Accountants, It is Time to Think Like a Marketer with Kate Colbert

istockphoto.com

Thinking like a marketer can be difficult when most of us — well, think like accountants. Marketing isn’t a space in our brains; we use that often. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to, or don’t feel like we need to. Other times, it’s because we don’t even know where to start. 

Luckily, I had a guest on the podcast who’s expertise is in just that. Kate Colbert is the author of “Think Like a Marketer: How a Shift in Mindset Can Change Everything for Your Business,” as well as the owner of Silver Tree Communications, a full-service marketing company. 

Kate has (thankfully) broken down how to think like a marketer into five simple steps — which we can all apply to our businesses. Without further ado, because, as Kate says, “the perfect time to start thinking like a marketer is now”: 

1. Communicate for connection and meaning, not just to transact sales.

Communication should be the top priority for anybody doing business, whether you’re in the accounting world, retail, restaurants, or publishing. Communication is about adding meaning and value to potential customers – not just trying to snag a check from them. 

For example, most people only hear from their accountant around — you guessed it — tax season. They get a simple email reminding them to make their appointment, and maybe a follow-up or two. However, outside of that season, customers typically aren’t getting much year-round value from their accounting firm. Also, it doesn’t have to be that way. Blogs, podcasts, and newsletters are all great ways to engage your clients (present or future ones) and add meaning to your relationship, without asking them for a sale of some kind.

When a change in the tax code occurs, accountants need to reach out to their clients who will be impacted by this change.  For example, “There is a change in the tax code, and I would like to have a conversation on its potential impact on your business.  Can we meet for cup of coffee to discuss?” 

“The accounting professionals who are finding ways to create meaningful conversations are the ones that are creating sustainable businesses for the long haul,” she said. “And (they’re) capturing a lot more value to the bottom line because they can raise their prices because they’re [bringing more value to their clients].”

2. Live and die by your client’s insights.

Are you paying attention to what your clients are saying? What they like and dislike, what they want to see more or less? If not, you’re leaving tremendous marketing opportunities on the table. 

“What’s interesting to me about financial professionals is that, here’s a group of subject matter experts who are all about the data, right?” Kate said. 

However, how many accounting firms are invested in the data of what their customers think? What’s your net promoter score? How is it trending? 

Give a survey, or set up a focus group — you glean your information is up to you. Make this a priority in your marketing strategy. Otherwise, you’re not going to know where to go.

“Once you have those clients insights, you know what pivots to make in your firm to be able to grow,” Kate said.

3. Market in a way that’s strategy-religious and tactic-agnostic. 

So many companies — accounting and otherwise — take the opposite approach than this. They’re all over the place with their strategy, but married to one tactic, just because they think that’s what the rest of the industry is doing. 

The trick is in the opposite approach: Be married to your strategy (once you do the front-end work to come up with a robust one). Try a little bit of everything when it comes to the tactics — aka the vehicles by which you deliver your strategy. 

Maybe the tactic is a video series, a workshop, a television commercial, or a newsletter series. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above. However, the trick is to experiment with a variety of approaches and see how best to deliver your strategy. Where are you seeing the most engagement, or the most leads coming from where? Pay attention to the numbers, and start devoting resources to the tactics that are producing results (and pulling resources from tactics that don’t).

“It’s about being willing to try new things,” Kate said. “And then walk away from new things.”

4. Create cultures and processes that align with your brand.

If your firm has a brand associated with never surprise-invoicing people, then you should, as a firm, build billing processes and packages around that core value. According to Kate, structure your pricing in a way that there’s some cushion. Just in case people call and ask for further advice, you don’t feel like you’re giving it away for free. 

Also, if you have a brand focused on being accessible and comfortable, and not nickel-and-diming the client, then build a culture surrounding that. An example Kate used is Southwest Airlines. This is an airline that’s built its brand around never being late, and not putting more costs on the customers’ shoulders. When a Southwest plane lands, all the crew going around and cleaning so that the aircraft can be used again for its next flight on time. Southwest built a culture in its employees around its “never late” branding, and that shines through in their marketing.

“What are we willing to do differently to deliver on the story that we’re telling the marketplace about what makes you a better accounting firm than the accounting firm down the street?” Kate asked.

5. Do everything in service of maintaining a virtuous cycle of creating value for the client while capturing value for you. 

This last marketing value is related in a way to the first: It’s all about creating value. Kate states, “that might mean giving things away for free. If giving something away for free is going to land you even more business eventually, then it’s a good cycle to get into.”

“It’s about can you create value for people, not just upfront when you’re trying to win them, but continuously, how do you keep creating value?” Kate said. “But how do you capture it back? We’re all in business to stay in business. So it’s not about giving it all away for selling it for too cheap. It’s really about figuring out how do you make sure that you’re pricing yourself right.” 

Much of this value comes back to the concept of “delighting.” How do you not just serve your clients, but delight them? Whether that’s the atmosphere, you create within the office, the gift that you give a new client, or that phone call informing the client of a tax law change.  How do you delight your client enough to where they not only want to keep coming back, but they also want to bring you quality referrals? 

Strategically doing this — in a way that eventually brings money back to your bottom line — is how to create a winning marketing strategy (and business). 

“You can’t create more value for your clients, or future clients, or associates, or whomever you serve if you’re not capturing money back to the bottom line,” Kate said. “If you’re constantly working your marketing, your business is going to be around as long as you want it to be. Then you can retire and go buy a yacht.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview

Staying Ahead of Technology: Trends You Need to Know & What You Can Do to Protect Yourself with Byron Patrick, CPA, CITP

www.istockphoto.com

Just like so many other instances in life, sometimes IT security comes down to trusting your gut. 

That’s one of the biggest lessons we took away from our session with Byron Patrick, CPA, CITP. He’s brilliant when it comes to keeping your business safe and secure from attempted security breaches, which are, of course, becoming ever more prevalent in today’s world. 

“Seventy-five percent of data breaches occur because of the human element,” Byron said.

Whether you run a large business, or you’re just interested in internet security for your personal use, the same principles apply. 

First, according to Byron, you’ve got to listen to your gut. If you get a suspicious email that you already feel like you need to forward onto the IT department to see if it’s a hacking attempt or something malicious, then you probably already know the answer! Go ahead and delete it. 

Second, if something is trying to inspire urgency or fear when you read it, that’s likely a malicious attempt, too. 

Sometimes, employees need a little practice in making these decisions — click or delete can maybe feel a little like “fight or flight,” so it’s all about honing that instinct. 

“We do security tests where we send phishing emails to our clients and see who clicks,” Byron said. “We’re helping to teach them what to look for, and put the fear of God that they’re going to fail the test and get in trouble with the boss, which protects them. … The other benefit is it enrolls them in a short 5- to 10-minute training that they then have to complete because they failed the test.” 

Plenty of these phishing attempts are getting more sophisticated as technology evolves. However, it’s not just your business; you have to worry about: It’s also essential to think about IT security when you’re at home. 

Who else owns some device — like an Amazon Alexa or a baby monitor — that hooks up to your home WiFi? These devices are incredibly popular, but unfortunately, we’re still not sure about how secure they are.

“There have been stories of crooks gaining unauthorized access to things such as baby monitors, watching the home, and learning the behaviors and activities, and they can figure out when the home is empty and go right in,” Byron said. “So that’s where you need to make sure that devices you’re putting on the WiFi network are segregated, isolated, and they require additional authentication. You want to make sure it requires additional authentication, passwords, or something.” 

In this day and age, there’s plenty of these conversations to be had: the risk vs. reward of convenience vs. giving up a certain level of security. 

However, as long as you’re using extra authentication, and protecting yourself against the human element of phishing attempts (training your employees to make sure they understand what *not* to click), Byron talked a lot about the benefits of running your business in the cloud. 

Cloud-based systems are enormous right now — this is where you don’t have to log in to multiple apps on your local computers. Instead, everything is browser-based, so your workforce can work outside of the office. 

“Organizations are now adopting all of these browser-based applications,” Byron said. “They’re adding multiple logins to all their staff. They’ve got data all over the place. Also, talking about how to gain control of that browser-based computing platform for your business, and how to do it efficiently, effectively, and securely.” 

So what are a few must-have apps that Byron suggests every CPA have to run their business? 

  • Some form of online accounting, whether this is Quickbooks or something else
  • Zoom (for communication with remote employees)
  • Office Lines (for taking photos and converting them into different file types, like a PDF or JPEG)

However, remember: The convenience of all these apps comes with an inherent risk. That’s why it’s essential to stay up to date on security risks. Above all, train your employees on how to minimize that risk and work safely and securely. Also, that’s exactly what Byron encourages through his work. 

“It is an ever-changing world,” he said. “And, you know, we’re trying to pivot and stay up to date to make sure that we can keep bringing that value to the industry and keep everybody relevant.” 

Listen to the full podcast episode by clicking here.

Facilitated Collaboration Key to Surviving the Evolving Corporate Landscape

 

Today’s business buzzword? Collaboration. But how do you do less talking about collaboration and more… well, collaboration?

“We think the secret sauce is that it should be facilitated,” said Eddie Turner, who joined me for the Change Your Mindset podcast. “Facilitated collaboration is what accelerates performance and drives impact.”

Eddie is a C-suite network advisor, international certified coach, a professional speaker, and President of the Association for Talent Development’s Houston chapter. In short, he knows facilitated collaboration better than most.

Facilitation can be the way through a myriad of issues: process mapping, conflict resolution, and strategy planning, to name a few.

The key to that facilitation? Having a dialogue — not a monologue — and asking engaging questions that allow leaders to come to their own conclusions, without being told what to think. Through that facilitated approach, where they’re being asked probing questions, leaders learn more. And now — with sweeping changes affecting nearly every industry in the world — is not the time to forget the importance of continued education.

“Some people never take a class after leaving a university. I know some people who don’t even pick up a book after leaving university,” Turner said. “So if we’re not continuing to educate ourselves, we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the disruption that technology will introduce.”

The best way to think about the constantly-changing landscape that requires constant education? Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.

To stay ready — no matter what changing industry you’re a part of — you could stand to benefit from facilitated collaboration.

Whether you’re lower on the totem pole and need to stay up on the latest trends, or you’re a leader looking to inspire the masses, you have to be facilitating. Because “collaboration” runs the risk of being just a word without facilitation.

And without facilitation? You risk being left behind.

“We need to be continuous learners,” Turner said, “scanning the horizon looking to see where we can improve ourselves as individuals and staying ahead of the curve.”

 

To listen to the entire interview with Eddie Turner, you can click this link and download it from my website or you can download the episode on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play. Just search Change Your Mindset with Peter Margaritis.

 

Ep. 96 – Bob Pacanovsky | Develop a Black Tie Mindset & Discover the Power of Hospitality

Bob Pacanovsky is what you might call a “Wow!” expert – with 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, primarily in the hospitality space, he has learned how create engagement, retention, and loyalty with customers, employees, and clients. Bob took that expertise and founded The Black Tie Experience, which helps companies and leaders create that Black Tie Experience for their customers and employees.

The black tie is much more than a uniform – it’s a mindset. You don’t actually have to have a black tie on to deliver a Black Tie Mindset, you just have to create an impression that LASTS:

  • Look
  • Act
  • Speak
  • Tact (or how you behave)
  • Serve

We tend to rush to the service part because we want to create an unbelieve customer or employee experience, but “we have to know how to look the part and act the part before we can actually serve the part.”

One of the most important things to keep in mind – and this can be difficult – when working with other people, whether they’re your customers or employees, is that it’s not about you as a host or leader, it’s about them.

“If you have a mindset of making people feel differently about your product, your service, and themselves than they ever have before, then you’re really living the Black Tie Mindset.”

The 4 Principles to Create a Black Tie Experience:

  1. A Culture of Welcome – Create a welcoming culture (not only for your employees, but also for your customers or guests). What is the culture, or the atmosphere, like in your company?
  2. The Way of Doings Things – What is your company’s way of doings things? Disney, Apple, and Starbucks all have their own unique way of doings things, and it affects how you experience their brands. However, most companies aren’t spending enough time training their employees to wow people.
  3. Impact Points – These are the subconscious impressions that people make about your business before, during, or after they purchase something. For example, what impression does your website make, or what does your restroom look like?
  4. Put Yourself in your Customer’s Shoes – What does your customer see, hear, touch, or smell when they come into your business, or interact with you online?

You’ve probably heard me say in the past that we’re all in the people business, even if we’re accountants – Bob takes it a step farther, arguing that we’re all in the hospitality business… and it makes a lot of sense!

The definition of hospitality is, “The art of making that personal connection with someone,” and based on that definition, aren’t we all in the hospitality business, first and foremost?

So yes, we are in the people business, and we do need to focus on customer and employee experiences and retention, but we can’t excel at those things if we forget about the power of hospitality.

 

 

Resources:

Improv Is No Joke is produced by Podcast Masters

Ep. 95 – Kristen Rampe | Another CPA Who’s All Things Improv Shares a New Training Tool for Speaking Success

Kristen Rampe,  Founder of Kristen Rampe Consulting, returns to the show to discuss how CPE educators can get the best out of their presenters and subject matter experts and a new training tool for those who want to build confidence when speaking in front of a crowd: PowerPoint Improv!

 

If you want to get better at speaking, this episode is for you.

 

Kristen conducted an excellent breakout session during the 2018 CPE Educators Conference, in which a group of us discussed how we can get more engagement from our audiences.

 

One of the things she talked about was giving the different personas in the room what they need – but what does it really mean to know your audience?

 

You need an understanding of…

 

  • Who’s in the room
  • What their background is
  • Why they’re there
  • What they want to learn

 

If you don’t know who they are and what they want, it’s going to be a lot harder to provide value or engage them. Remember: in any speaking engagement, it’s not about you, it’s about the audience.

 

PowerPoint Improv

Kristen recently discovered this new kind of improv, which she’s calling Slide Deck Improv, and I’m fascinated by the concept. It sounds like excellent training for any professional speakers, or just anyone who wants more confidence in front of crowds. Plus, it sounds like fun!

 

The premise is simple:

 

  1. After some basic improv education and warm ups, participants get on a stage with a slide deck that they’ve never seen before.
  2. In proper improv fashion, they get a topic from the audience.
  3. The participant gives a presentation on that topic!

 

Kristen says most people go into this a little bit nervous, naturally, but then they realize just how much they can do, how much they know, and how many stories they can tell.


Check out kristenrampe.com/slide-deck-improv to learn more, and to see a video of Slide Deck Improv in action.

 

 

Resources:

 


Improv Is No Joke is produced by
Podcast Masters