is to start a relationship, not to sell a service. Business owners don’t choose a new (or a change of) accountancy firm on impulse, it’s a considered decision that might have been brewing for months. So if your marketing is trying to hit prospective customers just at the point when they might buy your services, in many cases you’re already going to be too late to the party. Other firms will have joined the party long before you and will have been small-talking their way into the business owner’s trust, before they then promote their services.
In my experience, almost all accountancy marketing should be about catching the business owner as early as possible. And you aren’t going to appeal to business owners by promoting your services at this early time when they aren’t yet even sure they need/want an accountant.
The alternative therefore is to promote your knowledge. Focus less on trying to promote your services, and concentrate on the specific aspects of your knowledge that you know people value. Then package up that valuable knowledge into bitesized chunks and share it regularly – website, events, social media, press, email marketing, leaflets etc.
Your target markets will ‘let in’ marketing messages that are sharing valuable knowledge much more so than those selling services.
Mistake 3: Generic targeting
In any given market, customers would rather deal with a specialist for their exact circumstances. If, for example, a business owner of a gym is looking for an accountant, you can be sure they will at the very least be inquisitive about an accountancy firm that specialises in gyms. Importantly, this preference for specialism will also often supersede a customer’s need for their accountant to be local to them. Better to have a specialist who’s 20 miles away than a generalist 2 miles away.
These days it is entirely possible to market your firm as a specialist to many, many, customer types. It doesn’t cost more to have 200 pages on your website rather than 20, with each page focusing on your specialism for each customer type. Not like it would have done 15 years ago when choosing a printed brochure of 200 pages wasn’t a practical option.
What’s also important to note is that customers don’t mind if a firm is a specialist in other areas. Especially, if it’s lots of other areas. So, if your firm has articulated why it’s a specialist for gyms, the gym owners won’t mind that you can prove why you’re also a specialist for butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and fifty others. You are a specialist for them, and that’s what matters. The fact that you’re skilled in other markets simply adds to the overall perception of your depth and breadth of expertise.
I would therefore urge you, as a starter, to build-out your website content so you have a page for every target market you can serve. Then allow visitors to easily find the page that’s relevant to them. If the gym owner reads your page about how you can serve gyms specifically, do you think that’s more appealing to them than the 5 other firms they’ll consider that simply talk in generic terms about tax and accounting?