Mitch Reno, Hall of Fame marketer and Principal at Rehmann, is legally blind. He gave an inspirational presentation about his journey at the Accounting Marketing Summit in which he put out a call to action: own the human experience (HX). His diagnosis created many challenges in his life and career but has also allowed him to get in touch with the client experience in a unique way—one that he challenges all accounting firm marketers to embrace. It wasn’t only inspiration; it was truly a call to arms.
How losing his vision helped him learn to see
Mitch Reno has been in accounting marketing with Rehmann for over 20 years, formerly as Chief Marketing and Sales Officer and currently Principal of Client Experience and Strategy. He has been named AAM Marketer of the Year and inducted into the AAM Hall of Fame.
His genetic eye condition caused years of deterioration ultimately leading to 20/250 vision. It does not have a cure or treatment. He describes his sight as bright and cloudy with much less detail.
He went on to detail how the experience of becoming blind was not dissimilar to coming out as gay. “Something was going on inside me that I was afraid to tell people about. I was afraid of what they might think of me. I simply didn’t want to be different, again,” he shared.
Managing the intense daily frustration and uncertainty was difficult, but it yielded valuable lessons. He realized that he was able to empathize with friends, colleagues, and clients in a new and deeper way.
Today, Reno lives with his husband in Florida, stays connected with many lifelong friends (counting many fellow AAM members among them), and is fulfilled in driving Rehmann forward with compassion and empathy.
How disability has made him a better accounting firm marketer
Body language is an enormous part of effective communication, but Reno quickly learned that he’d need to find new ways of assessing how the relationship or conversation was progressing. That’s when he began to recognize his new superpowers of asking better questions and then truly listening.
“I don’t think firms are doing a very good job of listening. If I could turn back time 20 years, I’d talk to one client a week and find out what’s most important to them,” he said.
A focus on listening and learning about clients’ experiences through onboarding, delivery, and communication with the experts is central to the Human Experience (HX). In contrast to the User Experience (UX) or Client Experience (CX) or Brand Experience (BX), which carefully consider the technical aspects, the human experience requires thoughtful care and compassion for a person’s emotions along the way.
He learned that 74% of decision-makers are willing to consider someone else if they are frustrated with the buying process. Reno realized that he was in a unique position to find out how clients really felt about doing business with the firm. In situations where others may have inferred how the client was feeling based on body language or a sense of awkwardness, Reno jumps in asking them to articulate their feelings and experience.
The result of these conversations is a highly engaged client. Gallup studies show that clients who are fully engaged with their firms give them greater wallet share, are more profitable, and stay with the firm longer.
What other accounting marketers can take away
A special piece of Reno’s session was the way he continued to detail his full faith and confidence in accounting marketers’ ability to use what he’s learned. At several points, he impressed the notion that we, as marketers, are particularly suited for and talented at caring and listening. The human part of interfacing with clients is something marketers can do better than many others inside the firm.
He truly said it best, “Marketers understand that clients make decisions for emotional reasons, not only technical reasons.”
Reno also recommended and prescribed specific tactics throughout:
- Get involved in CX and journey mapping. Not the technical journey, but the emotional journey.
- Ask better questions in prospect meetings, planning meetings, and at events to show you care about them and to learn what motivates them.
- Help the firm become less internally focused and more focused on the clients and their experiences.
- Demonstrate empathy with writing website content and in-person conversations by showing you truly know their industry, anxieties, or emotions.
Attendees of the live event were continuously sharing in the chat that they were experiencing moments of clarity and purpose. Reno has grounded and deliberate energy which can only be summed up as compassionate. The care and affection jumped off our screens. It’s rare that a single speaker can impart wisdom, perspective, practical nuggets, and confidence the way Reno did. He captured our attention not only as fellow marketers but as his students in the bigger picture of life. It was a truly memorable session.
To watch this session and others from the 2021 Summit, visit the AAM Store.
About Stephanie Chapa
Stephanie Chapa is the Director of Marketing at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP.