Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me

We know how important it is for our doer-sellers to truly understand our clients. When people understand those they serve, they solve problems more creatively, provide better service and build stronger relationships.

To develop an in-depth understanding of our clients and prospects, it’s important for our doer-sellers to not only spend time with them but to actually put themselves in their clients’ and prospects’ shoes.

With this in mind, we developed a training session for our doer-sellers called “Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me.” In this presentation, our marketing team shared our story and personal observations about being on the prospect’s side of the sales process. We discussed how we selected a firm to assist with our brand refresh and website overhaul, covering everything from how we determined which firms would be invited to participate in the bid process to how we ultimately selected our vendor.

My guess is most of you have a similar story to tell, and this can be very powerful in showing the sales process from prospect’s perspective.

Looking back at how we selected a partner, we believe these were their keys to success:

  1. They identified us as a target. They made it known that we were a firm they wanted to work with.
  2. They made contact. They used their network to identify in-roads and set up meetings. They paid attention to what information was being published by us and about They used this information and their network to build a relationship with us.
  3. They helped us for no other reason than to help us. When they first reached out to us, we were NOT ready to build a new website, and we let them know very directly. They helped us anyway—by passing along helpful information, calling us when they spotted interesting opportunities in the market, offering introductions to others, etc.
  4. They practiced patience. They checked in with us regularly and made sure we knew they were waiting in the wings for the opportunity, but never assumed they were our only option.
  5. They made mistakes. BUT they did a great job recovering from those mistakes.
  6. They were on our team. We knew they were the right pick for us because it felt like they were already on our team, well before we officially selected them. They guided us throughout the process, from getting budget and buy-in from leadership to establishing a baseline price range.
  7. They compensated for their perceived weaknesses. They played to their strengths, and found ways to make sure we knew it. They also asked what their weaknesses were and addressed how they would overcome them.
  8. They asked for the work and were prepared to close the deal. At every stage in the process, they made sure that we knew how much they wanted to work with us. They also knew that the decision might not be unanimous among our various decision-makers, but they had prepared for this by identifying their champion within our firm and making sure that champion would go to bat for them.
  9. They won the work. Enough said.
  10. They continue to win work. They regularly stay in contact with us to understand what we’re working on, what our priorities are, what challenges we’re facing, and so on. And they continue to find ways to help us with these priorities and challenges.

Summary: Share Your Story!

This is just one example of our own experience as the prospect. Consider sharing your own story with your doer-sellers to offer a different perspective on the sales process and to help them put themselves in their clients’ shoes.

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Scary Side Effects of Rogue Marketing Materials

We’ve all seen it: the piece of marketing collateral created by a doer-seller on the fly. An old company logo. Complete disregard for brand colors or fonts. Pixelated images. Typos. CLIPART.

If your doer-sellers can’t easily find the marketing materials they need when they need them, they may go rogue and create their own pieces (the kind that haunt our marketing nightmares).

When this happens, it can affect your team’s efficiency, your firm’s brand, and ultimately your bottom line.

Here are three scary side effects of rogue marketing materials:

1. Lost Time (i.e., Lost $)

Based on this study, 36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information. How much of this time could your firm get back if all of the information your team members need was neatly stored in one location?

This is obviously not limited to marketing materials; BUT if your firm lacks a system for organizing and accessing the materials that support your doer-sellers in the sales process, you may have some inefficiencies that are costing your firm time AND money.

2. Brand Inconsistency

Consistency and accuracy in your branded marketing collateral is an important factor in how clients and prospects perceive your firm. So if they receive a piece of collateral that doesn’t match the look and language they expect from your firm, it can damage your brand and reputation.

Inconsistency in the visual styles of your materials can make it difficult for your audience to see past the style elements and absorb your message.

Inconsistency in the voice of your materials could send mixed signals and make it difficult for a prospect to trust what you are saying.

3. Misalignment of Marketing and Sales Functions

When doer-sellers go rogue and create their own materials, it can create a disconnect between the roles of the marketing team and your doer sellers:

  • Your doer-seller has spent valuable time on a task that should be done (or may have already been done!) by your marketing department. Marketers are generally more adept at writing and graphic design—doer-sellers don’t need to be spending their time in those areas.
  • Marketing may have a bank of collateral that goes unused. If your doer-sellers don’t know where to look to see if a specific material already exists, the time your team invested in creating that collateral in the first place is time wasted.
  • Marketing needs input from doer-sellers to ensure effective messaging of collateral, but if doer-sellers create their own pieces that Marketing never sees, then Marketing never gets the feedback they’re looking for to make the firm’s collateral more effective. As marketers, we need the insights our doer-sellers receive from clients and prospects on a daily basis.

What’s a Marketer to Do?

Rogue marketing materials are a real problem for many marketers, but one that can be easily mitigated by using a centralized tool to organize materials. By creating a consistent, centralized system that is easy to access and use, marketers can drastically reduce the clipart that finds its way onto rogue materials (and prospects’ desks).

3 Fun [and FREE] Online Tools I Just Learned About

Sometimes, I come across interesting (and in this case, FREE) online tools I just can’t want to share with our favorite marketing people. They may not be brand new, but here are 3 new-to-me online tools.

WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com

We’ve all heard it: automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are changing the business landscape, and our industry is no exception. According to this article by AccountingToday, “robotics is expected to eliminate 40 percent of basic accounting work by 2020.”

In his recent AAMHigh! session “From Compliance to Consulting: A Guide for Marketers” for the Association for Accounting Marketing, Jeff Pawlow of ABLE discussed the critical move firms must make from offering mostly compliance services (that can be more easily replicated by a computer) to consulting services (that are more insulated from automation), and how marketers play a critical role in helping our firms make this shift.

(NOTE: If you missed this session from the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM), you can access it in the AAM Portal.)

In his presentation, Jeff referenced WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com, a searchable database of jobs and the probability of automation for each job in the near future. This can be an interactive tool in facilitating discussions with your firm’s leadership team.

AnswerThePublic.com

This is a great tool for keyword research and content idea generation. By leveraging the auto suggest results from Google and Bing, AnswerThePublic.com can provide you with an aggregated view of the questions—and therefore, a hint of the motivators—of the people behind each search query.

There are SO many ways you can apply this knowledge: content and SEO strategies are the first ones that come to mind, but you can even use this information when updating marketing materials or professional bios to ensure these pieces speak directly to the reader’s primary questions and challenges.

Fount

Have you ever gone to a website and wanted to know what font was used? Fount does just that.

Fount will tell you which web font you are actually seeing on any webpage and even includes a link to download said font. Just add the Fount button to your bookmarks bar, go to any site and click the Fount button.

3 fun tools - Fount screenshot

 

McMarketing: How Marketing Departments are like Franchise Operators

Our firm recently had an opportunity to work with a growing franchise business, and in conducting some research to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing franchise operators, I discovered that franchisors and accounting marketers have a lot in common.

If marketing is the franchisor, our doer-sellers are the franchisees; we as marketers are successful when our “franchisees” are successful, so it is in our best interest to help position them for success in business development.

The following tips are for successful franchise operations, but apply to accounting marketers as well:

Have a Clear Concept

Successful franchises have a clear core concept and a shared understanding of the organization’s mission, vision and key differentiators. You can’t expect franchisees to communicate a clear concept to customers if the franchisor has not clearly defined the concept, provided transparent communication across the organization, and supplied franchisees with marketing collateral that conveys this concept.

Similar to franchisors, marketers are in the ideal position to define and drive our firms’ growth strategies, including key verticals, high priority targets and our unique selling propositions. It is also our responsibility to share this information with doer-sellers of all levels within the firm so we are all on the same page and working together towards shared goals.

Protect Your Brand Relentlessly

A franchisor’s most valuable asset is its brand. Your brand represents your culture, your products and services, and your pledge to your customers. This is why franchisors make it a top priority to define clear brand compliance standards, establish controls around branding and monitor franchisees’ compliance with brand standards.

In the accounting profession, a firm’s brand also carries considerable weight, especially given the often intangible, complex nature of the services we offer. Consistency (and accuracy!) in your branded materials and content is an important factor in how clients and prospects perceive your firm.

Having a resource such as POUNCE for our “franchisees” to access and distribute marketing collateral in a controlled environment is key to protecting the integrity of our firm’s brand.

Provide Comprehensive Support

The most successful franchise operations provide extensive support for franchisees in the form of policies, procedural guides, training, marketing assets, market and industry research, and more. They also facilitate communication among franchisees to encourage the sharing of ideas, best practices and success stories. Basically, franchisors strive to ensure that their franchisees always have resources and help available for any business-related questions or issues.

Likewise, the role of marketing within accounting firms includes providing the processes, tools and training needed to position our doer-sellers for business development success. We are the go-to resource for any and all things growth-related within our firms. Marketing support also includes encouragement and recognition of milestones and wins!

Maintain A Strong Working Relationship with Franchisees

Effective franchise operations require a strong working relationship between franchisor and franchisee. Trust, open communication, and mutual accountability are just a few of the characteristics that create healthy working relationships that ultimately lead to business success.

In any organization, it’s no secret that the magic happens when sales (or as is the case for many of us, doer-sellers) and marketing work together towards the same goal. By publicizing our marketing plan and priorities, sharing things that have (and haven’t) worked and providing a comfortable avenue for doer-sellers to provide ideas and feedback, we can build strong, collaborative relationships with our “franchisees”.

The result? Better rate of success (i.e., more wins), more satisfied clients, and happier and more engaged team members.

 

Whether it’s a quick service restaurant franchise or a CPA firm, the success of a franchisor is ultimately aligned with the success of a franchisee.

 

Move Over, MarTech: Why You Should Focus on Your BD Culture Stack

Everyone is likely familiar with the concept of a Marketing Technology (or MarTech) stack—that is, a group of technology-based tools that marketers use to execute and manage marketing activities across a number of channels.

In today’s post, we’re discussing a similar concept: a Business Development Culture Stack (if you haven’t heard of this, it’s probably because we made it up).

We’re defining a BD Culture Stack as all the things used to build a culture of business development across the firm. Essentially, what are all the things your firm does that shape your culture as it relates to sales and business development?

This may include performance management, BD expectations for individuals, pipeline management tools, sales empowerment tools (ahem, POUNCE), BD training, and a whole host of other pieces.

Whether intended or not, all firms have a culture as it relates to growth and business development. Instead of just letting it happen, it’s worth the effort to help set and maintain it.

So how do you change culture?

1. Get Everyone on the Same Page

The first step to fostering a culture of business development is to ensure everyone is reading from the same page. Make sure everyone understands why BD is important and share firm and department goals with everyone. Transparency is absolutely critical is getting everyone on the same BD page.

2. Set (and Communicate) Expectations

Firms that are seeking to build or sustain a business development culture must clearly communicate to everyone in the organization why cultural change is important and necessary, and be willing to tell team members what’s in it for them. Each individual within your firm must understand what the firm expects from them with respect to business development.

3. Provide Support (Training & Tools)

Once your people understand what is expected of them, you provide them with the necessary support to empower them to execute activities and achieve their BD goals. This comes in the form of business development training, defined processes (such as a pipeline process), and technology tools that support these processes.

Business development skills can be learned and cultivated, but your practice professionals need training, feedback and support in order to develop those skills.

4. Recognition & Accountability

Business development is a process that takes time, particularly when you are starting out. Results do not come overnight, which makes it even more important to recognize those who contribute to the firm’s marketing and business development efforts, not just outcomes.

Consider aligning business development efforts and achievements with compensation or promotion opportunities. Measurement, accountability and rewards must all be in place in order to reinforce the message and encourage desired behaviors.

Culture creates competitive differentiation; strategies can be duplicated, but culture is unique. BD culture and BD strategy are two sides of the same growth coin—you likely have a BD/marketing strategy, but do you have a BD culture development plan?

The Morning Routine of a CPA Firm

By Rachael Higginbotham

Across the country, kids have hung up their swimsuits and replaced them with backpacks and soccer cleats. The days start earlier and are filled with opportunities to learn and grow, the afternoons are filled with activities, and the evenings are filled with homework. There’s not a lot of excess time, which makes organization critical.

As every parent knows, an efficient morning routine is the foundation for a successful day. No one enjoys scrambling around to find school clothes and gear. It’s also important to know who is responsible for each task, so that each person has specific responsibilities. Each night, the kids lay out their clothes, pack their school bags and after school gear, and generally prepare for the next day. Each morning, I make breakfast, the kids get themselves ready, our son feeds the dog, and my husband takes them to school. There’s no stepping over each other, no arguing about who forgot to feed the dog, just quiet productivity as we get ourselves out the door.*

It’s taken years of trial and error, but there are two keys to this in our house:

  1. First, everyone knows what their role is.
  2. Second, everyone has the tools they need to do their jobs.

My husband knows he has to get up earlier than me and make the coffee. My son knows where to find the dog food. My daughter knows which day of the week is dance, and which day is soccer, and her clothes are clean and in her closet so she can pack her bags herself. Everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and has the items they need to do their jobs.

Thinking about how efficient morning routines help families be more productive got me thinking about how marketing departments can help their firms be more productive in growth efforts too. A good cup of coffee and free scones in the breakroom at your office are a great start, but they will only take you so far.

Is your firm scrambling around trying to figure out how to approach prospective clients? Do you know who is responsible for what, and have they been taught how to do those things? Have you given your doer-sellers the tools they need to be self-sufficient, or are you still holding their hands by creating materials for every meeting? In our firm, we try to stay organized through monthly pipeline meetings so everyone knows what everyone else is working on, centralizing proposals so they are consistent, conducting annual business development training, and using POUNCE for accurate, timely materials that can be compiled by anyone in our firm.

Think about the “chaos” in your growth efforts, and create a plan to tackle them one at a time. If there’s anything we can do to help, give us a shout. But, not before we’ve had our coffee. Because even with a peaceful start to the day, we still require caffeine.

*Note: just to be clear, organization does not equal utopia. My daughter and I are not morning people, so sometimes there are tears involved (mostly mine). It’s just not due to lack of organization.

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Perfect Match: Pairing POUNCE with Other Tools & Processes

Banner for Perfect Pairings article-v2In honor of National Matchmaker Day, we are recognizing a few of the ways that POUNCE pairs perfectly with other marketing and business development tools and processes. (Just call us the Cupid of Accounting Marketing.)

Check out some ways POUNCE can integrate with other tools and processes to help you streamline and enhance your firm’s business development efforts.

POUNCE + Your Website

Statistics show that professional bios are some of the most visited pages for professional service firm websites. Ensure these website bios are up-to-date by syncing your professionals’ POUNCE profiles to your website. Information contained in POUNCE—including not only bios and professional headshots, but marketing materials as well—can be pulled onto your new website through our open API.

POUNCE + Millennials

POUNCE can be your millennial doer-sellers’ new best friend. Younger professionals are conditioned to manage their own information online and expect information at their fingertips. POUNCE helps to engage your millennials to take ownership of their business development efforts by providing them with 24/7 online access to a tool they can use to market your firm.

POUNCE + Proposals

While POUNCE is not intended to be a comprehensive proposal software, we have found that it is a cost-effective and valuable tool in helping our team develop quality proposals quickly. For example, at P&N almost every proposal that we issue contains bios for our key team members; POUNCE makes it easy for us to pull up-to-date, consistently formatted bios for our entire engagement team with just a few clicks.

POUNCE + Mergers

If your firm is considering merging or has recently merged, you need a tool like POUNCE to help you standardize branded resumes and materials and create consistency across your firm.

Additionally, mergers mean combining groups of people that may not know each other. POUNCE can be a powerful tool in the integration process by creating a central access point for all firm marketing materials and team member resumes.

POUNCE + Rebranding

Similar to a merger, a rebrand is a complex process that involves a lot of moving parts. POUNCE can be a complementary tool for firms going through this process by providing an accessible place to house updated marketing materials and professional resumes in line with your new branding.

POUNCE + Conferences

The POUNCE mobile app means that your firm’s marketing materials and professional bios are accessible anytime, anywhere, which makes POUNCE a perfect companion for conferences and tradeshows where your doer-sellers may interact with a number of prospects in a short period of time. This enables your team to send a prospect relevant information immediately following a conversation without having to have printed collateral available on hand.

Honorable Mentions

With POUNCE’s open API, you can leverage the data maintained in POUNCE and connect it to other systems, including:

  • POUNCE + CRM: Update your CRM when marketing materials are emailed through POUNCE to a client or prospect.
  • POUNCE + HRIS: Update your HR information system when a user adds a new certification.