“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that—but you are the only you.”
-Neil Gaiman, courtesy of Ann Handley’s excellent book, Everybody Writes
Are you telling the same stories that your firm’s been telling for years? You know, the ones where you talk about your professionalism, your responsiveness, and the quality of your work?
Well, so are lots of other firms. Back in 2015, Hitendra Patil found that 462,000 CPA firms were touting that. Now it’s up to 1.9 million.
What are the stories that only you and your firm can tell?
Is there a unique story about how and why your firm came into existence? Do your team members have interesting hobbies or talents?
I’ve worked with accountants who run marathons, sing karaoke, go salsa dancing, ski, and go white-water rafting. I once worked with a British Big 8 veteran who told me a wild tale of speeding across the desert in Saudi Arabia and hitting a camel in the dead of night.
What about interesting ways that you’ve helped your customers? Every accountant I know has lots of great stories about ways they’ve helped their customers overcome challenges and achieve success. Are you sharing any of those on your website through case studies or testimonials?
What kinds of stories resonate with your ideal customers?
We’re hard-wired to respond to stories, and stories that show how you helped one of your customers overcome a challenge are more powerful than telling them about your team’s collective decades of experience.
Are there specific ways that your firm’s culture personifies the ideals of professionalism, responsiveness and quality? Do you have a story about responding to a customer’s emergency after hours that saved the day for them?
Do you have a great mission statement? As part of their mission, email marketing provider ConvertKit wants their customers to earn $1 billion.
As accountants, we get a kick out of the latest tax code and accounting standards updates, but most of your customers don’t care much about the details.
They want ideas to help them build better businesses, improve their profits and save on taxes. They also need help managing their cash flow, finding and keeping the best employees, and developing systems and processes that give them freedom to work on their business, not in their business.
Stories about how you’ve helped other customers accomplish those things resonate with prospects and help them believe that you’re the right firm for them.
How can you use stories in your marketing?
- Use stories in your website pages about your team. Replace the stories about their education and experience with stories about who they are as people. How did they get started in accounting? Do they have interesting hobbies? What’s their favorite story about helping a client? Here’s an example from Elements CPA.
- Create case studies of how you’ve helped customers. These don’t need to be long, but can be short descriptions of a challenge your customer faced, how your team helped them overcome it, and what the results were. Check out the case studies that Growthwise has on their home page. Adding case studies to your firm newsletter (you do have one, don’t you?) lets your subscribers know about all the things your firm can do for them, and gives the company in your case study a boost of extra publicity.
- Encourage your team members to share their ideas with the world. This article by my friend Aaron Berson, a manager at Eisner Amper caught my eye. Aaron has been named one of the 40 Under 40 by CPA Practice Advisor for the last two years. Thought leadership articles on LinkedIn, AccountingWEB, and in your state society newsletter connect members of your team with accountants in your state and around the world. They raise the profile of your firm as a firm of forward-thinkers, and will help you attract new people to your team.
- Use video. One of the masters of video is Hector Garcia, who has his own YouTube channel teaching QuickBooks. Byron Riley has also shot a few videos, and Karen Reyburn can tell you what equipment you need to shoot great video.
- Use stories instead of your elevator pitch at networking events. Instead of rattling off a stream of memorized jargon, try telling a story of how you helped a customer. Your story will be more memorable, and they’ll understand what you do.
These are just a few ideas of how you can tell stories with your marketing. Every firm has stories that only they can tell, and these are the best ways to connect with your ideal prospects and customers.
Need help finding the stories of your firm? Get in touch with me, and I’ll help you spin tales that connect with your best customers.