Practice Excellence Award 2016 new firm winner Kylie Fieldhouse tells Richard Sergeant how she has driven growth through digital marketing. Unusually for an accountant, her main focus has been on Facebook.
From the day she set up her practice KFH in 2014, Kylie Fieldhouse recognised the link between marketing and growth.
“I came across the principle of ‘Know, like and trust’ and it was a real lightbulb moment for me,” she explains. “It made so much sense and gave me the approach I should take, and importantly showed me how to stand out.”
Translating this concept into a tangible plan came quickly. “They had to get to know me, so I had to get out there. If they knew who I was, then chances were they would like me. But how would I then prove to be trustworthy? The trust comes from recommendations - people saying, ‘Go and see Kylie.’”
Digital media comes into its own here, especially the social channels where communication and interaction are more important than broadcasting out a specific message.
Unlike a lot of accountants, however, Fieldhouse put most of her energy into Facebook: “I know that a lot of small business owners hang out on Facebook, so that’s where I need to be.”
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The power of Facebook groups
Consistency is key to her approach, which she reinforces by working within common interest groups: “The groups are not necessarily local but national. In my case, there are things like PR or one which was linked to a marketing course.”
Building trust within these groups is about being open to giving information and insight away. “Offering tips for free is important,” she says.
“I know it’s free generalised advice, but a lot of the time that’s all that people need. You may not want to offer them that service, so by telling them there is a helpline available from HMRC, or by having an article you’ve written that you can send people to, you’re demonstrating that you’re a trusted source.”
Sharing and referring is how Facebook works and is especially powerful if fellow users know they are interacting with real people rather than brands. “The people behind small businesses are using Facebook and are asking friends and contacts for recommendations about all kinds of things,” she explains.
Becoming known, liked and trusted in these groups has encouraged users to recommend her services even though they have never met. “They say things like ‘My friend saw your post on Facebook and suggested I get in touch,’ which is incredible. It has taken time, but we grew by over 100 clients last year, with only a tiny marketing budget,” she says.
Authenticity: the key to differentiation
Crucial to Facebook success, according to Fieldhouse, is developing a distinct and genuine voice that sets the tone as the relationship develops. “What people are looking for is authenticity, and we’re looking for that from clients too,” she says.
But she recognises that relationships will change as the firm expands. “To move forward as a brand, it’s going to be essential that clients and prospects get to know other members of staff too. Otherwise it’s just all on me.”
Website is still key to conversions
Although digital marketing takes place on social channels, Fieldhouse recognises the importance of a good web presence: “We find Facebook users build trust by looking at reviews and checking for up-to-date content, but then they look at our website for that final confirmation. It definitely has a key role in converting visitors into enquiries.”
Digital marketing, cloud and MTD
Interestingly she also sees digital marketing as part of the solution for helping clients with MTD, particularly in giving them the confidence to use cloud accounting. “Producing short videos that focus on different aspects of QuickBooks Online will help clients have a go. The message will be that If it doesn’t work, then we can fix it. But we want to encourage them to have a go and be more involved.”
Although someone may be happy to use Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will take to online accounting, she notes. But there are rewards for those who do. “If we can empower people to take control of their own finances, this leads to a platform for advisory work. To be a firm of the future you need to nurture the clients who want it,” she says.
This is the end game for the know, like and trust process: “There’s a parallel between the approach to Facebook and helping clients get into the cloud. We help clients to get to know their numbers by answering lots of questions; the more they know their numbers the more we build confidence and trust and can start to have informed conversations and better decision making.”
Kylie’s Facebook tips
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About Richard Sergeant
Specialist insight and business development support for accountants and their vendors. Cloud advocate with a pragmatist eye.