By Dawn-Marie Dart
A recent Any Answers posting provoked a debate on marketers in accountancy.
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Isn't it interesting that those who are making the most noise are the marketers - blaming in succession on the firms or marketers. depending on their blinding logical argument. Get real. This is nothing to do with either side being right or wrong.
This is about a profession that associates marketing with selling in the most aweful sense and which is constrained by outdated methods of communication with the people it already knows are its best assets - its clients.
This is no-one's 'fault.' It's about the way professionals are 'supposed' to behave. The unwrittten code of behviour. The distance between client and advisor on so many levels. It's about the lack of shared, 'smart conversations' between the two...
So before you marketing flacks start flogging snake oil, understand where these guys are coming from. Not where you want them to be.
We talk about this quite a lot at: http://www.accmanpro.com Unlike the marketing flacks we guarantee if don't like what we say, have an alternative point of view, whatever, you won't be censored. Unless you're profane or libelous.
The article cites the long-standing accountant moaning about the introduction of marketing to the profession. He may well have repeated the story to a client while on the golf course!
If you view marketing as an item of expenditure on the agenda at a partners' meeting then you don't get it.
I was trained in sales before I became a partner in a firm of chartered accountants and I feel that there is no hope for accountants to try and learn to sell and to market. If they were that way inclined they would have been car salesmen, or lawyers!
Marketing in accountancy is more like a shop than a car lot. We must be aware that there are good or bad ways to arrange our windows and a visiting customer can have a good or bad experience once inside. If a shopkeeper goes further and tries to drag customers into the shop off the street, he is likely to get a bloody nose. However much is spent on the shop, its reputation is the thing that is of most value and this cannot be purchased with pretty shop fronts.
Marketing for an accountant should be aimed at doing the job well, but making sure word gets round. This is not that revolutionary but it does require an outward and progressive attitude. Good clients want you to be their accountant and general professional advisor. The strongest of these relationships starts by personal recommendation followed by good working relationship. A client that is acquired by telemarketing is one who will leave when the next telemarketer rings.
I interpreted Phil's comment differently: in the past, your success depended solely on your professional competence, whereas now it depends largely on your ability to give someone a particular image of your service. An academic discipline has been, at least partially, supplanted by a less-easily-regulated, salesman type approach.
Unfortunately, I think marketing is necessary for accountants, particularly as we do not benefit from the closed shop that doctors and lawyers are quite rightly allowed to operate.
As my recent article - http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=145799- showed that serious networking is being used by some firms as the primary, sometimes almost the only, marketing strategy for the practice. It clearly works for them, and also helps to build a marketing awareness within the firm.
We are talking about serious regular networking strategies such as BNI, not the odd game of golf with a bank manager or a Chamber of Commerce lunch.
The well-worn BNI slogan is that 98% of businesses rely on referrals to gain new business, but only 3% actually have a strategy to get referrals! Presumably the other 95% just sit around and wait for something to happen.
How Mr Miles can get from my comment to his assertion is perhaps beyond fantasy. I have said nothing about my attitude to my clients.
This article and the conversation it is based on appear to consider that the most important issue in accountancy marketing is what practitioners feel about marketing or marketers.
In reality, it matters very little what practitioners THINK about marketing or marketers. Hate or like them, it makes no difference to your own success.
The only meaningful issue here is what CLIENTS think, need and want from accounting professionals... and what practitioners do about this.
Having worked with more than 50 practitioners over a period of three years, surveying more than ten thousand clients prior to launching our system, I can say that if you know WHAT to offer and HOW to offer it, there will be no shortage of new clients.
Not only that but these new clients will pay you far better and appreciate your knowhow to a whole new degree. For instance, one of my clients has a small client who pays him £9,000 per annum just for this additional basic service (delivered by phone once a month) on top of his compliance services.
I well understand why a practitioner dislikes being told what to do with their firm. Nobody should override the practitioner’s power of decision over his own creation.
And I agree that nobody should tell him what to do, whether openly or by using “reverse psychology.” We can only give information and let the practitioner decide what he does with it.
The impulse to do something about expansion has to come from the practitioner alone. And the skill (and tools) to acquire those new clients have to be in the hands of the practitioner so he isn’t dependent on anyone.
IF you KNOW what clients want and then provide that systematically, you cannot lose. Your “profile” is not built through grandiose announcements or advertising. It’s built with each client by offering them what will truly help them and delivering that.
Presenting what will benefit them most, doing it so they can realise it on their own and then delivering that will position you at the very top in their eyes.
Like it or not, a practitioner is exactly in the same boat with the marketer. Both have to MAKE their client the money with which he then pays them. And the trick is to do it in abundance. Now, I don’t mean you should (or could) SELL it like that. I’m merely talking about DELIVERING it that way.
Best wishesHarry Kafkahttp://www.accountancymarketing.info
Phil Rees would appear to not be keen on treating his clients as a value added asset of his business but rather as a tiresome but unfortunately necessary part of his bottom line. Or do I misunderstand his comments????
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