What does your ideal client look like? Patrick McGloughlin helps accountancy practices answer that exact question. He has been helping accountancy practices attract their ideal clients for 19 years. His business is Accounting for Growth is based in Loughborough in Leicestershire. He specialises in marketing for accountants in public practice. What he has to share with us is relevant not just to accountants but any professional services firm.
There’s a customer persona help sheet to go with todays show, you can download it at http://thenext100days.org/90download
Why marketing for accountants?
As Kevin describes, accountants don’t have a marketing bone in their body! They used to be restricted in their advertising. They were allowed a brass plaque outside their office.
20 years ago, the rules for professional practices were changing. Patrick had just taken on a new client, an accountancy firm. The opportunities were enormous. Over 6 months he stopped working with media clients and concentrated on accountants. Marketing for accountants quickly became Patrick’s entire business
What was their main problem?
Differentiation. The basic sales and presentational skills. Large proposal, burying the fee deep into the report!
It used to be that the client had to comply with the accountant’s structure. Now, it is the accountants that are focusing on clients.
How to start working with accountants?
The first question is “Who is your ideal client?”. If you are going to take on a new client, they may as well be a good one. Even today, when Patrick coaches, the accountants, when asked to list their unique strengths, what is special about them, it tends to be the same list of attributes:
- We are proactive
- We are client focused
- Especially emphasise that we really care about the client
- We work with big and small businesses
They are generalising RATHER than focusing in on the clients they can help.
The first thing is to work out WHO gets best value from working with you? Who’s lives have you changed? Tell us about the work you are most proud of. Patrick tries to get them passionate! They are, but the day to day work takes over and we can lose touch with those special moments!
Should they be talking about their expertise in specific sectors?
Yes. If you understand clients in my industry, the conversation is more advanced. You can evidence it. Then you can bring up excellent case studies. Next, you can show me the difference you can make. That can be a key area. Niches.
The outcomes that accountants bring about for their clients
For example, a client who helped a business owner who was struggling to get a VAT rebate. They were in danger of closing before they had even opened up. The difference the accountant made, getting the rebate back in a week, then he graded each customers and the product base and ensured the client marketed the higher value products.
The market is changing
Work is commoditising. Accountants need to remain relevant. They must play a role in improving profitability and improving cash flow. By ultimately improving the lives of business owners. As opposed to just keeping them compliant.
So, accountant should move from compliance – that’s a given, to knowing what keeps their clients awake at night.
Have accountants become marketers?
Patrick thinks so. Traditionally, an accountant slams down a set of accounts, hands you the bill and you see him in 12 months’ time. There is no real value. It’s a necessary evil.
The more focused the analysis is from accountants, the more you can highlight opportunities.
Accountants must help not just with the data, but with the interpretation of that data. They’ll help you make better decisions. Which is going to increase your margins. And you’ll have a better business.
For many business owners, the figures in the accounts mean so little to them. They don’t even understand the figures. Accountants have had to take the step up and become a VALUED adviser.
Kevin highlighted that this is so in his experience too. There is scope for training on how accountants can make that step up with their clients.
Patrick tends to pick clients who can afford his fee and so it usually means that those clients are offering advisory work. Their clients must be feeling the benefit to be paying those fees.
Patrick stresses the value adding services that accountants must make.
He references a book: The World’s Most Inspiring Accountants, by Steve Pipe. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Worlds-Most-Inspiring-Accountants/dp/0955100763
The book is full of stories about the difference that accountants have made to people’s lives.
Steve Pipe is also the founder of AVN – more here: http://improveyourpractice.co.uk
Who does Patrick work with?
Not many sole practitioners. Maybe some who have a team. It is really about curiosity. You tend to attract people like yourself.
How does he bring people on board? 30% of the enquiries Patrick gets might reach the proposal stage. They themselves focus on their own personas. He builds ideal client personas. This is essentially creating a character, giving them background, giving them some problems in the business, and filtering down how Patrick’s business is special in terms of solving those problems and pushing that client forward.
Patrick’s clients tend to be reading business books. They are curious. Maybe podcast listeners. They have had a light bulb moment that there is a better way to do this.
They use their avatars to narrow companies house data to a cohort in which identify their new customers – mainly by telephone. Typically they do a lot of research, using heuristics to help them narrow down their market.
Patrick also writes in an accountancy magazine and does public speaker.
Who do you want to work with most?
Our most successful client’s fee is £15k. That client really understands his customers. Many accountants do not take growth seriously. Their head of marketing is a partners PA, or somebody’s first job. The decisions are made by Hypo’s – the highest paid person’s opinion.
Research from the US suggests firms with marketing help and those without, grow at exactly the same rate.
What are the dynamics like when accountants bring in Patrick?
Sometimes clients don’t last long. A person might be resistant. When Patrick created calls for this client, he said get the appointments and then let us know and we’ll decide which one we’d like to go on. This is terrible! The world doesn’t revolve around accountants.
Patrick wants business developers rather than marketers. Not awareness advertising and virtual metrics – like ‘likes’, ‘followers’.
There is a disconnection between marketing and money in the bank. Proposals and meeting and closed business.
A large firm’s regional business development manager, when asked who their ideal clients were, he asked a part qualified accountant what her view was. He didn’t know. And he was a business development.
[there are roughly 300,000 qualified accountants in the UK – the size of a small city!!!]
It’s the future! Contact Kevin for an introductory offer!
Is Patrick providing a life-jacket for accountants?
When he calls business owners, the easiest way to get a client an appointment is to say ‘would you like a cheaper accountant?’. He doesn’t do that. That is a downward spiral to the bottom. In marketing for accountants he has to do the opposite.
There is a gap in awareness.
A lot of the market has been taken by business systems providers. Cardell, Botterill etc.
The traditional accountant has to become the CFO. You have to bring value.
Google “Accountant, [insert a local place]”
They are all similar. Very few true differentiators. Check this out for yourself!
Have they all got the same design agency?
Accountancy and telemarketing are seen as the two most endangered businesses! Patrick introduces business owners to accountants by telephone! We think his marketing intelligence will see him through though!
The Next 100 Days – How Can Accountants Change?
Marketing for accountants (or other professional services) doesn’t need to be difficult, there are some easy steps to follow
- Know your figures?
- The average lifetime value and profitability of a client is?
- You need to know how much you can afford to invest in your marketing to take a client on. All clients are not the same.
- Get under the skin of your most profitable clients. Especially those clients who will pay us a premium because of the value we bring too them.
- Start on a persona – use the A4G template. Focus on who it is we help and how we help them.
- Change your marketing away from marketing to business development. Everything we spend must be measured. It must deliver a return of investment over the lifetime, not year one.
- Stop talking accountancy, speak their language. Talk to your best customers, Why do they like you?
Patrick uses lead conversion testimonials…
“I almost didn’t work with Jane because her fees were so expensive. Because, I didn’t think she had [focus on the key objection] …” and “I’m pleased I did because I have achieved XYZ”.
Be specific about the figures over what period. How have you helped clients achieve things?
Shift the conversation. Ask how can I help you grow the business? Kids through private school…so charge more to help people achieve their goals. You need the time and skill to help clients achieve their personal goals.
What do you want to achieve?
When you make that kind of difference life is so much fun.
They tend to use Our, Our, Our, Our, We, We, We, etc. Change the focus to “you” and “your”. Speak directly to the client and make him the focus.
Check out http://marketingexperiments.com
Often you do not see the owner’s faces on the website. This is crazy.
How to contact Patrick McGloughlin at A4G?
Telephone 01509 210067
Linkedin Group: Marketing Professional Services