This week I received the an email newsletter from an accountancy firm I had never heard, using the panalitix platform and I suspect pretty generic content. You guessed it, the delete, block and report spam buttons were deployed in swift succession. But the question is, how do you appropriately market your accountancy firm in this very uncertain time? How to market your accountancy firm in uncertain times is what this article will hopefully answer.
Included in this article are:
- How to not market your accountancy firm right now
- How to start with your current clients
- Ways to warm up your old prospects
- What to do to make your website Coronavirus appropriate (and a work-winning tool without rebuilding it)
- Find and shout about client testimonials
- Invest in running webinars or interactive online surgery sessions
- Be online and part of the dialogue (without it taking over your life)
- Invest heavily in content marketing (but be aware it is time-critical right now)
How to market your accountancy firm in uncertain times
The short answer is carefully. (But you probably knew that and wanted a little more detail.) As the Coronavirus Crisis really started to hit, we slashed our projected forecasts on new members joining as we thought no-one was going to join before September.
How wrong were we? We have seen 3 new members join in the last 3 weeks.
And I think many of our members thought the same thing about their new client acquisition. No new business was going to change accountants right now. Which left their growth plans potentially in tatters and wondering how to market their accountancy firm in uncertain times. And, actually the opposite is true. The members who had been historically working hard on their visibility and profile BEFORE the crisis hit have actually seen an increase in new clients both for compliance work and one-off jobs.
But pretty much every single one of our members is seeing new clients coming through the door right now.
This is happening to some accountancy firms right now
We are hearing lots of reports from our members that they are seeing local businesses crying out for help right now. They are hearing next to nothing from their current accountant, or even worse their current accountant can’t help them because they have shut up shop for 3 months, or furloughed much of their staff for 3 months. I am not going to use this article to say “I told you so”, but any firm who went into this crisis without investing in a cloud-based infrastructure or robust resource I suspect is struggling right now.
Any firm who relied on an army of part-time mothers working from home may have massive resource issues right now…
This means there is good business to be won out there for accountancy firms who had invested in the one-two sucker punch of cloud-based infrastructure AND a strong and trusted team. And with business owners, potentially sitting at home not allowed to trade, they have time on their hands to think. It seems that thinking about what they want from their relationship with their accountant going forward seems to be very much on the agenda.
Our members who have actively used the white-labelled content we are providing for them are finding that their website traffic has gone sky high. In one case up by 1400%...
Despite what assumptions you may have made 3-4 weeks ago, marketing your accountancy firm in uncertain times is very much a good idea.
How NOT to market your accountancy firm right now
I am seeing some VERY clumsy attempts from accountancy firms attempting to market their accountancy firm in uncertain times. So for the avoidance of doubt, aim to avoid these marketing mistakes:
- Emailing a list of business owners which you have recently purchased or downloaded off LinkedIn (and unlikely to have opted in under GDPR to receiving email marketing materials from your firm). It wasn't cool before Coronavirus, and it's definitely not cool now.
- Carrying on with the same marketing messages that you were using before COVID-19 started to really hit.
- Sending out generic content from the big (or not so big) specialist content providers for accountants which are potentially 2-3 weeks too late for when clients really need them
- Trying out pay-per-click now without the support of an expert running the campaigns for you
- Being far too negative on social media. No one likes an ambulance chaser...
- Going too quickly into sales mode or hard sales tactics
Trying to find a silver bullet right now (however tempting to believe there is one) to switch on a stream of new client enquiries is likely to backfire or result in wasted time, effort and money.
How to start your marketing with your current clients (and not come across as an icky salesperson)
When it comes to marketing your accountancy firm in uncertain times, you need to focus your efforts on activities that are closer to the cash. This means working with your client base.
At this moment in time your first marketing priority is to defend your current clients’ businesses.
After all, if you don’t look after these now, then they are likely to go to another accountant. (And, I don’t mean rolling over and doing stuff for free for your clients when they ask either.) Our members have been doing a cracking job for their current clients by using the white labelled materials we are providing to help them:
- Running webinars and online question and answer sessions using the slide decks we have given them
- Emailing their clients regular updates on what the government is announcing plus sending highly valuable and current information to help their clients, such as how to run an effective online meeting
- Phoning up every one of their clients to see how they are doing (and they may even be using the script we provided for them to use to help this conversation go well.)
The type of marketing which works well with current clients is NOT going in with a sales message. Or a ‘hop on a strategy call’ or ‘do a paid business continuity planning session’.
Clients can see through this kind of thing. And the last thing they want right now from their accountant is to be sold too. They want their accountant to be a good friend and trusted advisor. And much of that can be delivered by a phone call and email updates. But if you lead the conversation correctly with your clients they will be happy to pay for the extra services. Particularly if you can be flexible and adaptable with your payment terms.
The information AMC is providing...is amazing.
The information AMC is providing in these unprecedented times along with the support is amazing.
This is the difference in businesses surviving or folding which is ultimately going to affect us.
This has given me time to actually advise clients and potential clients on how to practically action this.
What an amazing job, you and the rest of the AMC guys are doing
Worth your weight in gold and you are part of our team in every shape and form and when this time passes we will celebrate together.
How to warm up your old prospects
Remember those prospects that spoke to you 3-6 months ago about moving to your firm. Perhaps they talked about the poor service they were getting from their current accountant? Perhaps they wanted to move more onto the cloud and at a quicker pace than their current accountant?
And then did inertia set in, and nothing happened?
Now is the time to give them a call to see how they are doing, and do they need some help now? A simple telephone call may be all that is needed. Remember that a small one-off job done well now could result in them bringing over all their financial affairs to you. Click here for a script you can use to see how they are doing. (email required)
What to do to make your website Coronavirus appropriate (without doing a complete rebuild)
With most people stuck at home for long periods of time, potential clients are on the internet right now.
Even before these uncertain times hit, potential clients would be checking you out on the internet and social media.
And guess what, they are going to be doing this now more than ever. Remember that earlier in this article I mentioned that our members are seeing massive increases in website traffic since the COVID-19 crisis really started here in the UK. Given how quickly everything is moving right now, it’s probably not the time to embark on a full-scale new website project. Click to download a website checklist to see which areas to prioritise with your quick refresh. (email required)
Your firm needs a working and Coronavirus-appropriate website right now. Not in 2-3 months time when you've finished a full rebuild and redesign of your firm's website.
But here are some quick adaptations you can do to your firm's website right now:
- Gathering and displaying current client testimonials (see below for more on testimonials)
- Add onto your home page a link to a page of resources to help businesses navigate their way through the Coronavirus Crisis
- Creating a Coronavirus-themed resource page
- Adding in some fresh new blog content each week, focused on helping businesses with their needs right now
- Updating the copy through the website to focus on the following topics:
- How you are holding your clients’ hands during the crisis and the level of service you have been able to provide
- How your firm is still able to trade as normal as a result of your investment in cloud-based infrastructure
- Cloud based tools you can help them use to make their current lives easier
- Cash-flow forecasting or bookkeeping services
Click to download a website checklist to see which areas to prioritise with your quick refresh. (email required)
Find and shout about current client testimonials
The last thing any business owner wants right now is to move from their accountant to another accountant who is providing the same level or worse levels of service.
In times of crisis and uncertainty trust matters more than normal.
Therefore, when you think about marketing your accountancy firm in uncertain times, i.e. now, think about how you can increase the perceived level of trust or value of your firm’s services. Now that doesn’t mean adopting a more navy blue colour scheme. It means getting current client testimonials captured and displayed. Our members are finding that clients are ringing them up (unprompted) to say ‘thank you for your help right now’. If this is your firm or you are getting these via email, get permission to use these in your marketing as testimonials. You may need to prompt your clients what you want them to say in your testimonial. For example:
- How has the service been since the COVID-19 crisis hit?
- In what ways has the service helped them personally?
- How has the investment in cloud-based tools helped their business
But don’t just sit on these testimonials.
Get them up on social media and your website. If you don’t have formal testimonials then talk about on LinkedIn about what a client said to you recently. See below for some great results from our members on how they are doing this.
Invest in running webinars or interactive online surgery sessions
There has never been a better time to run an event. Well, an online event! Our members have been starting to run weekly webinars or interactive online sessions. (And these are members who would have never considered this in the past.) These sessions are serving two purposes. The first purpose is to help and inform their current client base in a time-effective manner. And the second purpose is to pick up new business from their existing clients and also prospects. We’ve been helping our members run these by providing slide decks for topics they may want to focus their sessions on. And in our next virtual members-only workshop we are going to share top tips on how to produce more work from these webinars.
With our members, their current production values may not be top-notch and they may cringe in a year's time when they look back on their first steps into these webinars. But, they are finding that these online events are helping their existing clients in a time-effective manner but producing new client work, from new and existing clients. (And, that's what it is about isn't it?) And for many of our members, this is the first time they have done anything like this. So much so, one of our members made herself literally sick with nerves when she ran her first webinar session. (She did, however, pick up 2 new client enquiries as a result of the session!) So, what’s stopping you from running an online event? You will be surprised at what courage you can find right now.
Be online and part of the dialogue (without it becoming your day job)
When you are thinking about marketing your accountancy firm in uncertain times, it is not the time to withdraw from public life. And in the time of Coronavirus, this means turning up regularly, i.e. daily, on LinkedIn and your firm’s Facebook groups and pages. When you turn up you want to have a mixture of work content but also non-work content. Your firm’s personality (or your personality) needs to shine through. Remember that trust is formed online by people:
- Turning up regularly
- Having a consistent message which is ‘on brand’
- Being prepared to be human first, professional second
- Sharing highly valuable content freely (not hiding it behind a paywall or in exchange for an email) Click here for 50+ tried and tested content ideas you can share on LinkedIn.
Our members are telling us that LinkedIn is a great place to be right now. It’s become, for many of them, the new Facebook. i.e. more human and a little less business-focused than it previously used to be… but thankfully without the constant barrage of Facebook-type updates telling you to “stay inside”, “clap for whoever” and “we are all doomed”. And just as your website is very important right now, your LinkedIn profile is also very important. Click here for a quick 10-point checklist to see whether your LinkedIn profile is fit for purpose right now. Email required.
In fact, LinkedIn has become so important to our members’ marketing plans right now that they asked us to put together a Tool Kit to help them exploit their usage of the platform. To see how well you are using the platform, how about doing our LinkedIn Self-Assessment to see if you can improve you or your firm’s usage of LinkedIn?
Invest heavily in content marketing (but be aware it is time-critical right now)
Being the well-organised business we are here in the club, we started the year with about 3-6 months of marketing material, e.g. blog posts, webinars, social media updates and workshops planned and ready to rock and roll. And, with our word of the year being ‘joined up’ the investment was paying off. Before the crisis hit we were ahead of target and looking to have our best ever year.
Then the dreaded COVID-19 crisis hit.
And it sent our members, and to be fair most small accountancy firm owners into a spin with an avalanche of work hitting them. (And no guarantee of getting paid.) It also meant we had to bin over 3 months of marketing work. (Noooo!!!!!) And I really mean bin. We may revisit some of it as 2020 trundles on. Or it just may be completely tone deaf and unrepresentative of what our audience needs.
So why am I telling you this? Because your investment in content marketing really matters now. It should be the glue of your marketing investment. (Remember in this article I have been talking about email marketing, social media marketing, online events… these are all examples of content marketing.) Click to download a free template to plan your content marketing right now. (email required)
But unless your content marketing is reflective of what your target audience wants to read right now, it’s a waste of time and effort. It even may have a negative impact on your marketing as you may appear tone deaf. This is why the investment in generic content providers like Boma, Mercia, PracticeWeb or Panalitix may not be worthwhile. Often by the time it takes for these providers to commission, review and publish their content it is out-of-date. Here in the club we are providing white-labelled content for our members to use. But it is turned around and provided often within 24-48 hours of being requested. (Or sometimes before it is even requested)