Clients don’t buy accounting services. They buy value. The value you provide is what turns potential clients into actual clients. The best way to share your value is in a story. Here’s how to build a story that helps with winning new clients and makes sure your current ones stick around.
Martin Bissett, the founder of UK-based Upward Spiral Partnership, has worked with hundreds of accounting firms, helping them leverage professional selling skills to attract new, top-level clients. We've invited Martin to share part of his Winning Clients Masterplan so you and your firm can build more profitable and rewarding relationships with your clients.
Value that goes beyond the office
If you’re not sure what your value is, then here’s a shortcut: Your value is any improvement you make in the lives of your clients.
Think about a client you’ve helped. You used your technical knowledge to offer a solution to the issue they had at hand, and that knowledge resulted in an improvement in their business, maybe even their life. That improvement is your value.
Here’s an example from a firm in Pennsylvania:
The business had been relatively successful, but increased competition in their particular marketplace was threatening to put the company out of business. The stress of the situation was affecting every aspect of the owner’s life, including his health and his marriage.
The accounting firm was able to find and fix several cash flow leaks, tightened up the client’s invoicing procedures, and worked with them to get their business back on track. Now the business is profitable for the first time in years, the owner is sleeping well, and his family life is happy once again.
The challenge that many firms face is effectively communicating what improvement you can bring to their business. Quantifying and broadcasting that improvement is how potential clients will understand your value.
Storytelling has been around for thousands of years. It's in our DNA to be attracted to a good story. They help us relate to others and have the power to inspire action. TED Talks require speakers to explain complex, even dry issues in just 18 minutes. A good story is their most common tool. There are over 6.5 million subscribers to their YouTube channel. If it’s good enough for TED, it’s good enough for tax.
I’ve found that most firms haven not been able to articulate the real story behind what they do for their clients, so let’s break it down.
A good story has two parts: a memorable message and effective language.
Think of your favorite song. The songwriter understood that it had to have a hook, whether it’s the lyrics, the pacing, the chord structure, or the melody. This hook is what gets into your head, and it becomes a recurring theme. Wouldn’t it be great if your marketing messages could do the same thing?
Matching mission and message
The story of your firm isn’t just about you are. It’s about the value you provide. It has to mean something to your listener. How will your story reflect what you can bring to their business? You need to create a message that will attract the type of clients you want.
Here are some examples of accounting “earworms” that caught my attention.
- "Big enough. Small enough."
- "Building a better working world."
- "We’re in the business of helping yours."
- "Big firm capability, small firm personality."
If you can’t articulate your value, how do you expect a client to understand it?
Here's an example of another message:
"Win clients. Create leaders. Save lives. Everyday."
In the interest of full disclosure, this particular earworm is mine. I use it here because it, specifically the third part, led to questions from existing and potential clients. Those questions generated interest and opened the door for a conversation. Based off this success, your message should be a conversation starter.
Here's another one:
"We get up every morning to positively impact young families in business by making their businesses REALLY work so that we all make an even bigger impact together. The rewards that brings allow our team ('the fantastic four') to make small but powerful contributions to impact our local community, our country and the lives of those less fortunate around the world."
Well, that’s a story worth telling to any young families I know. It's clear to whom the firm is marketing, how they make businesses work, and how they improve the lives of their clients (not to mention the lives of the people in their community).
Your firm has a great story hiding in it. I’ll go into more details about getting your language right next time, but everything starts with value. Meanwhile, think of a time you helped a client get a better night's rest and use that story to craft a story of your very own.