There was a time when an SME or Owner Managed Business who was looking for an accountant would always choose one of the Big 4 or much larger firms over going with their local accountant. They did this because they believed that the larger firms would give them a better result and possibly a better service. They believed this because of the marketing and advertising the larger accounting firms did.
However, it is now becoming more common for an SME or OMB (don’t you just love a good Acronym) to avoid those larger firms altogether in favour of what Diagnostax calls the 1%.
In 2017/2018 I ran a survey to find out what SMEs and OMBs really wanted from their accountant. The results were not surprising and they clearly outlined why the 1% firms are the most attractive option.
Results included that SMEs and OMBs want:
To be heard – they want to know that they have an accountant to talk to and share their business woes and wins with.
To be helped – they want an accountant to guide and give them confidence that they are on the right track.
To be held accountable – they want their accountant to ensure they are doing the right things, at the right time and in the right way.
But most importantly they wanted:
To know they were in a two way relationship. A whopping 93% of people who had left their accountant in favor of another did so because they felt there was a distinct lack of communication between them and their previous accountant.
The shift from the Big 4/Top 50 to the smaller firms is not surprising. The larger accounting firms are less agile. Which is what an SME and OMB needs.
It is for this reason that marketing is now your most powerful asset when it comes to getting those clients that you really want.
For years you were able to grow a practice through referrals and were grateful for every one that wanted to work with you. But your world has developed and now, through successful branding, marketing and sales you can attract high value A-Grade clients.
Your ability to provide tax advisory, consulting and higher value services has been transformed. Technology has given you back your time. Your experience has given you the knowledge you need to make a difference in an SME or OMB.
Leveraging BMS (Brand, Marketing and Sales).
As you can see in the image above to leverage technology and your experience you first need the BMS foundations in place.
Brand is important to set yourself apart from the competition. Defining your mission, your vision and your values is essential both for your clients and employees. If you outsource some/all of your compliance you also need to be able to communicate your brand to your outsourced departments.
Marketing is the vehicle you use to share your mission, vision and values with the world. It is how you communicate with your potential A-Grade clients before they become your clients.
Sales is the conversations you have with your prospects to find out what they need from you and if you are the solution. Knowing how to make a sales conversation valuable to a prospect will make your whole firm more effective and efficient.
Whilst years ago it was only the larger accounting firms that could make an impact and afford to brand, market and sell their firms services, this is no longer true.
WHY THE SHIFT TO BUYING FROM SMALLER ACCOUNTING FIRMS?
Years ago it was only the BIG 4 and larger firms with deep pockets that used to be able to afford to advertise their services. Whether it was advertising on the London Underground, on billboards across London or investing in sponsorship of Rugby games, you needed deep pockets to be seen.
In the past 10-20 years there has been a shift in the marketing and advertising profession, one not dissimilar to the accounting profession.
The larger advertising agencies of the 1960s – 1980s owned the ability to get airtime, magazine space advertising and high profile sponsorship opportunities. But then the world went digital – traditional agencies lost their appeal and were not a vital asset for a business who needed to raise their profile and be seen.
The shift to digital meant that an SME and OMB could do their own marketing and no longer needed an agency and the hefty costs that went with them. The smaller businesses sought out marketing training and created solutions that were right for them. Agencies were not the only route for a business to embrace marketing. This change happened so fast that the larger agencies couldn’t adapt because of their size and staff hierarchy. There was a huge shift in the advertising industry that changed the landscape forever.
Digital changed my industry. And it has changed yours. For the better.
Marketing Traits Of The 1%
When you analyse how the 1% accounting firms market they have some key marketing traits that attract those SME and OMB clients.
- THEY ARE BRAVE. Whilst it is easy to stay in your comfort zone, those who choose to, rarely have greatness in their life. The 1% do things they have never done before so they can get what they have never had before. This means posting updates on LinkedIn, writing articles, recording videos and being featured on podcasts.
- THEY ARE LEARNING ORIENTATED. In addition to being brave they are also focused on learning skills that they neither currently know or feel comfortable with. They won’t settle for OK and they actively look to broaden their knowledge and deepen expertise and understanding.
- THEY ARE THOUGHT LEADERS. They have ideas and they share them. Whilst others may talk of their ideas with their spouse and friends, the 1% share their ideas with the world.
- THEY COMMUNICATE. Unlike the Big Accounting firms a smaller one can communicate really easily. The 1% interact with their audience, answer questions, give feedback and provide value to build relationships.
- THEY ARE DATA CENTRED. The 1% don’t just write blogs/content in the hope that they will get clients. They follow a system, a process and know the ROI on their BMS activity. It is for this reason that the 1% accountants really thrive, because unlike other professions, an accountants ‘typical’ personality traits lend very well to successful BMS activity and great results.
The high value SME and OMB clients are attracted to the 1% for a reason. Whether you currently have the traits of the 1% or are striving for the 1%… marketing will help you achieve your goals.
And the accounting firms I work with that are successful at marketing? Who are they? Well they are the “ Trailblazers, shot takers, impact seekers, and visionary accountants of all kinds. Those amongst you who are willing to break the mold and wonder why no-one else wants to.
You challenge complacency, destroy apathy and obsess about creating velocity so you can leverage technology, gain back your time and make your greatest contribution. Sure times have changed, but it doesn’t break you, it makes you stronger and more valuable than ever before.
You don’t accept your destiny, you define it. You don’t accept defeat, you drive the profession forward and succeed despite the odds.
Whilst the rest of the profession strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, you are the minority, the few who are willing to shake things up, try new methods and have way more fun in the process.
You are the pioneering accountants.
You are pivotal to the success of a business… and you always will be.”
Here is to the pioneering accountants and the 1%. And remember if you don’t feel you are there yet… be brave, learn new things and share your thoughts. It will change your world.