When I joined ICAEW as a trainee accountant sometime back in the dim and distant past I signed up to a code of ethics. Like most accountants I take that code of ethics very seriously as I believe it is part of being a professional. Amongst other requirements was confidentiality. Everything is confidential so the extent that ICAEW suggest that I shouldn’t even share the names of my clients without their permission, let alone information about their business.
So it was quite a surprise when a prospective client asked me whether our conversations would be confidential. It felt a little like somebody asking whether I like tea (I’m a self-confessed tea addict). It is something so ingrained that I hadn’t even realised that lay people may not know this.
Which got me wondering what else we don’t share as we take it for granted.
We’re so busy focusing on what differentiates us from our competitors that we forget some of these other positives that are shared by many of our competitors.
Anyone can call themselves an accountant, but ‘chartered accountant’ is a protected title in law. I’m proud that I’m not just a chartered accountant but a Fellow and also an elected member of ICAEW Council helping to shape the future of the profession. But we need to make more of this.
Most professional accountancy bodies have similar codes of ethics whereas unqualified accountants or those not belonging to any professional body are not bound by any such code but dependent on the individual’s personal integrity. We’re supervised by our professional bodies so clients have recourse if they believe that we have failed to live up to those standards. We are required to undergo checks to ensure that we are ‘fit and proper’ persons. And we are also required to have professional indemnity insurance in order to protect our clients in the event that we make a mistake.
I have also signed up to a code of ethics as a member of the PSA (Professional Speaking Association) which means that I pay for copyright to use pictures on any slides so that the event organiser won’t be sued. Similarly for any music and videos I use in my talks. It’s not something that most speakers think about and they may not even realise the importance of paying royalties to the creators of those media.
What mundane things do you do instinctively to protect your clients? Can it become part of your marketing?
Bryony Thomas (author and founder of Watertight Marketing*) may liken customers to cats in the way we tempt them in but never own them. But I think business owners can learn by watching cats themselves.
Cats generally spend vast portions of their day sleeping. Many business owners don’t get enough sleep. Learn how to take better care of yourself in this, and other ways.
Cats do as little as possible and we should all learn to work more efficiently so that we can work fewer hours. The recent trial of the 4 day week has left 90% of the participants intent on adopting this as a permanent measure as they became much more productive.
Cats can become quite loud and insistent when they want food. Do you need to ask for what you want more clearly? Perhaps a little more politely though.
Cats are very good at expressing their thanks. Do we need to say thank you more? Although I wouldn’t suggest rubbing yourself all over your customers.
Cats are all about cupboard love. Whilst this isn’t a good way to develop real relationships being nice to people will definitely smooth the wheels of industry.
Many people are allergic to cats and we should accept that not everybody will like us. That’s why we tailor out marketing to the type of client where we can help most.
What qualities do you think dogs have that business owners can learn from?
*If you haven’t yet read Watertight Marketing I’m happy to recommend it. You can buy a copy here and don’t forget to register for Bryony’s free workbook.
I’m currently reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller which is about getting the right marketing message for our business. It’s very good and I recommend it.
Miller suggests that we make our customer/prospect the hero and that we are not a hero but their guide. As you can imagine it set off a train of thought as I reimagined my own business in this light.
How do you and your product/service guide your clients to solve their problems and reach their goal? Now, how can you build this into your marketing?
Welcome to the new year. What have you got planned? Incremental business growth, a better work life balance (how long have you been promising yourself that?) or world domination?
Now is a good time to think about what you want and what that means for your business.
Here are some questions to get you underway with your plan:
1. What do you want your life to look like in 5 years time?
2. How much do you want to earn from your business?
3. How much do you need to earn from your business?
4. How many hours per week/month/year do you want to work in your business?
This will give you some idea of how much you need to earn per hour in your business. Don’t forget that you will need to cover your business costs and taxes too.
A good SWOT analysis will help you to decide how to earn the necessary profit. Look at your strengths, your weaknesses, and any opportunities and threats around you. Covid and potential lockdowns can provide both opportunities and threats to your business to make a plan to eliminate or buffer the formers and to be able to take advantage of the latter.
Take a close look at what you are actually doing. What will you sell and to whom? What problems do you solve?
Now you can start on the details of the plan:
1. Sales plan
2. Marketing plan
3. Staffing – who, when and at what level
4. Technology and other resources
6. Other costs
If you need a hand with any of this then we’re running a Strategic Planning Day on 19 January. We’ll work through templates together to help you come up with your own plan for your best year yet. Email us to sign up.
Anyone who’s already read my latest book ‘Growing by numbers: How to scale up your business with confidence‘ will know I talk up the importance of steady marketing throughout the year.
A large part of your marketing plan should include having a strategy to ensure a consistent and active presence on social media. Here are a few tips based on what I have found works well for me:
- Find the right platforms for your business – think about your target market, your professional network and factor in where you feel comfortable hanging out too. For me, Twitter continues to be my number 1 social media space , but I also have a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Find a scheduling tool that works for you. My system of choice is Smarterqueue.
- Set up a bank of key messages and reminders that can go out regularly on a repeat loop, e.g. we have a course that starts with a new cohort each month – we send regular reminders about that out and schedule repeat posts. Don’t forget that not everyone sees everything all of the time, so while you might worry about being repetitive, chances are that other people won’t get that impression.
- Set time aside on a weekly or fortnightly basis to update your plan and schedule new posts.
- Outsource where it makes sense to – I work with a Virtual PA who updates the website and posts my blogs on a weekly basis – she then schedules posts to go out several times to share new information.
- Build up a bank of visuals to go out with posts, incorporating brand colours and fonts and a mix of free stock images and brand photographs where you have some – we use Canva regularly for this (again, my Virtual PA works on this on a regular basis).
- While lots can be scheduled it’s important to show up in person consistently too – after all, it’s called ‘social’ media for a reason. If you don’t naturally find yourself engaging with others on each platform you’ve a presence on throughout the week, set aside some time each week to do just that.