One of the key drivers for the future success of your accounting firm is your ability to win new high value clients, new high value work for new clients, as well as certainly cross selling additional services to your existing clients.
Well on this Humanise The Numbers podcast discussion with Jenny Sparks of Cedar and Co in Derby, you'll hear Jenny share her insights from working as a marketeer in a top 10 firm, and then her experiences more recently of working in a smaller sole practitioner firm and what's needed, what's necessary to generate a flow of high quality, high value leads into the firm. Jenny states that in the last 18 months they've identified and won more new client work than they have done in the previous six years.
So she's got some real experience in terms of what works and she signposts the little things, the important things that ensure that Cedar and Co continue to win new, valuable clients that they love and that they like working with.
So why not join Jenny and I on this Humanise The Numbers podcast discussion and work out which one or two things you can take from it and apply to your firm, so that you can bring greater confidence and greater certainty to winning new high value clients for the future of your firm.
It's taking the time to stop and it not just be about the numbers and to take the time to look at what's going on in the company.
We can log onto their Xero or QuickBooks and see what's going through in terms of the numbers, but why is that happening and then getting them to pick up the phone and talk to the client.
I don't know that we have affected that yet, we’re still working on that, but our Business Services Manager and Neil, the Owner are picking up the phone and not necessarily even to talking about the business.
“Hey, Paul, how's your week been?”
During the pandemic we talked to our clients, we were in constant contact with people, we were sending out regular emails and picking up the phone, asking:
“What's going on? How can we help you? How can we help you apply for that loan?”
“What do you need in your business? Do you need a forecast? What do you need us to do to support you to get through this time?
And all of a sudden all of these other companies had been speaking to their friends or colleagues, and saying,
“Well actually, our Accountant doesn't do that, I've got no idea what I'm doing”.
So, we took on in the past year and a half more clients than we've taken on in the six years I've worked at Cedar.
Connect with Jenny
Connect with Paul
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.
Jenny Sparks: It's taking the time. To, to stop and it not just be about the numbers, you know and to take, take the time to look at what's going on in the company, you know, we, we can log onto their Xero or QuickBooks or what have you.
We can see what's going through in terms of the numbers, but, okay. Why is that happening? And then getting them to pick up the phone. And taught to the client. And I don't, I don't know that we factored [00:01:00] that yet. I think we're still, we're still working on that. But you know, our business services manager and Neil, the owner you know, picking up the phone and not necessarily even to talk about the business.
Hey, Paul, how's your week been during the pandemic? You know, we talked to our clients, we talked to we were in constant contact with people. We were sending out regular emails and picking up the phone and what's going on? How can we help you? How can we help you? Apply for that loan or, you know, what do you need in your business?
Do you need a forecast? Do you need, you know, what do you need us to do to support you to get through this time? And you know, all of a sudden [00:02:00] it was all of these other companies had been speaking to their friends or colleagues, or what have you and said. Well, actually our accountant doesn't do that.
You know, we've, I've got no idea what I'm doing. So we took on in the past year and a half more clients than we've taken on in the six years I've worked at Cedar. And
Paul Shrimpling: the future of your accounts affirmed depends partly on your ability to win new high value clients. So, how do you set about doing that in an across your firm?
Well, this podcast discussion with Jennifer Sparks of Cedar and Cohen Darby, you'll hear Jennifer, Jenny talk about her experiences in a top 10 firm. Marketing person and in a small sole practitioner firm as a marketing person and how those two roles differ, but actually, what is it that works in generating new clients for [00:03:00] both those firms?
So let's go to that discussion with Jenny now.
Jenny Sparks: Hi, my name is Jennifer Sparks and I worked see during code. We're based in Darby and we we're a small team. We have one partner and the team of about 10 employees. And about 500 clients. My role within the company is I'm the business development and marketing executive.
And I came from a big firm. Multi-national 10 top 10 accountancy firm. And I came to Cedar and co about six years ago. And. It's very different working for a small company. But I love being able to get to know the clients get stuck in there and do a whole range of things that, that I didn't do while working for a big company.
And it gives a lot of flexibility. Yeah. As a wife, mother of [00:04:00] two running around. I have a lot more flexibility now. Yes. So,
Paul Shrimpling: so it it's brilliant that you've, you've, you've agreed to be with us today, Jenny, because you know, having that two very different perspectives, large firms, small firms. With a marketing bias means you you've got insights that you might take for granted book, people listening into this won't necessarily you know, have what you've got.
So to kick off with, and you might do a compare and contrast between the two firms actually, in terms of what is it that humanized the numbers means to you as a marketer in Cedar and co and in your previous firm?
Jenny Sparks: I think for me and specifically at Cedar and Cedar and co has allowed me to, to get stuck in there with the clients to have to get to know the clients, to get to know their businesses, to get to, to know the people on a closer level, you know, to. Top [00:05:00] 10 firm of accountants. They were a number.
They were as a marketing person, you know, we were working at a very high level and it was very different. Whereas now we, we get to know the clients On a one-to-one basis, you know, we know, we know what's going on in their families. We know, you know, we send out birthday cards, anniversary cards, you know, we know what's going on with their businesses.
We know what their struggles are and, and, and what affects them on a day to day basis.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. There's people in the larger firm that you were working in, who had that relationship, it's just you in marketing, didn't have that relationship because. Correct. So as, as a marketer then w w w how has that helped you market Cedar and co better than maybe you did at the larger firm?
Because you've got that intimate knowledge of you, your clients.
Jenny Sparks: I think at the larger firm, it was [00:06:00] all about brand and image. And, you know, it was, things had to be a certain color. Things had to be done in a certain way. But now we're more focused. On the client and what they need and what affects them and making things more relatable for them.
Because we actually, I, as a marketer in my position, I'm not working at a generic. Level, I'm working at a more specific level knowing what's going on in an owner managed business. And especially in the past 18 months. Yeah, yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. I just, I was listening to a podcast this morning, the high-performance podcast with Jake and Damian, which is as a business leader is a really, really good one to listen to.
And this morning they were talking to the founder of woop, which is a it's a bit of a body tech that tells you how well you [00:07:00] sleep. You know, you recover your rate from exercise and all of that. And you know, when he was 24, he was running a multi-million. Dollar business with 2014 members, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, the business that he's running in these, in his third, early thirties, now it's worth 3.6 billion, this thing. But he was saying that it's understanding the challenge important. That the client, the customer is experiencing. He obsessed about that challenge, not setting the business up, being an entrepreneur.
He was obsessing about the difficulty of the client was experiencing. It sounds as though you're more connected to that now than you were as a marketer in a larger firm. Do you want to run us through how that's played out for you and how it's influenced the sort of work you do to market Cedar and code?
Jenny Sparks: I think. We have a an especially at Cedar and we've kind of, it's taken awhile to get to that [00:08:00] point. And we're sort of working through right now what our ideal client is, what we're looking for in a client. And.
Getting being very specific in the type of client that we're looking for, that we know that we can help, that we know that we will be able to, to help reach their goals and, and that kind of thing. Right. And so right now, we've we've gone through a process of figuring out. Who our ideal client is of what sort of client we want, the types of the types of people that we are willing to work with and having the confidence to.
To not work with some that were on,
Paul Shrimpling: that's not easy. Is it? [00:09:00] That's the it's one thing to be clear on your ideal client and another thing to be clear on who you absolutely do. Not work, want to work. And then having the guts to stick to that which is the hard bit, I guess. So how did you, what prostitutes, what process did you go through?
How exactly did you work out as a team or if it was you alone, who the ideal client is for Cedar and co? What, what, you know, what questions did you ask? How, how have you, how did you make that work?
Jenny Sparks: We spent some time as a team thinking about who our best clients are and the types of traits that they had.
So, you know, owner managed businesses with. A certain turnover and that are on the cloud and that are responsive and that want to grow. And that wants multiple service lines. [00:10:00] And, you know, we looked at who our current ideal client is and thought that's the type of client that we want more of.
Paul Shrimpling: And it's and it's sounds blatantly obvious, doesn't it?
But it is you've already got one or two or three or four or more ideal clients, or really you want to do is replicate what you've already got in some way, shape or form. So what about the flip side to this is who do we absolutely not want to work with?
Jenny Sparks: You know, we all have those clients. I have a pain in the backside,
but you know, cause more trouble than they're worth the, you know, constantly on the phone or on the flip side are completely unresponsive and come in a week before the deadline with a big carrier bag full of receipts, CNO. And we don't have the time for [00:11:00] that anymore. We want clients that we can help grow, that we can help take to the next level that we can work closely with and help them.
Figure out what, what they want, you know, and that we can take on a journey. So, so yes, startup all the way through to exit planning.
Paul Shrimpling: But what's interesting is probably every farmer that's listening to this or. Yes. Owner-managed businesses. Yes. Revenue over each, from each account for multi-user and figure on that one.
Yes. On cloud. Yes. Responsive yes, multiple services. So it sounds like you're looking for exactly the same client is really everybody else wants. What, how, how do you then work at Cedar and co to set about demonstrating that Cedar and Koa worthy of those clients? Probably more worthy than. Well, the firm's in [00:12:00] Darby or Darvish or for that matter.
How do you set about doing that? How do you, how do you set about distinguishing Cedar and co from everybody else?
Jenny Sparks: I think it's creating a relationship with them. And a lot of that, a lot of our clients honestly comes through referrals. So the clients that we already have that are our ideal clients.
Yeah. It's who do you know who, who is in a similar situation and honestly, the past 18 months we've had our best tie or our best year
Paul Shrimpling: yet identifying and winning referrals. Yes. So what do you put that down to then, Jenny?
Jenny Sparks: Because during the pandemic. You know, we talked to our clients, we talked to we were in constant contact with people.
We were [00:13:00] sending out regular emails and picking up the phone and what's going on? How can we help you? How can we help you? Apply for that loan or, you know, what do you need in your business? Do you need a forecast? Do you need, you know, what do you need us to do to support you to get through this time? And you know, all of a sudden it was all of these other companies had been speaking to their friends or colleagues, or what have you and said.
Well, actually our accountant doesn't do that. You know, we've, I've got no idea what I'm doing. So we took on in the past year and a half more clients than we've taken on in the six years I've worked at Cedar. And so it was a very busy time, really
Paul Shrimpling: busy. And what you're saying got, [00:14:00] got this right.
Is that. Volume and the value of the contact with your existing clients has driven more conversations by those clients, with their friends, family, or the people that they know in business, which has resulted in you winning. Again, the fact that you've won more clients in the last 18 months and you had in the previous six years, that's a, that's a big flip unless you weren't winning anything.
Yeah. Because you're demonstrating genuine care. So what you're saying is you distinguishing Cedar and cope from your competition with this Norwegian genuinely care. No. I know you do. I just put a marker in the ground. I'm a client of Cedar and coach. So, which is why partly I wanted you on the, on the, on the podcast.
So I know that Neil and you and Catherine, and, you know, the P everyone I've interacted with, they've got a, you know, genuine care for what we're doing as a business. So I see that. But again, there's someone in every, from Jenny who genuinely cares [00:15:00] about the client. And I'm just wondering, well, is that really a competitive edge, a competitive advantage?
I mean, your results suggest that there are some firms who they may care, but they're not doing the hard work of the client contact, maybe. I'm just wondering what, what, what is, what is it again that within that that enables you to distinct. And markets Cedar and cope better going. I want to get onto that rather than the just declined care.
What is it? What are the physical things you're doing to promote the firm? We'll get to that in a minute, but within this client care space, how come every firm will say, yeah, yeah, we care about our clients. What is it? What is it that's actually really going on in those calls and those discussions with clients so that they are referring you, do you think, what, what is it that really.
Jenny Sparks: I think that's, that's a good question. And I'm not sure, I'm not sure if I know the answer, if I'm honest. I think that it's [00:16:00] just,
it's picking up the phone. It's talking to the clients. It's Having conversations and it's knowing your clients, knowing what they're, what, what their business does. So it's knowing that the nitty gritty of what they're doing and, and, and not just, okay, they're a coffee shop. And so they sell coffee.
But it's how, how their business runs day to day. And, you know, our, our team genuinely knows the business genuinely gets in there, gets to know what's going on, gets to know the staff in the businesses. You know, our team, you know, it. [00:17:00] Remarkable practice. For instance, you know, the guys on the accounts, production team, they know Kate, they know Sally, they know Joe, they know, you know, because we, we talk to you guys and we, we know what's going on in your business.
We knew what your successes are. We know what your failures are. Yeah. And we can react accordingly.
Paul Shrimpling: W what I love about that explanation, Jenny is this the, this there's a genuine relationship. And I know there is because of my personal experience, but what you're describing is you've managed to work out how to scale that across many clients, not just stores, because I know we're one of many clients.
But we never feel as though we, one of many, I sometimes wonder whether we're your only client, it's that it's that sort of depth of relationship. And it's it's interesting that a marketer like you and to a degree like me would put relationship at [00:18:00] the the head of the. At the top of the tree, if you will, in terms of this is what matters most, whereas we'll talk to maybe someone in the accounts, production team, and they would normally see it's get the work done as the priority pieces.
Do you feel as though that's the case with your production team or are you saying they've, they've genuinely got the fact, this is about the relationship piece and the knowing of your customers. Where, how, how would you, how, how, how would you receive.
Jenny Sparks: I think that we're getting there with the accounts team, you know, for them, it is about the numbers and it is about getting the work done.
And, you know, they're under a lot of pressure. But we have talked about it's taking the time to, to stop and it not just be about the numbers. You know and to [00:19:00] take, take the time to look at what's going on in the company, you know, we, we can log onto their Xero or QuickBooks or what have you. We can see what's going through in terms of the numbers, but, okay.
Why is that happening? And then getting them to pick up the phone. And, and to talk to the client. And I don't, I don't know that we've factored that yet. I think we're still, we're still working on that. But you know, our business services manager and Neil, the owner you know, picking up the phone and not necessarily even to talk about the business, Hey, Paul, how's your week been?
How are you doing how's how's the family, you know, and that kind of thing. And having those conversations, because then often that leads back to [00:20:00] them saying actually, you know, things aren't going very well right now. And it's like, oh, well, I thought something might be wrong because I'm seeing this in, you know, going on in zero.
Paul Shrimpling: Interesting. Really interesting. So you said take time to be genuinely interested. Is my interpreter genuinely curious as to why maybe Xero's not behaving like it historically has done. Yeah. And actually the question you really want to ask is about what's going on in zero, what's going on in QuickBooks or whatever they're using, but actually, is there something behind that?
So you're starting from the human perspective, not the numbers perspective. That's, that's brilliant. We we've got this piece that we share from stage and webinars and stuff. And talk about the three CS of of, of a relationship, you know, be curious. Genuinely care. So we, before I've mentioned this, you've already demonstrated that there's this deep [00:21:00] down care for the customer that you guys have got Cedar and co.
You're trying to embed a level of curiosity with your accounts team, your bookkeeping team, and so on. So that they're talking about the human side before the numbers side. And then the last thing that we talked about is being committed to. That curiosity and the care, it's not just a glib surface piece.
And I know from personal experience that there's a level of commitment. I was in a, I had an interaction with Neil yesterday that I was not expecting on a piece of work. That means an awful lot to me. And he said, no, I can't do this. I need to stop tins. Like. Oh, this is the time to go walk.
Haven't got time, but, you know, okay. So jump on a zoom and you know, 20 minutes later, I'm like, oh, thank goodness I had that that, that, that discussion. So there was, you know, a couple of questions that Neil was genuinely curious. Yeah, he always cares. And he wasn't letting me off the hook, so he was committed to the piece as well.
So that was brilliant. Let's turn our attention away from client care a little bit, but Jenny, if we can and go, all right. So Lots of accountancy marketing as [00:22:00] noise. So let's just do loads of stuff and create noise. What I just want to, I'm curious as to what noise do you create? Cedar and coat and then we'll dive into, well, how do you know, how does that work and what do we do to make it good noise rather than just noise?
Yeah. So what noise are you creating? What is it that what's going on every day or every week? That's promoting a marketing Cedar. Okay.
Jenny Sparks: We. So we do a lot of work on social media, on blogs. We have regular weekly blogs and, you know, we, we do some, some videos and, and various things or there I'm still trying to get the team.
To, to take the plunge to go on camera. That is right now. They're quite happy for me to make pretty little videos without that[00:23:00]
so we're working on trying to, to get their faces on camera. But yeah you know, and we w we do what moves. Accountancy firms do in terms of, you know, monthly shots and regular emails and regular blogs and, and all of that and social media. But it's using that as a platform. To go to the next level.
Paul Shrimpling: Well, let, let's just dive into that because you described, there's a whole series of channels of communication out that there's social media and break that down into Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Tik TOK, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You've got email marketing now, email pieces, another channel.
Another way of getting your message out. There's YouTube. You know, if you were to go down the podcast channel, like we'd done, there's all sorts of different media, but it's what do you deliver that matters? Isn't it? [00:24:00] It's, it's not just the channel of communication. It's what you pushing down the channel that distinguishes also you from other or the firms that connect with clients, prospects and so on.
So what, where where's your focus? Where's Cedar and coast focus in terms of the messaging and the content. What is it you're looking to achieve?
Jenny Sparks: So we try and hit all aspects of the business. So, you know, as a, as an accountancy firm, it's really easy to do tax tips and get, you know, tax news and what's going on in the economy and all of those kinds of things.
Yeah. I mean, those are obvious things that any accountant would and should do. But I think it's not just about that. We try and you know, look at things like mental health and [00:25:00] wellness and what are the best tech for your company? You know, what a good apps to be using or trying to do an overall. It's painting overall picture for the business, not just about the numbers and not just about the finance side of things.
But trying to, to show that we think about all aspects of the business, you know, being a director of a company. It can be a pretty lonely place. You know, a lot of times as the owner of a business, you, who do you talk to? Who, who, who understands, who knows why you're having sleepless nights and, and what have you.
And so it's, it's showing that we, we understand that and, you know, here are some ideas for how to treat. Be better, not just in your [00:26:00] business, but how to, to have a better outlook on life or, or what have you.
Paul Shrimpling: Interesting. It sounds though, actually you, you, you, you sharing content of your, I've got, like you say, over a wide spectrum, which is about the overall health of their business and maybe even them as a, as a leader of the business as, as well.
But can I, can I challenge you a little bit? Cause if, if. Most of the leads that end up being customers of Cedar and co coming from referrals. What what's, what's the point of all the social media and the email marketing and all the other stuff that goes on where's where's, where's the merit of all that lie.
If actually all your all your leads are coming from, or the vast majority of your new clients are coming from recommendations and referrals. What's the point?
Jenny Sparks: I think. Social media and email marketing and whatever other marketing form you choose. It's not just about getting new [00:27:00] clients. Yeah, that's a great benefit of it, but it's providing things for our current clients.
It's you know, content to help build our brand, help get us out there, make sure people know. Who we are and what we do. And it, it helps build up that the persona that we, we do genuinely care people love free stuff, free content free, you know? And so put in that out there, you know, that it all goes to creating a brand.
So that's other than, it's not just about getting new clients.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so what I'm hearing there is your focus in your comms is perhaps the client, not the prospect. And then you use the same content and use that to go out [00:28:00] to the broader market through social media and so on, which, and you just don't know where that's going to land.
Do you? And therefore, if you're doing stuff for the club, It will resonate and be relevant to those that are yet to be clients it's about.
Jenny Sparks: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's correct. And we, I mean, we do stuff for prospects as well, and, but are, you know, if we show that we genuinely care about our clients, if our focus is on them first and foremost, That will lead to more referrals that will lead to an, and what's relevant for them is relevant prospects to I mean, and, and putting it out there constantly.
I mean, especially, you know, during the pandemic we were posting. Daily. And it's keeping us in the forefront of people's minds. So the, when, when somebody asks them about something, you know, oh my accountant put [00:29:00] something about that on their, their social media or on their blog or whatever, check this.
Oh, I got a email from them. I'll forward it to you. You know? And those kinds of
Paul Shrimpling: things you actually facilitate. Through content, them sending something onto someone they care about,
Jenny Sparks: which happens a lot.
Paul Shrimpling: How do you know? It happens a lot though, Jen,
Jenny Sparks: it happened during the lockdown and we know because we got so many clients coming to us and they said, you know, oh, I've received this from Joe blogs,
Paul Shrimpling: you know?
Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But isn't it interesting how that, that then flips the way you look at the content you put in. To make sure it's something that's worthy of being shared you. Cause there's a lot of I have a love, hate relationship with social media because there's so much guff. I sometimes I just think I should just switch them.
But every now and again, you get sucked into something that's [00:30:00] entirely relevant to you at that moment in time. Yeah. And it's and it's, if you know who your ideal client is, you're going to be putting out content that's appealing to and is relevant to your ideal client. And I
Jenny Sparks: think it's about finding a balance as well, which is difficult.
It's finding a balance of how much content is too much content and how much. Not enough, you know, I mean, cause we all get a bit bored of people that post like constantly and it just gets a little bit monotonous and boring and even, you know, we've kind of tried tax tip Tuesday or whatever can get a bit boring as well, you know?
And so it's, it's mixing it up and, and finding a balance of how, how often you. You're posting and making it genuinely interesting [00:31:00] relevant.
Paul Shrimpling: So what in this space, in terms of genuinely interesting, genuinely relevant, what, what was going on in the large top 10 firm that you you've you've taken and using Cedar and Karen, I'm just wondering maybe there's one or two things that you, you dwell on now and go, maybe we could, should do that.
What would they do in brilliant? Jenny that marketed there from that we could all learn from,
Jenny Sparks: I think one thing that they did, they had niche markets and of course they had a team for everything. They had a team for manufacturing or charities or you know, what have you and. They would really know that that particular sector and they would be able to give advice.
They would be able to produce content that was relevant. That was on target. And so I [00:32:00] think that that is something that they do really well. Yeah. As a smaller firm of accountants we struggle with because it's really tempting to be like, well, we just need to cover everything. We just need to be general practice because we can't risk, you know, not, not taking on a client or not doing something.
So it's. All you willing to take a risk to specialize, to have niche and target a specific sector.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's but, but it's the same, same argument that you brought up earlier. The team point in terms of you make yourself relevant. If, if you, if you're in a niche, whether it be bit say you're in the dental leash or the charity niche, or, you know, automotive niche you can work out what messages are more relevant to that now.
And therefore, maybe a general practitioner is going to [00:33:00] struggle to actually get into that sector. If someone in that niche is dominating it. And we've as part of the podcast series, we're actually interviewing firms who are niche firms and, and car, car reader's piece on that is he's completely dominated the franchise.
I'll be it's broad, but it's franchise by getting close to every influencer in, in that particular niche that can be done it makes it hard for a general firm to get into that space because the he's so well recognized or they're from, or the DNT is so well recognized. But you mentioned earlier that you've worked hard at identifying who your ideal client is.
So you can still go, right. Is this relevant to this. Type of client.
Jenny Sparks: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Paul Shrimpling: But it, it is harder. So what do you do then to distinguish Cedar and co from other general practitioners? You know, communication messaging content. I guess if I'm, if I'm fishing for a particular response, it's in this, there's a lot of talk, [00:34:00] Jenny in firms, in the profession with the marketers about moving from purely compliance to advisory, which is a different marketing job from a marketer's perspective in terms of what we do payroll.
And we do accounts and we do audit and we. Bookkeeping and so on to, or we're going to deliver advice. Well, Bally, who what is it, what, what, what is what Cedar and co doing in that space in terms of, is it all compliance or is it the future is all advisory or is it a blend of when and how's that influencing your messaging and your content?
Jenny Sparks: Do you know? I think that's, that's a really interesting. Question. Partly because, you know, the, the industry is telling us right now, you know, it, we're moving to advisory. It's, it's all going to be advisory. And, and that's something that Neil does do very well. He he's very good at that
Paul Shrimpling: side.
Jenny Sparks: But [00:35:00] equally we have noticed You know, we've got MTD. I know it's been postponed and what have you, but actually all of a sudden, we've got more bookkeeping clients because people don't want to be dealing with that anymore. They don't have the time to deal with that. They don't want to deal with the, the technology, the, you know, even though.
The technology in theory makes everything so much easier. But all of a sudden we have, we've got all these bookkeeping clients. We've got these clients that we've just done accounts for for years and years and years, but a saying, I don't want to deal with this. You deal with this. So yes, I think the industry is moving towards more advisory.
But I, I don't think compliance is dead. And I think
Paul Shrimpling: no. Well, [00:36:00] like you're saying that there's more of it. And I'm seeing that across many firms in terms of winning more and more bookkeeping, and I'm just like, what's shifted, what's changed to prompt business owners that have previously thought that bookkeeping were dropped into drops into their responsibility in their task list, not their accountants.
All of a sudden of shifting on mass all over the place. What, what do you think is driving. I know you've mentioned MTD, but really?
Jenny Sparks: Yeah. I think that that's partly, you know, there you know, because accountants, all of a sudden don't want you to land on their doorstep. A month before your account to do with a great big box of receipts.
You know, accountants are all of a sudden like, actually, no, we're not going to, we're not go do that anymore. So I think that's, that's part of it, but I think that the businesses are just, they're so busy. And they've got so much going on that all of [00:37:00] a sudden, they, they don't have the time or the inclination.
To do it as part of that.
Paul Shrimpling: Hmm. Interesting. So you think other firms are actually pushing back, it's not just you and your firm pushing back in terms of no, we don't want to box a bits of bag of bits. We want cloud DExT. Bank feed there's do you think there is a this wave of pushback from accountants to their clients to go along or you've got to behave better than this, if you're going to be a client of ours, because we've worked out what our ideal client, or do you think that's something that's not?
Yeah, I hope so too. I'm doubtful, but I do know that that's the case. Certainly it's a conversation that I'm having with all the firms that we consult and work with, but
Jenny Sparks: I'm interested in. To that position out and that, you know, that's part of our ideal client. We're not going to take you on, if you're going to just turn up with a bag of receipts, like we're not going to do [00:38:00] that anymore.
And I think the number of accountants that that will tolerate that is, is dropping
Paul Shrimpling: and you think it would be given the availability of the technical. I also think client expectations for other reasons changing in terms of, you know, the greater pressures on all of us in terms of how we best use our time.
And so is that a good use of time for a business owner and the other half or the mother-in-law or their father-in-law to, you know, do something, which isn't a standard and has the accountant in their ear, giving them a hard time about it, you know?
Jenny Sparks: And that's something that we often say to our clients.
Yeah. Okay. If you give us your bookkeeping, you know, that's five hours a week, six hours a week that we have just saved you. What can you do with that six hours? What, what difference would that make to your, to your [00:39:00] business or to your personal life? Does that mean that if you give us that six hours, do you get to go pick your kids up from school?
Do you get to go home and. Eat dinner with the family. Do you get to go to the gym? You know? And so it's not just about what effect does that have on the business, but what does the effect does that have on you personally?
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it's that, which is great for me to hear you describe that because ultimately you talks about with lots of the humanity of what was.
Enables the, the business owners lives to improve their businesses to improve because, you know, we take a challenge, a difficulty, something away from them that actually they're not very good at
Jenny Sparks: well, and that's the other thing, because at the end of the year, we get all this stuff, even if it's on zero and we start going through and actually we've got to do all this extra work for [00:40:00] you.
Paul Shrimpling: it worth it? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So there's something very powerful in there. Jenny, in terms of, you know, we or other accountants capable of freeing up time with their clients, whether it's payroll, whether it's book keeping and other services. And and often it's seen as that. That's where the that's the win, but it's not the win.
What you pointed to was what are you going to do with that? And just taking the next level down in terms of care and understanding to explain and encourage them to realize what they could have, what they'd be missing. And there's a huge amount of value in the alternative use of the time. Not the fact you've saved them time.
Sometimes everyone gets sucked into oh yeah. Yeah. We save you time. Is there real value in that? Now we save you time in there for what are you going to do with it? I'm going to pick the kids up or I'm going to see me more, more often, or I'm going to the gym or whatever is does that show up in, in your messaging and your content as well?
Jenny [00:41:00] cause that's really human. It's got nothing to do with accountancy. And yet accountancy enables those conversations. How do you fold that into a piece of marketing communication on social media or?
Jenny Sparks: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's something that we definitely talk to our clients about. And, and also not just giving you time, but giving you peace of mind, can you sleep at night?
Do you want to sleep better at night? Not worrying about. You know, what's in the bank or what's not in the bank or, or what next, the next six months looks like, or, or what have you, it's it's giving them the peace of mind to be able to, to rest easy, knowing that we've got their back. And if things are coming around the corner, we can, we can help them.
Paul Shrimpling: So that peace of mind. Yes. But you've, you've, you've put a real future focus on that peace of mind. It's about, you know, having confidence in the future of your [00:42:00] business is a, is an advisory piece. Isn't it? But what exactly, how exactly do you communicate that in an email or a piece of social media, what do you use?
Jenny Sparks: Again, it's having, you know, knowing the client and knowing what w what's going on in their business and what, you know, what they're struggling, what their challenges are which was obviously quite an easy thing to do during the pandemic
Paul Shrimpling: it's relevant to what's well timed and was clear as clear as day.
Wasn't it clear?
Jenny Sparks: Yeah, definitely. So, yeah, I think it's about just having, putting it out there on social media, putting it out there and emails, but then also when people click on it, having then having that conversation with them, creating more of a conversation piece [00:43:00] and not just. Throwing out content for the sake of content, which kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier.
It's not just content for content's sake. The content has to have a purpose and it's important to be having those discussions and to be having, you know, when people respond to it to, to talk to them.
Paul Shrimpling: That's really powerful. I think there's Content one piece of content in isolation has, you know, you can build value in it and deliver it.
But if that then prompts another. Or a phone call or an, a couple of clicks or a download or in seeing it as a chain of events as a, as a, as a digital conversation is how I like to describe it. If you can create that soul, you know? Yes. Open email, click. Oh, watch video or another click. It's actually, what's the next step [00:44:00] clarity over what the next step on that piece of marketing actually is, which you often seen go missing in accountancy firms.
You know, it's like, oh, let's get that out enough. It goes and let's get onto the next one. And that all goes and then get onto the next one. And that goes as opposed to hang on a second. If this is really relevant, for example the shift to a mindset that's out in the marketplace about more business owners wanting more help around bookkeeping to free up time so they can go and get the kids.
I'll go to the gym. If that's the case, then we've got a relevant subject. We've got timing. But if we just have a one-off piece go out that never, never gets. You know, there's that multiple points of contact isn't there. Whereas if you send a piece out, which then there's a call to action that prompts them to download something or go and see something else that's absolutely relevant to the thing that they're interested in.
Not just, you know, here's a piece on bookkeeping or give us a call. Yeah, but you think there's a bit of a rush on, in lumped in the market? There's a bit of a, an urgency. It's [00:45:00] almost as if everyone's trying to take a business owner too fast into all buy from us as opposed to no, no, no, no. We've got to build the relationship first.
It's multiple points of contact. There's a digital conversation before. There's a real conversation. What are your thoughts on how that works with you guys?
Jenny Sparks: Yeah, I think that that. Very true. And I, I wouldn't say that we've mastered it yet. Yeah. I think that that's something that we all still working on.
But I think it's something that we've got better about and, you know, having things available on our on our website. Where they can download things and they can you know, there's a forecaster on there that they can go on and have a go at it themselves,
Paul Shrimpling: do it themselves.
Jenny Sparks: And then they realize, actually this is a bit more complicated than I thought, or actually, [00:46:00] I don't know what to do with this.
I've got this information and I don't, I don't know how this relates to me. And it's at that point that you can, you know, Y you, we, as accountants can then come in and, and help them and, and take it to the next
Paul Shrimpling: level with brilliant. So we've we've covered some brilliant ground Jenny and clearly having the, a relevant message to a relevant client, ideal client in a.
You know, piece of information or content. I always think you know, great marketing is about relevance and timing. You know, we're focused on the right client. We've got something that's relevant in it's time, brilliantly. Ha how do you, how do you work out whether the timing's right for a client or a prospect or is that just something that we we can't do?
What are your, what's your, what's your thinking around.
Jenny Sparks: It's much easier for a client. I would say when you knew their business and know what's going on. But for a prospect, it's about just putting it out there. And [00:47:00] things that are relevant in some cases, it's, it's starting out generic. Yeah. And using those generic things.
And then building on that as you get to know them and get to, you know, you can then change what you're saying and what
Paul Shrimpling: have you. Yeah. Yeah. I was, I was having a conversation yesterday with a D in that nice. Another firm that specializes in navigating the tax law tax complications between UK and us.
So whether you in the UK, going out to the USA in the U S coming into the UK, or there's a business or an individual, that's their specialism really. And we were just, they were just starting to talk about marketing with them and you know, they, they, they keep it broad to begin with. They keep it very generic, which is, look, we're just going to help you navigate UK and us tax.
And it's like, [00:48:00] you know, if you need some help navigating that, then, you know, go here and there, just keeping it nice. And it's, we've got to build that messaging out yet, but they, they keep it broad. Entirely focused on what their core purpose of their business is. And therefore clearly identifies the ideal client because they don't want to deal with me because I'm not dealing it.
I go, okay. I do a little bit of work in the U S but nothing, no, that warrants any any outside external advice. So the timing thing is just in case to get me out there. Yeah, I think you're right. I think it's, you know, the pandemic. Relevant piece, right timing. We, we, we, we were able to tick both boxes and everyone was open to actually engaging with our content.
When we move away from that, the level of engagement drops, because we just don't know whether the timing is right. It might be relevant. If it's not relevant, shouldn't be sending it out well relevant to whom. And then we zero back in on your ideal client again. And it's interesting that the other interviews, the [00:49:00] other podcasts we've done in and around marketing is you know, who you want to work with.
No, who you want to work with. So Jenny of everything we've covered today, I'm just wondering, is there anything that we've talked about that for you has gone? We at Seadrill core needs CDM county to do a little bit more with that than we are. Is there something that stood out for this conversation where you're going well, that's helped me zero, zero in on something.
That'll help us be a better in, in the coming year.
Jenny Sparks: I think it's the whole,
I've got it all together. I know what I'm doing. No, I think I'm just remembering. And I think there's something that we've tried, tried to do, that we are working on doing is not just. Sending things out for the sake of sending things out. But having something to build on to, you know, okay. Taking [00:50:00] them on a journey to where they can't say no to us eventually because and having those calls to action and making sure that we are you know, Send an email and then it links to this which links to that, which links to, you know, all in the same space.
Yes. And I think that that's something that it's really easy to forget sometimes. And, and it's easy to just throw things out there just to, to get things out there and to make it quick and easy. But I think, yeah. You have to be really focused on what is it that you're trying to achieve? What are you wanting out of this?
What are you, what's your ultimate goal? And if you, if you keep that in the forefront of your mind, then you will have a much better campaign [00:51:00] that it will be a campaign, not just a one-off.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah, brilliant. I've written sequencing. So sequencing journey campaign is it does require more focus, more time, more effort to see your pieces as a, as a pathway that a prospect or a client will go down.
W we, we've got a passion that don't send anything out. That's not a value, you know, don't send stuff out. That's actually designed to when a customer sends something out, which is a real. And then if you're in that space, then you can maintain trusted advisor status. Whereas if he's sending out stuff, which goes, look at me, look at me.
We're really good. Then you like a salesperson and there's nothing wrong with looking like a salesperson that you're not so professional. It's professional. It's. Yeah. However, you can push people to come and work with you, or you can pull people to work with you. And I know accountants typically are much more comfortable with the let's deliver some value and then clients will come and ask us for help.
And I think that's the that's the marketing [00:52:00] space that we as trusted advisors have to have to occupy Jenny. You've been brilliant. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day and and sharing some of the insights in terms of what. What you're doing at CDN care, what you're doing in the, in your, in your previous firm.
Thank you very, very much. It's been a brilliant humanized, a numbers discussion. I really appreciate it.
Jenny Sparks: Thank you.
Paul Shrimpling: You'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders of ambitious accounting firms at humanized, the numbers.online. You can also sign up to be notified each time a new podcast is made of.
This podcast series humanized, the numbers has been made possible. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, my work papers, advanced track and VFD pro. Visit humanized the numbers.online, click the logo of each sponsor. And you'll hear what our podcast interviewees have to say about the sponsor survey.[00:53:00]
As a taster, here's a very brief snippet of a discussion I had with Joe Edwards of JE consulting, who acts as a marketing guide and actually does the work of marketing for over a hundred firms of accountants. If you like, what Joe has to say, you can find the full podcast discussion with Joe Edwards at humanized, the numbers.online.
Jenny Sparks: 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, 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 most.
Yeah, you can win online clients. No doubt about it. Yeah. There's businesses that are shopping around and looking, you know, but if you, if you want that sure. 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 really, you [00:54:00] know, it's been a reminder today that that's so important.
What does Humanise the numbers mean to you?
Genuinely knowing your clients
Content with purpose
Relevance & timing
Click the play button below and use the slider on the audio below to get quickly to the chapters in the podcast.
Resources relating to this podcast:
During their conversation Jenny and Paul discuss how great marketing is about relevance and timing and that just pushing content out to clients and prospects will not guarantee success.
This Bitesize Business Breakthrough features a fantastic story of how PULL Marketing not PUSH Marketing actually convinced an entire country to change its mind.
So, rather than use a PUSH approach to persuading people to change, adopt a PULL approach to win their hearts and minds.