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.

blair enns free seminar

Stop Giving The Client What They Want

by Blair Enns host of Pricing Creativity, a webinar on 24th May 2018blair enns free seminar

If I’d asked my customers what they wanted they would have said ‘A faster horse.’”

-Henry Ford

A mainstay of some agency new business conferences is a few highly coveted clients on the stage lecturing the agency audience on what they want from their agency partners that they’re not getting. While it would be foolish to dismiss these client entreaties out of hand, it would be just as foolish, I believe, to give them what they want.

Taking a cue from Henry Ford’s playbook, Steve Jobs famously said, “How will my customers know what they want if I haven’t showed it to them, yet?” It sounds like arrogant bluster, but he believed it and he was right.

I don’t have to cite the multiple studies that have proved human beings are terrible predictors of what they will like, I only have to ask you to recall that situation where you thought you won the pitch, because in the client’s words, “You ticked all the boxes”, only to lose out to a competitor who ignored the client’s checklist and proposed something radically different. We all know of examples of this and most of us have had it happen to us, whether we were the burned compliant rule follower or the one who challenged the client’s own ideas of what they wanted.

A friend who is undertaking a massive home renovation recently told me a story of briefing two architects on the job. Both he and his wife presented a detailed list of everything they wanted in the newly renovated home. The first architect came back with a design that ticked every box. My friends, the clients, were delighted. They didn’t think they could possibly get everything they had asked for. But the second architect essentially ignored the brief and did what he thought was best for the building. The design was radical. I think my friend used the word “shocking.” They took a couple of weeks to think about it and then went with the radical design, which not only didn’t check many boxes on their list but “scared” them and was 20% more expensive. That’s right, they paid a 20% premium for a scary solution that defied the brief.

This happens all the time. The lesson we take from it is not that we should never give the client what they want, but that often, when the client is constructing the brief on their own, they leave out things they haven’t considered or with which they have no previous experience. Those clients on stage telling agencies what they want are building those lists from their pasts. Most of their wants are about avoiding repeats of previous disasters. By indulging them the best you will do is “check all the boxes”. But who really wants to go through life just checking all the boxes? Not me, not you, and not even your clients.

Make Challenging The Client Your Competitive Advantage

In large, multi-layered firms, and in particular those where ownership is separated from management, the appetite to really challenge the client isn’t there. There may be one maverick in the firm keen on it or perhaps even two, but off to the side and in the layers above there is always at least one person who sees their role as “don’t screw this up”. So that’s the approach the agency ends up taking on the opportunity: let’s give the client what they asked for and not screw this up. That is a key difference in the culture of an entrepreneurial firm–and I mean that in the literal sense that the firm is run by an entrepreneur who not only has skin in the game but may have all their net worth tied up in it–and a firm run by managers who report to other managers who report to parent companies who report to holding companies who report to investors. The first has the authority and risk profile to challenge the client’s idea of what they want and the other has neither.

If you’re in the latter group and you find yourself competing against firms in the former and you are not pushing back, deciding what is best for the client in spite of how you’ve been briefed, then you are failing to leverage one of your most significant competitive advantages.

And it’s not just the big boys and girls that fail to push back and routinely give the client what they want. Many entrepreneurial firms behave this way too, for reasons of personality, “politeness” or poor training.

 

Start your pricing creativity training on May 24th by joining Blair at a Pricing Creativity Webinar – free to attend.  Register your interest now.

 

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.
TopBuzz home

The hidden risks of TopBuzz

With many services out there for marketers, producing content and getting it to your audience has never been easier. However, not all services are trustworthy. We recently came to learn about TopBuzz, a platform that has divided opinions.

All started with an email…

A couple of weeks ago, we received an email out of the blue from TopBuzz, a content distribution platform, claiming to be ‘impressed’ by a video we did for a client. The email content was quite generic and seemed to be automated. TopBuzz said they were able to enlarge our video audience via their platform and we would be compensated for all the views we got.

A couple days ago, we received another email. This time, it was from a person claiming to be from this company, boasting about the number of active users and the number of views that all the videos get that are shared on their platform. She was very forward in her approach and encouraged us to become a ‘premium creator’.

TopBuzz email

Now, we did a little bit of research on these guys and it was scary to see what would have happened if we signed up with them.

TopBuzz key things we discovered:

  1. According to past users of the platform, the communication from TopBuzz is poor and scarce if you ever try and contact them. If you have a problem with something, TopBuzz are unlikely to help and at best, you might receive template emails that are likely to be irrelevant.
  2. This brings up the next problem. If you are unhappy with the platform…too bad. You can’t delete your account and your content will stay on TopBuzz’s platform forever.
  3. However, it gets worse! TopBuzz can use any videos uploaded to their platform in whatever way they want. Say you work hard and make a viral video. If that video is on their platform, they can publish it as their own and you would get no credit. Unfortunately, most users only realised that this was their fate only after signing the contract without reading the small print in their T&Cs.

We were never interested in using this platform in the first place as the video we created for our client was content produced for a niche segment, it was an hour long and was a face to face interview. Targeting a mass audience and making revenue off views was not on the agenda, therefore, using this platform would have been unnecessary.

If you are producing viral videos, pursuing avenues through social media seems to be a safer option. For example, with Facebook, there are various pages that are dedicated to redistributing content according to different tastes.

Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of dodgy services like this so be sure to do your research before jumping in!

Sources:

https://medium.com/@attibear/should-you-gin-up-for-topbuzz-ca19d5c1edac

https://digitalfox.media/tech-rhino/topbuzz-5-big-problems-service/

How to do a super simple competitor strategy analysis

When it comes to a marketing report, you may dread the idea of seeing pie charts, bar graphs and numbers floating around. That’s not to mention the accompanying dry, boring analysis of these results, written in what looks to be a different language.

If you think this, you’re so very wrong.

Recently, I wrote up a competitor strategy analysis for a client, Living Goodness. The results took no longer than 30 minutes, there were no graphs, and the report reads just over a page long!

Read on to find out exactly how I accomplished this – it’s super simple, I promise.

How to do a competitor strategy screenshot 1

Seriously, this is 97% of my report – short and simple!

#1. Find your competitor

If you’re running a business and have no idea who your competitors are, you need to remedy this quickly.

Open up your internet browser in incognito mode and Google search a few keywords on what your business is about. Why incognito? Well, the search results will be personalised to your search history so you want to find a competitor that is worth analysing.

Living Goodness sells sauerkraut, so I typed into Google, “sauerkraut nz”. Google has been working on improving localised searching since around 2015. While obvious searches such as “Italian food” will bring up local restaurants, I needed to localise Living Goodness keywords so that Google knows I want to buy this product from a local store, as opposed to just needing a sauerkraut recipe.

Living Goodness ranks on the front page for “sauerkraut nz” (yay!) but so does a competitor. This will be the target of my strategy analysis.

 

living goodness google ranking

Third place on the front page of Google! Yay Living Goodness!

 

In a new document for notes, I made three subheadings:

  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

You’ll need to adapt these to suit the media platforms of your client.

#2. Website

From the competitor’s website, I can see all their social media buttons on the top right. This is the first difference I note. Living Goodness’ social buttons are in the footer of every page, but that requires scrolling down to see. Placing additional social links somewhere on the homepage where they will be visible to visitors is the first thing I make note of in a section called “suggestions”.

living goodness website

There’s not much above the fold on the Living Goodness website…

I embark on a journey across the competitor’s website, making note of what they have and what Living Goodness don’t have on their website.

Along the way, I kept asking, “why?” For example, the competitor lists recent recipes on a sidebar on their landing pages. Why is this? Well, as a mere consumer searching for sauerkraut products, I can see that it will prompt me to head to the recipes page, especially if there’s a delicious concoction that catches my eye.

A sidebar can easily be installed into websites as an automated widget – this means any new recipes uploaded will reflect in this sidebar without additional action, thus providing fresh content for each time I visit their website.

#3. Social media

Next, I compared the social media platforms of Living Goodness with their competitor. I pulled up their Facebook and Instagram pages, and scrolled through like a scorned ex-girlfriend.

How often did they post? What sort of content were they posting? Did they do something different on their social media pages that Living Goodness didn’t do?

Who had more followers? Why and how? These were all very important questions that I needed to ask.

I also compared the hashtag activity because everyone knows that behind every successful Insta-famous account is a strong hashtag game (also pretty photos, of course). As this competitor sold products that were pretty similar to ours, I derived a list of hashtags that our client doesn’t use but should do.

Living Goodness’ products are very visually appealing, so their Instagram needs to reflect that.

#4. Suggestions

Of course, I didn’t want Living Goodness to copy their competitor post for post. This strategy was merely to boost their digital presence, just based on my observations of their competitor.

One important thing I had to keep in mind at all times was objectivity. I had to see Living Goodness’ competitor from the eyes of a hungry 20-something-year-old who just wanted buy sauerkraut.

This allowed me to cruise through their website and social media platforms from a fresh perspective. What would I first notice if I wanted to buy some of their products? What would annoy me if I were trying to see their stockists? If I needed to read reviews of their products, was it easily accessible?

With this frame of mind, I also turned my attention to Living Goodness’ own platforms to see what needed to be changed.

From all this, I wrote out a brief but very useful competitor strategy, using clear subheadings and bullet points. Easy to write, easy to read!

Living Goodness facebook page

I all but stalked the social pages of Living Goodness. As you can see, this is a proven and justified technique.

#5. Client meeting

I scheduled a meeting with the lovely Fiona from Living Goodness and ran through this report with her. It was important that she took the same journey I did, so in a few cases, I got her to open up the social media platforms to see exactly what I was referencing.

Next time I conduct a competitor analysis, I could include screenshots to highlight my points. As it was, Living Goodness only have one major competitor, and as I had explained my strategy clearly, it wasn’t just another boring report to be tossed aside.

When it comes to working for a client, it can be too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. This report showed that we like to keep an eye on the industry to boost the presence of Living Goodness.

 

Now are you ready?  Here’s another article about How to Compare your Website with a Competitors

Innovation game, conteneo

Interview: Luke Hohmann, Conteneo Weave

Luke is in town for the Agile NZ conference and graciously agreed to give us an interview.

Innovation game, conteneo

Prune the product tree innovation game

I first ran into Luke because I am a particular fan of his Innovation Games sub-brand.  Check out these for your next team brainstorming session.  There are 12 games all explained in detail.  Some are part of the Conteneo Weave platform e.g. Speed boat. I can see good uses for “Buy a Feature” and “Prune the Product Tree” games for marketing and new product development.

What’s Your latest work?

Conteneo has recently introduced some powerful new capabilities to the Weave platform, most notably, anonymous participation in forums. This means that organizations dealing with sensitive or challenging topics can create a truly safe – and scalable – means for internal and external stakeholders to collaborate. We have also completed localizing our Weave platform in German, Spanish and French, greatly expanding the ability to promote collaboration around the world (with more languages to come).

What’s impressed you?

I’m a curious person, so I’m impressed by a lot of things! I was impressed when Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors and they won the NBA Championship. Mostly, though, I am impressed by our customers. They keep doing things with our Weave platform that we’ve never imagined – and once we see them, they make complete sense.

What’s the next big thing?

Historically, Conteneo has focused on serving large corporations who want to increase engagement and improve operational effectiveness by identifying, shaping and aligning on their customer’s priorities and their internal priorities. These entities have hundreds to thousands of teams in multiple locations who need to collaborate at scale. What we’ve found is that smaller organizations are facing similar challenges!

Like larger companies, smaller companies have project portfolios that exceed available funds. They need to better understand customer needs and align their organization to deliver products and services to these needs. Accordingly, our next big thing is quite profound: we are extending our business model to make it radically easier for small companies to use the Conteneo Weave platform. Specifically, we’re creating a self-service approach that will enable companies with teams of arbitrary size to leverage collaborative frameworks. We’ll be releasing these improvements in Q1 2018 – and we’re really excited about how we’ll be able to help organizations of arbitrary size and scale.

Check out Luke’s website where they integrate games with problem solving and project prioritisation.

 

Raz Chorev, Marketer, Australia,

Raz Chorev talks Email Newsletters

Raz is CMO of Orange Sky CMOs in Sydney, Australia.  We caught up recently and got his insights into the latest in email newsletters for business marketing.

Raz Chorev, Marketer, Australia,

Raz Chorev

You’ve been doing email newsletters for years. How frequently do you change something major e.g. layout, frequency, type of article?

Every couple of years: content, structure and design.

When you assess the analytics on a newsletter, what are the top 3 metrics you use?

Open rate, engagement rate, and unsubscribes. This keeps me focused on people opening the email, reading / engaging with it, and not getting pissed off or bored with it.

Do you have a view on whether B2B brands should re-use blog content in newsletters?

Content can be repurposed, based on the audience. not the sender. You can use blog posts, videos, images, tweets, quotes – anything to engage your audience and add value to them as they read.

What’s one tip for the future in newsletters?

Talk to your audience, like as a person, like in a conversation. See what I’ve just done here? Don’t talk AT them. Try talking WITH them – and they’ll respond.

What’s your favourite AdTech for newsletters?

I’m not fussed either way. they are all pretty similar. it’s your content which is the most important, not one fancy feature over another.

Connect with Raz via LinkedIn or Orange Sky outsourced CMOs.