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

 

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How to Ensure a Tech Adoption Failure

One of the questions we are frequently asked is “How did you get your people to use POUNCE?

Like any software tool, the success of POUNCE (or any new tech tool) largely dependent on the extent to which users embrace it.

New technology can help drive efficiencies in your marketing and sales efforts and can even create competitive advantages for your firm, but only if the people within your firm actually use the new technology as intended.

Before selecting and implementing new tech tools, consider your plan for maximizing user adoption. If you want to ensure your tech investment is a big waste of time and money, follow these steps:

1. Start with technology instead of strategy.

We are surrounded by technology in the workplace. And as new solutions are developed and older solutions become more affordable, we continue to acquire even more technology.

With new tools being introduced all the time, it can be easy to fall into the “shiny object syndrome” trap. We all go to conferences and talk with peers about the tools that they are using in their respective firms, and it’s natural to want to try approaches that others are having success with. While sharing ideas with peers is undoubtedly important, it is also important to remember that no two firms are alike and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

Instead of starting with the tools, start by examining the underlying challenge or opportunity.

Think big picture. By creating a strategy that clearly aligns technology with larger firm goals, you can help maximize your technology investments and drive business results.

2. Leave end-users out of the decision-making and implementation process.

To increase the likelihood and degree of technology adoption success, involve users early in the process. Adoption will always improve if end-users have a voice in the evaluation, planning and implementation processes.

Involving all types of users early in the process offers two main benefits:

  • End-users can help you clearly define your priorities at the beginning. They can help identify features that are deal-breakers and which ones are nice-to-have, but maybe not necessary.
  • Early involvement gives end-users a sense of pride and ownership in the process. They can serve as ambassadors of the new tool, and can help persuade others to get on board.

3. Ignore the WIIFM.

Before you ask any team member to learn a new technology, be sure you can answer the “what’s-in-it-for-me” (WIIFM) question for each group. When users understand the potential benefits and long-term strategy, they are more likely to invest their time and energy up front.

Emphasize how the new technology benefits both your organization and your users as individuals.

4. Set unrealistic expectations for user adoption.

It’s important to enter into the tech evaluation, selection and implementation process with realistic expectations of how your end-users will adopt the new system. Based on our own experience with introducing new tools and processes over the years, we see users fall into three main groups:

  • Power Users/Early Adopters make up about 20% of your user base. This group embraces new technology like an office puppy. They are excited by new ideas and new ways of doing things and are typically eager to get on board with new tools. Use this group’s excitement and influence to your advantage and make sure to involve these users early in the process (see #2 above).
  • Moderate Users comprise about 60% of your user base. This group is likely to use new tech tools if they have a clear understanding of the potential benefits to them (see #3 above). Since they represent the majority of your user base, it is important to integrate moderate users into your process early (see #2 above).
  • Light Users/Laggards make up approximately 20% of your user base. This group is allergic to the office puppy. Laggards tend to have a skeptical view of new tools and a stronger aversion to change. It may not be your best use of time to try to persuade these users to embrace a change, but it is important to consider the obstacles or challenges associated with non-use by these individuals. (What happens if you have users that do not use the tool as intended? Are there reasonable workarounds that can be easily applied?)

For example, when we designed POUNCE, we were well aware that we had a few professionals in our firm that would likely never be persuaded to use the system themselves. As a workaround, we created a separate user type and trained administrative assistants throughout the firm to use the system on behalf of these professionals.

5. Over-complicate the system or process.

When selecting new technology, simplicity and turnkey functionality should be top of mind.

Systems should be simple to use once the initial setup has been completed. This is especially important when working with teams of varying levels of technical expertise and comfort. Considering the multi-generational workforce that is the norm in most firms these days, it’s important to select tools that can be utilized by both younger team members who have grown up with technology, as well as older team members who may be less comfortable with new technology.

Also, technology should be personalized to match your firm’s processes and terminology.

For example, when P&N decided to implement a CRM to help us manage our sales pipeline, it was important to us to ensure field titles matched the terminology our doer-sellers had already become accustomed to, and to build reports that were already familiar to them.

Technology should add VALUE, not WORKLOAD. The best tools enable users to be better at their job by simply using the tool to complete tasks they are already doing.

6. Treat communication as an after-thought.

The technical and functional aspects of the software implementation process can be time-consuming and overwhelming, no doubt. BUT it’s important to have a clear communication plan from Day 1.

Don’t wait for launch day to let employees know what’s going on. Employees should be informed of new tools and technology as soon as possible so there is a clear understanding of when new processes will take effect.

Make sure employees are aware of the benefits that the new technology will provide (see #3 above) and offer training and support. Being transparent and communicative throughout the process will make onboarding users more efficient and effective in the long run.

 

Any system your firm implements will only be effective if your people use it. They key to getting a significant return on a tech tool investment is to ensure you have a carefully considered plan for encouraging user adoption throughout the process.

 

Ready for a tech tool that your people will actually use? Contact us for a free POUNCE demo.

3 Surprising Ways POUNCE Helps Our Team

You already know POUNCE is a professional resume and marketing material management tool that can enable your team members to easily find and distribute up-to-date collateral to prospects. (If this is news to you, check out our video.)

But after using POUNCE in our own firm, we’ve discovered a few other ways the system makes our lives easier. Here are a three surprising ways POUNCE has helped the P&N marketing team:

1. Quickly find outdated or prohibited language.

POUNCE’s search feature makes it easy to find words or phrases in user profiles or marketing materials that may need to be updated. Here are a couple of real life examples:

Regulatory Changes: Our firm performs a LOT of audits in the governmental and non-profit arenas, which means we had numerous marketing materials and resumes referencing the single audit standard OMB Circular A-133. As you know, this standard was recently consolidated into OMB’s Uniform Guidance.

With POUNCE, we were able to do a quick search of all marketing materials and resumes containing “A-133” so we would know exactly which pieces would need to be updated with “Uniform Guidance.” Without POUNCE, we would have had to individually go through each resume and marketing material that might contain “A-133” and that would have been time-consuming to say the least. POUNCE helped us quickly identify only those materials requiring updates rather than having to sift through each one.

Prohibited Language: The State Board of CPAs for our home state does not approve the word “expert” or “expertise” in advertising, marketing materials, or public communications.

However, our practice professionals have a tendency to describe their industry or service expertise in their resumes. (“Why shouldn’t I say I have expertise in state and local tax?”)

POUNCE makes it easy for us to perform periodic searches of these and other prohibited words and terms to ensure we are compliant with industry regulations.

2. Keep track of speakers and presentation topics.

It’s no secret that speaking engagements can be a powerful way to position your firm AND the individual speaker as a thought-leader and subject matter expert. But in our experience, it can become an administrative nightmare trying to keep track of each speaker and presentation.

POUNCE provides a place for your professionals to update and maintain their own list of past speaking engagements.

POUNCE-Keep-track-of-speakers-and-presentations

This information can be incredibly valuable for your marketing team (to understand who is speaking, where they are speaking, and so on), but can also be a huge benefit for your practice professionals as well. Why?

  • The full-text search feature in POUNCE makes it easy to see if others in your firm have presented on a specific topic. This means you can see if someone else has existing presentation content that you can leverage, which can save valuable time when developing a new presentation.
  • Your firm may have expectations of its practice professionals to participate in marketing and business development activities. POUNCE provides a central, visible place for users to document their speaking engagements that are aligned with these expectations.

3. Mitigate the risk of potential conflicts of interest.

Especially in the accounting and legal professions, potential conflicts of interest can arise before or during the course of an engagement. As an example, having a partner on the board of a non-profit organization would impair independence in performing that organization’s audit.

However, by performing a quick search of the name of the non-profit entity before investing time in the sales or engagement process, you can understand if any of your team members are currently serving (or have previously served) in a board member role.

POUNCE-Mitigate-the-risk-of-potential-conflicts

Most firms have policies and procedures in place to govern how conflicts are identified and managed to ensure that client interests are not jeopardized and professional standards are not violated. POUNCE is not designed or intended to act as a conflicts management or client acceptance tool, but is has become a valuable reference tool for our firm.

 

When we developed POUNCE, we were not seeking to alter the way we find and share presentation content across offices or check for potential conflicts of interest. We simply wanted to provide our doer-sellers with on-demand accessibility to the resumes and marketing materials they need in business development.

But we’ve found that the adoption of POUNCE has helped us become more efficient in ways we had not intended.

For a free demonstration of these and other ways POUNCE might be able to help your firm, please contact us.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

By Rachael Higginbotham

New year resolutions

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s just something about a clean slate, a blank chapter, and the prospect of taking a foundation I’ve worked to build for 40 years and making it a little bit better.

I’ve had enough New Years that I have no illusions that my resolutions are going to completely change my life. And that’s fine; life change is not necessary or appealing for me right now. But there are things I want to accomplish, and setting resolutions helps me establish goals and a path to move the needle in a few specific areas that are important to me.

I also believe strongly in the power of focus.

Making one or two important resolutions is much more impactful than making a bunch of smaller ones.

For example, one of my two resolutions this year is to make my health and fitness a priority. For me, this means upping my gym attendance by one time a week, adding a weekly flexibility class, and focusing on my nutrition. I have a foundation and the tools I need (a gym membership and a yoga mat), but I’ve had these things for a while and I’m still struggling. So what will be different this year? The tools are the exact same; the difference is the way I use them, and that’s completely on me. I can’t make more time in the day, and no one else can make better nutritional decisions for me. The delta is focus and consistency. I have to remove things that are taking my attention to make room for additional workouts. I have to consistently remove peanut M&Ms from my daily diet. Something has to go to make room for the things I want most.

I believe the concept of New Year’s resolutions can also be beneficial in the workplace. Instead of focusing on new personal resolutions, marketing departments can focus on new business solutions. What are your firm’s goals? How can your team help? How can you be more strategic with your time? These are the types of questions that make a marketer’s brain hum. Just like my fitness and nutrition goals, marketing departments must focus on their highest priorities, or the needle will get stuck in the noise and not move. What are you spending time on that doesn’t necessarily need to be done by you, or isn’t necessary to do at all?

For everything your team can (and should) take on, something has to go.

Sometimes, what has to go (up) is your payroll budget, meaning that your firm makes a strategic investment in additional marketing resources. Oftentimes, though, this is not the case. The best thing for many firms is to maintain the size of marketing departments, but to do that the team must become more efficient and effective in their roles. Some ideas for this include improving processes, training, leveraging, and of course technology.

At P&N, our marketing technology stack includes several off-the-shelf and customized tools. A core component of our process is POUNCE. With this tool, we have seen response time for marketing materials go from hours (sometimes days), to minutes, with little to no involvement from marketing resources. We have seen the accuracy and consistency of our professionals’ resumes (in both proposals and our website) improve through no additional effort of the marketing department. And we have seen increased usage of marketing materials simply by having them available 24/7 to our doer-sellers.

Why was this important to our firm? Before we could start being more strategic, we had to stop being as administrative. There is simply not time to do both.

What is your team going to focus on doing this year? And what are you going to stop doing in order to make it happen?

 

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.