I have worked with agencies for years – design agencies, content providers, web developers, and so on – but now the tables have turned, I certainly see a very different side to the relationship.
I have learned many new skills, but one of the most important has been the fine art of interpreting large marketing projects from extraordinarily short briefs that frequently have no objective at all. But as we like to say at Think Little Big Marketing – we do like a challenge.
We are a few months into our new venture, and it seems a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I have been taught on running a content marketing agency for accountants.
I want to point out at the outset that accountants are certainly not one homogenous group, all to be managed in the same way.
Accountants will, I am sure, agree that while they are all unique in their way, they do tend to have several similar traits. For starters, they don’t like spending money – many feel marketing is a necessary evil, but they would prefer someone else does it for them, and they know a lot more about their markets and how to approach them than they realise.
The move from being a client to the supplier was perhaps one of the easier steps I had to take. As a provider of marketing services within the marketing team of numerous companies; the various teams, divisions, managers, and so on had always appeared to me as clients.
But my clients now are paying for a service, and I work hard to ensure that they are not disappointed. There are important considerations though such as, should all clients receive the same service, irrespective of the amount of business they are giving you and therefore, the amount they are being charged?
I am sure this is something that is considered by a multitude of service providers, including my wonderful accountant clients. I know when I have experienced inequality of service myself, I have not been at all happy; and that has coloured my decision to ensure each client is treated equally.
So we have set rules: realistic delivery targets are set for each client. No client’s work is ‘bumped’ unless in extreme circumstances and after a discussion to ensure it doesn’t cause any difficulties. And each client receives reports and reviews of work undertaken, be it a small social media campaign or a large ongoing SEO project.
So whether we are delivering content marketing for accounting firms or designing and printing business cards, our client servicing protocols are identical. This is probably why we happily see lots of return business across the board from our clients.
There are some excellent project management tools out there, and as we get busier, they are becoming more and more essential. We are using Trello at the moment as it enables us to share work, see the status of projects, set actions for others and consistently update actions.
I am a devil for using a written list and am forever getting told that no one can see what is on it – am guessing I won’t be allowed to do this for much longer.
Utilising software to support the delivery of services effectively, efficiently and on time is critical. When you are working as a team on multiple projects with multiple actions and deadlines, then there isn’t an alternative. It also helps with planning and to identify if there are going to be potential issues.
Some foolish companies believe that a client account will continue ad infinitum; “I am the content marketing agency for this accountant, and they will continue to want me to provide these services and let me increase my prices whenever I want.”
Account management is an art, closely linked to the above two points for if you do not provide a quality client service or manage projects, then managing the account is irrelevant. Never take an account for granted.
There is a balance to be found with account management between delivering the service that you are and seeking ways to increase the value of the account. But no one wants to feel like you are pushing them to spend more money every time you talk to them.
Think Little Big Marketing is not pushy. More fool us maybe, but we treat our clients in the way we like to be treated ourselves. We will look to see how we can best serve our clients, we will recommend additional services and explain the benefits, and we will understand if these suggestions are turned down.
It doesn’t mean we give up; if there are compelling reasons why an additional service should be considered, we will propose it again.
Partnership is easily said, but rarely genuinely seen in business relationships. We manage our accounts as if our clients are part of our business, and we are set upon helping them to grow. If they grow, then so do we.
This was my ‘eeek’ area; I am a marketer, and I have worked with business development teams all my life. I have also worked with ‘sales’ teams to help them to adopt a softer business development role because, well, it works better.
Business development done correctly aligns perfectly with marketing, and I am finding I am rather enjoying it. I don’t have a sales technique as such but rather approach a prospective client from a position of how can I help them, a more consultative approach.
I don’t start with we could do this or we could do that, so why don’t you buy this. Business development is all about developing a relationship with a prospect and letting them discover in their time, that you are in a position to help them to achieve their objectives, their business goals.
Always listen and hear their objectives and their objections; there is invariably a solution that will benefit both of you and the client.
Running content marketing services for accountants has made one big difference to me, moving from the role of managing a team to leading a business. I am detail orientated; I started with a business plan and a clear marketing plan.
I have always said, if you don’t have a plan, how will you know when you get where you are going. I have a team of people who have bought into that plan because they were involved in creating it – we are all going the same way. And we know we are going to get there!