Kelso Consulting's Tim Prizeman leads the expert advice for SME accountants in this month's edition of Accounting & Business, the ACCA Journal.
Welcome to our marketing tips to help your accountancy firm grow
Kelso Consulting's Tim Prizeman leads the expert advice for SME accountants in this month's edition of Accounting & Business, the ACCA Journal.
Many accountancy firms failing to appear in one of the most effective sources of new leads.... the first page of Google when prospects are searching.
While many have put in the effort and generate a regular flow of suitable leads, many other practices either fail to make it a priority or are in denial about its benefits (which of course becomes a self-fulling prophecy).
Not sure where your practice appears?
Simply open up a browser and type in the sort of search a potential client would make (NB - not your firm's name! Also, best done from a private browser window to stop your results being skewed by your browsing history).
The "Big Four" oligopoly of giant accountancy firms is again lobbying hard to protect its position and prevent some sort of break-up restoring a nearly-as-Big Five or maybe six.
Their past efforts have been successful, and their new impetus follows damning comments from leading MPs on the various Parliamentary committees investigating the collapse of Carillion and the role of the Big Four firms. Their ire is particularly high as the Big Four billed Carillion, its pension schemes and the Government £71 million since 2008 relating to Carillion: yet failed to notice anything was wrong.
Grow your practice in 2018 with great advice from our seminars for accountancy firms
Kelso Consulting once again has a series of our popular seminars and webinars for accountancy firms in the first half of 2018, covering a range of business development issues, including public relations, social media, online ads and thought leadership.
We'd like to invite you and your colleagues to attend!
Particular aimed at accountancy firm partners, together with their marketing directors, we will be hosting our seminars in London and, for Thames Valley businesses, in Newbury.
You may well be interested in these Posts on Kelso's other blog feeds from over the past few weeks as they are also very relevant to accountancy partners:
Written with law firms in mind, but equally applicable to accountancy firms, this article looks at the pros and cons of working with a PR agency on retainer and project,
What accountants really need to know about ensuring a successful first encounter with the media!
You've heard about the power of media, maybe your competitors are getting great coverage, and you have been tasked with getting lots for your accountancy practice: but neither you nor the partners have done it before.
That's not a problem as everyone has to start somewhere. But many accountants and their marketing teams approach media relations with misconceptions and unrealistic expectations which, at the very least, lead to missed opportunities and often mess the whole thing up.
Today Deloitte is the UK's premier sports business consultancy. But once upon a time it had no such practice - until three of its professionals decided to combine their professional passion with their interest in sport.
It holds plenty of lessons for professional firms of all sizes... and other types of professionals too.
Twenty years on, Deloitte advises the top names in sport across a wide range of financial and business issues.
Cloud bookkeeping and accountancy provider Pandle (www.pandle.co.uk) has appointed Kelso Consulting as part of an ambitious Public Relations campaign to sign up 1,000s of freelancers and small business customers in 2018.
The UK’s cloud bookkeeping market is crowded with several providers, and Pandle is distinctive through its intuitive and straightforward interface particularly aimed at Britain’s 4.8 million self-employed people, most of whom have little or no financial training.
Gauging the return on investment of marketing activity is a fundamentally important metric
for accountancy firms looking to grow, yet practices
we meet struggle to know whether the amount of time and money they spend on marketing is producing an effective return.
I used to strongly advocate accountants putting effort into their profile, building up their network and using LinkedIn for communicating. It seemed on the verge of turning into a really handy mini-CRM for social selling.
But no more, useful functionality is now disappearing without notice or warning.
Over the years I've observed many mergers at accountancy and other professional firms.
Some have been stunningly successful, some have been failures and many somewhere in between.
Clearly they were all intended to be huge successes, but something went wrong for many. What was it?
Well, I'm not an M&A expert but my observation is that those that went wrong had two things in common.
Members of the Kelso team have been working with accountancy firms on thought leadership since before the term was used (20+ years!), so we've seen and solved a fair few problems in our time, many of them recurring ones!
In a few weeks time I'll be on a panel at a marketing summit discussing how to measure the return of investment for Thought Leadership activities.
It sounds an esoteric subject and immediately begs some specific questions like:"What is Thought Leadership?"; "What resources are being invested and how do I cost such inputs as non-billable time?"; and "What actually is the return I am looking for and how will I know when I achieve it?".
It's easy to start over-complicating things, so the key question accountants and their marketing teams involved in Thought Leadership projects should be asking are:
"Successful marketing is all about storytelling" is an idea who's time has come... or a bit of a fad, depending on your perspective. Certainly the amount of articles about it seems to have risen exponentially in recent months.
It wasn't always thus. I remember an occasion some 12 yearsor so ago when my colleague told the CEO of a tech company that standing out and being memorable "was all about stories"... well, the blank look he got back certainly told its own story.
At our recent webinar I shared a straight forward 6 step process for getting your accountancy firm to the top of Google, which is a hugely valuable place for any business to be, including those professional practices selling high value services.I have found there are two sorts of attitudes amongst accountants to the value of appearing prominently on Google. There are those businesses that don't think it is worthwhile,do not spend much effort on it and,
Got a problem or need a supplier? The first thing most people do now is look on Google. You probably do too.
And it is not just people looking for holidays and plumbers.... it is businesses looking for high-value suppliers and solutions for complex accounting, financial and management challenges.
Do you read the regular advice comments from John Timpson, the chairman of high street cobbler and key cutter Timpsons?
They appear in the Telegraph and elsewhere, and I am a big fan of his sensible advice for growing and managing a business... and given how ubiqtuous his firm is on Britain's high street, he has a track record of success to back up his advice.
Recently, in his column he dealt with a question about whether a firm should start doing press and PR activity to generate customers.
It is a question many accountancy firms' partners have asked. At big firms it is a resounding "yes",
While Twitter and Facebook encourage strangers to become connected, LinkedIn is all about relationships. However almost daily I am contacted by strangers who are merrily ignoring the rules set down by LinkedIn that state you should only connect with people you know.
The strength in LinkedIn for lawyers is the relationships between people who connect with one another. It allows for recommendations and referrals that simply cannot happen between complete strangers.
A wise proverb states ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’, but in terms of LinkedIn We’d suggest it is ‘The friends of my friends are my friends’! The contacts of your contacts are going to be brimming with opportunities if you are in an accountancy firm.
Making the right impression when you want to build rapport with someone is vital, not least in business. Ever heard the saying: ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’?
Yet on the social media channel that means business LinkedIn the majority of introductions are abrupt and use the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’.
If you have ever been on Twitter you will have spotted those anonymous eggs that denote profiles that have not added a photograph and often flags a complete novice or worse a spam account. On Facebook the silhouette makes you suspicious and on LinkedIn, where it really matters, no photo means no business!
When I see the anonymous head and shoulders silhouette on LinkedInit usually means it is a profile that lacks any attention and however professional the person is, you cannot help but make a judgement about a lack of attention to detail.Picking the right photograph is important too!
Ambitious accountancy firms looking to establish a leadership position in their markets should have awards as powerful proof-points. If you don't have some, you need to get them!
It is easy to rationalise-away the importance of awards.
Do you have your ‘Company Website’ displayed on LinkedIn, literally? The default setting for the link with your contact info is to your company web address and at first glance this makes sense.
In fact the Contact Info button – just below your number of connections on LinkedIn, is where your connections can easily discover your email, Skype address and telephone number. Other information includes being able to list up to three web addresses, include your ‘Company Website’
What does your headline say on LinkedIn? If it simple declares you to be an ‘Accountant’, ‘Owner’ or ‘Managing Director’ then you are missing a major trick on LinkedIn; you should be using this to promote the difference you can make to clients!
Your headline is the text that appears immediately beneath your name and is a key part to getting you found on LinkedIn and driving people to engage. Equally it is your chance to appear dull and uninteresting – so get it right and use best practice for your headline on LinkedIn.
Did you binge over Christmas? No, we don’t mean third helpings of turkey or a bloat of mince pies (it should be the collective noun!). Did you gorge yourself on Netflix? Have you seen House of Cards? Or did you finally see Breaking Bad? How about Orange is the New Black?
With over three million users in the UK subscribing to Netflix for unfettered access to so many TV series and movies there is a good chance you have spent some time over the Christmas break streaming.
We are back for a busy autumn with plenty of business available to be won - but lots of accountancy firms after it and strong pressure on fees.
It is those firms that are distinctive and memorable that get recommended for the best appointments. Those demonstrating distinctive expertise can charge more than their rivals and still win the work.
How do accountancy firms get into such a great position of being recognised as having distinctive expertise?
Does your accountancy firm need to better stand out against your competitors? In a crowded market another Budget breakfast and bought in tax tables isn't going to do it!
Business owners and directors are looking for accountants that bring value through their insights and ability to solve commerical problems. But how do you demonstrate it?
We've been working with accountancy firms for over 20 years to help them stand out.
Today Deloitte has the UK's premier sports business consultancy. But once upon a time it had no such practice - until three of its accountants decided to combine their professional passion with their interest in sport.
I recently had an interesting and wide ranging discussion with Peter Scott (www.peterscottconsult.co.uk) who advises numerous professional firms on strategy and management issues. Having previously run Eversheds for eight years as managing partner, he's certainly got great insights to share.
Part of our discussion covered how professional firms use PR agencies. He mentioned many really don't understand how to best use a PR agency, what skills good agencies bring to the party, and what are the best ways to work with them. Why didn't I write something on the subject he suggested?
Are you locked in a death spiral with your PR agency?
We often come across accountancy firms who have been sucked into the "PR death spiral" with their agency (and in-house too). Here's how to recognise it:
Initially it all began so positively.....
A new PR team had arrived, and make lots of sensible-sounding requests for articles, materials and other content from the partners to pump prime the campaign. It is quickly supplied by partners keen for coverage and wanting to play their part in a successful campaign. It is a great start and hopes are high.
The main point was that such disasters typically don't come out of the blue and the effective PR tactics for handling them are well known.
Yet experienced and competent CEOs and their management teams had been able to create a PR disaster of far greater magnitude through inept handling of the communications issues.
I revisited the paper in the light of the recent sad case involving Thomas Cook and its handling of the publicity around the recent inquest into the deaths of two children while holidaying in Corfu a few years ago.
In today's crowded accountancy market, technical expertise and a great service are not enough to stand out.
But rather than highlighting their value and expertise, many accountancy firms lapse into bland "me-too marketing".
The new book The Thought Leadership Manual by Kelso's Tim Prizeman is particularly aimed at helping accountancy firms stand out in crowded markets.
If you tried to find your accountancy firm on Google would it always appear on the front page of each search you tried?
It has become customary for businesses of all types to have attractive, professional websites to s
howcase their services. But is your website working hard to draw in potential clients and generate leads?
This week is Accountex at London's Excel, the main annual "business of accountancy" exhibition. Will you be there?
Promoted by Wiley’s and supported by the Chartered Institute of Marketing
This book from the CIM is primarily aimed at small businesses but, quite frankly, should be compulsory reading for the people involved in marketing any sized accountancy firm.
Is your profile page costing you business?
After going to a website’s home page, the firm’s individual partner profile pages are nornally the next most visited pages – yet these are frequently the most cobwebby and least updated.
Leading exhibition organiser Prysm appoints PR agency Kelso Consulting
Prysm, the leading organiser of business exhibitions, has appointed Kelso Consulting to handle the media relations and promotion for Accountex and Legalex – major exhibitions at Excel themed around providing solutions to the business challenges faced by Britain’s thousands of accountancy and legal firms.
Kelso Consulting’s role will include securing media coverage prior and after the events, and maximising the attendance of journalists at the event.
Although a somewhat pretentious-sounding expression, the term has gained widespread usage across the professional services and technology sectors and increasingly those working in accountancy firm marketing.
A quick Google search reveals over three million web pages using the expression ‘thought leader’ (up from 1 million in 2007).
Leads rarely deliver from drip-drip marketing
We've just held a seminar looking at how to make professional businesses' sales pipelines work better.
Before it, our participants assisted with some research. It showed that many of them were already doing a lot of marketing, such as events and some sort of regular technical update or newsletters. They were for the most part pretty organised too.
How effective is your firm's business development pipeline?
Does it work like a conveyor belt, nuturing and qualifying leads so the best prospects emerge at the end of the process with the best possible impression of your firm. If so, don't come to our seminar!
Many accountancy firms have a failing communications strategy.... often without them realising it!
Nonetheless it costs them work, harms the effectiveness of their sales and marketing, and ultimately thwarts their growth plans.
What prevents your accountancy firm from using case studies more often?
One of the most effective and versatile forms of marketing is using case studies that showcase your firm’s brilliant work and provide testimony from delighted clients.
Of course this is a rhetorical question.
We all know that it's easier to sell clothes where there are crowds of people shopping for them. If only there was an Oxford Street where prospective clients go to buy accountancy services.
Webinar: Successful thought leadership for accountants
Accountancy firms are ideally placed to utilise "thought leadership" to create the sort of ideas that will grab the attention of clients.
They have great analytical skills, a strategic perspective and can translate ideas into tangible activity. Indeed many firms have been using it successfully for many years - for instance, Deloitte's hugely successful 'Annual review of Football Finance' has been going for nearly 25 years.
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