What sets a good accountant apart from the rest when it comes to building their business and serving their clients? Is it experience, education, something deep within their soul? The answer lies in his or her ability to clearly communicate how they are different from their competitors and how they can solve your problems or serve your needs better.
If this is the case, why do so many professionals adopt a “me, too” mentality when it comes to their marketing and how they describe themselves and their firm? I did a quick search on the Internet for accounting firms in my hometown of Madison, WI. Of the more than two dozen firms that showed up, 68% of them had used some combination of the following words on their home page: integrity, trust, honesty, and/or caring.
Really? That’s what separates you from your competition? Doesn’t everyone, either as an individual or as an organization, want an accountant that is honest, trustworthy, and caring with high integrity? So, if every firm and professional looks the same, how are you going to stand out from the crowd? I would think that the basic traits of honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, and integrity would be the minimum requirements for me to consider a firm or an individual, not the unique selling proposition that will compel me to choose one over the other.
Too many professionals and firms fall into this trap of “me, too” marketing. They feel that they have to look and sound like their competition or they’ll get left behind. I find that this is the most common mistake made by firms that do not have a good sense of who they are or what their brand is. Perhaps they just don’t have the marketing function nailed down, so they do a scan of their competitors and follow their lead. Or, they think this is what prospective clients want to hear and read – probably not the best of ideas.
What about the firm that goes about their marketing in the same way that everyone else does? Again, it happens all too often. For example, maybe one firm decides that they’re going to focus on social media or seminars as their main marketing strategy for a particular year, and then, just like lemmings, many other firms follow their lead. Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean it’s the best idea or strategy for you. It wasn’t a great argument when you were in second grade and it isn’t one now. It may turn out that a particular activity is a good strategy, but you really have to define objectives and outcomes before you can decide what is best for the firm in the long run.
The moral to all of this is that you need to think about who you are and what you want to accomplish when you go about creating your marketing strategy, whether for your firm or yourself personally. You need to align the proper activities and marketing channels with well-defined outcomes in order to accomplish your goals.
Don’t fall into the “me, too” trap. Besides, if every one of your competing firms were jumping off the cliff, is it really a good idea for you, too, as well?