Accountants have an uneasy relationship with marketing. Bryce Sanders suggests one fruitful route that could by-pass that ambivalence.
Everyone needs new clients, yet many feel beating the bushes for business or asking for referrals isn’t consistent with the dignity of the profession. Doctors don’t ask patients for referrals. Speaking engagements may be your middle ground.
I hate seminars
Let’s clarify the difference between seminars and speaking engagements:
- Seminars – You choose the topic, set the agenda, book the room and find people to fill it.
- Speaking Engagements – A group invites you to speak. They control the date, location and length of the presentation. They supply the audience. You do the talking.
Lawyers sometimes do pro bono work. Many people give back by volunteering in the community. You offer to speak to groups on a variety of educational topics. You are performing a public service, sharing your knowledge with others. Except for attendees hearing your contact information (if they have questions), no marketing it taking place.
Getting the word out
OK, some marketing has to take place. You need to get those bookings. This will require a package you can send by post or e-mail. It should include:
- Topics – Timely subjects than can be easily understood by the general population. They should be of interest to individuals or business owners. Topics like “understanding tax law changes” align with your professional expertise. “The risks of identity theft” may have broader appeal. Your professional association likely has these available.
- Length – You might want 60 minutes, but you will need 15-, 30- and 45-minute versions too. You trim content. You don’t speak faster.
- Audience participation – In school and during training, the instructors taught and we listened. TV and cinemas expect the audience to be silent. When speaking, engaging your audience pays huge dividends. Ask questions. Draw them out. “How many people face this problem…” gets them raising hands.
- Talking heads – Don’t be one. A few PowerPoint slides with graphs or photos helps a lot.
Who is going to want me?
Send your letter to local groups that feature speakers at their regular meetings. Calendar Girls (2003) started with short scenes of Women’s Institute meetings in Yorkshire featuring different, yet boring speakers. It’s a caricature. Here are some more practical examples of groups that might utilise speakers:
- Libraries – Major city libraries often post a lecture schedule. Birmingham library, for example, offers seminars in cash flow management and business basics, taught by qualified business advisors.
- Chambers of Commerce – You are likely already a member. They periodically hold events featuring workshops. Business west, the Chamber of Commerce in the Bristol area features a series of events (talks) run by members.
- Service clubs – They may require membership. If you are a member, it’s an opportunity to share your knowledge and showcase your professional credentials.
- Alumni groups – If you are a graduate of a particular school or institution, their leavers associations might have meetings that feature speakers. It’s a tough job coming up with a new speaker or topic every month. You might be welcomed with open arms.
- Religious organisations – Marketing is obviously off limits, but we established that as a ground rule. Gloucester Cathedral, for example, has a regular lecture series St. Matthew was an accountant and tax collector (characterized in the King James bible by the term “publican”). You would need some specialised historical knowledge to design a good topic. Back to earth, your local congregation might benefit from learning about identity theft.
- Residents’ associations – Retirement communities bring together lots of people with time on their hands. Activities are needed. Learn about the associations in your area. Check their websites - do they feature speakers?
- Professional associations – It’s likely you will need to belong. Some feature an associate membership category for professionals providing a service used by members, although the professional is not directly employed in that field. Everyone worries about taxes.
The people running these groups tend to know each other. If you have a compelling presentation (and charge nothing) they will likely tell their friends. This leads to more bookings. Another approach is to position yourself as an alternate. A local group may have booked a speaker. That speaker may be stuck elsewhere because of a weather delay. The local group still needs a speaker. You are a backup.
Where does the business come from? You are raising your professional visibility without asking for business. The audience has your contact information, which you provided in case they have questions about your talk. They are impressed by your knowledge. They call you or suggest that a friend with a need gets in touch with you.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high net worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book ‘Captivating the Wealthy Investor’ can be found on Amazon.
About Bryce Sanders
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania.