The (b)leading edge of Accountancy marketing

Sage publishes an annual survey of accountants attitudes – what’s interesting is that it is global and the summary report details some good findings about the profession.  It’s called The Practice of Now 2018 

As a marketer who works with professional services businesses, my reading highlights some big numbers in the research about artificial intelligence, fear of competition, lack of optimism and increasingly demanding clients.  The implications for marketing, I will cover at the end of this article.

10 take-outs from the Practice of Now 2018 report

  1. Clients are changing faster than accountants. – 42% of clients expect accountants to provide business advice.  This shows how frontline accountancy is in the mind of the client and how banks and business mentors have failed to take up the slack here, which is an opportunity for growth.
  2. Revenues rise as cloud accounting allows firms to be more productive.  56% of firms saw a revenue rise.  If your firm didn’t see this fee income growth – start to review your working practices.
  3. Practice Management in the cloud is at 53% adoption – clearly we are into the mainstream majority now.
  4. But confidence is lower – 40% feel less confident about the prospects for their practice.  Clearly Xero’s goal of putting accountants out of business is realistic and beginning to come true.
  5. Competition within the industry is more visible – are you buying up a practice from a retiring competitor?  Clients will go to an accountant who serves their needs – even to another city or country.  This is both a threat and and opportunity for new business development.
  6. Artificial Intelligence is helping free up administrative tasks and it’s more than just automation. Moving from data entry, email and diary management to higher value services is a no-brainer… but how to set it up is the challenge as these skills aren’t in-house and they may not be in the IT services organisations who work with accountants either.
  7. Most accountants are doing some workflow automation – 49% want to do more of it.  So the benefits are noticed (see 2 above).
  8. The language of accountancy is changing – “Tell me how much money I have” and “How much am I owed?” is SO refreshing compared to “debtors, creditors and accruals”.  From a marketing point of view, these messages are very powerful and simple – but does your firm use this language?
  9. Advisory services are wanted by 42% of clients – but if you don’t market & position the firm to capture this revenue, clients will go elsewhere.
  10. The BIGGIE – 67% of accountants say that cloud technologies make client collaboration easier. Phew, glad that worked out because it jolly well ought to be this way.

Should I worry about artificial intelligence?

If you’re not sure what A.I. could do for your business, start asking questions now.  Because we all understand automation in things like bank feeds, this is a very small part of the working practice move towards higher functionality for humans and lower functions for machines (or software robots).

The easiest way to understand the potential for AI in accountancy is this extract from the report

Candidates for automation already include assigning incoming bank statement entries with the correct nominal codes—via training the machine becomes able to predict what codes should be used—but in the near future the power of AI to learn means it will become involved with operations like analytics and report creation. For example, software will be able to predict a client’s cash flow based on the company’s previous behaviour. Based on self-generated data, AI will be able to make predictions and decisions. This isn’t limited to client data. By examining things like seasonality data, AI can help with practice management. AI and automation aren’t just desirable because they make life easier. Research has suggested that the tedium of repetitive tasks can lead to a high staff turnover, introducing additional costs for a practice such as recruitment and training. Automating these processes makes complete business sense.”

It goes on to say

“AI can flag the anomalies, saving time and resources, making the accountant more productive.”

Your strategic marketing pathway

And as a marketer, if I am advising a modern accountancy practice this is what they should be doing for strategic marketing.

Firstly get your brand positioning updated to reflect modern working.  Think Nena and Kim Wilde – “Anyplace, anywhere, anytime” and you’ll be on the right track.

How that branding plays out into your collateral, positioning, services and online profile should be straightforward.  The key is to get the strategy right first and the rollout should be clear.  You will need new keywords for SEO, your client communications will become driven by client preference and choice and your language will simplify and align with clients’ choices of words. 

Other than that, it’s marketing business as (un)usual for a modern accountancy practice. 

How to Migrate to Digital Marketing

Migrating to digital marketing from traditional marketing is a question I get asked frequently.  Giving a talk to the Te Atatu Business Association, I was able to showcase both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) examples of ways to work out these things

  1. Where to start your digital marketing
  2. Which marketing methods will work best for your business
  3. What communications will work best for your clients and customers

The resources on the last slide are worthwhile saving / bookmarking.  They relate to directory listings and tips for local marketing.

Featured on the 302 Temp Redirect show

Thanks to Glenn Marvin of Konnector who interviewed me on his 302 Temporary Redirect Show (that’s a geek joke – a website has a 302 error code…. ).

 

5 key activities for B2B Marketing

During the show Glenn asked me what my “always on” fundamental B2B marketing activities are.  If you want to listen it’s at 18:25 through to 20:24.

  1. Database of clients, suspects and prospects.  Regularly updated.
  2. Regular communications to your database
  3. Trade shows and local in person meetups
  4. LinkedIn to recognise the names of people in your industry – and LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  5. Speaking at conferences, events and being a PR spokesperson for your trade magazine.
Blair Enns, Author, Pricing creativity

Hacking the Value Conversation

 

Blair Enns, Author of Pricing Creativity Book

Blair Enns, Author of Pricing Creativity Book

By Blair Enns, Pricing Creativity Webinar Host – May 2018, details here.

The value conversation is where value pricing theory goes to die. The difficulty in mastering this conversation is what causes most people to give up on value-based pricing completely and revert back to selling time and materials. It needn’t be so difficult, though.

There’s a hack to the value conversation that a successful former client of mine pointed out after reading the manuscript of Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour. When he explained it to me over dinner I thought, “This is brilliant. I should put it in the book.” In the end, I didn’t include the hack because I feel strongly that mastering the value conversation is one of the most valuable skills in all of business – a skill that can transform careers and businesses. So, while encouraging you to learn that skill, I’ll now give you the shortcut. But first, some context.

Perhaps the Most Valuable Skill in Business

There are three tiers of financial success in a creative firm that I can correlate to pricing strategies. The lowest tier of true financial success is occupied by the efficient cost-based pricers – those firms that bill as many of the available hours as possible. An efficient firm might bill around $200k in adjusted gross income (AGI) per full-time equivalent employee (FTE), whereas the average cost-based firm might bill around $140k in AGI per FTE.

The next tier of success is where you find the value-based pricers – those who charge based on the value to the client and not based on their costs or inputs of time and materials. These firms escape the limits imposed by the pursuit of efficiencies, moving their AGI/FTE number north of $200k, into $250k and maybe even the $300k range.

The very highest tier of financial success, however, is reserved for those value-based pricers who master the value conversation. These firms can push into the $400k range and beyond, with no real theoretical limit. A well-facilitated value conversation not only has a profound effect on the income of the firm, it creates more value for the client and it is a thing of beauty to behold. I consider it to be one of the most valuable – perhaps the most valuable – skill in all of business.

The Value Conversation Framework

Here’s the simple four-step framework for facilitating the value conversation:

  1. Confirm the client’s desired future state (What do you want?)
  2. Agree on the metrics of success (How will we know we have achieved these things?)
  3. Uncover the value that would be created by hitting these metrics (What’s this worth?)
  4. Offer pricing guidance (I’m going to bring you a range of solutions in the $Y to $X range.)

There’s lots of nuance around the “how” of each of the four steps above, but it’s really that straightforward. You’ll notice that by the end of the value conversation you haven’t even begun to think about solutions. Your entire focus is on the client: what they want, how you’ll measure their success, how much value you might create for them, and finally, some initial ideas on what you might charge for helping to create such value. After this conversation, you retreat to think about costs and solutions, building and pricing your proposal accordingly, while following the rules set out in Pricing Creativity.

The Reality: Few Get There

So, why are there so few firms mastering what seems like a simple conversation and moving to the highest tier of financial success?

The reasons are many:

  • This mastery is a sales skill and not a pricing skill
  • It requires you to be selling from the expert practitioner position and not the vendor position
  • It’s tactical knowledge acquired from doing, not implicit knowledge acquired from reading or listening
  • It requires you to be talking to client-side executives charged with value creation and not middle managers charged with managing a project or budget
  • The first few conversations can be awkward, and few push through the awkwardness to get to the incredible riches on the other side

All of these reasons and more make a value conversation hack so valuable. So here it is…

The Hack

Early in Pricing Creativity, I tell the story of the first time I saw a one-page proposal based on value rather than inputs. It was the principal of that firm that I found myself having dinner with while the book was in pre-production. Commenting on the manuscript he said, “You left out my hack!” What did he mean, I asked? He replied that he never mastered the value conversation. (Chapter 9: Master the Value Conversation – to me, perhaps the most important chapter in the book.)

Instead, early on in the sale – much earlier than I would advocate – he would put a one-page proposal on the table with three options. But he didn’t view this proposal as the final one. In fact, he said that the initial proposal was never the final one. It was only there to serve as a catalyst for discussion over what the client really valued. The hack, according to my client, was to put at the bottom of each option, “Choose this option if X is important to you.” X might be speed to market, customer service, low risk, knowledge transfer or anything else. He would then ask the client, “Which one of these options is the most appealing to you?” The client would point to one, and in doing so, reveal what he most valued. This would direct the conversation. “Ahhh, so educating your team as we develop the product (or programme) is something important to you?”

In this way, the early proposal led to a more targeted value conversation in which the client and the firm could talk through specific value drivers that the client had revealed by simply pointing to an option, all while framed by the context of the initial prices. The discussion would result in the firm coming back with another proposal more specifically targeted to what the client most valued.

To Hack or To Hold Firm?

As someone who values rule-breaking as much as I do rule-making, I love this hack while I simultaneously worry about sharing it with you. There is no substitute for mastering the value conversation. I’ll repeat that I believe it might be the most valuable skill in all of business, but I also know that the size of the gap between those who understand value pricing and those who truly implement it is problematically large, especially in the creative professions.

As I craft this parting advice I find myself wondering what I would do if I were in your shoes (Win Without Pitching is a productised service business – we don’t value price the way a customised service firm like yours should) and I don’t think I would deviate from proper sales process and a good value conversation. But not all value conversations are good and easy, especially in the beginning. And like all good hacks, I would keep this in my back pocket for those situations where I saw that an elegant theory was clashing with my harsh reality.

So use at your discretion. If you do try it, I’d be interested in hearing how you make out.

Pricing Creativity Webinar Registration Details

Pricing Creativity Webinar Registration Details

 

Business Accelerators in New Zealand

In doing market validation research for a client, we researched the Business Accelerators who are best known in New Zealand.  Since I couldn’t find a place where they are all listed, I thought I’d create one.  [We did this before for Youth Entrepreneur Organisations in New Zealand].

The Mums Garage group have pulled together a pretty comprehensive “Startup Ecosystem Map” list which goes from pre-seed investment upwards including regional connections – highly recommend as they encourage you to submit additional resources not yet on the list.

Check out these as a starting point for your own individual needs.  And please use the comments to add others to the list.
local directories

Boost Your Business with Local Directories

Don’t let your business get lost in the crowd

Yellow pages directoriesIt’s that time of the year again where we remind you about the benefits of good ol’ directories! Before the internet, we relied on finding services through the big yellow brick of a book we received each year. Thanks to the world wide web, we now find them stuffed under uneven table legs or as a booster seat. Today we find what we’re looking for with a click of a button. Does your business stand out?

In 2016, Google took away the right-hand sidebar where the paid adverts were displayed. Now the paid posts soar straight to the top, making it a tough battle for smaller companies to get noticed. Directories can be a cost-effective way to help get found via search engines. Being active on directories increases the chances of your business getting noticed.

Why updating your information is vital

yelp directoriesIt is important to keep your business updated in directories. If your business has gone through a recent change and you didn’t update your information, you could lose a lot of potential customers!

Never forget to NAP, this means not sleeping on the details. Make sure your Name, Address and Phone data is accurate and up to date. Location and accessibility are two of the most important factors when it comes to customers. If your telephone number is an old one and a customer can’t get through to you, they’re unlikely to try again. Likewise, if you were to put your address as a small town in South America, a New Zealand customer wouldn’t follow up with your business!

Pro tip: Check the directories your company is listed in and confirm your details are correct. Some websites take their information from others; resulting in a cycle of incorrect information.

Updated List of Directories

This year, we bring you an even bigger list of potential directories your business may be found in. Take a look to see where your business is listed and where it isn’t.

It’s the only thing standing in between you and your next big client.

NB: Not all directories will apply to every type of business, some are more specific to particular fields. (eg. Tripadvisor will benefit restaurants and hotels over a telecommunications company.)

 

Localist NZPages Verified Local Yellowpages NZ
Search local areas for shopping, restaurants,
things to do, popular services etc.
Collection of New Zealand websites for any business. Wide directory of businesses from all around New Zealand. One of the most popular directory for businesses in New Zealand.
NZ LOCALIZER NEW ZEALAND SEARCH ENROLL BUSINESS FINDA
A place with many New Zealand companies. Directory of websites, a search engine and New Zealand articles. Browse through local businesses and services of New Zealand. Find anything in New Zealand.
HOTFROG CYLEX EXPRESS BUSINESS DIRECTORY ZIPLEAF
A place for small business owners to tell the world what they do differently. Business directory across 35+ countries. A worldwide directory of businesses where you can update news and information about your products. Find local companies.
WAND YELP ZENBU KOMPASS
Worldwide directory of businesses where you have a wide range of features to promote your business. Easy-to-use global directory of services and businesses. Collaboratively edited directory of businesses and places that help you find anything in New Zealand. A B2B directory site to help you develop your business by generating sales leads.
TLBN 2FL SALES SPIDER BROWNBOOK
Free and paid memberships available to list your business. A worldwide directory of local businesses. An international website where you list products, compare businesses and leave reviews. A smaller global directory.
TRIPADVISOR WHERE2GO MYHUCKLEBERRY CYBO
A review driven site for activities to do on your holidays. A business directory where you can find many unique sites. A directory and an online destination for business information. Business directory to expand your global presence.
YELLO YELLO OPENDI FIND US HERE SPOKE
Helps local businesses and services present themselves. Business directory with big coverage in New Zealand. Global directory of businesses, organizations, clubs, and communities. Information of over 1.4 million businesses.
LACARTES MAPS CONNECT FOURSQUARE TUPALO
Find anything from local activities to exotic destinations worldwide. Add or update your company details on Apple Maps so customers can find you through the app. Find best places to eat, drink, shop or visit during your travels. Browse popular local attractions and see what other users think about it.
PATHLEGAL LAWLINK TOP DESIGN FIRMS RATEBEER
A directory of lawyers around the world. Create a personal profile and connect with and online attorney network. Reviews and rankings of design agencies around the world. Directory of beers, breweries, bars and stores around the world.
trade show, exposition, marketing B2B, trade show marketing

Trade Marketing tips

You asked us about Trade Marketing.  This is when you sell something to another business and they sell it to the ultimate customer.  Fundamentally it’s just selling but because it’s restricted to selling within a single industry or “trade” it gets another name…. the key thing for you to know is that the principles of B2B marketing still hold true.
 

Trade marketing is a sub-type of B2B

What I love about any B2B is that the audience is individually identifiable. You can get or build a list of actual individuals who you can sell to.  The best way to start that is through identifying these things

  1. industry type
  2. sub-type of industry
  3. job title of decision makers and decision-influencers
Then you are within reach of a clearly identified audience.  List broker will sell you lists, you can research and build your own too.  If you choose the latter, please start with the trade association or professional body for the industry.  That’s a great way to short-cut list building.

After the list, how to approach

Getting a list is only the beginning.  You need to brand build with specific campaigns so that prospects recognise your business name or your product name (or both).  Trade shows can be useful here because people who are interested are all gathered into a single location on a single day and you can meet many face to face.
Getting your strategy aligned with the prospect’s need is critical.  Because it’s so easy to mess up an approach and build bad feeling against your brand.  For this reason we always create a hypothesis and we test this out before a general launch.
Today a mailing list of 100 names is being tested for a client.  When we see how it’s received [Good so far, thanks for asking 54% open rate 4% click through] then we can make decisions about whether to adapt / improve or just to roll it out to the rest of the prospect list.

Top 10 tips for trade marketing

  1. Automate follow ups – have a pre-set process for capturing and following up
  2. Time is always short – but don’t cut short conversations on the stand.  Invest in the people who do come to build relationships
  3. Connect on LinkedIn to everyone you meet if possible
  4. Be very clear about what you are promising to prospects
  5. Have a “cute” offer [fidget spinners are popular now]
  6. If you use scrolling video at a trade show, always sub-title it so people get the message from afar
  7. Put on your best smile.  It’s my biggest business success tool – people remember my warm smile
  8. Make eye contact and be the first to break contact after smiling and saying hello.  This is un-threatening
  9. Have a ‘golden question‘ or two ready for your prospect discovery questions
  10. Turn up every year – as long as the show brings in prospects, plan to be there.  Consistency pays off
Creative Agency Secrets is expert in B2B marketing.  We understand how to research trade buyers, how to build a list of possible buyers, how to present your product or service to them and how to get them to buy from you over and over again.
If you want to learn more, read this article about Trade Show Marketing.  And this case study about your business location

Kickstart business website user skills

Rebecca is running two webinars with CCH Learning designed for Business to Business organisations who need to ramp up their website as a marketing tool.

  • Setting a Website Strategy for Marketing Success: Understand the functionality your website needs & how to avoid common mistakes

Tue 27 Feb 2:30 PM NZDT
Setting a Website Strategy for Marketing Success 2018

  • Get your Business Website Working for you: Learn how to “drive” a website to get enquiries and visitors.

Tuesday 20th March, 2:30 PM NZDT

Get Your Business Website Working for you 2018

The first webinar will help you gain a deep understanding of how to write a website strategy, what to improve on your current website and marketing communications, how to test your website is working well.

The second webinar  teaches you the tools you need to assess the effectiveness of your existing website, and helps you to draw up a list of actions to improve its alignment with your business website strategy.