Firms typically differentiate themselves from their competitors on price, customer service or some other factor or characteristic of the firm. Fee discounting can only go so far. The same is true of customer service. Today, people just do not believe your service is better until they have a chance to experience it. Have you ever met a potential vendor who spoke about how her company would give bad customer service? In short, it is very hard to stand above the crowd based on traditional differentiators.
I am not convinced these are the primary differentiators in the mind of the prospective client when he chooses an accounting firm. I think the average prospect will not choose to do business with you simply because your firm has a long and prosperous history. Nor will this prospect do business with you because you are the largest (or smallest) firm in town. It might matter to them in some way that everyone in your firm is a graduate of the same University. It is more likely that it will not.
People increasingly want to know a great deal about the companies with which they do business. They look for that information in key locations, such as your website, review sites and other sites that are sources of information. They want to know what makes your firm different and why they should do business with you. They want to know that you can answer their questions in a way that is both clear and understandable to them. They want to know that you understand their needs and you want to alleviate their pain.
Your task, then, is to provide the “content” they want and need so they can decide to do business with you. You need to develop a clear message about your business. Then you need to educate your potential clients in ways that help them decide to do business with you.
The challenge for many firms that want to win the business development race is that they spend too much time listening to the marketing people who want to develop a specific strategy for each channel or means of distributing content to prospective clients. You might need an extensive strategy for distributing your content through several channels. On the other hand, you might not need to use more than a few distribution channels to reach your target market. Distribution channels might include your web site, some of the online article directories, a blog, LinkedIn, Online magazines and journals, webinars, etc.
I see too many small business owners and senior partners in CPA firms racing to fill the pipeline with lousy content so they can build visibility of any kind in every distribution channel. It seems to me that they are putting the cart before the horse.
Instead, they should focus on developing the right messaging, understanding the questions and needs of their target potential clients and answering those questions. Then you can test some of the distribution outlets and learn which work well for your business and which do not. In fact, I do not think you necessarily must spend a great deal of time and money on distribution strategies.
By focusing on the right high-quality content and listening to the targeted market, I believe the market tells you where they want to find your content. The goal of “content marketing” in the business development race is to earn the trust of new clients, not to manipulate them into taking actions that leave them feeling used. Know your clients and listen to them. Answer their questions and address their needs and pains clearly and honestly. Remember that you accomplish this with quality content, not with distribution channels.
Here is the bottom line: You can have the best strategies in the world for using every possible means of communicating your message to potential clients – you can blog, twitter, facebook, and on and on -- but it will do you absolutely no good until you know what the message should be. It is that simple. You need to turn the process around – put the horse in front of the cart -- because until you have great content, it does not matter where you put messages.
People generally do not read lousy messages. If they do, there is a very slim chance they will act on them in any positive way. In fact, I think you can do yourself harm with bad messages if they reach the consciousness of the right people. What is more, I think that once you get great content, you will not have to decide which distribution channels to use – they will become apparent to you.
Here is the question you need to ask yourself – “Do I want great distribution of lousy content or (possibly) lousy distribution of great content?” I’m betting my money that the great content is like cream – it rises to the top. Make sure you get the horse in front of the cart and win the business development race.If you are tired of being confused about the business development race and you keep the horse in front of the cart, call us at The Practice Building Team today, 732-397-8489.