Time to rethink your brand and marketing?

23rd Feb 2021
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Accountancy Manager
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We’ve recently partnered with PracticeWeb, an award-winning digital marketing agency that provides results-focused digital marketing solutions designed to cut through noise, nurture sales prospects, build your firm's reputation and help you grow your accountancy practice.

AccountancyManager and PracticeWeb

By utilising AccountancyManager’s features and PracticeWeb’s marketing know-how, you can create an efficient digital marketing strategy supported by practice management software that streamlines the admin involved in running an accountancy practice. This allows you to focus on attracting new prospects and delivering an excellent client experience.

But why the marketing focus?

Making more time to focus on brand and marketing was one of the reasons James Bryne created AccountancyManager. James took on marketing for his dad’s firm, while he trained to become an accountant himself. 

He quadrupled his dad’s client base and now his idea of automating accountants’ admin is the UK’s leading practice management software.

We brought together the industry-leading branding and marketing experts for a webinar last year. The advice shared during the session was insightful and was supported by AM users, Bal and Sam, who had recently undertaken this project themselves. 

Find your meaning. Share your purpose.

When you think of your brand, you might picture your logo, colours or website. But this is a common - and big - mistake. Your brand is the meaning people attach to your firm. It’s what they think about and how they feel when they see your adverts, website or logo.

Mike Crook, Managing Director of PracticeWEB, says, “Your brand is the meaning people attach to your firm. What does it stand for? Where’s it going? What’s it’s vision? It enables people to buy into it, not just employees but your ideal clients, because you’re speaking their language and you understand them.”

A lot of people suddenly decide they need to ‘do marketing’, but what they don’t realise is that marketing is just one of the components they should be thinking about. As Phillippa Haynes, Founder of Insight 101, explains, “If you jump into marketing and you don’t have clarity around your message, what you stand for, how you look and sound, then a lot of marketing spend is wasted.”

Your brand is a reflection of you

It all starts with you. As an accountant, your clients are buying into you - your experience, your approach, even your personality. And as the adage goes, people buy from people. 

As a business owner, it’s your dreams and passions that have created your business. So use these to form your vision, unite your team and guide your brand. Phillippa likens it to industry titans like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. “The personal and the corporate are Inextricably linked. Many businesses Virgin, Apple etc, all have a leading person quite vocal in the way that they put across their vision for the business. That personal brand is the anchor.”

It’s no good having a set of values and brand as a firm if the individual partners or leaders aren’t living that brand, so the personal and the corporate are wrapped together.”

- Rob Brown

Bringing us back to earth, Mike adds that whether you’re a sole practitioner or have a number of employees, creating a corporate identity allows you to communicate at a corporate level. “We (PracticeWeb) put something out as a corporate brand, then I might put my own spin on it, talk about it in a particular way and write more content around it.”

Promoting your personality

Sam and Bal are childhood friends who became business partners in 2017 with the launch of their practice, Diamond Accounts. One year later, they spotted a niche in the market and created Diamond Outsourcing too. Last year, Sam and Bal turned to PracticeWeb to rebrand. 

Image of Sam and Bal

Bal explains that the answer lay in focussing on his and Sam’s personalities. “The clients know us personally, so as we grow and transition from personal to company brand we want to make sure that all the things that made us strong at the start really resonate in the team and on the website. My advice would be: look at who you are, don’t pretend to be something you’re not, really play on your strengths and keep that going as a theme throughout.”

Dig deep, but don’t go it alone

Every business shouts about their fantastic service and says they’re at the top of their game. Finding your point of difference amongst your competitors is about digging deep and asking yourself some important questions. 

What’s your strength? What are the leaders all about? What is it that your clients really love? What’s that spirit? Then you can bottle that and translate into brand guidelines”

- Phillippa Haynes

It can be hard to hold the mirror up and figure out how your clients, prospects and teams see you. And perceptions are everything. So ask them. Ask your clients what you’re about, ask your team what you’re about, you might be surprised about what comes back. It also includes your team so they feel a sense of ownership too. 

Find your ideal customer, then borrow their shoes… and words

For Bal and Sam, their whole branding journey centred around understanding the clients that they like and work well with. Settling on their ideal client type, they created detailed personas describing what this person does, how they think etc. Now, they are targeting their marketing strategy to focus on those types of clients, whether on their website, social media or blogging. This means they can be selective and have the power to say no. 

James followed a similar path when rebranding his dad’s firm and creating AccountancyManager’s brand from scratch. “Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, get into their heads and write down the needs and questions they have.” Now that AccountancyManager is established, James has thousands of customers to help him answer those questions. 

We’re constantly talking to customers to get their feature requests, as well as surveys to check overall happiness and there’s an added benefit to this, as James explains. “It’s difficult to be glowing about yourself, so get it from your customers, written, video, whatever, that’s the beauty of case studies. When your customers say those buzzwords - that’s credibility.” Or as Muhammed Ali would say (via Rob Brown), “It ain’t bragging if you’ve done it”.

Brand and marketing in strange times

So why now? Surely, in the eye of the storm, you have other things on your mind. On the contrary. Phillippa believes now is a great time for firms to think about their futures:

“Now is the time for some reflection, talking to your teams and clients and asking ‘how did we serve you during this time?’, ‘What were our strengths & weaknesses?’ People are looking for experiences and perceived value. The worst thing to do is to put your head down and get back to where you were. Small businesses are looking for communication, that human connection, it’s all about emotion… it’s all about brand.”

The panel

Mike Crook is the Managing Director of PracticeWeb, a digital marketing agency for the accountancy industry. Mike and his team help accountants understand their ideal clients, build strong brands and market themselves online. 

Philippa Haynes is the Founder of Insight 101, a brand strategy consultancy for accountants. Insight 101 focuses on the start of the branding journey, translating your vision into the look and feel of your brand, communications and content.

Sam and Bal are the founders of Diamond Accounts and Diamond Outsourcing. They recently rebranded with help from PracticeWeb and are long-term users of AccountancyManager.

Rob Brown, Founder of the Business Development Academy, hosted the session. He’s the author of ‘Build Your Reputation’ and host of TEDx talk: The Personal Brand of You.