If you haven’t heard of the YOUtility concept, you are missing out on the most important marketing concept of the mobile age. YOUtility is a new way of marketing your firm’s services that enables you to become inherently and genuinely useful to prospects and clients.
At the core of this concept is helping. And you accomplish this by supplying clients and prospects with helpful information—such as how-to’s, tips and tactics, detailed tax and accounting insights, and more. In other words, the concept has you giving away your knowledge.
I understand that this goes against everything you know about the profession. For years, accountants have operated under the mindset of guarding trade secrets—fearing that if too much is given away, no one would need or pay for your services. This is no longer the reality. The pervasiveness of the Internet and fundamental shifts in how consumers research products and services has changed the game. Research shows that business-to-business customers have 70 percent of the purchase decision completed before they ever contact the company. This is true in the accounting profession as well. Potential clients are “secret shopping” accountants—looking for services information, online reviews, and other digital cues about your value and expertise. Potential clients are out there looking, so it makes sense to push out as much information online as you can—info that’s as helpful as you can make it.
This concept of offering information that is so useful people would actually pay for it if you asked them to is derived from the New York Times best-selling business book YOUTILITY, by Jay Baer. The book (and its companion eBook, YOUTILITY for Accountants) shows that business success is all about helping—not sales and marketing hype. Giving away valuable, educational resources and information is a way to break through the messaging clutter to earn consumer trust and eventually convert them to clients. As Jay wrote, “Sell something, and you make a client. Help someone, and you make a client for life.” And because helping is at the core of what accounting professionals do every day, this makes perfect sense.
To better understand YOUtility and how it relates to the accounting profession, I went to the expert, Jay Baer.
Kristy: Why should accountants take the time to understand the YOUtility concept?
Jay: Selecting an accountant is an important, measured decision for most people. The ramifications of that decision are long-lasting. As such, even more than in most industries, potential accounting clients are hyper-researching their options—seeking to augment personal referrals with other information that ratifies or helps guide their decision. The way for accountants to “get on the radar” of their potential clients isn’t by advertising more, it’s by developing marketing that’s inherently helpful.
Kristy: Do you have a good example of an accounting firm that’s using YOUtility effectively?
Jay: I do. In fact, I interviewed and included this firm in YOUTILITY for Accountants. The firm is Hanner & Associates, located in Bedford, Texas. Hanner & Associates has moved from a regional accounting firm serving many types of companies to a national firm with a defined niche: veterinary practices. The firm’s owner, Glenn Hanner, and his team, made this shift by being incredibly useful to veterinarians. The firm sends a strong signal about its category of expertise, using www.VetCPA.com as their domain name and providing an extraordinary animated demonstration video on their site that identifies the unique challenges faced by vets and outlines how Hanner can help. Hanner is doing an amazing job with YOUtility marketing overall.
Kristy: What types of communications should firms be pushing out and what are some of the best vehicles to deliver helpful content—blogs, social media, etc.?
Jay: A blog is a great place to start, because it has shelf-life and it enables accountants to demonstrate expertise in a somewhat more comprehensive way. Social media is important too, but mostly as an amplification tool. Content (like a blog) is fire; social media is the accelerant.
Kristy: Anything else that accountants should know to help them become “genuinely and inherently useful?”
Jay: Don’t be afraid to transcend the transaction. You can and should provide information that’s relevant to your clients and prospective clients, even if that information is not about accounting per se. Give yourself permission to make the story BIGGER. The YOUTILITY for Accountants e-book is a great resource to start with because it is chock full of detail on the YOUtility concept and case studies of successful accounting firms that have accelerated their businesses with YOUtility marketing. There are lots of examples in the book of how to build your practice by being useful.
Marketing takes on a whole new meaning when you view it from the client’s perspective. Consumers today don’t want to be inundated with sales-heavy hype; they want help, instruction, and information that is useful. YOUtility is the concept that meets the needs of today’s online-researching clients and prospects, and the concept that will enable you to become inherently and genuinely useful to these folks. So, are you a YOUtility? If not, there are tons of potential clients (and existing ones) waiting for your help.
Kristy Short, Ed.D, is partner and Chief Marketing Officer in RootWorks LLC (RootWorks.com) and president of rwc360, LLC (rwc360.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. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.