We’re going to return to marketing consultant and best-selling author Simon Sinek’s idea of building on the why of creating your own firm. How can you use this to build your firm’s business?
We all want to belong to something
The most basic human desire is to feel like we belong to something. A unit. A tribe. A team. A family. When we’re in a situation where we feel like we don’t belong, our antennae are quivering, searching for the people that feel like we do.
This applies to the accounting client base. There are people out there who desperately need accounting services and who have signed on to Firm X because it’s convenient or it’s cheap or it’s the closest thing they can find to what they feel.
However those clients aren’t fully satisfied because the firm they’re currently dealing with is just the lesser evil they could find. Firm X doesn’t believe that this particular niche of clients is being underserviced or ignored or has any special needs that are constantly being neglected by the accounting industry as a whole.
But if your firm does care, and demonstrates that they care about the issues plaguing that client niche, then the clients’ antennae are going to go off. You’re not just going to be another firm; you’re going to be the firm that not only gets that they have special needs, but is in fact fighting to change the accounting industry as a whole so that people with similar problems will never be neglected again.
In other words, you’re not just the owner of an accounting firm, you’re the leader of people desperate to be recognised and helped. This is how you build true customer loyalty.
Finding your cause
There are two ways you can figure out if there is indeed a section of the accounting client base that’s desperate for a leader.
The first comes from your own knowledge of the industry. If you, as an accountant, were constantly frustrated on behalf of your clients because of the way they were treated or ignored, then you’ve found a cause, and a reason for your own firm to exist (your why).
The second method is to seek out client complaints in social media. For example you could look up small and medium-sized local business groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, what have you. Or perhaps it’s an ethnic group. Maybe it’s charities who are feeling like they’re being underserved. Whatever groups you investigate, look for common complaints. If the outcry is strong enough, you’ve found an army in need of a leader.
Communicate your beliefs
Once you’ve identified the particular burr under your saddle (or those of the communities calling for help) it’s time to let people know that your firm’s entire existence is to help people just like them. Communicating your belief that Problem X needs to be faced and made better is the essence of leadership. Communication is key.
Think about Elon Musk. Electric cars weren’t new when he cooked up Tesla, but they were something of a joke or a matter of curiosity at best.
Elon changed the discussion. It was no longer about novelty cars or cars that didn’t need to be constantly filled up at the gas station; he reframed the idea of electric cars into a battle against death by pollution.
(He also happened to build luxury cars that looked nice, but that is how he went about promoting and building Tesla, not why.)
Think about before Elon started making a noise about electric cars – how many car manufacturers were really promoting their own line of electric vehicles? The answer is zero. Now every car manufacturer in the world is coming out with electrics and hybrids in an effort to not be left behind. Even so, Tesla is still considered the top dog in that particular battle.
Elon was loud, brash, and sometimes even rude in promoting his belief that fossil fuel cars were killing us and that we needed to fight back with Tesla cars. He clearly communicated his belief on the matter.
Luckily, there were millions of people who truly believed the same thing as Elon. This is your goal – to attract clients who believe what you believe.
Repeat business versus client loyalty
Repeat business is someone willing to pay you more than once. This may occur because of convenience, because you currently have better services, a lower price, or what have you. However, each of these points can be beaten out by a competitor who will take away even long-time repeat customers.
Loyalty is when someone stays with your firm despite the fact that someone else might offer what you’re offering at a cheaper price or they have a fancier office. Loyal clients stick with you because being with your firm says something about themselves – that they strongly share the same values that you do.
The people who are more likely to be loyal like innovators; they like to be at the head of the line (or in at the start of a change). It’s not because they think they’re getting a cheaper or better product or service (witness the people who line up for iPhones); it’s because being ahead of the pack when it comes to their particular issue means something to them.
The question becomes – how can you be an innovator as opposed to just another firm with a bit of a marketing hook?
Building your marketing for innovators, not the crowd
You build your marketing around your why – the reason your company exists.
You do not build your marketing around your services. Every firm does that. And if every firm does it, and you do it, then there is no way you can stand out.
The sharp end of your promotions is the statement that you’re fed up with X (the problem you’ve identified or already feel very strongly about), and you’re not going to take it anymore. In other words, you shout your firm’s why from the rooftops.
Only after this belief is made clear do you display how you intend to fight the good fight by introducing your innovative service packages geared towards people who share your belief.
Loyal customers will not buy what you do or how you do it (this is the realm of the repeat customer for as long as you can hold them); they buy why you do it. They will keep coming back to you because you are the medium through which they can act out on their own beliefs, even if the competition is cheaper.