Last week I started writing about how powerful your website is in building trust. It’s your marketing hub, one that ought to be filled with information and answers for your audience so that they can be educated from the moment they discover you to long after the sign the proposal and partner with you.
We covered how you might list out your services on your website, and how simply listing them out like a brochure is of little value to your audience.
So, connected to that, is using buzzwords.
You know what I’m talking about, right? I’m talking about the words or phrases you use to describe your firm, or a service you offer, or the relationship you’d have with your clients.
I’m talking about phrases like:
“Added value business advisor”
“Accountant who adds value to your business”
“Modern cloud accountant”
I could go on, but those are just some of the top phrases that I’ve seen accountants use on their websites, and in short – please get rid of them!
Now, I’m of the opinion that getting rid of buzzwords is the best thing you can do for your website, and I can practically guarantee you that the moment you do this and start talking in plain English, you’ll have an uptick in people interacting with your website! Allow me to explain…
Your audience sees right through it
In short, if a prospect, or even a client, comes to your website and they’re reading these buzzwords, they’re thinking “what does that mean?” or “I have no idea what they’re talking about there!”
That’s bad! Really bad even.
Let’s look at the situation. Rewind 10 years ago and buzzwords would’ve been ok to use. Your audience would’ve been coming to your site uneducated, and so buzzwords was enough to sell them something they didn’t quite fully understand.
But that’s not the case anymore. Your audience is highly educated as we’ve already established. They know what you offer, so if they’re coming to your site and they see buzzwords, your audience sees right through it.
If anything, they think you’re bluffing. They think you yourself don’t understand the product and that you’ve stuffed in some buzzwords to make it sound bigger than it actually is.
By doing this, you’re losing trust. Your audience is lowering their estimations of you and chances are, they’re doing this before they’ve even met you.
This has huge, HUGE ramifications, because if they’ve lost trust in you, when it comes to the moment you meet and have a proposal meeting, there’s going to be doubt in their mind.
They’re going to be thinking “Is this person really a fit for me? Do they know what they’re talking about?” because at the back of their mind is buzzwords. They’ll even be fishing for them so that they can call you out on them.
What happens then is even if they sign the proposal, the relationship will have some degree of sourness to it, all because of that doubt in the back of their mind. It’ll continue to deteriorate the relationship and in the end, the relationship will fizzle out and you’ll look back and think “how come that client didn’t work out?” when ultimately, the problem comes back to your website.
Buzzwords are also predictable
The other issue you have with buzzwords is that they’re extremely predictable.
I would happily bet that I could go onto several accountancy sites in one sitting and find the same buzzwords on at least one page across every site.
Buzzwords are clichéd business-speak. There’s a lack of originality.
Your audience is coming to your site not only to understand what you offer, but also learn more about you and determine if you’re the right person for their business.
If they’re coming to your site and reading unoriginal content, they’re going to think otherwise. They’re simply going to say “This is just like every other accountant” which in most cases, isn’t what they want.
Without a doubt, you’ll use the business there and then.
But don’t worry, buzzwords are easy to fix, and I’m going to walk you through how you can go through all of your marketing, especially your website, and identify and remove buzzwords entirely.
Focus on what’s relevant to them
When you’re writing about your services, or the support you can provide your audience, think about the issue for them.
What’s their pain point? What are they struggling with? What’s the issue that’s affecting them and their business?
From there, it’s about understanding how your service impacts those very issues. How does it solve them? Think on that and find the key message that you need to get across to them.
Once you’ve got that, all you need to do is use simple and straightforward language. No acronyms, just simplicity. Use language that explains the issue directly, without any fluff, and also explain the solution you have.
And if you have stories to tell, use them too. They’ll do the talking for you, so that you don’t even have to think about using buzzwords. Instead you’ll have real like proof to walk your audience through a product or a service.
It really is that important to keep it simple (remember the famous phrase “keep it simple, stupid!” When you understand your topic, you’ll find yourself resisting the urge to blather on with buzzwords and jargon.
But in doing so, you’re ensuring your website continues to build trust by creating content that you and your audience understand, digest, and take action on.
Now is the time to go through your site and identify buzzwords. Read through everything on your site and ask yourself if it makes sense. Even get a non-accountant to look through your site to get a fresh set of eyes reviewing everything.
You’ve probably heard time and time again that your website is your marketing hub.
Well I’m not here to tell you that that’s no longer true, but what I’m going to do is take it one step further.
Yes, your website is your marketing hub, but it is also what I like to call your “trust hub”. Why? Because it’s the number one place that you can continually build trust with your prospects and clients, from the moment they’ve first heard of you, to months and years after they’ve signed the proposal.
What I’m going to do over the next 4 blog posts is talk about how powerful your website can be in building trust, and we’re going to start with services.
Ahhhh services. The bread and butter of accountancy. The list of options for clients that, up until recently, was enough when selling to your audience.
Let me paint a picture for you…
Someone goes onto Google and they type “Accountants in [location]”. Your website comes up on the first page.
They click and they see a banner that says “Welcome to [firm name.]” Along the top is your navigation menu, which has your typical run-of-the-mill options: “About”, “Services” and so on.
They click on “Services” and a dropdown appears with a long list: “Accounts”, “Bookkeeping”, “Self Assessment”, “Payroll”, “Advisory”.
Well guess what, that’s not enough anymore.
A lack of meaning
The problem with this approach to promoting services is the lack of meaning, because as soon as your audience reads this, they’re thinking “ok… and?” or even, “so what?”
They have little to no confidence in your services, because this type of marketing isn’t screaming “We can help solve your problems!” or “we can help save your house” or “save your business” or “save your marriage” and so on.
And it gets even worse if you’re using templated content on your site, because that content will be the same from one accountancy site to the next.
When you’ve got all your services described in such a generic fashion, you’re instantly turning away your audience, because they already know they offer you these services.
As we’ve already established, your audience is much more educated than before. Because of the sheer volume of information readily available on the internet, they know the types of services that accountants can offer. Where you were once seen as the all-seeing, all-doing problem solver, you’re now seen as something else entirely.
The other issue with listing out your services in this way is the risk of overwhelming your audience. They’ve already got so much information at their fingertips. They’ve got their own content to deal with, because they’re using cloud technology and have greater access than ever before to their business finances.
In fact, that statement puts even less value on your list of services, because with the advent of this technology, they can already do a lot of it themselves.
So, what’s the solution? How do you promote your services? How do you show to your audience that what you’re offering is worthwhile for them?
Focus on the why
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that I know that you’re a great accountant. You’re doing great stuff for your clients. You’re providing great results.
But the problem is your prospects don’t see that. With your services laid out as they are, you aren’t proving what you do.
Your prospects won’t come to you and do business with you straight away, because they want to see the “why”. They want to see why your services and working with you will have benefit to them.
That means, you want to craft your services so they promote what’s important to your audience. For them, that could be anxiety relief, confidence, destiny fulfillment, a peaceful night’s sleep. Do you see how that’s much more powerful than saying that you can provide an audit, a tax return and so on?
This is what builds trust. Your showing your services, but more importantly, your showing them in such a way that answers the question of “why should I pick this service” and also shows the benefit of having that service.
How one firm renamed their services to focus on the benefits
Originally they had their services structured in a similar way to what I described at the start: The name of the service/product, and then a description of what it was.
And yep, you guessed it, they weren’t getting much traction with it, and the reception to the services wasn’t great.
So what did they do? They restragised everything. Over the course of several months, they created a fresh landing page on their site which summarised and simplified all their services down to 6 pain points and goals: Save time, Pay Less Tax, Increase Profits, Improve Cash Flow, Reduce Hassle and Accelerate Growth.
They also started writing content around those pain points, answering the very questions their clients and prospects had been asking. By doing so, they were able to give their audience practical support before they’d signed up, and also long after.
Not only that, but they had at least one case study for each of the 6 goals. This allowed them to show real proof that they could achieve results, but also showcase the story of how they’ve helped someone succeed. They were showing them who they really are, and telling a story that could potentially impact their audience.
Don’t neglect your website and its content
To recap, your website is so powerful in creating trust for your audience, with your services being one of the fundamental parts that you need to address.
My advice is to go, right now, open a new tab, open up your website, and look at how your services are promoted – Are you just listing them out? Or are you focusing on the benefits, the results, the reasons why your prospective client should choose them?
If it’s the former, then think about how you could rewrite the content for their services. Do you focus on pain points? Could you write case studies for them?
Next week, it’s buzzwords – What are they? Why might you not use them?
“Not chest or box is now discussed. Money can be held in it, but just as we test its metal, within there is rest.”
“Neither bought nor sold but more valuable than gold. It is built but not by hand. What is it?”
“What is it that you ought to keep after you have it to someone else?”
If you guessed the answer to be “trust” then you guessed it right, although it was probably obvious given the title of this blog post!
Trust is a quality that we often overlook in people. The riddles ring true: we can’t buy trust. It has to be built overtime. We often neglect the notion that trust is probably the single most important factor in building a relationship.
For example, if you’d met someone for the first time in the pub, you wouldn’t instantly walk up to them and say “Hey, nice to meet you. I think we should get married.” By the same token, you can’t expect a prospective client to walk in on their first visit, having NEVER met you, the accountant, and be ready to spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds with you each year.
Put yourself in the shoes of your prospective client. They’re coming to you to put the security of their finances, and the security of your business in your hands.
That’s no small feat. That’s a big decision, huge in fact. It’s not something they’ll do a whim. They’ll want to do months of research. And that’s the part that a lot of accountancy firms fall down on.
The zero moment of truth
The reality is the 70% of your prospective client’s decision is made online.
70%… before they even get in touch with you.
That’s huge. That’s a hella lot of research done before they pick up the phone, or sign the dotted line on the proposal.
So what are they doing? What goes into that 70% of research?
Chances are they’re looking at your website, prices, services, comparisons, so on and so forth.
They’re looking to answer the most important question that could ever be asked – Do I trust them enough to buy from them?
That answer lies in your marketing.
That’s how powerful it is. Your marketing is wholeheartedly responsible for building trust throughout the zero moment of truth. It’s your marketing that they look at when they’re doing the research – blog posts, guides, videos, webinars, FAQs, price lists, service offerings.
So if you don’t have this marketing in place, how in the world do you build that trust?
Marketing is that important. It’s what creates value for your prospective clients, because as they research you and find the answers to their questions, they become more educated and more engaged with you. It’s your marketing that addresses their concerns before you’ve even voiced them. It’s your marketing that answers questions that would be asked in a sales meeting. It’s your marketing that educates them to the point that they say “Yes, I trust these guys. They sound like they know what they’re talking about. I’m going to get in touch with them!”
(Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure your prospective clients will say something to that effect, but probably not verbatim!)
“So Tom, how exactly do I do this?” I’m hearing you screaming at the screen. Well… I’ll tell you!
I’ll give you the highlights assuming you’re currently getting the card out to pay for your copy now… In the book, Marcus posits that content marketing is based around the act of answering questions, more specifically your clients and prospective clients questions.
Quite literally, they ask and you answer – (5 points if you guessed that’s where the book title comes from!)
Now if you’re thinking “I can’t be that easy”, believe me I thought the same, but think about it. Think about how you type into Google, especially when you’re looking for information. You type questions, like “how much does a tax return cost?” or “do I need an accountant?”
And that’s exactly what the “They ask, you answer” concept is – answering those questions.
That’s what your marketing needs to do. It needs to answer those questions in a way that is helpful, that your prospective clients will want to read and that ultimately answers their needs.
And when you’ve mastered that, you’re identifying their needs, addressing them and ultimately providing value for your audience on a regular basis. It’s a drip feed that keeps them engaged and informed from the moment they first heard of you to months, even years after they become a client. They become more educated and they trust you evermore.
What to do now
If like me, your mind has been blown by the “They Ask, You Answer” (trust me, mine was pretty blown!), then here’s what you need to do now.
Step One: Get everyone in a room together: Partners, client managers, trainees, receptionist, heck your whole firm!
Step Two: Run a “They Ask, You Answer” session: By this I mean, have an hour, a few hours, a day, however long brainstorming questions your clients have asked you. It could be something trivial. It could be something that impacts a major decision someone has made. It doesn’t matter. Write down as many questions that have been asked by clients and even prospects who didn’t even become a client. Go back through your sent inbox and see what answers you’ve sent.
Step Three: Turn this into content marketing: Now that you’ve got this undoubtedly massive list of questions, it’s time to turn it into marketing. Write blogs, record videos, publish tweets, write guides – Start churning it out. You can go one step further and categorise your content into 5 categories (spoiler, if you haven’t read Marcus’ book:
“Cost and price” articles – Content around how much your products or services cost.
“Problem” articles – Content around a top number of products or services for a certain problem (or conversely solution.)
“Comparisons” – Versus content answering the question of which is better.
“Reviews” – What is says on the tin!
“Best of” or “Top” articles – Content reviewing the top or best product/service.
That’s what your audience wants. Content that does all of that.
If you master that, you’ve got content marketing nailed, and content for that zero moment of truth. It educates. It inspires. It answers the question. It builds trust – the most important quality of all.
The question remains – is your marketing doing that?
Accountants have it tough. For years you’ve been seen as a leading and trusted figure for business owners. You have the power to change a business owner’s life, as you’re the one they go to for help with their finances, the nitty gritty, the most important part of their business.
So when a potential new client comes to you, it’s only natural for accountants to talk about what they can do, and I’m going to take a guess that a phrase that comes up in every initial conversation is “we can add value to your business…”
Heck you’ve probably got that plastered somewhere on your website.
But here’s the thing: What. Does. That. Even. Mean?!
“Value” is probably the most overused buzzword in the 21stcentury for everyone from sales reps to marketers and of course you, the accountant. It’s especially tough for you because you know what you can do for that person’s business. You know how important you are to a business owner. You know what a difference you can make… and yet you come back to this word: “Value”.
The problem is when you say you can “add value” to that person’s business, or you put this on your website, it really doesn’t have any meaning whatsoever. And I guarantee the prospective client thinks the same. They’re probably sat like Bernard from Black Books:
Why does “value” have no value?
Let’s take a look at what value actually means:
“The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”
What sticks out for you there? For me, its “worth, or usefulness of something”. It basically translates as something of value means it is worth something to that person, or it is something that see to be useful.
And that’s the problem: This idea of value is inextricably linked to that person’s own beliefs. You can’t put your finger on value. It’s relative, and it’s different from one person to the next.
And that puts you at a disadvantage. You know the value you can bring to the business owner, but how do you frame that to them? You don’t want to be in a proposal meeting, be talking about “value” and the business owner say to you “well… that’s not valuable to me”. Management accounts, for example, might be valuable for one business owner, but it could be of no interest to the next business owner, even if you’re using phrases like “management accounts can really add value to your business.”
That is why saying “we can add value” or even mentioning “value” in your marketing, or on your website, doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t build trust. If anything it causes confusion, because simply saying it holds no meaning and ironically no value.
You have to find what’s valuable to them
Why I like about the accountants I work with is that when they meet with their prospects, they’re not just saying things like “we can do those accounts for you” or “sure, we can take care of the tax returns.”
Don’t get me wrong, they have those services available (I mean if you didn’t as an accountant, I’d be surprised!) but instead what they do is find the underlying thing that’s important to them.
It could be they’re looking to buy a house, or they’re looking to reach a certain turnover, or sell the business within a certain timeframe. That information is so powerful to you, because it gives you the opportunity to frame your services around those goals.
You have an opportunity to say “if you want to achieve this, then you need this” (in more words than that obviously) and that is so valuable to them.
Let’s go back to that definition from earlier: “The importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” That’s exactly what you’re now doing. You’ve identified what’s important to them, and framed your service as something useful in helping them achieve that.
Deep down it’s still “adding value”, but what you’ve now done is put it back on them and helped them recognise how powerful you can be in helping them.
Case studies can also make a difference
Case studies can be a really powerful opportunity to showcase what you have done for your clients.
Think about it: What better way to show how you’ve helped and brought value to a business owner by showing a case study and telling a story about how you’ve done it to someone in a similar position.
I’m a bit fan of the Story Stack by Kev Anderson because it centres your case studies around the client. That’s right… the client, not you. They’re the hero. They’re the ones who’s lives have been made different and the story stack helps showcase how to do that.
Your audience is much more educated than they used to be, and because of that, it’s not enough to just say what services you offer.
Your prospects will see right through that, and now is the time to start showing what value you can bring rather than simply stating it. Your marketing is so powerful and can help you do that.
It’s a multi-layered story as to how I came up with the concept of “timeless marketing.”
And there’s two sides to it, physically timeless and, in the case of the anagram, conceptually timeless. Allow me to explain:
So in November 2017, my beloved granddad sadly passed away. It was something we’d all been prepared for, but even so it was a devastating loss for me and my family.
Now the thing about my granddad was that he never threw anything away. Literally. NEVER. It took us 3 full days to clear out his 3-bedroom house. He had every cheque book since the 70s, all in order with no cheques in them, just the stubs. He’d collected bags of… believe it or not… carrier bags. The beds and toys from my dad’s childhood, who is now 63. Get the picture?
Even so, you’re probably reading this and thinking “ok Tom, but what the hell does this have to do with marketing?”
Well, in our quest to clear my granddad’s old house we stumbled across a suitcase in the attic. And in it, amongst more empty cheque books and bank deposit slips were tax tables.
That’s right. Tax tables.
I’ll do you one better. Tax tables from 1959. In pristine condition!
You can tell they were valuable to him, because he’d kept them with all his other financial paperwork from that year.
Now me being someone who works with accountants I was fascinated by finding these so much that I actually kept a hold of them. I kept starting them in the face, and then it dawned on me: I was actually staring at an example of retro content marketing.
When you think about it, back in that day, those tax tables were a valuable piece of content for my granddad. They’d helped him with his problems and held the answers he needed, which is the premise of content marketing right at its finest. The fact that he held onto them for years, in fact decades, is a testament to the power of content marketing. That’s how content marketing is timeless. One piece of content can be valuable for years to come to your prospective client, but it can only take that one piece of content to ground the relationship with them. I’ll delve more into this later, but it was important that I address how I discovered the idea of content marketing being “physically” timeless to your audience.
Another meaningless anagram…?
Not quite (I hope) … but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Indulge me a little if you will!
As I’ve said before, in the time I’ve worked with accountants, I’ve encountered several who feel they’ve been unable to focus on marketing in their firm, and their reason has always been this: “I don’t have time for marketing.”
When I hear that, I often imagine a sliding scale for accountants. It starts with those who say exactly that, that they have no time for marketing, and ends with those who are 100% committed to their marketing efforts and taking immediate action.
That got me thinking about the concept of putting “TIME” into marketing, and consequently putting “LESS” time into marketing. I stared at those two words for hours, and then I broke it down further. I asked myself: “why do you need to put TIME into your marketing?” and “what happens when you put LESS time into marketing?”
In doing so, and through my research of talking to accountants, I found that there are 4 main reasons that accountants focus on marketing, which happen to spell out “TIME”:
Each of those 4 areas has a counter, which is the outcome of what happens if you put less, or no time into your marketing. And yes, you guessed it, they happen to spell out “LESS”:
Trust is LOST
Interest in your ERODES
Management of the relationship SLIPS
Engagement with you STOPS
And there you have it. It’s not a bulls**t anagram. It’s not even conceptual. It’s fact. In my experience of working accountants, I’ve seen how any marketing they do, be it blogging, landing pages, guides, social media, whatever… it’s always underpinned by the idea of building trust, showing interest, engaging with the prospect and eventually managing that relationship.
Every time those same accountants have stopped their marketing, the results have always been the same. They lose trust. The client or prospect loses interest. The relationship is managed less and eventually, the engagement stops.
That’s why this I’ve brought this content to you. I want to show you the how and why of your marketing. I want to explain the negatives of not putting time into marketing, or even into the relationship.
And as a client of many accountancy firms in the past, I can tell you first hand that I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. It’s not great, but you can prevent it.
We all have 24 hours a day – that’s over a thousands minutes, over 80,000 moments that pass by us every day.
Time is finite. You can’t get it back once it’s gone. Even with “life-changing” products out there that are sold as “giving you time back”, in reality they’re not. You can’t get time back that you’ve already spent.
Time is valuable to us, and when we know how constricted we are with the precious 24 hours a day, we prioritise our time based on value. If you know you’re on the clock, or a deadline is looming, you’ll drop everything else to get that completed, because that’s what’s most valuable to you.
In accountancy firms, I’ve often found that marketing is one of those priorities that often gets dropped, but why?
Often, the answer is “It’s simple, I just don’t have time for marketing”. In my head, I’m often asking “why” because truthfully, neglecting your marketing comes with a whole host of conundrums.
You see, in my time working with accountants, one of, if not THE most popular problem accountants are faced with is the fact that they say, and better yet, they THINK they don’t have time for marketing. But it goes so much deeper than that.
That’s why I’ve written this for you.
As I work with accountants more and more, I’ve seen that this problem of “not having time for marketing” hasn’t been solved. You’ll say you’ve not got time for marketing. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll address your marketing later when you’ve focused your time elsewhere.
But to your statement of “I don’t have time for marketing”, I ask you “So what do you think happens now?”
That’s where this concept of TIMELESS Marketing has come from. And it’s a concept that, once you’ve read it, will hopefully change your perceptions and mentality when it comes to thinking about your marketing. Are you with me? More coming soon…