Accounting buyers are changing, so marketing tools must change too.
So said Kat Kocurek, VP of Marketing at Inavero, in a free AAM High webinar Aug. 23 that laid out how accounting firm marketers can transition from brand management to brand stewardship by using the voice of the client to influence firm growth.
Kocurek says that marketers must be masters at brand management, which involves controlling content, marketing collateral and the like. Brand stewardship is another idea – “creating the conditions that are going to help perpetuate the story that you want to be told by people that you have absolutely zero control over.” Firms can build their reputation by empowering their clients to tell the firm’s story.
She notes that buyers rank online reviews and testimonials as more trustworthy than a firm’s website touting its expertise. “We are not our own best cheerleaders,” she says.
In fact, according to Inavero’s 2018 Accounting Industry Benchmark Study that surveyed 681 buyers and clients of accounting services, 58% of accounting firm clients are “satisfied,” but “open to exploring new firms to work with.” An even scarier finding, she says, is that 85% of accounting clients would consider leaving their existing firm if they received a referral. Just 2 of 5 accounting firm clients would be willing to recommend their firm to a friend or colleague.
“These three stats, I think, triple highlight the fact that we can do a better job on the client experience.”
Conditions to cultivate:
- A consistently remarkable client experience.
- A clear, easy and obvious avenue for clients to help tell your story.
- Brand marketing to support the story that your clients are sharing about your firm.
- Clear buy-in throughout the team internally.
A Net Promoter Score is one tool. The Net Promoter Score is used to measure customer satisfaction, loyalty and the willingness of clients to recommend your firm. It is calculated by subtracting the number of detractors from the number of promoters to get a percentage.
The legendary customer service of Nordstrom earns the company an 80%. Accounting as a whole gets 19%, yet the global standard of 30% is considered just average, Kocurek said. Setting goals around improving that number can produce powerful results, and the mere act of asking clients what they think can improve the number.
Citing the study, Kocerek says:
- 93% of clients say it’s important to have an open channel of communication to provide feedback.
- 81% say that when asked for feedback, their perception of the firm is positively impacted.
- 73% are more likely to take time to provide feedback through a survey than in person.
- 62% of clients say they are more candid with their feedback in an online survey than in person.
What Not to Do:
- Don’t be selective about who you ask for feedback. Don’t cherry pick. The goal is to have 100% visibility into how your clients think.
- Don’t ask for more information than you need. The longer the survey, the fewer responses you’ll receive.
- Don’t survey just once. Net Promoter Scores are naturally going to evolve and should be monitored.
Paradoxically, clients who have a service issue with a great resolution will be more loyal than clients who never had a problem, Kocurek says. Failure to fix problems can be devastating.
Consider these statistics:
- 22% who have a negative experience will tell everyone they know.
- 22% will proactively sell against you.
- 16% will post a bad review on sites like Yelp or Glassdoor.
- 11% will leave the firm.
Firms should create processes and procedures to handle negative client experiences. First of all, fix problems quickly. Do so within 12 hours and the firm’s chance of getting a positive Net Promoter Score is exceptionally high, Kocurek says.
For any of this to happen, firms must first have a solid foundation – a culture of caring and a commitment to service and that starts with leadership. Kocurek suggests creating internal guidelines for exceptional client service, such as responding to emails within two hours or allowing professionals to spend $100 on a client or prospect to brighten their day.
Clients are willing and eager to make testimonials and referrals, they just need to be asked to do so, Kocurek says. “This is the wave of the future….the data says it all.”
About Christina Camara
Christina Camara is the managing editor of INSIDE Public Accounting, which publishes two award-winning publications: the IPA newsletter and the annual IPA National Benchmarking Report, along with in-depth reports focused on IT, HR, and firm administration.