I'd like to share with you a topic that I was recently speaking on for the Institute of Professional Accountants (which was my privilege), about the changes in consumer behaviour post-pandemic – which can also be called: How to Stay Competitive in a Post-Pandemic World.
And actually, the night before I was speaking, an accountant asked me what I was speaking on, and he said, "Oh, I'm not very competitive." And that struck me. And before we continue, I just want to say that whether you are booked solid with clients or whether you have more time on your hands than clients, and you really need to attract new clients, being and remaining COMPETITIVE is key to continuing to thrive in your business.
In fact, the clients that you currently have are staying with you because of your selling points and your competitive advantage, even if that is that you are a great bookkeeper who meets your deadlines and tasks. That basically means you do everything you said you'd do, and believe it or not, that is called the marketing X factor, in my opinion.
There are a lot of bookkeepers who struggle to do what they said they'd do in the timeframe they said they'd do it. And so if I dived into that with you and your business, I might tell you that's a really lovely part of your competitive advantage. The point being, please don't tell me you don't need to be competitive.
You absolutely do need to be and remain competitive in the eyes of your clients to continue to retain them, let alone find and attract new ones.
Education is key to thriving in business as well. And so, please stick with me for this read, and together, we'll take on and navigate this post-pandemic journey.
Just a quick side note – if you did not join the program when the doors open on August 1, it doesn't mean that you can't join in. The program is evergreen. We have a way to bring you into the program seamlessly, so that you can absolutely start working with me to build your thriving practice, delight your clients, and live your dream on your terms. If you are keen to know how that works, just drop us an email or ask in the The Strategic Bookkeeper's Way Facebook Group.
Because, three things: Number one, the program comes with a MONEY-BACK guarantee. Number two, I do not get you to spend extra time working with me – this is about ON THE JOB application and implementation. And number three, that money-back guarantee, it kicks in after a year but my expectation is to help you get the ROI really early, allowing you to pay for the program as we go along.
So, the big shift in consumer behaviour post-pandemic as it relates to our accounting industry... As always, this will be a mix of structured agenda and relaxed sharing. Let's have a look at what it the Big Shift is, and why you need to ADAPT or why I recommend you adapt, and then how you can adapt.
Something that I want to let you know about the Big Shift is that it's something that I've been observing for a little while now since the pandemic started over three years ago. And then, I caught up with a business buddy who is just amazing in the marketing space. And, he really walked me through a lot of this and really filled in a lot of the gaps.
But let me tell you right now, I am personally still adapting.
This is new stuff, and not many people are talking about it.
And so I want to start by talking about what was happening before the big shift, because I think that will really help you understand it, and then after the big shift.
So before the big shift,
it was the typical CUSTOMER JOURNEY. In terms of your market, someone within your market or someone that you could serve (a business owner who became aware of a problem that you could solve for them), somehow found out about you. Let's say their accountant told them about you, or they met you at a networking event, or maybe found you on Google, and they decided to give you a call.
The customer journey was that they had a problem,
they realized that they need someone in the bookkeeping space to solve that problem,
and they reached out either by giving you a call, or sending you an email.
And that meant that you were able to have a conversation.
And another thing I want to mention is that before the pandemic, local was quite meaningful. Local had a lot of value.
Business owners, on the whole, wanted to work with a bookkeeper who was local, even if they never met them. Even if they only ever interacted over the phone and everything was done remotely, they just liked the idea that that person was just down the road just in case they needed to see them face to face. Local had a lot of value.
Now, in terms of power and influence...
Since this person in your market would give you a call or send you an email,
this meant you had a lot of POWER and INFLUENCE.
Because, during this initial discussion, this was a dialogue where you could realistically do what I would call a NEEDS ANALYSIS. You're on the phone discussing and analysing what they need, and you're able to have a conversation which influences that person around using you or not using you – because you're assessing each other. So that was before the pandemic.
Now, once the pandemic hit – and even post-pandemic,
everything really started to change very rapidly. One of the trends that was accelerated was this habit and behaviour that–
I want to do everything ONLINE.
I want to find out everything I need to know online.
I want to get all my questions answered online.
And actually, I want to be able to take action easily online.
So this was something that was slowly but surely happening. In the accounting industry, it was definitely something that was really slow – slower than other industries. An example of an industry where it was gaining traction would be, say, the personal services industry. Think about massage, for example.
People were really starting to get used to finding what they wanted online and then actually booking in. And, they never interacted with the massage therapist until the day that they turned up at their appointment. So this was happening in various industries a lot more than it was happening in the accounting industry.
For me as a bookkeeper, for you as a bookkeeper or an accountant, it was much more manual, I'd like to say. There was much more dialogue – whereas in other industries (think of restaurants), people were getting really used to the convenience of simply going online, finding out everything they need to know, booking in, and turning up in a really hands-free way.
Along with this, local began to lose value.
And that is because everybody was forced online – everybody was forced to adapt, to buy groceries online, to do things that some of us were just choosing not to do. So suddenly, I was hearing from clients very far away. Our practice is on the Gold Coast, and we were getting phone calls from Tasmania, and people were much more likely to use us irrespective of where we were located. But, that meant that the power around local began to lose value.
The other thing that changed is that,
our market began to want to get to know everything they needed to know about us 24/7 online, in their own time.
And that was not happening in the accounting industry prior to the pandemic. In our industry, that was not the expectation of our market. Their expectation was to be able to get some information online. But part of the customer journey post-pandemic, which is very different now, is that if you were referred to someone pre-pandemic, that person would often call you immediately, and will likely use you.
But now, that customer journey has changed because without that person realising it, their behaviour on the whole has changed. So now, when they are referred to you, they Google you and they spend time floating in your DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM, what I call your BRAND SPHERE. And they want to get to know, like, and trust you online, and get more third party endorsements, before they reach out.
And actually, I know someone that was referred to an accountant with a really good recommendation. This person went online and sat in their brand sphere, and didn't like what they saw. So regardless of their referral, they did not use the services of that accountant. Everything has simply changed.
The last thing I want to mention here,
post-pandemic, you've lost power and influence.
Because, if we think of that story that I just shared with you prior to the pandemic, our behaviour was, "I'm referred, I'll call that bookkeeper or accountant." Now, "I'm referred. So I'll go online and I'll check that they're credible. I'll check that they look trustworthy."
So there's CREDIBILITY. Know, like, and trust. They're going online, and they are seeking to get their questions answered online. And if they can't, then they may move on.
The power to have a conversation around the needs analysis and influence them through question and answer, which is just a natural part of what we do, has dramatically changed.
Now, just a couple of food for thought items. I call this "If you're not convinced", which is a big subject. I really hope that as you read this, you can reflect on your own behaviour as a consumer, like, when do you look for things that you want and need in the business or personal space? Because, a lot of us do so at nine o'clock at night, on our phone.
Prior to the pandemic, our behaviour was different. As I say, certain industries like shoe shopping, fashion shopping – there was a lot of adaptation of this kind of behaviour that we went online. But in the accounting industry, it wasn't common place to do all of our question and answer for a bookkeeper or an accountant, at nine o'clock at night, on our phone, in bed. And that is more commonplace now.
So in terms of why we should adapt:
what got you here may not get you there.
I get that this requires a change, and you might be thinking, "Do I really, really need to adapt?" Well, in business, just like in nature, I would say definitely, adapt or die.
The Kodak story is the quintessential adapt or die story. And in a nutshell, in case you haven't heard the Kodak story: even though a Kodak engineer was the first person to design a digital camera, Kodak did not want to adapt when the digital camera era began to come in. So they buried their head in the sand. They said, "No, we own the camera space and we're going to stick to analog and we're not going to adapt." Until some years later, it became apparent that if they didn't adapt, they were going to die. And then they adapted too late, and so they did file for bankruptcy.
Now, there are lots of business stories like Kodak around, like Border Books. They were around for 100 years. They refused to adapt to using a database, which I talk about a bit in The Strategic Bookkeeper. And so, they closed their doors. And I think that's just sad that a wonderful iconic business closed their doors because they refused to adapt.
So let me tell you right now, in business, as in nature, adapt or die.
So now more than ever, your market does expect to be able to get to know you 24/7 online.
I know I'm rinsing and repeating here, but
people expect to be able to immerse themselves in your brand 24/7 online.
I'll give you the how on that but let me just tell you, we can go on this journey together. I'm absolutely adapting with you. My website for my bookkeeping practice, I redeveloped that a few years ago, but it needs updating again because consumer behaviour has changed. And in The Strategic Bookkeeper Transformation Program, I will be helping the Tribe members much as they want and need around how to renovate or build your WEBSITE, in line with the current economic tech and business landscape.
So, your market expects to be able to get all their questions answered online in watch, read, do, listen formats, and with third party ENDORSEMENTS as well – which is not as mysterious as it sounds. If I say to someone, "Jo's a great bookkeeper," that's third party endorsement. But, we can look at Google REVIEWS and AWARDS – those are great third party endorsements, as are any software company endorsements.
So let's talk about how to adapt now. The first thing I want to encourage you to do is to
play the long game.
Like I say, you don't need to do all of this overnight. This is new stuff. And if you begin adapting now, you won't have your own Kodak moment. So, play the long game, go on a lap around the sun slowly, but surely adapting. You can absolutely look at joining my program and I'll help you with all that.
Next thing, like Nike says,
"Just Do It."
That is progress over perfection. Please don't feel like you have to be perfect first out of the gate with this stuff. Fail in a controlled environment. Practice will make progress.
And the third thing is about the how of this, which is
strategy and planning.
The key principle around how we're going to do it is this phrase, "Your market is still asking the same questions, they're just not asking them directly. Answer them online, and here's how to get started."
There are three big keys to getting started around adapting to this new kind of behaviour in our market. First is definitely knowing that your market wants to get those questions answered online in a 24/7 way. Second is that they want to float in your brand sphere and self-assess, need and desire. And the third one is just to embrace the rise of PR and the death of marketing. Nobody wants to be advertised to any more, which is another reason we've seen a massive rise in third party endorsements. Because, that's more public relations. Here's what others are saying about me.
The rise of PR and the death of marketing is something that's been happening for a very, very, very long time. That one is not new, but it's very much at play in this business landscape. So in terms of the how, I also want to tell you a fun fact: our brains don't differentiate between digital and real. And that's why celebrity endorsement works.
That is exciting because rather than have to do as much one-on-one, face-to-face (which still has value and can also be fun and a nice way to get out of the house), it is proven that our brains can build, know, like and trust with another human digitally online. So there's a power for you in that. And that means there's also a power in personal BRAND.
That doesn't mean that your business has to be called Jeannie's Bookkeeping Services, but it does mean, for example, that as the principal, people will want to get to know me – they'll want to make sure they vibe with me as the person behind the brand. So there is a power in personal brand.
So three steps to get you started: Content, Profile, Platforms.
Content is king, engagement is queen.
Answer your market's questions online with your content. Just think of yourself as a consumer, and then think of the kind of questions that you get asked and the way you could answer those questions.
So to give an example.. the product ladder is where your content is held. Content is step one in your product ladder. And if you haven't, you can read all about product ladder in my book. Examples of content is everything on your website. When somebody can go to a page about one of your services or your productised services, they are immersing themselves in your content and are able to get value by finding out how you might be able to help them.
Our most popular website page for my bookkeeping practice is our About Us page. That speaks volumes. And so that is content where people can find out about me and my team and my brand, and see if we vibe, in order to self-assess, once again, their desire and their need to work with me.
Social media posts are another example of content. Blogs and videos and a business health check is an example, a how-to guide. So how to deal with the ATO, how to get up to date with your books, which you can do in audio form, video form or a blog. Those are examples of content. So one question that business owners often ask is, "Where's all the cash?" You can answer that question in a blog. You can turn that blog into a mini book, that can be turned into some audio clips into some videos as well.
You can content repurpose, but you already probably have a treasure trove of content in your business. Sometimes, it's just really about looking at the mountain of value that you're already sitting on and then looking at maybe repurposing some of that. Or, make it easier, join my program and I do all this for you. I give you, I think, 500 social media templates.
So that's a bit of a dive into content. Then engagement being queen – we want to make sure that people are engaging in your content. So if you do have a mini e-book, like I've got one, The 7 Deadly Cash Flow Sins, then how are you sending that to audiences? And that's your platform.
But let's look at profile first. Profile should be reasonably easy for you. And I go through this in the attraction chapter of my book, which has also got a playbook for the attraction chapter. So literally, I say there here's how to do it, let's do it together.
So with profile, let's say you go into a bookshop and you head to the recipe section. There you see lots of books, some authors you've never heard of and some by chefs that you know and love. Which books will grab your attention? Which will build value in your mind immediately? Will it be the ones from authors that you've never heard of? Or will it be the ones from chefs that have a profile?
So you have a profile, but you absolutely need to make sure that that's in your content and that it's displayed prominently. So in my book, I talk about the various parts of your profile that are probably fairly obvious– your SKILLS, your experience, your licenses, even insurance and registrations, AFFILIATIONS with different professional associations and software houses, including different BADGES you might have. Then, you can add on to that.
Look at how you could level up. If you think, "Well, I've already done that, it's really well-displayed," – how can you level up from that? I definitely recommend looking at entering some awards and looking at winning awards. With either of those, you'll get a media pack that you can display as content. And that is a third party endorsement, which is very, very powerful.
Now, let's move on to platforms. The best description I ever heard of a platform, because a platform is like social media et cetera, is someone said it's like an actual platform. So imagine that I have stepped up onto a platform and I've said, "Hey, attention bookkeepers, do you need to find new clients or something?" And if you're a bookkeeper that did, you might turn around and say, "Oh, that's me."
I'm on a platform and I'm grabbing your attention.
So I want you to think of these digital platforms, like social media, as an actual platform.
You put your content on the platform in order to help people to get to know, like and trust you, and in order to convey how you can help to solve their problems.
So examples of platforms: social media is one, but it's actually the one I like the least. EVENTS are a great platform, and that leads me to PARTNERS. Strategic partnerships, which I go through in my book, are a platform from which you can do all of these things. You can serve up valuable content and speak to your market. Now, you can combine running an event with a strategic partnership, and you've got a really powerful platform there.
Email is also a platform, as well as text message. I love all of those platforms more than I like social media, but social media is a part of MARKETING layering, so it is important that we do it. It's important that we show up consistently so people can build, know, like and trust credibility.
So let's wrap this up by simplifying how you're going to go about adapting, but also why, and a few other things. So first of all, if you've read this far, well done.
Successful entrepreneurs do the things that others won't, and put in the hard work that others don't. Be the 20%.
It is so important to continually EDUCATE yourself so that you know what you need to know, in order to take the right action. Number two, you can re-read this as often as you want to. And this is about taking a step, not a giant leap and getting it all done in two seconds. When you read through this, then what you can do is you can observe your own behaviour as a consumer.
So what I would love for you to do is begin to look at various brands that you interact with, just things that you love, that you shop at, and just start to notice what they do well, and what they don't do so well. Start to think about how they act in terms of everything you're learning from me, because that will really, really help you. And, just take a step in that direction.
Have a look at your website, have a look at the content that you've currently got – begin to value what you've got, and just take small steps. So that's definitely what I'd say in terms of helping you take action. And, I would encourage you to look at The Strategic Bookkeeper Transformation Program, because I know that's going to help you step by step, and it would absolutely be my privilege to help you to thrive in practice by becoming a strategic bookkeeper through the program.