Do you get as annoyed as I do about marketing claptrap?

Steve Pipe gets rather hot under the collar when it comes to the advice being peddled on how to market your accountancy firm

Is it just me, or do you also think there’s a lot of rubbish talked about how accountants can win high- quality new clients?

All the evidence I see screams that it’s not about spending shed loads of money on things like advertising. Neither is it about snake oil salesmanship or doing anything else that accountants would find unprofessional or uncomfortable.

So what is marketing really about?

The answer is quality of service. But perhaps not quite in the way that you think.

It’s certainly not about merely doing a good job, sitting back and hoping that somehow that message will magically get out into the marketplace and prospects will magically turn up at your front door waving their cheque books. The real world doesn’t work like that.

Instead, it is about proactively and intelligently turning the quality of what you do into your most important sales and marketing weapons.

Think about it for a moment.

The pivotal moment in winning high quality new client is having a proper meeting with them. After all, almost no high-quality client will appoint you on the strength of a telephone call or email exchange alone. They will want to meet you first. And what happens at the meeting will determine whether they become a client or not.

When viewed like this, understanding sales and marketing becomes very easy.

‘Marketing’ is everything you do before the meeting to give business owners a compelling reason to meet you. And ‘selling’ is everything you do during and after the meeting to give them a compelling reason to start working with you.

Why the answer is ‘compelling’

Of course, the key element in both of those steps is giving them a “compelling reason”.

If you want them to give up an hour or two of their life to meet you, you must give them a very compelling reason why. Not a slick advert or other piece of marketing trickery. But a reason 100% rooted in the reality of how you can make a real difference – namely, the quality, relevance and impact of what you do.

And then, at the meeting, you must give them a compelling reason for why they should get out their cheque book and start working with you.

And, again, that’s not about snake oil salesmanship. It must be a reason 100% rooted in the reality of how you can make a real difference to their business and their profits.

The three steps to success

All of this leads to a simple three-step process for mastering sales and marketing. A process that will enable you to win those high-quality clients.

Step 1: Laying the groundwork: Make sure your firm consistently delivers high- quality service that genuinely makes a real difference to clients’ tax bills, profits, cash flow, business value, personal income, personal wealth, etc. And only start ‘marketing’ once you are geared up to do this.

Step 2: Get more meetings: Do this by making compelling offers that give business owners a compelling reason to meet you. For example: “We will benchmark your business, present our findings in a plain English report, and help you use them to create an action plan to improve your results.”

Or: “We will carry out a diagnostic review with the specific intention of finding new ways of adding tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds to your personal and business bank accounts. We will present our findings in a plain English report, and help you use them to create an action plan.”

Step 3: Convert more meetings into clients: As we saw before, this is all about giving them a compelling reason to want to start working with you. And the key to that, of course, is to use the meeting to demonstrate and prove beyond doubt that you really can make a very real difference. Not by talking about it. Not by saying how good you are, or how good a job you will do in the future. But by demonstrating those things, there and then.

The first way, you must do this is by honouring whatever promise you made in step two – perhaps around your benchmarking report or diagnostic review.

But if there is time you should exceed those promises, and give them even more of an insight into even more of the ways you can make a difference.

With sole traders and partnerships, for example, you could use software live in front of them to show them the tax savings they could achieve by becoming a company. And if they are already a company, you could use software live in front of them to show them the best ways of extracting their profits.

The bottom line is…

It’s all about the quality, relevance and impact of what you do.

Ultimately, nothing else matters.

A liberal sprinkling of marketing fairy dust (or spin) will only bewitch clients temporarily. Sustained success is all about the substance.

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