Growing your firm http://growingyourfirm.co.uk Help to grow your firm from 5 to 50 employees Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:03:42 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/GYF-150x150.png Growing your firm http://growingyourfirm.co.uk 32 32 10 tips for running webinars http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/running-webinars/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:04:37 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=25849 If your potential clients want to see and experience your expertise, for themselves, running webinars is a great way of marketing your firm’s advisory services. If you haven’t run webinars before, here’s 10 tips to make running webinars easier, so they run more smoothly and effectively. Like it, or not, webinars are here to stay, […]

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If your potential clients want to see and experience your expertise, for themselves, running webinars is a great way of marketing your firm’s advisory services. If you haven’t run webinars before, here’s 10 tips to make running webinars easier, so they run more smoothly and effectively. Like it, or not, webinars are here to stay, so why not use marketing webinars to attract clients?

Tips for running webinars using computers like this

10 tips for running webinars

This article considers the actual running of the webinar. You might also like to read ‘why run a webinar‘ and ‘promoting your webinars‘. Running webinars involves similar skills to the presentation skills that you might normally use when presenting to a room of people. However running webinars involves some additional issues created by technology and that you can’t see your audience like when you’re in the room.

1: Use a good webinar platform

There are many webinar platforms around, some will cost very little (or nothing), and some have a monthly fee that reflecting the professional standard of their software and quality of the sound and visuals. Google’s hangouts can do the job for free, a package such as  GoToWebinar or WebEx cost around £70 a month for up to 100 delegates (cheaper than hiring a venue). You will get far better quality (audio and visual), and less stressed, if you are using a more professional platform. I’ve found that even paid for platforms vary in their delivery of quality audio, and ease of use, so it’s worth experimenting.

You can also use your investment the rest of the time for other things (e.g. interviewing staff, talking with clients, remote supplier meetings etc).

Key – use a good platform, and practice all of the features before even thinking about marketing your webinars.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

2: Location, location, location.

Choose a quiet location. Audio quality remains one of the biggest delegate complaints. Internet access also can affect your audio so check where your’e running webinars from. Always use a headset with microphone, not the inbuilt ones on a laptop as these will give you more feedback.  When practicing get somebody to give you feedback on the sound quality from your preferred location, and listen to your recording (yes, I hate doing that too).

Key – Check your location, bad audio destroys delegates confidence in you.

3: A technical assistant

Running webinars with a ‘technical assistant’ will reduce your stress dramatically. It frees you up to focus on delivering great content. Your assistant’s role is to answer text/ chat-box questions from the audience (or passing them to you to answer live), managing any slides, and most importantly remembering to press the record button (your recording is valuable content). The assistant don’t need to be highly technical, but does need to understand how you work and your webinar system.

Tip – Practice with them, so you are confident in each other.

4: Create captivating Content

The webinar content needs to deliver on the promise you made to the audience. It also needs to be easier to listen to that if you were in the room with them. The first step is to have very clear aims for your content, and remove anything that doesn’t deliver them. There are arguments for and against having the whole thing scripted, either way you need a clear plan of what the audience want to know and how you’ll tell them.

If you’re writing a script write a plan before the detailed script. If you’re not using a word for word script you need the plan (with key points and approximate timings) so you stick to the subject. Your webinar has to be interesting and the audience have to know what’s coming up, or they will turn off. So, plan it in advance and practice your presentation skills. Don’t be tempted to “wing it”, you will wander off topic, and miss key points.

Key – Have clear aims, only deliver what meets those aims, plan the content and keep it simple.

5: Case studies capture attention

Using real cases studies, or examples, capture attention and make your point for you. They also demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. I’d use the phrase ‘tell a story’, but you might think I mean make it up! Stories about reality help engage the listener.

Case studies with real data help listeners to engage, and the real life aspect will allow you to give hard facts and data to back up what you’re saying. The fact that you are talking about your own case studies (without mentioning their names), will make it easier for you to talk – as you really know the subject. No, you don’t have to mention the client’s name.

Key – Have a mini case study for each main tip.

6: Get your audience’s attention.

If you don’t grab their attention at the beginning you will never get it, so make your introduction lively and interesting. Don’t have a long rambling introduction where you talk about yourself and your firm, it’s not why the audience are listening. A very short intro with presenter names and a sentence on what qualifies you to deliver is all you need. Then remind the audience of the things they will learn and get into the content.

It’s very easy to sit and listen to a webinar while concentrating on something else, so get them to interact. Without overdoing it, use interactive features like ‘polls‘, and ‘questions‘ to keep them actually interacting. A couple of simple interactive techniques at the beginning can allow latecomers to join without missing anything, get your audience used to interacting and allow your nerves a moment of two to calm down. “Where are you”, “What’s your biggest challenge with xxx” are good for starting. Some of your later polls will be good for interaction, but also can help you gather data about the way your audience think.

Good visual images, that build on your words (e.g. not slides full of words creating death by PowerPoint) will help to keep attention as well.

7: Make it easy to listen to you.

Your voice is the main connection the audience will have with you, check you’re speaking clearly (in your practice sessions) and leave slightly more pauses than you might in face to face conversations. Don’t make the pauses longer than 2-3 seconds, or the audience may think there’s a technical fault!

Aim to have a conversational tone/ style, as if you were having a one to one conversation, this makes it easier to stay listening. Another conversation tip is to use you more than “I“; “I will be sharing” is better as “Today you will learn“.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

8: Stop selling.

Don’t waste your time selling, it turns people off and they won’t come back. If you have a 30 minute webinar, with a brief introduction at the beginning, and 10 minutes for Q&A’s, you’ve only got with 15 minutes for content. So you may only be spending 5 minutes on each of your 3 key points.

You may be able to make a content filled offer at the end (to get a copy of the recording…. or a free meeting to discuss how you could implement…), but don’t overdo it and don’t sell before then.

9: Question and answers

The audience will like question and answers. But new listeners can be nervous of asking things, so you may need to prompt them in your emails up front (what questions would you like to ask?) and get them to type questions into the chat boxes as you go. That way can answer the questions as you go, in relevant section of your webinar, rather than all at the end. You may find that after 2 or 3 webinars the audience get to trust you more and will ask more questions.

10: Interview an expert.

Another great way to create content is to ask an expert to co-present with you. Their subject needs to be something interesting to your audience and their style needs to be giving, not selling. This could help with the promotion of the webinar and you could be interviewed by them on one of their webinars (exposing you to a larger audience)

11: Be prepared.(yes, that’s a bonus one)

  • Be early. Be on the line 10 to 15 minutes early to make sure that you’re prepared and everything is working.
  • Start on-time. Don’t waste people’s time. If you said starts at 1 PM, start at 1 PM. Develop trust and deliver on your promises.
  • Turn off gadgets and applications. Focus on your audience, and prevent any distractions by turning off your phone, Twitter, messenger etc.
  • Know things can go wrong. However prepared you are, there are things that are out of your hands. I’ve had an internet blackout (Heather, in another location, smoothly carried on), a road repair team start drilling outside (it created a good laugh, when I relaxed) and more. If you’re prepared, you can prevent most problems, and deal with those that are left.

Finally, go on several webinars for different sectors and listen. What works for you? What doesn’t work? 

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

This article is part of a series – you might also like to read ‘Promoting webinars, so people actually turn up.‘ and ‘do marketing webinars work for professionals‘.

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.

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Promoting webinars, so people actually turn up. http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/promoting-webinars/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/promoting-webinars/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:27:56 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26184 Providing content rich webinars to your potential (and actual) clients  is a great way of marketing your firm, especially for advisory services. It’s easier than you might think, and with more people used webinars it is effective too. Webinar marketing talks about the strategy and why to run webinars, running webinars is about how to run a great […]

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Providing content rich webinars to your potential (and actual) clients  is a great way of marketing your firm, especially for advisory services. It’s easier than you might think, and with more people used webinars it is effective too. Webinar marketing talks about the strategy and why to run webinars, running webinars is about how to run a great webinar, this article is about promoting webinars so people to turn up in the first place!

Keyboard that is promoting webinars

This article is part of a series – you might also like to read ‘running webinars (for 10 tips on making them more effective) due to be published w/c 11/4/17 ‘ and ‘do marketing webinars work for professionals‘.

Promoting webinars – before you even plan them.

Effective promotion of your webinar begins well before you think about sending promotional material. This about knowing your intended audience, what they want and the language they use. That’s research! Promoting webinars is much easier if you’re going to deliver something they really want. The good news being you probably don’t need to spend hours on it. What do you and your team already know and then testing that you’re right.

  • What topics: What are the issues that your clients really want to learn about, that you can help them solve? Yes that’s likely to be things that you often get paid to do for them, or very similar things. Choose topics that you know your target audience are interested in, and phrase the titles in their language. In that way each webinar sound more interesting, you also have titles on your website (or wherever your booking form is) that search engines will like to find.
  • The webinar title: It seems that everything in modern life needs to be tweetable, or more importantly condensed to something really pithy, short and inspiring. The titles are no different.
  • What presenters: For most of your webinars it may be you, but working with an expert in a different field (e.g. Pensions) may be of more interest to you. What’s more if you can work with somebody else you will be able to hook their audience too.

3 parts to your webinar marketing

  1. Getting people to sign up: Hooking people’s interest and getting them to say “yes please, I will give you 45 minutes of my time” sounds hard (but much easier if you’ve done your research), but is critical. Emails, social media and talking to people will help you get them to agree (sign up). Don’t forget this is extra value for your existing clients too, not just new ones. But there is more to promoting webinars.
  2. Getting people to turn up: Just because they signed up, and said they were interested, doesn’t mean they will turn up. Our experience varies depending on topic and audience from 25% to 75%, and many other companies who use webinars say 50% will actually arrive. A promotional campaign to those who signed up is critical to even get this high. “one hour to go”, “Don’t forget tomorrow’s webinar“, etc. It sounds hard work, but can be largely automated and repeated for each webinar you run, specially if you use a system like GoToWebinar.
  3. Building on your relationship afterwards. Whether they turned up, or not, they were interested. Now foster that interest, develop their your relationship with them and possibly nudge them over the line to buying your services (if that’s your aim). Email notes and a copy of the recording, it helps you keep educating them. Keep in touch with them beyond that, with regular content marketing. If some of them really enjoyed the webinar, will they allow you to use their testimonial?

8 ideas for promoting webinars

  1. EmailsEmail marketing may annoy you (when done badly) and it may be something you’ve been told no longer works – but it remains one of the best ways to communicate with people you know.
  2. Your website: A good place to advertise this amazing, free service your’e giving. What’s more people you’ve otherwise spoken to will look there. Make sure there’s a clear panel telling them about it.
  3. Banners on specific blog posts: If you write articles or run a blog, adding a panel into relevant blogs is much more targeted that just using the home page. They are already interested in the subject! Sorry, but I now have to!

    Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

  4. Partners: Working with selected strategic partners (or referral partners) remains one of the best marketing methods. Your partners will be more likely to promote it for you, if they’re involved in running webinars with you (even more likely if they run some with you). If you want them to send out emails, give them some draft copy to make their lives easier.
  5. Social Media: Yes, yes, there’s the obvious Twitter and Facebook. But, how about posting topic related thoughts onto LinkedIn, phrased in such as way that people will comment back. Now you know who is interested, and can go onto post the sign up link on LinkedIn.
  6. Your network: Getting people at networking meetings a way to test your credibility without cost or inconvenience is a good thing. Try simply promoting the webinar for a few meetings. Thinking about your wider network, who knows a lot of your webinar’s target audience? What might they do for you; especially if they got a recording they could use themselves in future?
  7. Recycling: Having gone to all the effort of creating a piece of content, are you really using it? Can the slides go onto ‘slideshare‘ (with link to the recording), the transcription is probably 2-3 blogs or lead magnets. The key points from the webinar could feature in your next newsletter. How can you recycle your content?
  8. Introduction video: Record a short (1 minute) piece of video, post it on YouTube and send the link when promoting your webinar. You can hook your audience, as they see (and hear) you can do the job.

So, what will you do to promote and run a webinar to grow your firm?

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

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Do marketing webinars work for professionals? http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/marketing-webinars/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/marketing-webinars/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:27:16 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26181 If you think marketing webinars seem to be all the rage, but wouldn’t work for you then it is time to think again. Maybe you don’t like webinars you have been on, don’t like technology, or one of a thousand other reasons.  If you want to demonstrate you are the in your niche, and develop […]

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If you think marketing webinars seem to be all the rage, but wouldn’t work for you then it is time to think again. Maybe you don’t like webinars you have been on, don’t like technology, or one of a thousand other reasons.  If you want to demonstrate you are the 'Go-To' Expert in your niche, and develop your relationship with potential clients, marketing webinars need serious consideration.

Computer, ipad and tea, for marketing webinars

This article is part of a series – you might also like to read ‘running webinars (for 10 tips on making them more effective) ‘ and ‘8 tips for promoting webinars‘. Both due to be published w/c 11/4/17

Why do marketing webinars help get clients?

Many professionals are don’t like the idea of hosting their own marketing webinars, thinking they don’t have the skills. You do! What’s more marketing webinars will help you stand out.

  • Claiming, or demonstrating: The days of marketing your firm by telling people you are the best xyz at abc, have long gone. When was the last time you believed a simple marketing claim? Anybody can say they are the best, true or not, claims don’t help you grow your firm. Whether you want to become the 'Go-To' Expert in a niche, simply specialise, or be better known, demonstrating your ability rather than claiming it is important.
  • Increased competition: Today’s world has more competition and an increased need to be different. Your other piece of uniqueness is you. Your personality is something your clients like and what other new clients will like. Marketing yourself and demonstrating your personality and brand values through marketing webinars makes sense.
  • Trust: Helping people trust you is a key step to signing them up, showing them your skills (in a cost effective way), helps.
  • Advisory, not compliance. Advisory skills are more trust based and complex than compliance. Providing content rich webinars to your potential (and actual) clients  is a great way of marketing your firm, especially for advisory services.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

Why are marketing webinars more common now?

As webinar marketing becomes more common, clients are happier to sign up. There are three main reasons for marketing webinars being more common nowadays.

  1. Technology: Increased bandwidth, technological platforms like YouTube live, GotoWebinar, Zoom, and many others (even Facebook live) mean that it’s easier than ever to speak to many people at once, interact with them and help develop your relationship with them (note, I didn’t say “sell to them”).
  2. Time: We all suffer from a lack of time, more and more competing offers on our time and people wanting us to travel. Society generally wants to know more before buying as well. So, anything that allows time saving while delivering valuable content is bound to become more popular.
  3. Client expectations: People want to trust you more before buying your services and they increasingly want to know they are dealing with an expert.Marketing webinars are a great platform to help people see your expertise, and trust you. As such they can be a key part in the buying journey.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

What should your marketing webinars contain?

Simple – useful information that demonstrates your expertise in something that they want to know and where you can help them. Choose topics you know your target audience are interested in, and phrase the titles in their language. In that way not only does each webinar sound more interesting, you also have titles on your website (or wherever your booking form is) that search engines will like.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

10 tips for planning your webinars.

  1. Clear aim: What is your objective (one sentence), why would somebody join the webinar (2-3 things they’ll be able to do afterwards). Now test these with some real delegates. Proceed once you’ve got them right.
  2. 2-3 sections: Don’t try to pack too much into your webinar, or you’ll confuse yourself and the audience. Have two or three sections where (depending on the reasons for them joining you might). Start with a brief introduction (nobody wants you telling them for ages how good you are), remind them what they will learn and why these are important lessons. Now go on to cover each of the 2-3 areas, summarise and deal with questions. It’s the live questions that people find interesting, and you can learn from.
  3. Advance questions: When promoting the webinar, ask for questions in advance. This will help you gauge your ‘script’ and mean you have some questions to read out and answer at the relevant point in the webinar.
  4. Question time: Keep asking for questions and flag up that there will be a question time. People may not like asking using their microphone, but you can get really good questions in the text chat. Leave plenty of time for answering the questions, and but have an extra special tip/ piece of information, in case there are not enough questions.
  5. Selling: Personally I hate webinars with long sales pieces in them. If you are trying to develop relationship and trust with your audience, don’t spend ages selling yourself. A simple free offer/ discussion/ download may be relevant.
  6. Leave them wanting more. May years ago I was told the first thing to do on the first few dates with a new girlfriend was to be a perfect gentleman. I was told it would have the effect of making them keener. If you show your audience that you know your stuff, have helped them with some great ideas, leave them wanting more………….(so they come back to you).
  7. Action focus: Give really simple actionable tips throughout the webinar, then end by summarising the tips and sharing best practices. It may be appropriate to have a call to action (although I hate webinars that are just selling vehicles, hence why our marketing webinars have a no selling promise – go on, check them out).
  8. Contact information: Don’t forget to give them contact information for you and your your speakers.
  9. Follow up: A recap of the webinar, a link to the recording, a link to a SlideShare presentation of it, or a short white paper. Make it easy for them to remember you and to take action.
  10. Now follow up again: Ask how they’re doing, add one or two more tips a couple of weeks later. Check they’ve taken action (and remind them you can help if they haven’t taken action).

What would you add, from great marketing webinars you’ve listened to?

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

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How specialist do I need to be? http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/how-specialist-do-i-need-to-be/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/how-specialist-do-i-need-to-be/#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 08:27:08 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26588 You have probably loved the idea of working in a niche area, as you understand the logic that it will help you to win more clients, more easily and charge a higher fee. Many professionals get that far. But, then they say something like “but I don’t want to turn people away”, so I won’t […]

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You have probably loved the idea of working in a niche area, as you understand the logic that it will help you to win more clients, more easily and charge a higher fee. Many professionals get that far. But, then they say something like “but I don’t want to turn people away”, so I won’t pursue the niche. What they’re really saying is ‘how specialist do I need to be?’. They are worrying about being too specialist. Do you and what is the answer to that?

How specialist do I need to be in order to get my leg fixed

Why do clients want an expert?

So there I was, leg playing up AGAIN, unable to dive AGAIN and getting thoroughly ‘fed up‘ with the situation. I had managed to damage a tendon, and yes it hurt, but more importantly I couldn’t do what I wanted to.
I know several therapists, some I know well and others who I was recommended to. How should I choose? In the end I found three categories, those who:
  • helped people get better (generalist)
  •  had some kind of sports injury focus (generalist, with interest in)
  • who specialised in my kind of injury (specialist, or maybe expert)
How would you have chosen?
Much as I liked some of the people, I needed this fixed and to get it right this time around. I didn’t want general advice, or somebody that would ‘have a go’. My choice was the specialist. I didn’t even think about fees until I had made that decision.
The greater the level of risk (reputation, wasted time, business health, or my case pain) the more clients are likely to choose a greater level of specialism.
In 2012 the ‘FT Effective client advisor relationships report‘ in showed that 67% of clients wanted their professional advisor to have a good and deep understanding of the world that they operated in.

How specialist do I need to be?

Becoming the expert in a specialist field takes time, and effort. You may not need to be the specialist if you have a new firm that’s just starting out (in fact I’d say you almost definitely don’t). But following the logic of client requirements, can you start increasing your level of specialisation?
The journey typically looks something like
  • A generalist
  • Being a generalist with a growing interest in…
  • A generalist with specialism in….
  • Specialist in….
  • Known expert in….
  • The Go-To Expert for ….
Consider a small high street firm. Your market may be all about being local (that is actually starting to specialise), you may then start to grow and want to increase your typical client value. You may quickly realise that “we specialise in SMEs” is a pointless phrase. Most firms now start saying things like “we want bigger businesses as clients“, that may be true, but it doesn’t make you a specialist in them. Choosing the type of client you are better equipped to deal with, than your competition, will move you along the spectrum.
You may later refine that further, and look to add client value by knowing everything about a sector. This doesn’t prevent you from dealing with ‘walk in‘ trade, but you may start to realise it is less profitable.
If you are going to stand out from your peers and competitors then you really need to be known for something. It’s the best way to help get referrals and focus your marketing. Perhaps the answer to ‘how specialist do I need to be’ is that you need to be one step further along the expert continuum than your competition.
How far will your journey towards being the 'Go-To' Expert go and when will you begin it?
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

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Defining advisory services http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/defining-advisory-services/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/defining-advisory-services/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:12:26 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26501 So, you’ve thought about where the profession is going, and your place in it. You’ve decided to enhance your future by giving clients more value and becoming an advisory led firm (i.e. one that obtains a significant portion of its GRF from advisory work). But, what do you mean by advisory services? Defining advisory services, […]

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So, you’ve thought about where the profession is going, and your place in it. You’ve decided to enhance your future by giving clients more value and becoming an advisory led firm (i.e. one that obtains a significant portion of its GRF from advisory work). But, what do you mean by advisory services? Defining advisory services, before you jump in means a better implementation of your new services.

Jumping into the water, like jumping into advisory without defining advisory services

Defining advisory services

It’s easy to say we already do x and y, then try to sell these to other clients. Your existing offer may even be a good starting point (get the low hanging fruit before climbing the tree). But do most of your clients need them, and will they pay for them? If they would, why haven’t you been selling them so far?

Transforming your firm’s fee basis needs a more fundamental approach.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Some early steps to take

  • Current situation. What advisory services do you offer any clients at the moment, that they are willing to pay for?
  • Segmentation: How would you segment your clients to think about the segment(s) that would pay for advisory work? You may have more than one, as it will help you group together their needs and how to market to them.
  • What’s their pain? For each of these segments, what are their problems which you might be able to solve? These might include the obvious balance sheet related issues such as cash flow management, cash projections, balance sheet management, preparation for funding application and ongoing shareholder reports, stock turn reporting. But going on, what are their issues in achieving their company goals (keeping track, focus, strategic decision making, needing somebody to provide challenge and insights through data).
  • Insights, not information: What reporting tools and frameworks could you enhance by a regular “board meeting”, or by running a select mastermind group? The value here is in the insight, not the information. That’s why we teach our academy delegates how to use a range of strategic frameworks such as the “STAGe model”, as it helps clients create insight
  • Research: Taking time to ask clients about issues, either as separate informational interviews, or during your existing client meetings, will help you collate the needs. Active listening, and probing questions, will be needed to unearth what they need.
  • Consider you and your team. What are the strengths that you as a firm process? These are the best place to start building what your clients will need, and understanding the opportunities in your client sector. A ‘SWOT analysis’, is a good pace to start here.

Enhancing your firm’s skills

It is likely that to deliver these additional services you’ll need to enhance your skills, and those of your team. Defining advisory services for your firm will allow you to focus on what you need your team to deliver. Programmes like our academy will help you, and maybe key team members. If you truly want to reform your fee base, then development of some sort is likely to be required.

It may be that you can ‘buy in’ some of the services; some firms have strategic alliances with coaches. However if you are looking to become advisory led, advisory services are likely to become your core capabilities. Outsourcing your core capabilities is rarely a good long term idea.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Defining advisory services – a final thought.

Defining advisory services is a key part to being able to market them successfully. Advisory services will mean different things to different firms. You have different capabilities to your competitors, and different client needs. In all cases the real client benefit is likely to come from insights (from you, from them, from their peers) that derive from information, not just more reports. That’s why coaching and facilitation skills will help you give more value to your clients, and allow you to charge higher fees. Learning coaching skills, facilitation skills, active listening and managing meetings is something our advisor academy delegates learn along with getting strategy tools to help clients. Click here to learn more about the advisor academy and change your future.

What’s your next step in changing the future of your firm and when will you take it?

You might like to read some of the following related articles:

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

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Restructuring your firm for advisory services http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/restructuring-your-firm/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/restructuring-your-firm/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:08:44 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26497 So you have decided you want to prepare for the future, and you have thought about what advisory services might mean for your firm. Perhaps you’ve started to define them. But how will you change things in your firm, it’s probably going to involve restructuring your firm. This is a bigger change than you might […]

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So you have decided you want to prepare for the future, and you have thought about what advisory services might mean for your firm. Perhaps you’ve started to define them. But how will you change things in your firm, it’s probably going to involve restructuring your firm. This is a bigger change than you might think and big change projects need careful planning, management and implementation.

Buildings being rebuilt, it's like restructuring your firm

Why do my processes and back office need to change?

To become a truly advisory led firm means that the bulk of your (and other) fee earning time is going to be spent advising, rather than producing or discussing accounts. Doesn’t sound too bad so far?

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

  • Resource centre: You will need a resource in your firm to create the information that you will help your clients get insights from. Does that capability exist at the moment?
  • Existing compliance work: You will need somebody else to do a lot of the compliance work you do now. Can your firm’s structure deal with that? You might choose to start outsourcing some of the basic compliance work, but that’s about restructuring your firm too.
  • Being reactive: Your firm is likely to become more reactive to client requests, as that’s part of the advice scenario. Are all your team capable of dealing with such requests at the moment, or are you going to continue being the process bottleneck in your firm?
  • Team change: Your team are likely to start to change focus, whether that’s by embracing cloud, becoming more flexible (dealing with differing requests, speeds and not on such a predictable annual timetable).
  • New capabilities and competences. For each team member that changes the focus in their role, somebody else is likely to change their role to pick up the old work. This is going to involve your whole team.
  • Project management: Managing the processes, varying client timelines, different dataflows in conjunction with any MTD changes gets complicated. Fortunately practice management software can help you mange what’s going on. But that in itself means….changing the way you all work.
  • Data integrity: With more clients doing parts of their bookkeeping or processing themselves, your role becomes more one of data integrity management (click here to read about that). Is your team geared up for that switch from old style accounting?

Even if you discount some of these bullet points, each of these changes is about you changing the way things work in your firm.

Restructuring your firm – getting change to work.

Many years ago I was involved in change management, off shoring data processing and replacing processes across the whole of a £15bn turnover company. Three key lessons I learned then, still are relevant today:

  1. Changing the way people work is essential
  2. People don’t like changing the way they work
  3. Communication of the vision and the change is critical

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Sharing the vision

You’ve probably been reluctantly thinking about how your firm works for some time now. I suspect that initially you didn’t want to, or hoped it would go away. That’s only natural. Over time, you saw the need for change and have started to embrace it.

The problem is your team need time and help to see and embrace the need for change too. You probably hated the idea of restructuring your firm when you first thought about it, so do your team.

Working with them on, helping them see why things have to change, how they will benefit from the change and their place in the vision of your firm is important.

Some other articles on this site that may help (sharing the vision, creating the vision, persuading rather than telling).

Change management skills

  • Understanding what is really going on in your firm is a good starting place. Some form of structure analysis and process mapping will help you get a grip on what’s there now.
  • Understand what your team members can do is a good addition to your “organigram”
  • Understand your stakeholders and the key influencers in your firm. Who is involved, and who has the biggest opportunity to derail, or assist you?
  • Create a structure and processes for your future state (how you think the firm needs to be in three years’ time). Now you can create a transition plan, see what people need to learn, how they need to develop and help them to embrace that change.

Who are your main stakeholders?

It maybe that you and your team are the main players in your firm. But as part of your change plan think about any other major stakeholders you may have, who are the most influential ones with power/ influence? Successfully restructuring your firm is a lot easier if they’re onboard, discuss a compelling vision of their future.

Whatever steps you take, this is major transition and may take longer than you expect. Consider the major stepping stones and how you will cross each, give yourself time, and monitor your progress.

What’s your first step?

You might like to read some of the following related articles:

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.

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Can you see the graveyard yet? http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/advisory-services/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/advisory-services/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:46:02 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26493 Ask the owners of 25 small firms and you’ll get 26 views on the future of the accounting profession. Introduce the subject of declining fees and people get passionate. Introduce the subject of advisory services and some claim to be already doing it, and some say it’s not needed. Then you find that most of […]

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Ask the owners of 25 small firms and you’ll get 26 views on the future of the accounting profession. Introduce the subject of declining fees and people get passionate. Introduce the subject of advisory services and some claim to be already doing it, and some say it’s not needed. Then you find that most of those who claim to be offering advisory services are not charging for them, or only have a tiny portion of their income from advisory services. But, is it time to change?

Graveyard - maybe symbolising compliance accounting and the need for advisory services?

Are advisory services the future, has compliance work had its day?

Very early the other day I was walking through the park in the fog, as the graveyard peered out of the fog at me. My pulse quickened, it’s daft really, I knew it was there but still didn’t want to see it. By not looking at it, not trying to make out the eerie shapes I could convince myself not to be scared. But I still had to walk that way to get home! My immediate future meant dealing with what I was trying to ignore. How daft!

At several accounting conferences over the last few years I’ve heard comments about moving away from compliance accounting (“the institute has been on about this for years and it’s not happened, so I don’t need to worry”). So, do you need to adjust your strategy or not?

Are you peering into the future and trying to avoid the eerie shapes it makes?

So, what’s changing?

  • Making tax digital: The ground will change as MTD takes hold, as many more small companies will start to do their own books using cloud services. They may, or may not, want to use you to finalise them. But most small companies won’t want to pay you’re the same rate, when they/ their software, does more of the work.
  • Technology: Software like ReceiptBank, Xero and many of the other alternatives are growing in popularity. The ability of younger ‘digitally native’ entrepreneurs to manage their business from their mobile phones has and will grow. How has that changed the landscape so far? What will happen in the future?
  • Competition: Increasing competition rarely means fees maintain, and normally leads margins downwards.
  • Client requirements: Increasingly people want to see answers in almost real time, and clients desires have moved from just returns. Clients might not need so much help making the numbers, but will want to have more conversations about what the numbers mean.
The big one is that many Accountants haven’t got their heads around how we work with client has changed. Clients don’t want annual history.

Guy Robinson, Xebra Accounting

Companies that don’t want to change

You and I know that some companies will not want to change and would like you to enter their shoe boxes full of receipts onto a system for them. But as cloud account and technology like receipt bank makes that cheaper to do, will these same companies be able to afford your fees when you need to do it four times a year for MTD? How many of them will, unhappily move over to a technology answer?

So, can you make money with compliance work, yes probably. Some firms have an older partner base, with older clients and maybe they don’t want to change things before the sell up and retire. Are you one of those firms?

Advisory services

Introducing something valuable into the services you offer your clients makes sense, and many firms have already started to move in this direction.

You are already trusted by your clients, so what can you do that will help them more than just entering data and making reports? Transforming information into insights is at the core of what your expertise can do for them, and I’d call that advisory services. What services will you add, and when will you start to move your firm’s fee basis?

You might like to read some of the following related articles:

These discussions about changing the profession have been going on for longer than I have been coaching Accountants. But is it now time to think about when you will change, or why you are not going to change.

Your clients will start thinking about it soon, if not already, what about you?

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.

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Struggling to sell advisory services to your client? http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/sell-advisory-services/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/sell-advisory-services/#respond Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:22:36 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=26385 Selling advisory services to their clients is one way in which Accountants can increase their average fee, and help clients more. But, many small firms are struggling with how to sell advisory services. Here are 5 steps to start unlocking the potential that advisory services can offer your practice. Start with the “low hanging fruit” […]

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Selling advisory services to their clients is one way in which Accountants can increase their average fee, and help clients more. But, many small firms are struggling with how to sell advisory services. Here are 5 steps to start unlocking the potential that advisory services can offer your practice.

Padlock needs to be removed to sell advisory services

Start with the “low hanging fruit”

Existing clients are the easiest people to sell advisory services to. You already have a track record; they trust you and have experienced the excellent client service you provide. If you are gulping at any of those statements, then start to think about those before seriously expecting to get higher fees from them.

However, many firms are still finding it difficult to sell advisory services to existing clients. Here are the top 4.

1 – Selling the wrong thing

So, what are ‘advisory services’? Yes, it’s a real question; what are you going to offer to your clients?

Defining an advisory services package is one thing, to sell advisory services is another. What do your clients need?

The easiest way to sell advisory services to your clients is help them buy something they really, really need. That means research and client knowledge. You need to understand their world, as well as their challenges and pain points. If not, it’s hard to provide an irresistible package of advisory services your clients want to buy.

Key: – Don’t just offer the same as your competition. Really listen to your clients and research what they want to buy.

2 – Your biggest competitor for advisory services

A client does not have to buy advisory services. That’s very different to the compliance work you already do for them. This means that the biggest competitor you face is inertia rather than a firm down the road.

Using a management accounts package as an example of something that could add amazing value to your client. Management accounts will help them be in control of their day-to-day finances, and maybe the first time your really are ‘proactive’. However, if you try and sell management accounts to your clients without explicitly demonstrating the value to them it’s going to be a tough sell. Why will they want to spend money on yet another report, and let’s be honest they can probably make it for themselves?

However if they are buying a system to control their cash flow and take informed decisions on business strategy, the package is (still management accounts) looks different. Your clients can now see the value and the help you provide them to go with the report.

Key:- Focus on the value your clients need.

3 – To sell advisory services, needs some sales skills!

Selling something that somebody wants to buy isn’t really selling, it’s order fulfillment. Most Accountants are used to selling things that, by and large, clients need and know they need.

Selling something to somebody that they don’t know they need is different. Now you have to convince them they really need it, and that you are the right person to provide it.

Maybe you were not born to be great at sales (I don’t know many Accountants that were) however, with a tried and tested sales process and checklist for your meeting with your client you can radically improve your ability to sell advisory to your clients.

Key:- Clearly focus on a sales process and checklist

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

4 – Selling to the wrong clients

It is quite probable that most of your clients do not need more than compliance work. Maybe their business isn’t big enough to warrant anything more than basic compliance and some simple tax planning advice.

Start with a client portfolio analysis, so you know which of your clients is correctly positioned to need your different advisory services. For example, an established business where the owner is 55 or over is probably a potential candidate for retirement coaching or exit advice. Whereas, these services are unlikely to be needed by a 30-35 business owner with a turnover of under £500k.

Key:-Focus on the right clients.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

In summary

Successfully selling advisory services to clients means:

  1. Ensuring you know what they need
  2. You focus on their needs so they see the value in your services.
  3. You use a sales process/ checklist to help them see
  4. You focus on the right clients

What will help you sell advisory services?

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.

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Managing your sales funnel http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/sales-funnel/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/sales-funnel/#respond Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:38:37 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=25845 Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is something magicians do (did?), not something that you should be doing to grow your firm. You probably want to sign up more clients. More than that, wouldn’t you prefer a  steady number of them, rather than a glut, followed by none at all? Managing your sales funnel helps you […]

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Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is something magicians do (did?), not something that you should be doing to grow your firm. You probably want to sign up more clients. More than that, wouldn’t you prefer a  steady number of them, rather than a glut, followed by none at all? Managing your sales funnel helps you to do just that.

Magician and rabbit, like a sales funnel cc https://www.flickr.com/photos/foilman/11694299656/

Improving your sales funnel.

Improving your sales funnel might mean:

  • getting more from it (more new clients, from same number of leads).
  • that new clients would be welcome if they turned up at a steady (manageable) and predictable rate.
  • you realising that you simply need to put more prospects into your pipeline.

Each of these scenarios require a different solution. The problem is that the owners of most small firms don’t know which it is, and thus can’t fix the problem.

What’s this got to do with rabbits?

If you spent time training professional sales teams in the corporate sector (I did) you’ll meet some stereotypical sales people. One stereotype of salespeople who ‘talk a good talk’, are not the ones that help their company prosper. I’ve worked with many sales teams and helped them improve sales, but not by using “sales techniques“.

Inventednamebutreal PLC were having a bad year in their sector. They were struggling with cash flow and sales were sluggish. The MD made a personal appeal to the sales team which inspired them to action, for a short period. They managed to get round many of the excuses they’d been giving their sales director and magically produce new sales where there had been nothing. In 6 weeks the MD came back and they had pulled the proverbial rabbit from a hat. Everybody was pleased, especially the sales teams, who loved the adrenaline and recognition for saving the day.

The reality was that this happened on a regular basis, so we decided to change things.We improved sales and more importantly the regularity and predictability of sales. We got the sales teams to focus on a sales process. One company I worked with even changed their bonus system to reward use of the process, rather than reward overall sales. They got an even bigger increase in total sales.

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

How could a sales process help my small firm?

You might be the only person signing clients up. It might be that you have one, two, or even more other staff signing up clients for you. A process will help you know what’s going on in your sales funnel. It will also help your business development staff focus on the right activities, and your ability to manage your team (prospective clients and yourself).

That means more clients signing up and you seeing a steady stream, rather than a glut all at once (with subsequent problems managing your onboarding process).

What is a sales process?

In simple terms, it’s a series of steps that you and your prospective client go through until they become a client. Each step involves something definite and makes it more likely that you will get the sale. There will be an exchange of commitment at each step, so you know that you have now moved into a new step. The exchange of commitment means your prospect has more invested in the process, and so do you. Prospects who are disinterested won’t exchange more commitments with you, nor you with them. A well constructed sales process will help you to sell more and help you to manage the others in the firm that are involved in selling.

The process element means it is what you do every time, repeatedly. It means that there are measured points to say where you are in the process and that every prospects point in the pipeline is visible. In other words, it fulfills one of my tests of a good process – it can be actively managed.

What are exchanges of commitment in a sales funnel?

A genuine person will be willing to trade some commitment with you, a “tyre-kicker” won’t. What can you ask them to do?

  • Give 2 years of accounts before you give a free consultation? You both exchanged some commitment.
  • Complete a questionnaire?
  • Provide specific information?
  • Commit to meet up?

These are all examples of exchanges of commitment that could be appropriate at different stages. That will help you know somebody really is interested rather than wasting time with people who want things for free.

How might you change the way you manage your sales funnel?

Why your website doesn’t work and the simple improvements you can make.. FREE webinar on 11th April. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access
Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.

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Advisory services and Accountants – really? http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/advisory-services-accountants/ http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/advisory-services-accountants/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 08:04:38 +0000 http://growingyourfirm.co.uk/?p=25850 There is lots of talk about Accountants shifting from compliance to advisory work within their firms. But what does it mean for a typical small practice to go from compliance to advisory? What should you be thinking about in your firm? Are advisory services for Accountants worth your time and how might you start? Is there […]

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There is lots of talk about Accountants shifting from compliance to advisory work within their firms. But what does it mean for a typical small practice to go from compliance to advisory? What should you be thinking about in your firm? Are advisory services for Accountants worth your time and how might you start?

An accountant meeting clients giving advisory services.

Is there really a shift from compliance to advisory?

As little as two or three years ago I remember several discussions at Accountants networking events in London where the general feelings were (and I quote one delegate) ‘the professional bodies have been banging on about this for years, we don’t need to worry’. Since then the pace of change has accelerated and I suspect it will accelerate further. Do you need to worry about changing the emphasis in your firm, I don’t know. Do you need to think about it and what it might mean to you – yes.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

What’s caused this shift, and why has it accelerated?

  • Dramatically faster uptake of cloud accounting systems: Many clients can now get more data than ever before from their accounts (not their accountants), and it’s easier to get bookkeepers to keep them up to date. If you haven’t yet embraced the cloud accounting issue, is it because you never will?
  • Client expectations: Several Accountants have said that clients wonder why their Accounting fees remain as high, when cloud systems are doing more work. What are clients expecting of you, really expecting? If all they want is the comfort of knowing their accounts are legal and some ideas on saving tax, are they prepared to pay what they used to?
  • Competition: Is it me, or do there seem to be more small firms, as Accountants leave industry and set up on their own?
  • MTD: Sure it’s a big change, but when it’s all done, what will people expect from you?
  • Technology: We seem to becoming ‘datavores’. Data just used to sit on the PC, now mobile apps, and the ability to look at figures and enter data on the go.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Advisory services for Accountants

Heather and I were walking around the country park where our office is based last week. Our normal discussion is a mixture of strategy, home life and a bit of bird spotting. We spent this walk in a state of violent agreement, saying the same thing, about different birds, but giving them the same name! We should have been disagreeing with each other, we each had our own names for the same things. Once we sorted our terminology, all was sorted.

The point of this story about definitions, how do you define advisory services for Accountants? Many Accountants say they have been advisers for years, but when we spent time with some on our Academy last year, they concluded that advisory services goes much deeper than they previously thought.

Advisory services for Accountants is about standing out from the crowd, and really focusing on helping clients achieve their ambitions. That’s not the same as telling them what their accounts mean, or what you think they should do. Anybody (or some of the artificial intelligence systems that will be here soon) can offer advice based on what you think somebody should do. A skilled coach asks great questions, that help the client understand in their own mind. After many years of coaching, I have realised that questions are more powerful than advice.

My link with business coaching is intentional. If you have good coaching skills and already have client data, you are in a far better place than a most business coaches to help your clients. Are you ready to move your practice along a spectrum that starts with compliance, goes through ‘advice’ and ends getting paid to ask really powerful questions? If so, you are ready to start adjusting the processes in your firm, so you can do higher valued work, while your team deal with data integrity and some of the processing work.

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

The future – it gets worse?

  • It becomes easier to move Accountants. Old desk based systems and physical data made it harder to change Accountants than cloud accounting does. In the future client service, value delivery and relationships will be the thing that stop clients changing Accountants.
  • The big button: Can it really be long before the new cloud based client systems will allow them to submit statutory accounts and tax returns at the click of a couple of buttons? Whether you, or they, click the button -it’s lower fees.
  • Compliance work becomes even more commoditised: BBC News ran a story (the jobs robots will steal first) where Accountants featured prominently, due to ever increasing computing power. Even if you don’t totally believe that story, think about computing power being better able to process and check data. Will HMRC and cloud systems work together, especially as clients are more used to entering data into the internet in all other areas of their lives. What will your role be? Fees for compliance work will drop.
  • Fees will change: Fixed fee is normal for many Accountants, and alien to others who still charge by time. But if compliance becomes really commoditised and real advisory services become your strategic platform, innovative value based pricing models will become important (and the skills to sign them up).
  • Marketing will change: If you want to develop advisory services, your marketing programmes will need to change. Perhaps methods that demonstrate expertise like webinars, mastermind groups and more speaking become more important.

I think these points are only going increase the importance of you charging for advisory services. What do you think and how will you start to re-skill yourself and your firm?

How does the shift from compliance to advisory matter for your firm?

How to move your firm from compliance accounting to being advisory led. FREE webinar on 16th May. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

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