What's Your Firms Point Of Difference?
I often ask accountants this question, What’s your point of difference compared to other firms?
In eighty percent of cases they respond with answers like - our personal service, great service or awesome service. Unfortunately, if most firms are saying the same thing it can’t be a true differentiator!
Other common answers that accountants provide include references to their experienced team and proactive approach. The truth is, great service, an experienced team and a proactive approach should be a ‘given’ for accounting firms. Being reliable, efficient and friendly are ‘must haves’ for accounting firms not points of difference.
So, what’s your point of difference? How do you stand out from other accounting firms?
The reality is, the accounting profession is a sea of sameness with very few firms standing out in the crowd. Having said that, high-growth firms have clear differentiators, so how do they do it? They understand that first impressions count, and the best way to stand out from the crowd is to have a stand out first impression – namely, an extraordinary website. If you Google ‘accountant your suburb’ you’ll find most firm’s websites are cookie-cutter sites that have been created using the same template and the content has been cloned from another website. If you read our blog, How Accountant Became Number One on Google you’ll find 61 percent of people don’t go past the third position on the first page of search results. As such, templated websites full of duplicate content and pages of bullet points listing your services are almost invisible to Google. They won’t appear in the first 3 pages of a Google search let alone the top three unpaid listings on page one.
In the digital and social era, your website needs to be more than just an electronic billboard. In fact, we believe the primary purpose of your website is to attract new business and therefore, your website should store all your marketing content. It should serve as ‘home base’ and people reading a blog, on a social media channel like Facebook or Twitter, watching a video on YouTube or reading an email should be redirected back to your website. You can cross promote your content to maximize its reach and influence by sharing your blog post on social media channels, use email to promote your latest case study and promote your e-Book on your blog. All of these strategies are designed to draw prospects back to your website where you should have a ‘call to action’ (like book a free consultation, download our free guide, subscribe to our newsletter or get instant access to a report) to convert their website visit into a prospective new client.
Driving traffic to your website and giving prospects the information they need is important, but generating leads and converting those leads into clients is the end game. Without a website that engages, educates, builds relationships, contains calls to action and is responsive to mobile devices you won’t be winning any new clients soon. We have clear evidence that websites work, with one Melbourne based firm in our Accountants Accelerator Group generating more than $300k of new business from their website in the past 18 months. Meanwhile another member in the northern suburbs has generated a six figure return from their website for the third consecutive year. If you don’t think your website is your most important marketing tool think again. The online marketing revolution is here to stay and you need to stop looking at your website as a cost; it is an investment.
Also, at a time when the talent pool in the profession is shallow, your website also serves as a recruitment tool. It can also get referrals over the line because people tend to jump online to validate a referral and if your website creates the wrong first impression you might find your referrals don’t even contact you. In a sense, your bland billboard type website could be costing you business.
In another blog, “Why Do Accountants Spend So Little On Marketing,” we highlighted some research that supports the fact that firms who generate 40 to 60 percent of their leads online will achieve greater growth, and the more leads you generate online, the more profitable your firm will be. The evidence supports the fact that your firm will never reach its full profit potential without a remarkable online presence.
THE COMPLIANCE TRAP
Compliance work is being commoditized with cloud based programs automating a lot of the data entry processes and outsourcing decreasing the labour costs. If 80 percent of your revenue comes from data entry and checking and lodging historical data with government agencies then you probably don’t have time to provide value added services. There’s no perceived value in compliance work anymore, so shifting your clients to the cloud should be a priority. There are no files to send, no paperwork to email, no confusion over which version of the software the client is using and you can log into their file anytime and from anywhere. Ultimately, you’ll spend less time on each client file which means improved efficiency and cheaper operating costs. Most importantly, you’ll free up time to work on their business and deliver what clients really want - help to grow their business, their profits and their wealth.
The commoditisation of compliance work also puts downward pressure on fees, with new players entering the market prepared to do the ‘bread and butter’ compliance work for less. As we know from Economics 101, competing on price for low end bookkeeping work is a recipe for disaster. To convince clients to stay with you (or move to your firm) you need to have a point of difference. You need to reclaim the role of trusted advisor and having cloud based systems that provide access to accurate real-time data will free up capacity to deliver extra services. The Accounting and Financial Services Benchmarking Report produced by Macquarie suggests that, “high-performing firms are focusing on creating value that will both drive referrals from existing clients and grow revenue per client. These practices have spent more time understanding their clients’ needs and in turn have introduced additional services, resulting in a higher proportion of multidisciplinary clients.”
The twenty to forty year old millennials trust the cloud so if you’re looking to regenerate your ageing client base it’s time to get with the program. Cloud based firms are now the norm so don’t hang your hat on it as your point of difference. It is, however, a valuable tool in freeing up your time to deliver value added services which may be your point of difference. Real-time reporting is priceless to an accountant who wants to provide timely financial advice to their clients.
Every accountant is obviously skilled in preparing financial statements, tax returns and cash flow budgets. However, if you still think the tax return is the end of the client process you are thinking like a compliance sweatshop. Clients want and deserve more and members of the Accountants Accelerator Group list their services beyond compliance as one of their differentiators. They are trained in basic marketing so they can assist clients with their lead generation website and help them improve their search engine page rankings, social media strategies, digital publishing, video production and how to convert prospects into customers.
These firms are different because the compliance work is the start of the client process not the end. They do more than just keep the score and focus on helping clients grow their revenue and profits.
What’s your point of difference?Join the discussion on Twitter and let your followers know that you are #MoreThanANumberCruncher.
|"Compliance work is the start of the client process, not the end. #MoreThanANumberCruncher"