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5 Ways Accountants Can Market Themselves on a Shoestring Budget

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There is no shortcut or easy way to get you more clients. But simple marketing techniques could help you stay ahead of your competitors and earn new clients.

There could be nothing like an economic downfall that would remind CPAs and accountants that marketing too is an essential part of doing business.

For sales people, the task is easier; they can run ads, cold call or beat the bushes for referrals. But it’s not possible for CPAs and accountants to go door to door. So how can they attract new clients?

Here are five tired and true marketing strategies that can help market your firm on a shoestring budget.

Regular Blogging Can Help Emphasize Your Niche

Many CPAs and accountants may find it awkward about writing a blog. After all, they are the numbers people who are more involved in handling complicated budgets. But by not having a blog, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities.

Maintaining a regular blog is a struggle for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for accountants with their smaller budgets. They might not afford to have a dedicated copywriter.

Your staff is a wonderful place to start with. Leveraging your employees is perhaps one of the most effective ways to generate high quality content regularly.

Let’s be real – the only reason holding them back to blog is the nagging feeling that this is what they are getting paid for. Good content will not come for free, so offer them gift cards when someone contributes to the blog.

Quick Tip: You can’t make accounting fun, but can make it bearable by writing.

Ask For Referrals, Don’t Wait For Them

This would be one of the most common pieces of advice you would find for accountants. That’s because this is one of the best piece of advice there is. This business model has worked successfully for years.

Most accountants and CPAs are “shy” when it comes to asking for new business. After all, they tend to never learn how to market themselves. But accountants have to do it because they understand how important it is. This is something similar to changing baby’s nappies. Zero fun but has to be done.

Quick Tip: One true secret to get more referrals – Just ask. And don’t wait for next six months after your project is completed. Your existing client could be the fastest route to your next client.

Get Social, Gain Opportunity

Accountants are rapidly embracing the latest technologies to manage their financial activities. Yet, they seem to have not fully embraced the technologies for promoting their services. This could be because of people’s preconceptions of accountancy as a dry profession.

You’re probably ignoring social media because you think it’s a fad. Well, it’s time to stop ignoring social media. It’s not what you think about it. Social media is not just pictures of what you had for dinner or getting in touch with old classmates.

Social media has a business purpose too. These sites are free resources and work best to get the word out. For accountants, LinkedIn is one of the most important sites to be on. It offers an unprecedented access to a wide audience of new clients.

Quick Tip: Gimmicky slogans are now replaced by developing relationships with others, demonstrating your expertise.

A Website That Attracts More Clients

In today’s market, you have to put together a marketing plan and seek out clients proactively. And it starts with online presence. Clients are turning to the web to gauge legitimacy of a company and will require that your practice has a website as a prerequisite to working with you.

Accountants are busy professionals who don’t have much time to waste, particularly in the tax season when most CPAs burn the candles at both ends of the day.

No matter how busy accountants are, they cannot ignore the need to make rain. Consider your website as a sales team that works 24/7/365. They can easily convert idle browsers into leads without lifting a finger.

Quick Tip: A website can be considered as a constant window that allows prospects to explore business any time.

Don’t Market Yourself as an Accountant

One common mistake made by most accountants when it comes to marketing – they sell themselves as accountants. But wait, “I am an accountant”, we can hear the protests. Yes, you’re right. You are an accountant but the bad news is that the majority of your prospects don’t want an accountant. They want the best solution for their problems, a solution that only an accountant can provide.

Most businesses look at things in three ways: is it necessary, how much will it make me or save me?

Companies need you because they have a hole in their business and it would be your job to fill that hole.  This is the golden rule in marketing. You don’t sell features, sell benefits. So, give them what you can offer them, what sets you apart and your range of services.

Quick Tip: You focus on being an accountant while your prospects would focus on what business needs from an accountant.

Wrapping It Up

These are few sound tips to keep your marketing program rolling even during busy season. What is important is that prospects find your name when they are searching for the services they need.

Many accountants, especially those starting out, don’t have lots to spend on marketing. While the old saying – you need to spend money to make money – is true. If you believe in your services, you should be 100% interested to invest in getting your services into the world.

Marketing for accountants could sound easier in theory. It won’t take too long to figure out that it isn’t a piece of cake. Tax season can put all the tasks on hold. But remember that your competitors are always working. If you are not able to find potential clients, someone else will.

Keep your marketing engine revving with new leads.

written by Renuka Rana of Ace Cloud Hosting

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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