How do you brilliantly promote and market your firm so that you attract and win ideal clients?
In this Humanise The Numbers podcast discussion with Jo Edwards of JE Consulting, you'll hear Jo describe in detail the things that she and her substantial team of marketers do for many accounting firms (in excess of a hundred).
Jo is a specialist marketer for accountancy firms. So why not, if you want to grow your firm with ideal clients, join Jo and I on this Humanise The Numbers podcast discussion. I think you'll find it of significant value to you and your firm.
"Firms have to be careful of 'Emperor’s new clothes' when it comes to marketing. I always say to every firm that we operate with - your best business should always come from referrals and your referrals should make up, at least, 70 to 80 percent of the new client wins that you have. And those referrals should come from existing clients and your professional introducers. It’s the work that you do with those existing clients, with those professional referrers that will always generate the best type of new business for you.
"I think the other challenge is, if you're buying the advice of an expert, then listen to what the expert’s telling you to do! Challenge it by all means, but there are times when we've got simple things, proven campaigns that we know work in specific sectors.
"This is what we did and this is what worked, so this is what we need to go with, and then you'll get pushback: “No, we want to change that bit and we don’t want to do that bit, but we want to do that bit”
"And I think that's one of the challenges, if you're going to spend money taking advice, then take the advice!"
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TRANSCRIPT - unedited
Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the humanized, the numbers podcast, series leaders, managers, and owners of ambitious accounting firms, sharing insights, successes, and issues that will challenge you and connect you and your firm to the ways and means of transforming your firms results
Jo Edwards: from, I have to be careful of imprison new clothes when it comes to marketing.
And I will always say to every firm that we operate with your today anyway, your, your best business should always come from referrals and referrals should make up at least 70 to 80% of the new client wins that you have. And those referrals should come from existing clients and your professional introducers.
And it's the work that you do. You know, we, those existing clients with those professional referrals as that will always [00:01:00] generate the best type of new business for you. I think the other challenges, you know, if you're buying the advice of an expert yeah. Then listen to what the experts telling you to do.
Don't find that challenge yet by all means. But that there are times when we've got simple things, proven campaigns that we know work in specific sectors. This is what we did, and this is what worked. So this need to go with, and then you'll get pushback when an N one, the change that bit. And we don't want to do that bit, but we want to do that there.
And I think that's, that is one of the challenges is if you're going, you know, if you're gonna spend money taken advice, then take.
Paul Shrimpling: How do you successfully grow your accountancy firm? Another way of asking that is how do you market your accountancy firms so that you win the sort of customers you really, really want?
Well, on this humanized, the [00:02:00] numbers podcast discussion with Joe Edwards of JE consulting. You'll hear Joe share her insights from working with in excess of 100 accounting firms on specifically marketing their firm. You'll hear Joe's crystal clear insight into what you could should most be doing to market your firm.
I hope you enjoy the value in this podcast and the practicality of this podcast. As much as.
Jo Edwards: Hi, my name's Joe Edwards. I'm a managing director and founder of, of J consulting. We were established in 1998 initially as a one of a consultancy firms who accountants looking to improve their marketing, but we've grown over that time into full service marketing agency.
We now employ 22 people or based in Sutton, Coldfield in the west Midlands. And we work at the moment with about 140 professional firms around the UK. There are some solicitors involved in that mix. About 20% of our client base are legal firms.[00:03:00] But the. The dominant number is, is the 80% of accountancy firms that we work with.
And they are anything from, you know, the small sole practitioner. Who's looking to build their practice and scale up to some, some large multi-office firms. And we've had clients who have been with us since we started. I will, this client joined in, in January, 1999, and then they're still here today.
And at the moment we're helping firms in lots of different ways, some with everything, with our outsource marketing department and for others we're complimenting their existing resources or filling a gap where they don't have the skills or expertise for, for example, their websites and their digital marketing et cetera.
So that's us
Paul Shrimpling: brilliant. So you work in within excessive or a hundred accounting firms as it all in the UK.
Jo Edwards: It is all in the UK. We have spent time with some of the international networks assisting them with their marketing, but yes, our [00:04:00] client basis in terms of accountancy pharmacy, certainly UK based,
Paul Shrimpling: So depth of knowledge, depth of experience.
And so see Nick got all the t-shirts bound sounds of it. So hopefully we'll be able to have a look at some of those t-shirts metaphorically as necessary discussion unfolds. But to begin with what, what, what, from your perspective, working with so many firms over so many years w w what do you think, what does humanize the numbers mean for you as a marketeer and the marketing team with, and for accountants?
Jo Edwards: I think when you say humanize the numbers, I think firms have to be careful of. Emperor's new clothes when it comes to marketing. And I will always say to every firm that we operate with your today anyway, your, your best business should always come from referrals and referrals should make up at all, least [00:05:00] 70 to 80% of the new client wins that you have, and those referrals should come from existing clients.
And your professional introducers. And it's the work that you do, you know, with those existing clients, with those professional referrals, as they will always generate the best type of new business for you. I think the, the extra 20% should come from different aspects of marketing, which could be traditional ways.
Attending exhibitions and running events, et cetera. And but by far the biggest contributor now to business that comes outside of referrals is the online business. So this is, this is firms generating work through you know, their digital marketing and it's starting to change the landscape. And particularly over the last 18 months, it's changed the landscape massively in terms of how firms, you know, when we made new business, for sure.
But it's not the holy grail of marketing by any means. And you know, focus should be [00:06:00] on the client because ultimately they're going to be your best generator of new work
Paul Shrimpling: in. My way, it sounds as though what you're saying is client care is the most important marketing tool in a firm. Not all the other marketing stuff that you could should be doing is if I heard
Jo Edwards: that, right.
I think it's a client care backed up by good marketing. And when I say good marketing, you know, first impressions count the, you know, the willingness of clients and other professional introducers to want to refer work to you isn't necessarily just about your service levels. It's all about the impression that you create in the market.
So. Client care includes communicating well with clients in a timely manner, and that isn't necessarily their tax return coming through the door. This is about regular, regular news, regular social content. You know, whichever medium is appropriate to the client that should form part of your marketing.
And similarly, the way in [00:07:00] which they can get in touch with you. You know, clients will move away from firms because it takes too long for somebody to get back to them. It takes too long to get an answer that answer's not explained well enough and you and, and marketing has to be a driver of, of, of your comms and the comms behind your client care
Paul Shrimpling: marketing has to be a driver of your comms will actually, whether you do a tax return on time as expected by the client, we're tying those two things together, or are we talking something.
Jo Edwards: No you're tying them together. Yes. You know a business or an individual will engage an accountant because they, they need a job doing. And an often that job is compliance led, you know, I need my, I need an audit. I need my accounts. Don't I need my tax return done fully, fully accept that. Yeah. I think that the comms that goes around that is the peace of mind that you give to that client, that the tax return you're giving to them has been [00:08:00] well thought through that they're getting the best tax planning advice they could possibly get, that you have considered, you know, the business that they're in.
And you've demonstrated that you understand that business. You've given them the right advice in terms of simple things, salary versus dividend, the way they should run their car, the way they should contribute to their pension. And it, so it's that peace of mind you know, wrapper around everything you're doing that marketing should be the biggest driver for.
Paul Shrimpling: So I love that phrase. It's the impression in the marketplace that you're from establish it. So if you look at a prospect is maybe talking to the firm or is considering talking to the firm, there may have been recommended by someone if 80% of the new works coming from referrals may have come via the website or an event or an, or whatever.
What you're saying is it's the way client by client, the each [00:09:00] individual in the firm works with each individual client. The human stuff is the thing that ultimately drives that impression in the marketplace and therefore the referrals and your ability to tell a story from a marketing point of view, that's of meaning of, I got a better
Jo Edwards: understood.
No, no, that's, that's, that's completely accurate. So what, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that your, your delivery and the way in which your client interacts with you builds this level of trust, and let's not hide away from the fact that, you know, you should be your client's most trusted advisor.
Yeah. That trust has to be built up. And it isn't just about delivering an accurate compliance service. It's it? It's everything else that surrounds that. And, and when you talk about humanizing the numbers, you know, that people, as we all know, people buy people at the end of the day [00:10:00] and the, and the trust that you build with that client can be supported by your marketing activity.
Paul Shrimpling: Brilliant. So your ability to deliver brilliantly for a client, which establishes peace of mind to use your very, very powerful phrase that comes from the way your tax return or audit or set of accounts is delivered by demonstrating a level of understanding and therefore builds confidence in the heart and mind of your customer.
That results in trust is supported by all your marketing messaging, which establishes the impression, the reputation in your region or your nation or whatever reference you want to use. That's just brilliant. So interesting. Isn't it? You, you, you're one of the, if not the expert in the marketing space, in the UK, my opinion in and around the lead generation work that you do, but what you're saying is it's [00:11:00] what your people do matters more than what you do, that results in the success of the first.
Jo Edwards: Yes. I, I, I would struggle to find, you know, I would struggle to find an, an accountancy firm, certainly that we work with where we don't put that at the top of the marketing list has to be. Yeah, because without that, everything else falls over. Hmm.
Paul Shrimpling: So you used the word supported the marketing has to support this reputation that you build in client, by client human, by human, for want of a better description.
So how's that done best is what I went, where I wanted to go, Joe. But before we get there, I'd like to understand what, what, what are the key challenges that you see in firms, whether they're a sole practitioner with a handful of team members, or they're a, you know, substantial firm, multi office with, you know, a hundred plus employees, what are the key challenges that get in the way of these firms doing a [00:12:00] good lead generation marketing impression, building job for the firm that supports the good work that they do.
Jo Edwards: I think the challenges, let's I mean, there were lots of them,
Paul Shrimpling: lots
Jo Edwards: of them. I think, okay, well th th th th there are, there are numerous challenges. One is I guess, budget at the end of the day, is this, how, how much of your, you know, hard-earned fee income, do you want to put back into your business to drive your marketing? So on average you know, most of the firms we work with will be around about 3% of fee income will go back into, into the marketing pot.
Now I always argue, it should be a bit more, but you might say, well, she would say that wouldn't she? Okay. I think that's one of the biggest challenges is, is there's a lot of firms where there will be partner director pushback from spending more than one or one and a half percent. And generally when you look at what that [00:13:00] practice needs to do to, to grow, to scale up to deliver, you know, and get themselves ready for new services or take a bunch of advisory services that that budgets can be limiting.
So that's a challenge. I also think you've got to have, you've got to have buy-in from, from everybody. If you're going to embrace marketing and make it work for you. And that's not just partners, you know, your, your senior team have got to be part of that. Buy-in because without that. Yeah, you can't deliver that, that, that perception, that awareness, that consideration that your potential clients need to have, you know, they need to be bought into the fact that they need to be part of the marketing process, that they need to embrace it, that they need to engage in it.
They need to contribute to it. And that can be, that could be a challenge because people are busy, you know, and, and marketing rocks at wanting to add more work, you know, to, to the current workload. So I get that. Those, I [00:14:00] think are the biggest challenges. I think once you've got over over those, and you bring in expertise where you need it and it doesn't, you know, I'm not saying again, you know, every firm needs you know, Joe Edwards or a marketing source or marketing agency now, but what skills do you have in-house and what do you need to compliment that.
I think once you, once you've got over that buy-in issue and the budget issue then it's, it's a case really of ensuring that marketing, I guess, feeds through everything that you do from, from how you win business, to how you onboard that client, to how you keep that client and retain that client. And how you get that client to refer more work to you.
It's got to filter through all aspects of, of that process.
Paul Shrimpling: I mean, you you've just described the Flovent, your lead gen lead lead generation lead conversion onboarding. And then how do you turn them into a client that recommends and refers you? Do you take [00:15:00] responsibility for that whole pathway, Joe? Or do you see your role very much in that?
No, no, no. We're a marketing company. So we're into lead generation. You sought your own lead conversion out.
Jo Edwards: Now I see our role being all aspects of that because one doesn't work without the other. Right. You know, we can generate as many leads as you want. That, that, that that's in a lot of ways, perhaps the easy job.
Yeah. But if they're not onboarded, well, they won't stay very long. If they're not looked after B, when they become a client and communicated with, well, they won't stay long. And if we're not, again, you come back to the, one of the challenges of, of what practices need to do. You have to get better asking for referrals.
Often clients don't even know that you're looking for more work. So marketing has to filter through to that. You know, sometimes training, sometimes marketing can do it. But ultimately you have to ask your clients,
Paul Shrimpling: Which is an uncomfortable conversation for accountants most of the time.
Jo Edwards: Yeah. I never quite, and I never quite understand why, [00:16:00] because if you just approach a client out of the blue and ask them three or four, well, that's a difficult conversation.
And one where the client will probably bulk. What, why are you asking, you know, what, why are you asking me that? But there's it, th th there are always spring boards that give you an in to ask for that referral, you know, and it isn't a client survey and it isn't you know, a message on your, on your emails necessarily.
It's, it's a simple thing by a client. A client pays you a compliment, for example. So if a client pays me a compliment, so that was that your team did a great job on that, Joe. Thanks very much. That's my springboard to say, well, thank you. And don't forget, you know, if you know of any of the practices that you think would help, would benefit from our help, remember to refer us.
Our business is built on referrals. Exactly the same way that an accountancy firm is, is, is built. And you, you have to find those springboards in your relationship with the client to ask the question at the [00:17:00] right time. So
Paul Shrimpling: a positive email or a comment in the conversation, then you call it springboard. I would call it a trigger, something triggers you, prompts you cues, you walk to pose the possibility.
And you've used the phrase. I thought the word a reminder, just, you know, I can't just remind you that, you know, we're looking to, we we'd love more clients that look just like you and clients that don't look like you as well for that matter. But, you know, we, it, so, you know, if you'd come across anyone or, you know, anyone who you think we should be speaking to but I love that, you know, the, the springboard.
So what are the springboards, do you see, or do you suggest accountants look out for other than the compliment piece, the, you know, testimonial piece on solicited? What, what are the springboard.
Jo Edwards: So the, the, there are lots. I mean, if you take a, I'll give you a couple of examples, you know, we're working with a firm at the moment.
That's, that's doing quite a lot of the R and D tax credits. And we went through a process with them of identifying [00:18:00] clients within their client base that maybe didn't appreciate or realize that they could qualify for R and D. And we did it for the very specific reason that they were, you know, their client bank was being approached by some of these most kind of spurious boutique outfits that were claiming they could claim R and D and ultimately ended up with an HMRC investigation on their doorstep.
So we decided to be a bit more proactive about it. And even the conversation about, let me explain what this is, let's look at what you're doing and whether you might qualify. Yeah. Even if it, even if it led to nothing for that particular client, because. After after review, even having that conversation with the clients about it at that point in time left, the client feeling loved, I guess, is a good word to put it.
You know, and, and, and it's led to referrals off the back of that. So I think that that's a simple example of let's be a bit more, you know, we all use the word proactive don't we? Well, [00:19:00] if, if, if we're going to say we're proactive, let's be proactive. But again, you know, if you've, if you've helped a client you know, plan, plan their tax well, and ultimately they've ended up with, you know, with a nice big tax saving.
That's a point at which I would ask for referrals. So sometimes even if they don't say thank you, when you've done a good job for a client, Force it almost. Yeah, yeah,
Paul Shrimpling: yeah. There's I do work in this space as well because there's the, you know, I think that the arguably and I'd like your view on this job, the, the peak experience from every customer's perspective of the accountancy firms they work with is the meetings, or are the meetings they have with the people from the firm, which is why the humanity piece is so important.
The human skills is so important and people call them soft skills. I feel like the hard skills for accountants, but that's me just blaming words. And it's almost for me, it's almost as if really every conversation could be a spring board from a [00:20:00] referral conversation. I think the reason accountants and I would argue quite rightly struggle is because accountants want to deliver for their client.
Whereas asking for a referral is taking something and, you know, it's there, they love giving and love less. Taking or asking and until maybe they can see that actually clients want to help you, you know, I think if can get, you know, we all, we all walk around, walk in and well whenever I ask a client to help us on something and we've just got this little little, it is a survey, but it's just a one question survey on something.
And we've got we've only has 12 firms and we've got nine responses, you know, they want to help. And I think sometimes that emotional trauma that they think is coming when they ask for a referral is just something that's going on in their heads as opposed to actually what's really happening.
Jo Edwards: Well, again, just on that, the interesting thing is [00:21:00] We've found some of our clients, they start asking that they'll use those springboards and those triggers, you know, to, to sort of get a bit, bit more proactive, asking for referrals. And they're surprised when the client says, well, I didn't think you wanted any more work.
I thought you were too busy. And how often does that? Yeah, well we, but what it, what a hope it reminds them all. This is you're, you know, you, you have to be careful what you say to people as well. You know, if you give the impression or your senior people give the impression to a client that you're too busy you know, so you don't respond quickly and therefore they say, well, how are you doing today?
Oh, I've got so much work to do you know that Prevents them from recommending because they don't think you want the word. I think that you're too busy and you have to be so careful, you know, I mean, th th the old phrase of I'm nice and busy, but I'm looking for more is still true today. I mean, I would, I would never say that to anybody I'm really busy, but I'm looking for more, I think what I would say to, but, you know, but you have to watch what you're saying, and you [00:22:00] have to watch what your team is saying that they don't give the wrong impression that
Paul Shrimpling: you've got too much work.
Yeah. And that's back to, you know, whether it be one-on-one conversation or in your marketing or on your website, or on some, if you're doing direct mail or social media, the impression is the one you want to create, not the one that happens by accident, and I'm too busy, can actually help you dry up your referrals and recommendations of high quality clients content.
Just to add to that piece, I'd, I'd throw in, I think one of the best springboards and triggers is the end of a conversation with the client. Yeah, after you've delivered Donnie deliver first. And you know, the science of influence says reciprocity is is, is one of the primary ways of influencing what's going on in in a relationship.
What I mean by that is everyone. This comes from Robert shield. And if anybody wants to research it, but he talks about Christmas cards. Once you get, when you get given a Christmas card by someone you weren't expecting one from you go, oh, I haven't done them one. I [00:23:00] bet. I bet. Well, I wonder if we've got one upstairs.
That's the pressure from the given the take but what children he points out is that pressure is only only lasts for a very short time window. And so when you do a good piece of work for somebody, whether they say good stuff back at you or not, there is an opportunity to go well, you know, just review the work in the conversation and go look, this, this is the sort of work we love.
Jo Edwards: And couldn't agree more.
Paul Shrimpling: We'd love to do more of this work, but we need more clients who want it like you do. And then all of a sudden that that's easy to do at the end of a conversation as just acknowledging that you've done a good piece of work. There's nothing wrong with that. The client will almost certainly agree with you as long as you've understood it interpreted the the conversation well enough, which most accountants do.
So the, literally the end of every conversation where a good piece of work has been done is an opportunity to act as a springboard or a trigger for those conversations. Completely marvelous, marvelous. [00:24:00] So challenges, budget, buy-in and overwork almost. I know you tied by in and, and, and, and, and work load together.
I would argue strongly that there the two separate book connected. So what are the keys to making it. Junkie, you know, more than most, because most firms only market there from new market marketing for a hundred plus firms. What are the keys to overcoming the challenges, budget buying an extra workload and what are the the, the key insights you've discovered over the years, that results in more high quality clients being
Jo Edwards: okay.
So I think th th th there's a, there's quite a lot to answer there, but let, let, let me, let me, let me break that down a little bit. So we've got, okay. So I'm going to assume at this point that we've got, you know, we, we we've got agreement on budget and we we've got some buy-in and we've overcome those challenges.
What you've got to think about now is, is within your marketing mix. Yeah. There isn't one magic wand, you know, you've got to do a bit of everything to make it [00:25:00] all come together. So you've got your digital marketing platform, you know, you've got Your your, your comms platform. And then you've got the work that you would do with your, your introduces and your networking.
And it's important to do, to make sure that the marketing mix focuses on those different channels, but but applies the right mix to that channel. So I'll give you an example here. Paul if one of your channels is we want, we want to win more clients. Okay. So that's fine. You've got to identify what type of client you want to win.
Who do you want first of all right. And also. I understand where you may have specialist skills, whether it's an industry sector or whether it's a specialist skill within the practice that will enable marketing to move [00:26:00] to be, to move more quickly. Because you're able to identify that niche, you're able to identify that service.
So that's the most important thing is who do we want as clients? And when you've established that, that, that avatar of who we want you can implement them the right marketing mix that will attract that type of client. Yeah. So, and that type of type of new client will then come through various channels.
They may come through your digital marketing. They may come through better referrals from within like-minded clients, within your practice or networking with introduces that also work with that type of client. Yeah. And it's getting that mix right. For the type of client that you want. I guess he's the success of a new client marketing.
Paul Shrimpling: Okay. So I get that. You need to be crystal clear on the type of clients you want to win. I tend to suggest they also need to know what the type of clients you absolutely don't want to win as well. You know, there's, [00:27:00] there's, there's a bit of that play. I don't know if you agree with that. How do you build this avatar in terms of, well, how do we get clarity on who would.
Sounds easy to say, I'm not having done it myself and you go, oh, what? Cause we've got to, you know, I've got the 50 something partner starting to look at their exit at some point in the not too distant future. And then we've got another avatar who is late twenties, early thirties might already be partner or the upcoming manager going to be a part.
And, and they've got different ambitions, different circumstances, young children that you'll, the partners got the, you know, people that have left. So we'd built that up, but it was it was a little bit like pulling teeth for a while, Joe. W what, what are your insights in terms of building that up in a robust way that it properly influences what you say and how you say it down?
Yeah. So I think
Jo Edwards: the thing is very mind is that most practices will have multiple avatars of the type of new client that they want. The easy answer from any practice would generally be, well, we want any business that turns over more than a million let's cap it at 20 million. That's our [00:28:00] ideal client.
Paul Shrimpling: Two arms in a
Jo Edwards: wallet, right? Yeah. Okay. So let's break that down a little bit. And I would have different camps. So if a firm wants more audit type business, so we're after the, the 10 million plus type businesses, there's a, you know, nice campaigns put together around that. You've got to make sure that your website reflects that you.
Have the right skills, et cetera, to deliver a good service. You've got to show some unique USP's. Now you might say, well, what's a USP on an audit. Well, often the approach to audit is a good USP. So demonstrate your approach toward it. And you can do that through your website. You can do that through your email marketing.
You can do that through social content. A good database and then different methods of marketing. So that, that, that particular channel. So that could be one avatar, which is quite specific. And if you take where that is today, for example, there's a lot of [00:29:00] businesses out there that are a small fish in a big pond with top 20 or top 50 firms, and are probably unhappy with the fee they're paying are probably unhappy with some of the service levels that they're getting.
So is that a target rich environment for you to go and market your audit service? But it probably is with the bright marketing materials and the right campaign to do it. So that could be one avatar. Your second avatar might be you know, you've got some great skills in-house with your properties. Yeah.
So an avatar would be, you know, is it a, a buy-to-let landlord? We want property, or are we looking for property developers or we're looking for property investors. And then you look at how you pull your marketing campaign together to meet the needs of the avatar, which were very different to how you approach a potential audit client.
Yeah. So to me, that's that's stage one of any marketing plan is let's identify those groups of clients that we want to [00:30:00] win as clients. And then you look at the most appropriate marketing activity to make those prospects aware of who you are. So then move them onto considering you as an credible alternative.
And then into the final part of the funnel, which she's talked to me,
Paul Shrimpling: aversion. Brilliant. So can affirm up to many advertisers then, Joe, what do you think.
Jo Edwards: Hmm, good question. Yes. Yes. They can have too many industry sectors. I despair sometimes when I go onto websites and it says, you know, we ask specialisms and there's a whole list. That's got 50 different industry sectors on there. Yeah. You know, if your specialism is owner managed businesses, Say its owner managed businesses.
Don't break it down into 40 different industry sectors. Yeah. But what you want to make sure is that your proof statements, case studies, success stories that you demonstrate on your, on your website and in your, in your marketing are reflective of owner managed businesses. And it doesn't [00:31:00] matter if they're in engineering or they're in tech or they're in.
You know, construction, if they're an owner managed business and that's the type of client you want, let them talk to you in their proof statements with you as an owner managed business from that angle rather than on the construction or manufacturing.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Give it the OMB twist, not the engineering twist or architect twist or the right property twist or the recruitment twist.
Yeah. So now delve into an area of specifics you talk about, you need to be seen as a credible alternative to their incumbent accountant. So they've got a relationship with his accountant over several years. I've had many meetings with that accountant over several years and your marketing's got to cut through the clutter now.
Okay. The chances are, they're only going to move if they're unhappy or disappointed by their existing provider, or do you think marketing can actually. Help affirm when a prospect that actually is feeling okay about their existing accountant. What are your [00:32:00] thoughts on that?
Jo Edwards: I it's, it's all feasible.
But it's how you make that prospect aware of who you are first of all, and build that credibility. So I'll just take my property client as an example if they become aware of you because you've got a great profile and that profile could be you're, you're in the press, you're in the industry press, you're speaking at the regional meeting of the resident, landlords association or association of money.
W w yeah, it it's about, I come back to this, making yourself slightly famous sector. That way, you'll start to position yourself as, as the credible alternative. But what you then got to do is make them question the relationship they have. Am I getting the best tax advice? Is this firm really on top of all of [00:33:00] the, you know, changes that will affect, you know, my, I say my it's not necessarily my compliance position.
It could be, you know, whether my business grows, whether you know, and by doing that and by making yourself slightly famous in that sector, you make yourself a credible alternative. So this comes down to. Awareness and people being, or business owners being aware of who you are and what you've done for other businesses that they may not be getting from their current firm.
They might be, they might be, you know, happy with their accountant, but what, they don't know that you've got to try and get in front
Paul Shrimpling: of them. That's marvelous. So it's if I've heard you, right, it's in what you say, it's how you get seen, or you could twist that and go where you get seen, whether it be, you know, that that's relevant to your avatar relevant to your target customer.
And then how you build credibility in that space on, in that location or that channel. [00:34:00] And then that establishes who you are in that space, which. And then your job is to help them question. And I've used the phrase status quo. You've got to help, whether they're happy or unhappy with their existing accountant.
If you can't get to a place where you challenging their status quo, then they ain't going to move any way, whether they're happy or unhappy. And so that's back to yes. Your credibility, but yes, you posing something they don't know already. I think that's what you were suggesting is
Jo Edwards: correct. Yeah, absolutely.
Absolutely. Correct. It's it's, it's honing in on the yeah, but what I call it, it's a little bit, it's not, not fear uncertainty and doubt, but it's a little bit of doubt. Yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: Yes. And you've got to maintain that trusted advisor status with that avenue. You can't, you can't be seen to be you know, like insurance companies or if you've just been run over without you that's, that's not maintaining trusted advisor status.
And it's interesting what you just said around this challenging, the status quo, [00:35:00] but then building credibility in this space that you, you will find your avatars, your ideal customers is backed up by quite a lumpy piece of research by Forrester. And they say, you know, the, the number one challenge you're facing in winning new high value clients in a complex sale environment is not you competent.
It's their fixation with the status quo. They're happy as they are inertia. I don't, you know, I'm not sure we will, or we'll wait. And only if your ability to a prove yourself as credible and B also share something that they don't know about that might influence their business substantially is where you all of a sudden can shift them so that the status quo doesn't look as safe as it did before.
And they end up being a better customer, a
Jo Edwards: new customer. Yeah, absolutely. Right. And the second part of that is you've got to make it easy for them to change. You know, you've got, you've got to demonstrate to them at a very early stage in the process that the, that they can [00:36:00] move to easy that it, it easily that it is an easy switch that the onboarding process, you know, isn't complicated.
Isn't hassle. You've got to take that away from them. And that's why I think Yeah, the onboarding of a potential new client is as important as actually getting them to say, wow, I'd like, I'd like to switch.
Paul Shrimpling: I mean, it's not uncommon, Joe, for me to have a non-boarding conversation with the firms that we work with and they roll their eyes because it's such a Slow painful pain in the neck process for the firm and ultimately therefore the customer as well.
But what you're saying is that you, you, you need to make that look like you just, you know,
Jo Edwards: oh yeah, yeah. I mean even simple things like you know, well put together a welcome pack for that client. You know, this is what's going to happen. This is who your team are. Th this is the process we'll go through, you know, and, and you just [00:37:00] make it easy for them.
Yeah. And, and we've, you know, we've seen hard work going into potentially winning a new client to lose them because the onboarding is slow or complicated or. Hassled. You've got to get hassle away from
Paul Shrimpling: them. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's that make it as easy as, as, as possible. And you, you point to the, what I call a pathway, you know, a new client needs to see the, the, the stepping stones across the stream.
And if you paint that really clearly and so that, and they can see that it's easy. What I find interesting about what you just said is you need to make them aware of that in the early stages of the discussion. As opposed to the onboarding stage, but make sure that the onboarding stage fulfills what you've promised in terms of the ease of the onboarding.
Otherwise you've established an expectation and delivered down here and there'll be miserable and it'll all go horribly wrong.
Jo Edwards: Absolutely. Right. Yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: Amazing. [00:38:00] So we've got this we've owned the budget. W what, what do you do to challenge firms? If they're fixated with 1% of one and a half percent of budget, Joe, what's the what's the piece of information that are missing?
Are they missing in order for them to go? No, no. Now we need to spend more on marketing.
Jo Edwards: I think if that's the challenge initially what we have to do is deliver some quick wins, right? Yep. So I think if you can, if you can prove. That it works. Yeah. Okay. Now it might not be, you know, they're in their marketing plan might not be in its full glory as it, as it could be, you know, a marketing plan a marketing activity evolves over time.
Nothing's set in stone. You have to keep changing things all the time dependent on, you know, but I think the way that w if we've got that as a, as a kind of major obstacle is to, is to show that it works. Yeah. And often I will say to firms, well, you know, give me, give me an avatar. Yep. And let me show you what [00:39:00] marketing can do in that space right now, they might need to give me three months or six months to deliver.
Yeah. But we w we'll say to them right. At the very outset, you know, our focus is that group. Yeah. That's what we're, and this is what we need to do to be able to deliver on that group. And often. A quick win like that, where you can clearly demonstrate that the process works. Yeah. It means that we can convince the, if, you know, if you spread that through everything now from the winning of a client to the onboarding to the continual, you know delivery to referral I'll get the buy-in at that
Paul Shrimpling: point.
It's like when you, when you're driving a car or you're buying a car, rather, you take it for a test drive. What you said, what you're saying is you will, let's let's test drive this for a few months and we'll see at work. And I think just to build on [00:40:00] your, the, the, the powerful point about, you've got to build your credibility in the space in which your avatar, your ideal clients are actually living.
There is, and this comes from w w you know, we do these business breakthrough reports and we've, we've got a couple in this proof space build your, your, your body of evidence. And they talk about, there's a number of different types of proof. One of them is vicarious proof. What, what are other people saying about you?
Yeah. And that can be quite powerful as long as it's relevant to your avatar. And then there's another type of proof as well. You've test driven it. You can see that it works. And I think that applies to you and, you know, J consulting just as it does to Paul and ductless it remarkable practice just as it does to every accountant that listens to this podcast.
And I was thinking, Ooh, what do you do? What can you do with the prospect to get them to a place where they test drive you? I think that could cut back and work brilliantly, especially around something like management accounts, for example, you know, let's do a set and have a conversation about it, or let's, you know, there's there's ways and means of winning really hard.
Quality interesting client work. If [00:41:00] you approach it with a not just a vicarious body of proof, but what you're doing, which is, well, let's do, you know, stay with your accountant, but let's do a set of management accounts just on so you can see how we work together. I had a conversation this morning about someone who's just bought a business, but before he bought the business, he worked in it for three months.
Jo Edwards: interesting as an employee, you as
Paul Shrimpling: paid, it's like, that's brilliant. What a great way of doing due diligence is what the accountants would refer to it. But it's the test drive, I think that's that's, that's brilliant. Really good. So, Joe, what what differentiates the clients that you work with that.
Brilliant at putting you in your team to work and getting brilliant results, as opposed to those who are less brilliant or stutter and stall and, and, and don't quite crack it as well. What is, what are the distinctions, the one or two distinctions that I'm point to the fact that actually, I know you do good work because you work with one or two of my clients.
But it's actually what the client does as much as what you do that actually really matters. So I'm looking for the, what are the, you [00:42:00] know, one or two or possibly three key insights that differentiate the highly successful firms when it comes to lead generation conversion, onboarding and and, and winning new work from referrals from those clients as opposed to the also Rams.
Jo Edwards: Okay. So again, I think there's a number of responses there. One is sometimes, sometimes we can get stalled because it's because things are not being. Approved signed off, you know, I mean, the thing with any, any marketing agency that you work with you know, they're going to produce stuff for you, content, whatever that might be.
If that gets locked into you know, a three week turnaround cycle, you know, often you've missed the window, you've missed the boat. So I think firms have to be nimble enough to, if they're going to work with a marketing agency and wants to see results, they've got to be, you know, that they've got to be ready to be agile with that marketing agency to, to, to get stuff signed off.
I think that the, the other challenges, you know, if you're buying [00:43:00] the advice of an expert yeah. Then listen to what the experts telling you to do. Don't fight, you know, the challenge challenge it by all means, but there are times when we've had. Simple things, proven campaigns that we know work in specific sectors.
Yeah. And I think that's one of the benefits of, of the ad clients will say to us as well, you know, you've, you've run that campaign for property investors up in the Northwest work, just as well for us down in the Southwest. And the answer to that is probably, yes, this is what we did, and this is what worked.
So this need to go with, and then you'll get pushback one on one, the change that bit. And we don't want to do that bit, but we want to do that there. And I think that that is one of the challenges is if you're going, you know, if you're gonna spend money taken advice, then take the
Paul Shrimpling: advice, trust the process, trust the knowledge, just the insight.
Trust the experience. Yeah. [00:44:00] So that's one, what would be another.
Jo Edwards: Often things require our clients to get out of their comfort zone. And that can be a challenge. You know, a simple thing like doing a podcast or running a webinar or making a networking event really work for you, take some people really outside their comfort zone.
And I mean, we will always play to the strengths of the client. You know, we'll look for the, for the hunter versus the farmer within the practice and, you know, and, and recognize that, you know, sometimes other skills are better placed in different parts of the marketing activity. But I think generally, you know, when you're in a fee generating role within the business, you've got to get outside your comfort zone.
And if you don't like presenting on webinars, then you've got to, you know, you've got to, you've got to learn how to do. You know, you've got to be you know, you've, you've, you've got to be able to handle a [00:45:00] networking environment while you've got to be able to potentially, you know, I'll go back to my property tax.
You know, if we've got your pitch at the regional meeting of the national landlords association, you've got to rock up and deliver that presentation. I can't do it for you. I'm not the tax expert. So I think, you know, getting outside the comfort zone can be a challenge occasionally.
Paul Shrimpling: And, and I think my experiences tied to yours to some degree in that the, the fact that all I've got a workload that can sometimes feel overwhelming.
They you know, they accountants go to the stuff that needs to be done as opposed to the stuff that we want to do. Cause it will improve the future. And then sometimes that can side track the willingness to go. I might not be comfortable about going on camera or going on a Mike. No, I'm really busy and that's so if actually, you know, it trips them up on the way to the success, but how, how important is this video podcast webinar piece?
I've got a question [00:46:00] around, you know, what's coming, what trends are we experienced now that are going to get stronger, Joe? And my sense is that you can't avoid video and you can't avoid audio as a media, a medium in which to communicate your message. What, what, what are your thoughts on that?
Jo Edwards: I agree with you completely.
I mean, you know, the. I don't want to sort of say, oh, you're, COVID changed everything. It hasn't. But to a certain extent, it has helped people get out of their comfort zone because they've gone to do video calls and so on. But I think, you know, don't underestimate that when you put content out, the chances of people engaging with that content are increased 10 fold.
If it's video content, audio content versus a static text. Piece and certainly social presence is important. Digital presence is important, and if you want to see that, what's your
Paul Shrimpling: differentiation there, Joe, between digital presence and social presence. What's the nuance there. I haven't quite got there
Jo Edwards: yet.
So digital presence will be, you know, your websites, your email marketing, [00:47:00] your, you know, your, your organic positioning with Google, your Google reviews, your what? Yeah. Your social presence is w w your social platform, presence, you know content that you're putting out on, on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook, or wherever your audiences and you're spending time developing content.
That content has to be engaging and text based content is not going to be anywhere near, as engaging as video or audio animated content will be. So and I think that's, you know, a big driver of, of, of how we deliver. Communications out to our clients and our prospective clients is, you know, we can no longer afford to be, you know, purely.
Paul Shrimpling: Yes. And, and we see it, you know, we I've sort of stuttered installed with video or was start doing, installing with it a couple of three years ago. And then one of my outside well, non-exec advisor said, look, you, you can't, you can't not do this. You can't [00:48:00] just test one for me, test drive. You either just do a video and get it on LinkedIn and then stick the same content as text.
And which is what we did. And we got five times as many views of the videos we did from the text. And since then we've gone, right. Lesson learned let's let's make sure we got 92nd video content pieces going upon LinkedIn, as opposed to. Written posts and we still do the odd written passport anywhere between five times and 10 times difference in response.
It's, it's just so blatantly obvious as to you know, get into now whether we get into the right people or not, that's hard to assess from from LinkedIn, but, you know, I got a message about this podcast, not this broadcast, but a previous podcast yesterday on LinkedIn from, you know, the managing partner of a substantial regional firm.
And you go ha ha. You know, that, that doesn't happen with the piece of text. That's never happened with the pit. Well, very rarely happened to the piece of text. So I agree with you wholeheartedly. Thank you very much. Any other key trends that you think are gonna have. You know, things that are coming or things that we're living with at the moment that [00:49:00] are influencing the marketing space for
Jo Edwards: accountants.
Yeah. I think the way that, that people get in touch with you is to really consider, so you know, WhatsApp has changed. I'm sure we all use WhatsApp, but WhatsApp for business. You know, it makes it easy for people to message you rather than email you or call you. You know, we're starting to see lots of our clients now embracing live chat on their website, and there are lots of different ways of doing that.
Whether you, you know, you use a provider that can manage for you or whether you do it in house or however clients putting up you know, exclusive areas online, purely for their clients, a client portal. Now it's been around for a while. You know, the secure document exchange, but we're starting to see firms now that are turning their client portals into fully fledged e-commerce hopes.
It's a place that you go to by training. Anything from a good record, keeping book, a workshop online to how to get better use out of zero and how to use decks and, you know, so they're [00:50:00] using them as fully fledged e-commerce sites and exclusively for their clients. So, you know I think there are lots of various digital trends coming in and, and I never underestimate the impact of reviews.
You know, not just for the fact that would I choose an accountant because they. 20 reviews versus the one that's got five a might if I'm shopping around, but ultimately these reviews make a difference now as to whether you actually show up on page one. So this is Google review. I am sorry. Yeah, Google reviews, but Google will also rank you for your social presence.
You know, so if you want your, if you want to show up on a web search for accountants Doncaster, you need the reviews. You need good optimization, but you also need to have a good social media presence because Google won't rank you unless you've got all of those things in place. So
Paul Shrimpling: it's back to your point earlier, isn't it about?
It's not just one channel, it's just not one part of marketing. You've got to do bits. [00:51:00] Well in all the key channel channels that are relevant to your ideal client or your avatar as user, you
Jo Edwards: described. So, if I'm searching, I'll go back to my property tax again. You know, if I'm searching for a property tax specialist, Doncaster, you know, are you showing up on page one?
Well, it may be that you've got a bit of work to do there. But it comes down to, you've got to make these people aware that you exist.
Paul Shrimpling: Brilliant, brilliant. So one last question. So I'm just going back to the challenges we touched on earlier, and we talked about budget buy in and workload, and it sounds as though you've got a marketing stroke selling job to do on the firms that are interested in marketing.
And you've got to convince them to make it a bigger priority within their firm. What's your, what's your pitch for that, Joe? What is it? That's the, well, why, why, why, why make marketing more important than it is already? We got in a funnel flight.
Jo Edwards: I think if I'm trying to convince the firm that they need to do.
Marketing. Yeah, it's a question of why do [00:52:00] they think they need to do marketing in the first place? So is it, is it if it's just a case of what we need to win more clients? Okay. What I would say to any firm is that's, that's, that's one aspect of where marketing should deliver for you. I'll come back to what I said right at the beginning, Paul, about, you know, how do you humanize the numbers?
I would suggest that any firm talks to, you know, our clients to say, does it work? What results has it given you? What differences it made to the way that you do business? And I I'll come back to using our own proof statements as a way of convincing people that they should consider. Marketing.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. I think also in that space, as well as there's the quality of clients you win, not just the quantity.
I know we've not touched on that particularly, but because we've been talking about avatars and your idea of clients by definition, we are. And I think if, if, and when you get your marketing, right, you start to win more ideal clients and less non-ideal clients. And as a consequence, you've [00:53:00] changed the feel of your firm over time.
It gets no quick fix there's nothing is any quick fix. There are no silver bullets allergies. You know, you mentioned that earlier. It's about hard work and marketing is it is hard work. It
Jo Edwards: is. And I think as a firm, you have to decide what level of marketing do we want, you know, do we just want a consultants come in and tell us what we need to do and then we'll get on and do it.
Or do you actually need somebody that will come in and say, right, this is the right strategy for the firm. And here's a team of people that can deliver it. They'll do the cut. They write the content, they'll handle the social media platforms. They'll deliver the website. They'll make sure you're on page one, they'll research, the right you know groups that you should be speaking at or networking out that they'll manage your professional, the comms to your professional.
And I think that, that that's the difference is. I don't think there's any foam would, would say, we don't need to do marketing, but it's what level they need that
Paul Shrimpling: yeah. That suits you, your firm and your vision and future of the firm. I think as well, isn't there because of this. You know, if you've got a crystal clear vision as to where you're [00:54:00] taking the firm, then you've got at some point go, right.
Well, how is marketing going to help us get there? Yeah, exactly. As opposed to just stuttering, installing, getting there by accident one one's faster than the other. I don't think if you get the marketing. Right. And if there's one of the thing that stands out for me, Joe, is that, yes, you've got to get clarity over who you want to work with.
So I just talk about lists, you know, who do you want to work with? And therefore you can build a database if you know, crystal clear who you're looking for, and then we're into the, the words or the videos of that actually communicate your offer. And then make. Really sure that you deliver it down the channels and you know, the sermon, if we're just building out our new website at the moment around our core message, humanize the numbers and the vision we've got for our business.
And it it requires people investment in time. Now whether that's internally or with, you know, business like yours and it's part of the mix, it is use your word again, that mix it's part of what delivers the vision of your business, of everything we covered. Joe, what, what one thing stood out for you [00:55:00] in this conversation that is of real value to you, do you think?
And JE I know that's a bit of an odd question, but I just wonder, because you've just told us your story and what you know, but if, if, if everything we've covered, what, what, what stood out for you today in this discussion? I
Jo Edwards: think sometimes you can get a bit lost in the need to generate new work. And, you know, the clients put pressure for lead generation.
And I think one of the things that reminded myself today is that you know, your best business will come from what you do with the clients that you work with at the moment. Yeah, you can win online clients. No doubt about it. Yet there's businesses that are shopping around and looking, you know, but if you, if you want that shore thing of the quality that you want is the time that you spend with your clients that will make the difference and what you do with them.
That's re you know, it's a, been a reminder today that that's so important. [00:56:00]
Paul Shrimpling: Brilliant. And it's, you know, that's the the space that often gets lost. Like you say you've got this client bank of whether it's 10 or 50 or a hundred or a thousand or 5,000 clients. There are so much more work in there and use your marketing and use your client approach to to, to, to make the most of that.
And you know, you back to what's the video content that's making the most out of your messaging. That creates a right impression that gives your existing customers. The confidence to take the next step with you on another level of service. Absolutely. Joe, this has been a joy. I really appreciate you taking time out and sharing some really deep insights into a successful marketing of accounting firms.
Thank you very,
Jo Edwards: very much. We enjoyed it, Paul. Thank you very much for inviting me.
Paul Shrimpling: you'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders of ambitious accounting firms [00:57:00] at humanized, the numbers.online. You can also sign up to be notified each time a new podcast is made available this podcast series humanized. The numbers has been made possible. Thanks to the support of our sponsors.
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Marketing requires customer care
Where do you firms fall down in lead generation?
There is no magic wand
Prove marketing is worth it
The difference between businesses who are successful at winning clients and those that are not
Upcoming trends/What tools are worth your time?
Convince a firm that good marketing is important
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During their conversation Jo and Paul talk about how to get a prospect to choose your firm, how do you make a prospect aware of who you are and how to build your credibility by making yourself slightly famous.
This Bitesize Business Breakthrough features great stories about Richard Davies, who went to great lengths to prove the credibility of his Kevlar vest and Elisha Otis who cut his own rope to prove his lifts worked.
Click the link below to read this report and discover that more credibility means more trust, more trust means more buyers buying more from your firm.
During their conversation Jo and Paul talk about the importance of comminucating your value to your prospects by challenging their status quo and posing something to them that they don't already know.
Click the link below to discover that your success is determined by your ability to communicate your firm's value to your clients and prospects and it’s your client conversations that dictate the value your clients see and experience.
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