This category contains blog posts which could potentially help accounting firms with their marketing efforts.

Marketing and Cash Flow

How to Cash Flow your Marketing

Finance people see marketing activities differently.  They may be blocking spend that you perceive essential.  To understand the Chief Finance Officer’s perspective on marketing, we decided to interview expert CFO Trish Love about how she makes decisions to spend money on Marketing.

Marketing Activities versus Cash Flow

Trish has an 8 step process she uses to appraise marketing budgets and to prioritise spend. She explains “these steps are not sequential but there is a loose logic I follow.”

  1. Budget the Activities In – both the time and money.  As a CFO you must have a budget before you commit spend.  If you mentally allow for some cash to grow the business – later you can refine the spend detail.
  2. Budget for contingencies – there WILL be some.  If it’s in your budget it’s easier to make a decision – if it is not in a budget it needs a higher benchmark of certainty in order to justify the spend commitment. We have 90 day planning and strategy cycle.  And so the next step is whatever you think the budget is going to be, double it.  Do this for money and also often for time budgets.  For contingencies – there will be some. Things to remember: contingencies happen.  If you are wrong about the $10k budget and right about $5k spend then you’ve got $5k more profit but your budget was conservative.
  3. Take a “can’t afford to get it wrong” approach – have measurable results. You can’t afford frivolous spend – your CFO will ask for measurable results as often as possible.  Not all these will be very refined e.g. it can be difficult for some campaigns to map directly to winning a customer.  As a CFO, I take this approach as often as I can without being overly focused on it.
  4. Consider alternatives – choose wisely via expert advice.  This is part of your decision making process.  Review your options – what are the best high level strategy? the best tactics? who should deliver? when? should this be internal or external?  All these give a flow chart or mind map to demonstrate your decision making pathway.  In my experience, while drawing these together a natural path illuminates.  You can see which route is best.  An example I had recently was a review where I could see we may not be able to afford $20k but we can get 80% of it done for $8k.  This told me that this path is be the better one for our business.
  5. Plan – time in your calendars, money in your budgets. This is self-explanatory – book marketing meetings and time to do the work as a regular diary event.
  6. Prioritise – time, money, outcomes.  To illustrate this, let me ask you a question. “If you took advice from a marketing expert one day and each day you took their advice you got $5k revenues in return. Then how many days of the week would you meet your marketing expert?  If the results from marketing is cash flow positive why wouldn’t you do more of it?”  I find business decision makers choose not to do marketing because of a lack of trust, a lack of competency, a lack of time or a lack of know-how.  If you to spend the first $500 to make $1,000 or to spend $1k to make $2k… the “scaffold-up” method of spend and results is one approach for a small business.  This enables you to afford marketing as you grow.   My advice to marketing people who are pitching for more budget is this:  you have to bake the marketing cake with all the ingredients – if you miss out the baking powder and eggs, you’re blown. the cake won’t work without key parts – your marketing expert should help explain this to you.  This conversation tends to get people stuck.  You are in a situation is when it’s so obvious to the expert but they forget to frame the outcomes in a way that resonates with the business owner.  It’s the advisor’s role to have that conversation.  CEOs in NZ are money- and time-conscious so know what the deliverables are – scaffold up.  Systems, general operations, finance, marketing – are the 4 area of a business.  Then remember to give each of the 4 turn about for budget and attention.
  7. Sequence – also in parallel and cross pollenating effects.  Once we’ve got the plan now put in the ongoing sequence….I look for the easiest way to do things.  Do a marketing activity once and use it 3 separate times.  The sequence has to be carefully thought through so you can do work in parallel with cross pollenating effects.  Do a newsletter – look for different vantage points for the reader depending on which part of your business is writing the article.  How will it resonate?
  8. Some activities are not negotiable – decide what these are and hold the boundaries – too easy to let them slip otherwise.   You need to know what these are.  Make a conscious decision if you have an inverted pyramid you must know how far way down you can go before you run out of money… each strata reflects a different activity and cash.  Know which you can do before you run out of money and time.  Decide to hold the boundaries of the things which are critical; don’t let them slip.  If something is insidious you may not notice.  If it’s intentional it still may slip but you know it’s happening.  Agree up front what is in this bucket.

 Getting along and working effectively for the good of the business is the outcome we all seek.  So there you go.  I hope this summary helps marketing folks to understand finance folks and vice versa.

Why accountants teach clients how to switch firms

I came across a curious slide deck recently called “How to Switch Accountants” published by an accounting firm.  Now why would a firm choose to tell their clients how to move to another service provider?How to switch accountants

Thinking more deeply it was immediately clear – this firm was using sophisticated psychology in its marketing.  Let me explain

When you’re dating, how do you find good dates?

Think back to when you were actively seeking a life partner.  Remember all those conversations with friends when you groaned “All the good looking ones are already with a partner”?  or “I just get hit on by the ones I don’t like!”.  And of course, once you had found a partner, it seemed that the reverse was true!

Well the same applies to businesses who are courting new clients – those who seem to be desperate and will “go out” with any prospect only attract the ugly ones – yet those who exhibit the reverse characteristics seem to magnetically attract great new clients.

That was what this firm was doing.

Attracting great new clients by showing such confidence by telling their existing clients how to leave.  The clients CAN check out other providers, but the firm is so sure that they won’t like what is on offer elsewhere, that they either won’t try leaving or will come back fast.

The slide deck also includes a comprehensive list of questions to ask your new accountant under headings like

  • Determining they are who they say they are
  • Meeting your needs now and in the future
  • Valuing your business – will they stick with you
  • Staying current

Hats off to Alliott Accountants for having the confidence to publish this marketing tool How To Successfully Switch Accountants.

What can your firm do?

You may not feel ready to publish a similar document.  But here are 3 things you can do now to check your own firm’s perception by prospective clients:

  1. Get a friend to ‘mystery shop’ your firm – ring up and see what happens when they say they’re looking to switch accountants.  Better still, call at 5.05 pm on a Friday.
  2. Review all the marketing literature you have and see whether it accurately portrays your firm’s services, people, skills and areas of expertise
  3. Do a client survey to see what (un-prompted) actual clients say they think your firm is good at.  And does it match 2 above?  Also do this to people who stop using your firm so you find out why they switched.

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter

Financial advisors – give me your contact details

Here in New Zealand giving a personal referral introduction for new clients is common.   And recently I

Not a mug

Not a mug

asked for help with some financial advice.  I was given three names.

Then I hit a wall.

None of the firms had the personal contact details of their team on the website.

Two people had Linked In profiles I could connect with – but of course, until they connect back to you it’s not possible to see their contact details.

I was left with the website telephone number as the only way to get in touch.

Make it easy for me

Please would you all make it plain and easy for me to get in touch with the named person?

Why is this hard?

Surely each person wants to get in direct contact so they can start a discussion with minimal delay?

3 New business pipeline icon7 Make New Biz Happen icon

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CCH iFirm Web Manager | Advanced User Tips

CCH iFirm Web Manager Advanced User Tips CoverThroughout our marketing activities with a number of accounting firms, we’ve become quite proficient in using the CCH iFirm Web Manager. So we’ve bundled all our best Advanced User Tips into one easy eBook.

If you are not confident using HTML (hyper text mark-up language) – the programming language behind most websites – then don’t worry. This book helps you to set up the website using clear screen shot photographs and step by step instructions which you can follow without knowing any HTML code.

Read this book if your website doesn’t look the way you want it or if it does not function the way you need. Chances are there’s a method we have discovered that will help you round your impasse. And if there isn’t you can always get in touch with us to ask if we’ve discovered something new since we published this book in December 2014.

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Inside:

  • Setting up & using RSS feeds.
  • Google Web Master Tools.
  • Formatting your content.
  • Creating a Site Map so Google indexes your Blog and Website.
  • Embedding YouTube videos into your pages & posts.

 

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter

How to be an accountant of the future – an interview with Rob Nixon

We caught up with Rob Nixon business manager turned business training extraordinaire for accountants. He trains accountants and helps firms function and transition to success in this hectic world of progress. Here are his thoughts on the current state of accounting and what it says about the future of it…

What is the most important business improvement Accounting firms today can make?

Rob started off by saying “The biggest thing accounting firms can do is actually speak to their clients…proactively”. He emphasized that “accountants around the world are awesome at waiting” and that “most accountants are history writers, not history makers”. In Rob’s mind, this is the #1 thing accountants can change today to achieve better business success.

He recommends “20 meetings per partner per month” to “find out where the client is at, what they’re doing, what their plans are”. Each meeting “starts off as a customer service meeting but ends up being a sales meeting”. It’s important to ask each client “where are you now, where do you want to go, and let’s show you how we can possible help you get there”.

What is the most detrimental business action often made by Accounting firms today?

Relating to our first question, Rob feels that “being reactive and waiting is the worst thing an accounting firm can do today”. Now this is where our interview got incredibly interesting. Rob stated that there are 3 core disruptors to the accounting industry today:

  • The internet – everyone is becoming an expert and has access to loads of information.
  • Computed accounting – pre-built accounting software is reducing the need for physical accountants.
  • And overseas business/ offshored outsourcing – cheap labour is more readily available.

These factors make many of the core offerings of the average accountant redundant, and the worst thing to do about it, is wait and react to it. The solution? Be proactive. Identify the changes, explore what opportunities your firm can take advantage of, and pursue them early!

What is the key purpose of CoachingClub(TM) and what makes it such a successful tool?

The CoachingClub is a training strategy for accountants that’s covered in 3 ways:

  • Seminars & conferences –
  • Online tools, resources software –
  • Coaching club program – 8 accounting firms in a room at any 1 time, learning and being pushed to accountability so as to take action upon what they learn. This project has served over 800 firms across the the 8 years it has been running!

Do you feel Accounting firms today adopt the digital world enough?

We think not, and Rob gladly joined us by saying “no they’re not adopting it ENOUGH!”. And there’s a reason for this. Rob laid out for us the fact that the digital world is inevitably taking over. He said “accountants can’t stop this happening so need to embrace it”. In Rob’s point of view (and rightly so) there is no real time dependency on when accountants embrace the digital world, because that day has past.

5. How do you see the future of technology and rise of the digital format affecting accounting?

Rob explained how technology is already starting to automate jobs for accountants in a big way. They’re being forced to be more innovative and forward thinking, or suffer losing customers. Accountants in the workplace will start being valued for these important traits that add value to customers as well, so it’s not just firms that are affected.

An example that Rob produced for us was project Watson, producing “Siri for business”. This project by Apple and IBM saw $2 billion pumped into it to create a super computer that takes the world’s information and processes it, then spits it out in a concise manner. They’re combining this with Siri to create “Siri for business” so that when you have a business concern, you can simply ask Siri! That’s free advice, and could trump personal accounting advice. So simple business advice and reactive solutions are not the future of accounting as far as Rob can see it. Being proactive could just be the true future of accountants.

Rob’s resources for accountants

Rob and his associated groups offer a host of free and paid services design to support and train accountants and their businesses.

  • http://robnixon.com/ offers free advice and resources for accountants through Rob’s own personal blog.
  • http://proactiveaccountants.net/ brings accountants free tools and resources, while connecting accountants accross the world.
  • http://mypanalytics.com/ is a service to help accountants “create the conversations [they] need to be conducting with clients around relevant metrics”. There’s a free trial available!

And be sure to look out for his book later in November of 2014 titled “Remaining Relevant”. His first book, “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” is also available via his website.

A big thanks to Rob Nixon for joining to do this interview while offering his wealth of knowledge and expertise to accountants the world over.

The Creative Agency Secrets Team

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter

WARNING: Chartered Accountant Magazine is Changing

chartered accountants information We were shocked to hear that a professional NZ accounting magazine is stopping its print edition and going digital only has combined with its Australian counterpart. The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants are joining forces and as a result will be moving their regular publication “Charter Magazine” to digital only a new brand known as the “Acuity” magazine.


Additions by Andy Mclean, Publisher of Acuity magazine:

1) Contrary to what your article says, we are continuing to publish our member magazine in print.

2) Our new trans-Tasman magazine is not called Charter – it is called Acuity.

I think where you have got confused is that – having joined forces with NZICA – we have decided to stop producing Charter magazine and replace it with a brand new trans-Tasman magazine named Acuity. But there is no intention to stop printing magazines for our members. Hard copy magazines are still very popular with our members.

Just to clarify – Charter magazine had existed in print, online and as a tablet app for the past two years. Acuity will also exist in print, online and as a tablet app. There is no change in channels for our member magazine; it’s business as usual.


So what does this mean for accounting in the Australasian region? What does it say about future practices and success factors? We believe it says that accounting could benefit from going digital in a broad manner. Digital gives easier access to articles because they can be read on handheld devices as well as being found through online search. We’re hoping that, by making an accounting magazine available primarily online, it will help accounting firms visit the online space more and get familiar with it so to start using it in their own firm’s marketing. The move to digital for print magazines opens up other questions.

Is your newsletter digital?

If you’re thinking of moving your newsletter to digital, you’ll want to answer these questions first:

  • Will the newsletter/ magazine be readable from a mobile device (in terms of both the file being sent and the amount of content on such small screens)?
  • Does it fall in line with your firm’s practices and customers?
  • Do subscribers get email notifications when a new edition is published?

If you have a printed newsletter and want to move it to digital, answer the questions above or even get in touch with us to help you out.

Read RSS on Kindle

If you’re looking at building a blog for the website of your accounting firm, you’ll be pleased to hear that Amazon Kindle now allows Kindle editions of blog posts as well! They build directly from RSS feeds, so you’ve got another way to keep your blog readers up to date. The digital space is certainly moving in directions that accommodate marketing which are ready for any and all accounting firms to use and enhance their reach to prospects. Let us know how you feel about the change to digital for Charter Magazine, and what your Accounting firm is doing to become digitally enabled.

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter

The DOs and DON’Ts of newsletters for accounting firms

Newsletters are an essential form of communication between companies and their stakeholders. More often than not though, those that sign up to a newsletter are (potential) customers who are interested in what you do. Many accounting firms are adding newsletters into their regular marketing activities and we’re here to help you build your newsletters for new business success.

We’ve taken time to analyse a couple of newsletters from accounting firms around New Zealand and we’ve noticed one major pitfall – these newsletters are LONG!

They often involve several articles, a lack of links and often their content just isn’t well focused on their business or those who may be signing up to their newsletter.

For a broader picture, lets take a look at the common successes and mistakes some accounting firm newsletters are making…

 

Successful elements in accounting newsletters

Relevant content: accounting firms are experts in their field and they show that well through the article content they provide in newsletters.

1Great use of spacing: the newsletters we’ve seen space out their content well and use headlines or boxes to separate content. Making content discernable is a good thing as it draws readers eyes in and encourages them to read. Content that is jumbled or squished together deters readers, and you should want your newsletters to be read.

Well planned structure: titles, headlines, blocks of content and different sections are commonplace in accounting firm newsletters. This differs from spacing as a coherent structure helps a reader flow from one piece of content to the next, until they’ve read the entire newsletter. It’s simply another way to encourage readers to read all the way through.

Include social media/ web page links: newsletters help drive website traffic, and so integrating links to online presences is vital. What’s more is that accounting firms include these links well by using images. These links are often included in sidebars or at the bottom of the newsletter so as not to distract from main newsletter content.

 

Common mistakes

Text-heavy/ too much content: often entire pages are included in accounting firm newsletters for any one of the articles they include. This is more so for less frequent, quarterly newsletters than regular monthly ones but does still happen. Entire articles belong on web pages or blogs, and we’ll tell you why after pointing out some more common mistakes.

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest.

3Irrelevant or unnecessary content: we’ve seen accounting firm newsletters that point out nearby office areas to buy or that their neighbours or friends are raising money for a charity and would like some help. While this content may be great to share with your readers, it isn’t NEWSLETTER content. Share these bits of information in email blasts to your email lists (possibly including your newsletter mailing list) instead. Your newsletter subscribers subscribed to a newsletter for information about YOU, not about local news.

Lack of an introduction or voice: some newsletters we’ve seen don’t include introductions or conclusions at all. Instead they’re collections of potentially exciting articles lumped into a series of pages.  This is a great place for the marketing partner to be the voice of the firm and to give a good face, tone and feel to the newsletter.

No website link backs or calls to action: one big thing missing from accounting firm newsletters to date are links and calls to action. Newsletters do more than inform, yes, but more importantly they exist to bring readers closer to the sender.

 

Our suggestions / good practice for newsletters

Short is successful: newsletters aren’t books. Newsletters are in fact short notes and pockets of information that a company provides its readers to keep them informed of their expertise and activities. Short is the key word there, and there are many ways to shorten a newsletter while also keeping it informative!

One great way to do this is to post articles or news reels on your blog or website, while linking to them in the newsletter along with an excerpt of the article – this encourages newsletter readers to navigate to your website and helps with google page ranking so that people searching for accounting firms find YOU!

Call to action: while you shouldn’t flood your newsletter with links it’s a good idea to link back to your website in some way shape or form. Getting newsletter readers (people who are interested in YOU) on your website improves the chances of them becoming a future client! You don’t necessarily have to develop a call to action or sales pitch but newsletters a good place to redirect readers to such a thing. A blog (if you have one on your website) is a great example of an opportunity to include articles in your newsletter and include a link back to your website that entices readers to click and read more.

 

Sidekick accounting brand mascot.

Build a brand, use a voice and provide colour: a newsletter can be the essence of your firm and how you share your company culture with stakeholders. Use it to build a brand by creating a voice and an image! Sidekick Accounting achieves this with their superhero icons and friendly writing style.

 

Conclusion

In short – accounting newsletters should embrace a short and unique style of presentation while providing links back to their website and social media as they beware of including irrelevant content. If they follow these guidelines it’ll result on a more engaged audience and better chances for turning a potential customer into a full client!

 

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Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

Learn more and join our free Accountants Marketing Newsletter