How to Stand Out (A Branding & Marketing Guide for Bookkeepers)
As a bookkeeper, it can be a challenge to figure out how to brand yourself, and your business, in a way that really makes you stand out.
How do you catch the eye of a potential business, and make sure that they choose you, over every other bookkeeping business out there?
In this week’s blog, we cover the basics on getting your branding right!
So, let’s talk a bit about:
- Defining your competition
- Becoming client focused
- 5 things to avoid in your branding
- Your unique selling point
- How a business plan can help you
Identify Your Competition
“But Amy…We aren’t competitors, we’re friends!”
I hear this one all of the time! As bookkeepers, we’re a pretty tight knit community, and many of us ARE friends, or friendly with each other.
That’s why most bookkeepers don’t really talk about competition. In fact, it’s usually the opposite! Bookkeepers really are a community.
As a result, over the years, bookkeepers become less and less competitive and more supportive of one another. While this has been a fantastic thing (who doesn’t love community support?), the downside is that bookkeepers actually believe they no longer have competitors.
So, sure, you might hear bookkeepers talking about accountants, offshore bookkeeping companies or even software companies, but you rarely hear about other bookkeepers.
It’s important to remember that, while we’re drinking coffee together, we’re still in competition (on some level!).
Do you know who your competitors are?
Now that we’ve talked about competition for a bit, I have a question for you. Do you know WHO you competitors actually are?
Believe it or not, this is usually a hard question for bookkeepers to answer. During a business planning sessions, one of the early questions I ask my clients is, “Do you know who your competitors are?” These are the typical responses:
- All other bookkeepers
- I don’t have any
- I don’t know
- I don’t care
That’s quite a list, isn’t it?
The first one is way too broad. The second is naive. The third is ignorant. The fourth is plain-old just a bad idea!
Now, I’m going to be honest with you… When I started out, I was in category #2. I truly believed that I didn’t have any competitors. I felt that I offered a unique service and I naively believed that I was better off not knowing who my competitors were.
I thought that if I knew it would make me feel insecure about what I was doing so I chose not to think about it (Yikes, Amy! Not a great plan!).
It was only through changing around my thought process and identifying my competitors, that I could start branding effectively.
Put yourself in a business owner’s shoes
Now, we’ve covered the competition perspective from YOUR viewpoint, but what about from your CLIENT’S viewpoint?
If you’re self focused rather than client focused, then you’ll miss out on great opportunities to work with better clients. On top of that, you also won’t see it coming when you lose clients (because you don’t fully understand the threats).
So, put yourself in the client’s shoes for a moment. Imagine you’re a business owner looking for a bookkeeper. You open up Google and type in “Bookkeeper+your suburb”. A list of entries appear. You ignore the first three because they are ads, and no one likes ads (most people automatically tune them out!)… And then you right click the first three “real” listings and open them in three separate tabs. (If you’re not listed in the top 3 on page one your chances of being clicked on are < 5%).
If you have never hired a bookkeeper before (which is pretty common), you will quickly realise that you don’t know what you’re looking for. You’ll also notice that all bookkeeper websites are pretty much the same; generic and full of jargon.
If you don’t believe me, try this yourself, right now! Google bookkeeper in your area and open the top three non-advert listings and have a look.
When a business owner visits three sites in one go and sees this same message, how are they supposed to make a comparison and choose who is the best bookkeeper to suit their business? When there is no differentiation, the only ways they can compare are: price (and location).
And guess what? If there are no prices to compare, or the location is unclear, that business owner will probably close their browser and go have a coffee… and forget to come back.
But it’s not all bad news! On the flip side, this is what makes it really EASY to stand out in a sea of bookkeepers.
When you think about it from a client perspective and really ask yourself, “What is the first thing a person sees when they see my business?”….then you’re already well on your way to being a step ahead of your competition.
Now, once you have a clear idea of what every other bookkeeping website looks like (branding, etc), you’ll probably start to realize how confusing this is for clients….and that’s NOT what you want to do.
And on that note…
Get clear on what NOT to do
Because website design is my area of expertise I’m going to use websites as an example of what bookkeepers often do (but shouldn’t!), but most of this can be applied to all aspects of your branding.
5 things bookkeepers are displaying in their branding (that you shouldn’t!)
- Lack of Purpose
“We take care of the books so you can take care of your business” … I really hate to break it to you, or hurt your feelings if this is your tagline but… this is the tagline of pretty much every bookkeeping business in Australia. So, when a business owner visits three sites in one go and sees this same message, how are they supposed to make a comparison?
- Lack of Clarity
“We work with businesses of all industries and all sizes.” Okay…So, there is nothing wrong with working with a variety of industries. In fact, one of my recent web design clients worked with a range of clients, so we made that part of her branding, and gave her the tagline “Business as unique as you.” That said, you still need to take a personalised stance, or get clear on your niche!
Often, you’ll see a photo of a middle-aged woman with 1980s hair, old style website layout, clip art looking logo, and burgundy everywhere. 85% of bookkeepers are female, and 60% of bookkeepers are between the ages of 45-65…but that doesn’t mean your branding has to look out-dated! You’re still relevant in your field, so your website should reflect that.
“We GST blah blah compliance blah blah data entry blah streamline blah reconciliations blah blah.”…If you’re a business owner looking for a bookkeeper it’s probably because you don’t know, or care, about what all of these words mean. You’re there because you need help deciphering all the jargon… and all you see is more jargon. This instantly kills interest and just makes your potential clients even more overwhelmed. Simplicity, and clear language is key.
“We do this, we do that, we have this qualification, we are registered with this professional body, we use this software, we are experts, we pride ourselves in….” I don’t know about you, but it’s quite off putting when you are looking for a service, and the person spends more time telling you how great they are than listening to you, determining your problems and offering solutions. Being client-focused is absolutely critical in having good branding.
Identify YOUR unique selling point
What is your unique selling point? What sets you apart from the rest and makes you and your business different?
If you don’t think that there’s much differentiation between bookkeeping services, then consider this: How do you feel when someone says, “You’re just a bookkeeper?”
Ouch! It makes you cringe, right?
Why? Because you know it isn’t true. You do SO much more than bookkeeping.
But if you don’t know how to communicate that value then people won’t be able it see it for themselves. This is where a USP comes in!
A great way to help people see it is to craft yourself a short statement called a unique selling point (USP). It might seem simple at first (because it is). But it’s not necessarily easy.
In fact, it takes quite a bit of effort, because you need to understand not only what you do, but also for who, and why.
If you visit my bookkeeping business website, or any of the sites I’ve designed, you will notice that each bookkeeper I’ve worked with has clearly defined their USP:
Off The Hook Bookkeeping.
Not good with numbers? Don’t worry! We are. If you’re a creative and online business owner looking for a professional, virtual bookkeeper to run your paperless office and help you understand your numbers, we can help.
You can see from this example that the branding is not generic, nor does it outright say, “We take care of the books so you can take care of your business”, even though that is literally what we do!
When a client visits your site, or meets you, they want to be sure that you care about them, understand their problems and that you can help them in a specific way. Communicate this through your USP and you’re all set!
Review your business plan!
Having a clear and updated business plan is vital to succeeding in your business. You’ve probably heard me talk about business plans before (there’s a reason…they really ARE that important).
A business plan will help you first to understand the bigger picture of where you are headed. You will become clearer about the clients you do, and don’t, want to work with. Then you can refine your client base so that when you’re ready to brand your business, it will be much clearer and easier to understand!
If you’re getting a bit stuck doing your business plan, then I suggest checking out LivePlan, which is a tool that I really like using, because it helps you narrow down your USP, your targets, and your over-all business plan, without having to stress about missing any steps. >>> Click here to give LivePlan a try (I’ve found it really helpful!)
Over to You…
There’s SO much that goes into branding, but I hope that this gave you a good overview of getting started.
If you’re looking at changing your branding, I highly recommend checking out a few of our web design services at Savvy. We have something for every level (and every budget), from DIY services, to a complete done-for-you package >>> Click here to book your FREE website planning session!
Let’s keep the conversation flowing! I’d love to hear your branding stories (and questions), in our Facebook group!
P.S. Don’t forget to check out LivePlan if you’re looking to get started on your branding and business plans.