Kristy Short, Ed.D, is a partner in RootWorks Communications (RootWorks.com) and president of SAS Communications 360 (SAScommunications360.com) — firms dedicated to providing practice management education, branding, marketing, and public relations services to the accounting profession. She is also a professor of English and marketing at University of Phoenix and Cleary University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Effective marketing emphasizes the value your firm offers.
Marketing is all about making a name for your business, and making a name requires telling a great story. You may have the most progressive and unique firm in the world, but that won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t know how to convey that to prospects and clients.
** Column: MarketingWorks **
When it comes to marketing your firm in a powerful and meaningful way, you need to give serious thought to your key differentiators. What makes you stand out from the crowd? Why should prospects seek you out over the competition? Why should your current clients stay? The answers to these questions will help you create your “story”
and clearly articulate just how you came to be a rock star in the accounting profession.
What Makes You Different?
What makes you different could be anything from offering client portals to café-quality coffee in your waiting area. And whether you have a long list of value propositions to share or a unique few, be sure that you are telling people what they are. If you don’t, who will?
In a profession like accounting, it’s important to understand that prospects rarely buy based on cost. It’s all about the quality of service. Clients want to know that their financial information is in good, reliable hands. They want more than an accountant; they want a trusted advisor to work with them year-round — providing a clear picture of their financial health, helping them develop a sound tax strategy, and offering guidance.
Really think about what makes your firm different. What do you have going on? The following list offers a few examples of great value propositions that are useful when crafting marketing communications and developing your story.
- 24/7 Document Access. Portals represent a big value prop. Big! Huge!
- Offering clients round-the-clock access to their financial documents through a secure online system accelerates the convenience factor, and clients love that. Your clients are busy people so the more convenient you can make it for them, the better. If you offer portals, scream if from the rafters. It’s a solid selling point.
- Virtual Flexibility. Firms that offer virtual meeting alternatives have something to brag about. Onsite face-to-face sit-downs with clients are very valuable. No one is suggesting going all virtual all the time, but it’s nice to give clients a choice on where to meet: in-person or web-based. When time is tight, some clients may opt for a more convenient online alternative, like Skype or GotoMeeting. Offering a menu of options puts you ahead of the competition … not to mention makes you look tech-savv-a-licious.
- Custom, Integrated Services. Leading firms typically offer a comprehensive roster of professional services that easily integrate with one another (especially if you offer an advanced online platform). Of course, not all clients require every service. If your services model is flexible — one that allows clients to add services over time and progressively build a system that best meets their needs — that’s a unique value proposition. Sell it, baby.
- Niche Expertise. Being an expert in any given industry or profession adds instant credibility. Many accounting professionals are transitioning to a niche-way of doing business — focusing on defined industries to grow their client base (e.g., veterinarians, restaurants, medical practices, etc.). If you have expertise in a given niche, hit that point hard in your marketing initiatives. For example, restaurant owners will want to know that you are intimately familiar with tip reporting, food and beverage tax audits, sales tax, and so on. Hit the key buzzwords, and position yourself as a leading expert.
- Custom Client Communications. Firms that create regular custom messages for clients, like a newsletter or blog, quickly get a reputation for caring about their clients. These types of communication offer timely, helpful information like tax breaks, new laws, or workflow tips for small businesses. Communicating regularly enhances the feeling of personalization and intimacy, and clients will like that part of your story.
- Unique Extras. If you offer any special extras, no matter how small, market it. You’d be surprised what will get a client’s attention. It could be high-end coffee in the reception area or the ability to IM (Instant Message) a designated person in your firm for immediate support. If it’s a unique offering, it will further set you apart from the accounting pack, so talk about it.
When All is Said and Done…
At the end of the day, great marketing means telling a great story. More importantly, your story must resonate with the client … emphasizing what’s in it for them. By clearly stating your firm’s key differentiators, you make a direct connection between your services and the value offered to clients. That’s what marketing is all about.
So really think about what you’ve got going on in your firm and start your list. Once you have a few value propositions down on paper, it’s much easier to develop your own unique story. Remember, if you don’t tell people why you are a rock star, no one else will.
Kristy Short, Ed.D, is a partner in RootWorks Communications (RootWorks.com) and president of SAS Communications 360 (SAScommunications360.com) — firms dedicated to providing practice management education, branding, marketing, and public relations services to the accounting profession. She is also a professor of English and marketing at University of Phoenix and Cleary University. She can be contacted at email@example.com