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Become a Trusted Advisor by Out Teaching Your Competition

We’re told that we as accountants need to become trusted advisors, but how do we do that? Jason Fried and David Heinemeyer Hansson’s book Rework puts it most simply: Out teach your competition.

Your best marketing tool is in your head. You don’t need to spend tons of money on flashy ads or fancy graphics for your website. You just need to share what you know with the world.

Most accountants don’t do this. They worry that they’ll give away all their secrets and thus lose business.

The reality is that the clients you want to work with — the ones who value your expertise and are willing to pay for that expertise — will respect you more and see you as an expert if you’re willing to share your knowledge.

By sharing your knowledge freely, your audience will view you as someone they can rely on to do the hard, complex work of figuring out how the tax laws and the financial rules apply to their situation. Being a fount of useful information will increase the loyalty that prospects and clients feel for you.

It’s true that some readers will take what you put out there and use it themselves. But those aren’t the ones you should be pursuing. The do-it-yourselfers are rarely a profitable bunch. However, they may refer you to their friends and family. Research from Hinge Marketing shows that up to 81.5% of referrals can come from people who have never worked directly with your firm.

That 81.5% comes from people who know enough about you to send their friends and colleagues to you. How do they find out about you to inspire that kind of trust? Put enough information out there for free, and those referrers will find you with Google.

Google loves websites that are constantly updated with fresh information. Your search engine rankings will rise as you add new information.

Google is constantly updating its algorithm to punish those who try SEO tricks to increase ranking and to reward those who provide the most useful information. This can best be accomplished by providing quality content that provides readers with valuable information they can use — by teaching them.

Think of yourself as a conduit for ideas. Your prospects and clients know their businesses, but they aren’t experts in tax and accounting.

That’s where you can shine.

By translating opaque IRS regulations and accounting standards into simple ideas that non-accountants can understand, you’re providing value to your audience.

If you explain complex concepts simply and clearly enough, many of your delighted readers may even be fellow accountants who willingly refer you to friends or clients who need help in that area of your expertise. Or they may invite you to collaborate on some interesting (and profitable!) projects.

Sharing your expertise is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Most accountants keep their knowledge a secret, and just state that they’re experts.

My late brother Geoff was fond of saying, “If you don’t believe me, just ask me!” This is the approach many accountants take on their website. They simply state that they’re experts in tax or GAAP without demonstrating it.

Showing is more powerful than telling. By demonstrating your unique skills and knowledge you can attract your target market. You can reassure skittish prospects. And your clearly demonstrated expertise justifies higher fees for your services.

Providing information builds reciprocity. When you provide useful information to others, they feel obliged to return the favor. We’re wired that way. We can’t help it.

Master marketer Dan Kennedy uses this technique to justify his stratospheric fees for personal consultations (starting at about $20,000 for a day with him). He intentionally delays the sale by providing loads of useful information to prospects.

This stream of information builds trust that he’s an expert in marketing. As more and more useful information is provided, his prospects become insensitive to his high fees. And they want to work with him more as they learn more.

Sharing information is a way to show your personality. It’s true that this may turn some prospects off. But if they don’t like what you share with the world, then it’s likely you won’t like them in person.

Wouldn’t you rather work with clients who like you, who already have formed a favorable relationship with you through your teaching? As Dan Kennedy wrote in his book, No B.S. Trust Based Marketing, the higher up the income ladder you climb, the more you’ll find that people get higher fees for their services because of who they are, not for what they do.

One of the easiest methods for teaching your audience is by adding blog posts or articles to your website. If you find yourself answering the same question over and over, write down the answer and post it on your website. Then you can point all queries to that article whenever the question comes up.

You’ll get the most benefit from your blog posts if you don’t just put them on your website and forget about them. They can be the foundation of your newsletter (as this one is). You can post them to social media. You can compile a group into a short ebook or special report that you can post on your website. You can even read them aloud and use the recording as a podcast. They can be the basis of a video posted on your website.

If you want to do this yourself, there are excellent resources to help you improve your business writing. My colleague Helen Wilkie has a book and a new video course geared for accountants to help with their writing.

But many accountants have neither the time nor the desire to improve their writing. A freelance writer (like me!) can help you by writing blog posts, articles, ebooks, white papers or special reports for you.

However you decide to teach your audience, keep it up consistently. And get started today!

Need help figuring out the best teaching strategy for your firm? Call me at 505-440-3317 or email me at and I’ll help you find a way that works for you!