Read Time: 5 Minutes

 

Accountancy is a service that can be prone to being very narrowly defined in terms of the way it’s deployed to clients – you are their accountant, so you crunch their numbers and file their returns. Sound familiar? The truth is, however, that you have so much more value to offer your clients than simply handling their finances.

As we head towards a world of increased automation and technological reliance, it’s time to accentuate your humanity and bring even more to the table to offer your clients the best possible value.

The Changing Face of Accountancy

More and more businesses are coming to rely on their accountants as so much more than a service to keep the numbers adding up. Accountants are increasingly becoming seen in more of an advisory capacity, using the extent of their experience to help guide small and medium-sized businesses into making smarter and more profitable decisions. It’s a growing need that clients are displaying, and your firm needs to respond in kind.

The rise of technology means the bare bones business of accountancy is being handled faster and more efficiently than ever before. With computing power now more affordable than ever, and a host of accountancy software suites tailored to every speciality, your firm has more time to focus on the human element. You can’t hope to compete with a computer’s ability to process the numbers, but a computer doesn’t have your insight.

This is where you need to begin broadening the spectrum of your accountancy service.

Developing and Deploying New Skills

It’s important to start by totally re-thinking the role of an accountant. Traditionally it has been something of an “invisible” service, where if you’re doing it right your client won’t really know you’re there. The bare bones of the number-crunching can remain that way, but it’s time you started to put forward your opinions, your thoughts, your guidance, and the benefit of your experience. This is what makes your service unique.

Your accountancy firm is unique – you have a truly individual level of experience and insight, and it’s important that clients understand that from the moment they begin interacting with you. Your website should, of course, display your services, but it should also show proudly what you can offer that no other accountancy firm can. Make a point of highlighting your ability to interact and engage on a broader level than simple financial processing.

Running a small business is hard, and small to medium-sized business owners are grateful for insight and assistance wherever it may come from. That means you’re perfectly placed to add value to your service, and ultimately craft a better and more useful offering for your clients. Broaden your horizons, and start understanding your value.

Change your Thinking Today

The technological revolution is already here, and it’s time to start altering the way you approach your service provision for your clients. Begin focusing on who you are and emphasise your human engagement because that is something that can never be replaced.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 4 Minutes

 

The Coronavirus crisis has seen the government making sweeping, unprecedented changes to the welfare system to help keep businesses afloat and employees in work.

While their highly-praised Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has provided a much-needed lifeline to companies facing the very real threat of closure, the generosity of the scheme has led to an unexpectedly large number of applications for grants.

Accountants are now finding themselves inundated with a backlog of applications, as they race against the clock to make payroll claims on behalf of their clients.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has proven to be a generous grant to businesses. The government is essentially allowing businesses strapped for cash to furlough their workers and receive a grant to cover 80 per cent of their salaries, provided they don’t work.

The system has become swamped with applications, while confusion over details needed for the applications, and who is eligible, have led some accountancy firms to despair.

A Race to Make Payroll

One aspect of this that has really come to light since applications opened up for the furlough scheme, is the need for a completed payroll.

Businesses in dire need of cash to pay wages have been racing to complete their most up to date payroll accounts, as they are needed to provide evidence to the government that they require the grant. Of course, it’s the accountants, in the first instance, who are doing all the hard work.

Accountants are reporting that they are racing to make payroll claims, as their clients want their applications processed first. For accountancy firms with many major clients all facing furlough, it’s been a tough time, as they struggle to accelerate their own processes while keeping up with the demands of their exacerbated customers.

Many accountants are also dealing with multiple government schemes at the same time, as they try to work out which schemes they can apply for, and which might bring the greatest level of support in the long run.

A Confusing Application Process

The problems have been exaggerated by the actual application process too. Many accountants have been complaining about the unfriendly nature of the government portal used to lodge applications for the scheme. Much of the data needs to be uploaded by hand, making it a meticulous and difficult process, especially given the time constraints.

Rather than simply being able to upload spreadsheets, smaller businesses are being made to input their payroll details individually, adding another unnecessary level of work to the accountant’s already formidable schedule, and ultimately working only to delay the application processes even longer.

For many businesses suffering during the COVID-19 crisis, the problems are very real. A delay in the process of furlough payments can leave a cash strapped business likely to go under before they can actually furlough their workers. In the race against the clock to file documents and organises finances, it’s accountants who are working tirelessly to save the jobs of countless employees.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 4 Minutes

 

There are many factors which businesses consider when choosing an accountant, such as experience and industry knowledge. However, location is also one of the key factors which influence businesses decisions when searching for an accountant.

According to our research, 62% of micro, small or medium-sized business owners felt that having an accountant within drivable distance was important and 81% of respondents said that their current accountant was local. These figures highlight the importance of focusing on marketing campaigns on the local area, while also highlighting industry skills and expertise. With this information in mind, we take a look at some key marketing techniques which your accountancy firm can use.

The Importance of Local SEO

As a small business looking to attract clients in the local area, search engine optimisation can help. Search engines will value high-quality content which is genuinely useful to their users. So, if there are businesses in your area searching for local accountants, it is important to tap into this. Keywords and key search terms should be incorporated into your content in a natural way, via on-page content, informational blog posts, images and URLs.

Listing on Google My Business and Google Maps

When an SME searches for an accountant, it is likely that one of the first places they will check is the list of local firms within Google. This highlights how important it is to ensure you have an up-to-date Google My Business listing. It is completely free and will display your location, contact details and any Google reviews. Google Maps will highlight your exact distance from their business, which will help you attract local clients.

Highlight your Reviews from Local Businesses

Our research shows that 78% of SME business owners felt that their accountant knew or had operated in their industry before. This research shows how important knowledge and understanding is when both retaining and finding new clients. It is important that your accountants emphasise how knowledgeable they are about different industries, and one of the best ways to do this is utilising reviews from local clients. Try to encourage your customers to post reviews online via your website, social media or Google, as this will publicly display your skills and expertise.

Leverage Local Social Media

Our research also showed that 88% of SME business owners felt that it was important to be able to speak to their accountant within 24 hours of calling or emailing them. It is important to show potential customers that you are available, easy to contact and quick to respond. A great way to keep in contact with potential and current clients is via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These are great places to share your content, engage with contacts and they also leave the door open to quick conversations.

As with any marketing strategy, the key to success is to implement a plan which works for your business. We hope these tips help you find potential clients in your local area and if you would like to find out more about how we can assist with your marketing, please contact our team today.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

 

The UK has now been in a state of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic for over eight weeks, and restrictions are slowly beginning to lift. As the UK economy slowly awakens, many businesses and traders across the UK will be working hard to adjust to the changes required by social distancing regulations.

These changes will place demands on the ways in which businesses operate, so many small business owners and managers will be in need of a little extra accountancy advice and support. While social distancing can make supporting your clients a little more complicated, there are plenty of ways to guide your clients through the changes of lockdown remotely.

Keep in Touch

It can be all too easy during lockdown to fade into the background and wait for your clients to come to you; don’t allow this to happen. Reach out to your clients regularly and check in with them, making sure that they feel supported and they’re happy with how their journey out of lockdown is going.

There are plenty of ways to stay in touch with clients during lockdown. You can check in on current clients via email or phone, and email marketing and social media can be used effectively to reach a wider audience of past and potential clients who may be in need of accounting services during this time. Video call apps such as Zoom and Skype can be used to conduct face-to-face meetings with clients where necessary.

Offer Expert Advice on Key Concerns

As businesses around the UK emerge from lockdown, almost all of them will face important decisions about how to proceed over the coming months. This might include advice about whether or not to keep staff on furlough, as well as information and consultations on the range of grants and loans currently available from the UK government for businesses needing help during the coronavirus outbreak.

The increasingly complicated economic situation in the UK at the moment means that both small business owners and self-employed workers across the nation are desperately in need of advice and support in navigating the government’s financial aid packages and adapting to the new economy. Be proactive in supporting your clients through these problems, as many will likely not realise that they are eligible for aid.

Encourage your Client to Think About the Future

COVID-19 is due to be with us in some way or another for some time, and there will no doubt be long-lasting repercussions of the current outbreak. Look to the future and encourage your clients to do what they can to safeguard their businesses against a possible recession.

In the new post-lockdown environment, small businesses will find it harder than ever to compete in a squeezed economy while also attempting to adapt to social distancing rules at the same time. By providing expert advice and knowledge, you can make all the difference to your clients and ensure that their business has the best chance of flourishing both during and after lockdown.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 8 Minutes

 

As the UK continues to struggle with the coronavirus outbreak, there has never been a better time for accountants to prove their worth to small businesses. Across the country businesses of every size have been impacted by the pandemic, with accountancy firms in an ideal position to help and provide support during the current turmoil.

We believe the key to assisting these small businesses is a successful marketing campaign, which communicates the benefits of investing in professional accountancy. To help you devise a strategy which puts your business in front of businesses which are in urgent need of your services, we have put together the following marketing ideas.

Prioritise your Communications

Try to prioritise your communications, instead of opting for a one-size-fits-all approach when contacting potential customers. There may be some businesses which have experienced a significant upturn in business, whereas another small business may be on the verge of collapse. There is no use sending marketing campaigns focused on assistance for struggling businesses to those who are going through a boom during the pandemic. Instead, segment your market and provide the information these segments need specifically.

Try to break your potential customers into segments, such as business size and industry. This will help you tailor your services to provide the exact support which your clients require. There are so many opportunities to create strong client bonds, however, this begins with providing accurate, timely information. It is important that your firm positions itself as the trusted advisor and go-to resource for businesses.

Create an Effective Communications Strategy

When reaching out to contacts it is important to have a strategy in place, whether you are communicating via email, post, social media or telephone. Many businesses have been thrust into remote working, so consider using communication tools which are readily available such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and cloud software. Your business should be proactive when interacting with potential clients, as swift action could save client businesses and help you expand your market share.

Whatever your communication strategy, begin by letting your contacts know that you care and are simply reaching out to them during this turbulent time. Ask questions about the impact of the virus and how they are coping, try to get to know their main concerns. This may highlight potential opportunities to provide assistance, in the form of resources, tools and professional services.

Promote the Benefits of Professional Accountancy Services

An effective marketing and communications strategy should highlight the value of investing in professional accountancy services. Many small and medium-sized businesses need support, guidance and reassurance, so now is an ideal time to attract new clients.

There are many benefits your accountancy firm can provide to struggling businesses, such as re-forecasting budgets, cash management strategies, reducing expenses, evaluating accounts receivable and salary calculations. In addition, many small businesses may require assistance in accessing financial support packages from the government, so ensure your business is well versed with the latest information.

In contrast, your firm can also market its services to businesses which have experienced a boom during the pandemic, such as those involved in the food supply chain, haulage companies, health care manufacturers and cleaning companies. These businesses may be expanding much faster than anticipated, making it difficult to make strategic decisions. In these situations, an accountancy firm could highlight the benefits of forecasting, budgeting and investing.

Follow up Initial Conversations

It is important to follow up initial conversations with useful resources and additional information. Try to recap the initial conversation and ask further questions to establish any aspects of their business which have changed since your last conversation. Businesses will be looking for your assistance to minimise their losses and expedite their financial recovery, once the effects of the pandemic begin to ease.

The current economy requires accountancy firms to provide immediate, effective financial advice to help businesses make it through the crisis. The service you provide now to help businesses survive short-term challenges could translate into lifetime client retention, so an effective marketing strategy is vital. To find out more about how our team can help you effectively market your services during the current crisis, please contact our team today.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 4 Minutes

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to the way we live and work in the UK. Never before has such a huge percentage of the world’s population been subject to quarantine at the same time, and lockdown has meant both individuals and businesses across the country have had to adapt to a new way of working. As the UK emerges from lockdown, now is the time for accountants in the UK to step up and take the lead in guiding small business owners through the coronavirus outbreak and into success.

The Time to be There

There’s never been a better time for accountants to prove their worth to existing clients and potential clients alike. UK businesses are struggling to navigate the implications of social distancing as well as making sense of the government’s complicated coronavirus financial aid package; these are decisions that accountants can offer expert help with.

Reach out to clients via email, social media and phone, and let them know that you’re there and working hard amid the coronavirus to provide your clients with professional accountancy advice and business support. Many accountants in the UK are snowed under with applications due to lockdown, proving just how invaluable accountancy expertise is during this time.

Looking to the Future

The future of accountancy is bright. Clients seeking accountancy services during lockdown will be looking out for accountants who can support them not just in 2020, but beyond. Despite the setbacks of the pandemic, the accountancy sector is making exciting advancements every year, with new technologies offering opportunities to work more efficiently and provide better value for customers. Automation software can free up time spent on simple accountancy tasks and allow more space for complex business support services – a vital skill set in the current climate.

Fintech is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing technology sectors both in the UK and abroad, and the ways in which accountancy and financial services are conducted is changing. Accountancy firms who embrace the revolution and invest in advanced accountancy automation and AI today will reap the rewards of this progressive thinking in the future as clients seek professional accountants who can offer efficient bookkeeping and compliance services without unaffordable overheads.

Offering Stability Amid Uncertainty

It cannot be denied that the coronavirus pandemic has created as much economic uncertainty as it has health anxiety. The prime concern of small business owners in the UK – after the health of themselves and their loved ones – is the financial security of their businesses.

This is where accountants are really invaluable. By offering one-on-one support to business owners during and after the pandemic, accountants can provide security and confidence despite the uncertainty of the current situation. This means not just supporting clients with the usual tax forms and loan applications, but providing professional advice on a range of business and financial matters to ensure that managers and owners across the UK can continue to run businesses without undue stress and anxiety.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Preston based marketing agency Invoke Media and Chorley based ‘Just Write By Lucy B’ are calling for business owners to come together to support the local business community under a new initiative spearheaded by the Invoke team.

Invoke Media launched its Coronavirus Business Assistance Scheme at the end of March in response to the current crisis, currently providing free marketing services to over 80 independently-owned businesses. The services are provided without charge, obligation or ulterior motive – a promise backed by a signed guarantee. 

The Invoke Media team were approached by Lucy Bullough of Just Write By Lucy B, with an offer of support for the generous scheme and the two businesses have been working together on a number of projects, supporting the businesses most affected by the crisis.

The scheme has been a great success but is approaching workload capacity and requires assistance from other businesses who may have an in-house team of marketers who can help service those in need of support. 

Jack Barron, Director of Invoke Media said:

“The scheme has been a victim of its own success, with us quickly approaching a point where we can no longer accept any more applications. Whilst there seems to be some sense of normality returning and the light is at the end of the tunnel, the effects of COVID-19 on small and independently-run businesses will last considerably longer.

I would like to continue the great work we’ve been doing and extend that to as many businesses as possible, but in order to do so, we need the support of other businesses. I am simply not in a position to hire more staff at this time and I know there are businesses out there that can help who either have the capacity to do so, or have furloughed members of their marketing team who could help.”

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, furloughed staff can conduct voluntary work or seek alternative employment for their furlough period. Under this local business support initiative, a marketer that is furloughed could conduct work that both helps other local businesses and gives them new skills.

Volunteer marketers are asked to not be currently under the employment of a marketing agency and they must have the consent of their employer before partaking in the support scheme. 

Jack Barron continued:

“The reason we are asking for in-house marketers only is because we can not guarantee that those currently in an agency role would not seek to engage the supported business as a client, an in-house marketer is far less likely to be in a position to do so. As it is myself that is signing a guarantee that there will be no attempt to sell services, it would put us in a very difficult position and could undermine all of the good work we are doing. It just doesn’t seem like a good gamble to me when there are a sufficient number of in-house marketers ready to help.

Aside from protecting my business, I think we can add the most value to an in-house marketer, with the training provided and the insight into alternative industries providing skills they can take back to their employer.”

Lucy Bullough, Director of Just Write By Lucy B said:

“This is a great opportunity for the local business community to come together in difficult times and provide support for those most in need. 

Employers that have furloughed their marketing teams and are willing to participate will benefit from keeping their marketers engaged as well as learning new skills that will be brought back to the business. 

It is important now more than ever to keep your team engaged and their mind’s active. It also has the added benefit of helping the local economy get back on its feet.”

Volunteers can expect to be trained on the Invoke Media developed 250-point marketing health check, a system of diagnosing and triaging areas of concern and opportunity for businesses. They will also be trained on the COSTEM-AP method of developing marketing strategy, a proprietary framework for developing fast and efficient marketing plans. 

Those currently in employment under furlough are asked to seek the consent of their employers before engaging in any voluntary work to ensure there are no misunderstandings or issues. Employers wishing to commit resources should contact Invoke Media to arrange an initial call. 

Commitment to the scheme can be as little as 3 hours per week and all volunteers would be bound under non-disclosure agreements to protect those being supported. Anyone wanting to volunteer or wishing to find out more should email hello@invokemedia.co.uk at the earliest opportunity.

Press Contact

Kirsty Doyle, Marketing Executive

Invoke Media

Email

Kirsty@invokemedia.co.uk

Telephone

01772 921 109

Read Time: 6 Minutes

 

The current pandemic and associated crisis are understandably causing considerable uncertainty and anxiety. People are struggling with feelings of helplessness and fear, as they try to adjust to the new normal way of life offered by lockdown. 

Of course, the media plays its role in spreading fear and negativity, with selective statistics on infection rates and death tolls, and promoting stories that further a narrative aligned with a Stephen King novel. This combined with the restrictions placed on everyday life and routine, means it can be hard to feel hopeful about the future.

I’d like to pose an alternative view. What if we stopped to look for the positives and opportunities rather than the negatives and fear? We, of course, need to be mindful that there are many who have lost loved ones, have suffered mental ill health or lost businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we should dwell on it. 

I propose an alternative view of tasteful-positivity. Looking for the positives whilst acknowledging the pain of others. Identifying opportunities rather than focusing on the threats. The people that embrace this spirit are the optimistic-adapters that will drive the country, economy and society forward whilst the pessimistic wet-wipes try to hold us back.

In the last two months, we have seen many people reaching out to each other to provide support and reassurance. We’ve seen industries thrive whilst others suffer, and as with any period of adversity, we’ve seen ingenuity defiantly flourish in the face of hardship. 

Of course, what you will largely see in the press is not the positive feel-good stories of community and adaptability, but the defeatist gloom that gets these fear-peddlers the clicks they so desperately want. It’s toxic, and the media could not have got the tone more wrong and misaligned in this crisis. 

Impact on Business

There isn’t one business that hasn’t been affected by coronavirus. Whether it is decreased revenue (or increased!), changes to procedure and systems or the adoption of new technologies to facilitate remote working. 

If you believe in natural selection, which I do, you will understand that as a race we have survived and thrived by our amazing ability to adapt to circumstances and our environment. There is a popular notion, spread by professional naysayers and peddlers of negativity, that we are a cancer or scourge of the Earth, here to eat away at its resources. We are in fact a product of the Earth and the greatest gift we have been given is our stalwart determination and adaptability in the face of adversity and strife.

Those businesses that are viewing the situation with tasteful-positivity and are looking to create or maximise opportunity, without profiteering or exploiting, are examples of our resilience and adaptability and will be the ones that survive and thrive this difficult period. They are the ones that will evolve and overcome. 

These are the businesses that see the current situation as an exciting problem to solve or challenge to overcome, and are getting creative to turn the current situation to their advantage by figuring out new ways to serve and benefit their customers.

I came across a real example of this today. After having a conversation with the owner of a Fish and Chip Shop (diet doesn’t count in lockdown) I was impressed at how after the initial blow of lockdown, he and his team had bounced back and embraced modern channels to reopen, and in fact, have record days in takings during this period. Having been hesitant in the past to use Facebook or provide a ‘click and collect’ service, he saw an opportunity and grabbed it by the proverbials. This is a great example of someone embracing change and using digital in the least likely of traditional industries. He’s kept his business afloat (pun intended) and provided a much-needed service to his hungry customers. It was also a bloody good meal (The Village Fish Bar, highly recommended!) 

Digital Usage

As someone who has studied an MSc in marketing and is currently studying another in psychology, I’m obviously quite interested in behaviour. Particularly consumer digital behaviour.

An expected and understandable change in behaviour in lockdown is the increase in digital usage. As people stay indoors, lack face-to-face social interaction, and try to keep abreast of current developments, they are quite expectedly going to have changed the way they engage with others, find information and entertain themselves.

Recent statistics from Virgin Media show that internet usage is up 100%, a number echoed and in some cases exceeded by other providers across the globe.

In the absence of speaking to work colleagues at lunch, saying hi to that stranger in the street (only in the North of England obviously) or going out with friends for dinner, we seek to stimulate our social and intellectual needs in the digital world, and of course, social media plays a key role in doing so.

I proposed the idea earlier that there was a group of people who adapted to change, were optimistic and operated with a view of tasteful-positivity. I also posited the idea that there were those who thrive off negativity and were doing nothing to adapt to the current climate. 

I stop for a second to ask you, without prejudice or judgement, which category you feel you fit in?

Adapting to Change

The increased usage of digital channels provides an opportunity for the optimistic-adapter, the true entrepreneur. The Jack Russell Terrier of the business world (nature’s eternal optimists).

Your customers are without a doubt online. In 2019, 91% of all adults and 99% of people aged 16 to 44 in the UK had used the internet (ONS). Those individuals are now using it more than ever, more times in a day, for longer periods. 

There has never been a better time to engage your prospective customers online. As other businesses scale down their ad spend, social presence and marketing efforts, they provide you with an opportunity to tap into a captive audience and secure the market share they were too pessimistic to keep. 

Now is the time to engage your existing customers and more crucially, sweep up those customers that your competitors and other providers have abandoned, provide them with excellent value and service, and come out of this crisis with both fists swinging and a raging hard on at how well you’ve done. Not muddle through whilst your business is chipped away at. It’s time to adapt and invest, because we just don’t know how long this will last for and when it will be back (or something similar!).

What if you can’t sell your goods right now because of the crisis? Then get online, start generating awareness, conversations and leads so you can develop relationships for when you are able to! 

There will be a goldrush (or bloodbath) when the market finally makes its return (in whatever industry you operate in) for a short time at least. People will clamber for market share and it’s going to get noisy. 

If you are waiting until then to gain or resecure market share and customers, you have already lost the race. You will be drowned out amongst all the other people who’ve sat back and waited until it was ‘safe’ to engage and invest in their customers and business. The true winners will be those who have initiated and developed relationships throughout this period, have provided value and are already giving proverbial backrubs to the customers you cared about winning 7 weeks ago. 

What if I said you could get in the living room, bedroom and even toilet of your customers on a daily basis (in lockdown too!) with a highly relevant and engaging message? Would that be an interesting or attractive idea? What if I said there had never been a better time to do it? If the audience was captive and open to your messages? Would you think that sounds like a good plan? It is and you can. 

When are you going to do it? Now or when everyone else is?

This article was a long-winded way of saying…now is the time to reach your customers online, not later. An investment in digital now, will pay in dividends…quite literally.

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Read Time: 4 Minutes

 

When it comes to working with businesses or individuals providing a product or service, it’s normal for consumers to be a bit hesitant. In the UK, the average person is exposed to between 3,000 and 5,000 marketing messages every single day. As a result, most have become very good at “tuning out” most commercial messaging and digital marketing efforts. It’s what’s known in psychology as selective attention.

Further to that, the advent of the Internet, superfast wifi and internet-ready mobile technology means that your customers can research alternative solutions in an instant and are less than three seconds away from your competitors should you fail to grab their attention, develop relevance and build trust. That has made it more important than ever to develop meaningful relationships with customers and potential customers and to be proactive in your approach to do so. 

Thankfully, social media provides an excellent opportunity to identify, target and reach out to highly relevant members of you target audience, and if you want to maintain a professional appearance while still connecting with prospective clients, LinkedIn is a great platform for accountants and professional services in general.

The Professional Social Network

With over 690 million users across the globe, LinkedIn has grown to become the world’s largest professional network. 

People use the network for a variety of reasons, including job hunting, training, connecting with co-workers, and networking with other individuals/businesses. As an accountant, LinkedIn can be an important tool that’s used to connect with clients while still maintaining a professional presence. 

Platforms such as Facebook are extremely powerful, but they are often used for personal connection rather than a professional interaction. This means that whilst you can still reach out to those members of the target audience, they may well be less interested and open to having to professional or commercially focused conversations on what they consider to be a personal network. That isn’t to say other platforms can’t form part of a larger strategy, but LinkedIn reigns supreme for professional conversations with high-value decision-makers.

The Benefits of LinkedIn As an Accountant

So, why is LinkedIn so beneficial? LinkedIn allows you to position yourself as an authority in your field and a good solution to the problem they are facing. As an accountant your clients need trust that you know what you are doing, after all, their business’s success could depend on it.

LinkedIn provides an opportunity for prospective customers to research and form an opinion on your suitability as their accountancy service provider without even having to pick up the phone. Many people are averse to making phone calls or enquiries with other businesses before they have established that they are a good fit…why? Because years of hard-sales mentality, outbound PPI nuisances and being sold to has made them sceptical. They have likely had experiences in the past where they have been coerced into a service or have agreed to something without being fully behind it, and experienced buyers remorse. They don’t want to put themselves in that situation again without knowing that you are a good fit, trustworthy and are great at what you do. Aside from that, who has time to call round 20 accountants for a 20-minute call? It’s much easier to qualify them, much in the same way a salesperson would, before engaging in conversation with a smaller number of those that look like the most suitable providers.

Ensure you optimise your account for lead generation. Many use LinkedIn as a type of CV, but these people are here to see your ability to meet their needs, not offer you employment. Ensure all of the sections you are provided with are complete and geared towards your prospective customer. Our marketing health check for financial services industries identifies over 30 criteria for the optimum LinkedIn profile. Why don’t you get in touch and ask us to optimise your profile free of charge?

Post high-quality, relevant content 2 – 5 times per week and if possible, make sure that video forms a part of that content. It will keep you at the front-of-mind of your connections, show prospective customers that you are knowledgeable and provide opportunities for engagement and interactions with your peers, customers and prospective customers. Don’t forget…each one of those engagements, whether it be a post reaction or comment, will increase the visibility and reach of your post so more prospective customers will see it and how great you are at what you do.

Another great benefit of LinkedIn the ability to target, connect and message decision-makers in businesses that match your customer profile. Even the free version of LinkedIn has powerful search and targeting options, but the paid versions take this to the next level. We use Sales Navigator (Approx £60 per month) and it pays for itself ten times over. Having a paid version of LinkedIn also gives you a little badge or icon next to your profile picture which not only makes you stand out, it shows you are serious about your LinkedIn presence and engaging with customers.

Forming Customer Relationships

LinkedIn is a professional network, but it’s also a social network in that it allows you to connect with people and form professional relationships. Remember that advertising statistic from above? Using LinkedIn to talk to potential customers lets you cut through the noise of daily advertising and actually form relationships with your customers. 

We live in a world that offers a lot of surface connections. But, underneath that, many people feel very disconnected and are craving real conversation, even from the businesses they trust. Chatting with someone on LinkedIn about how you can help their business or even them, personally, will go a long way. It’s the best way to build trust and allow your customer to feel more comfortable with you. As a result, they’ll be more likely to keep using your services, and more likely to recommend you to others. 

The relationships that develop between you and customers on LinkedIn also give you the opportunity to “sell” to them. Because it’s a professional network, more people are open to the idea of buying and selling or even talking about such things. You wouldn’t just say hello to someone and then suggest they hire you. By forming a professional relationship, you can get a feel for what your potential customer wants and needs, and cater your conversations toward that before showing them how you can help. Our magic number is 5…why? Because we generally have the most success turning the conversation commercial after an average of 5 messages. People generally don’t like the sales message straight away, they want to be made to feel special, feel that you understand them and their needs and expect value to be given BEFORE you turn the conversation into one of providing them with services. I always like to use the relationship analogy…

Generally (depending on where in the UK they are from) people want to be taken out for a few meals and get to know someone before you get them into bed. They’ll probably want to get to know you before you move in together. They’ll likely want to have been seeing you for a while before they get married. You don’t just for the proposal the first time you meet them (or maybe you do?!).

Think of your initial messages as foreplay or courting before you give them the good news and turn the conversation into something YOU want (them as a client).

Is LinkedIn Necessary?

No.

That might seem like a shocking answer and completely contrary to everything else I’ve said, but it is true. LinkedIn is not necessary to market your accountancy practice. You managed before there was social media or maybe even the Internet, you would likely manage without LinkedIn now. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t catapult your business to the next level if you ‘did LinkedIn well’.

Of course, quality of conversation and engagement is a massive factor, but marketing still relies on numbers. I’m hesitant to say it is a numbers game because it isn’t a scattergun approach, it’s a sniper rifle. However, your chances of finding a good fit for your business, that needs you and is at the right stage of the buyer journey dramatically increase if you speak to more people, put your message in front of more people and develop relationships with more people. LinkedIn is a great way to do that in a scalable, systematic and measurable way, on a channel that people are open to discussing business and are likely in the commercial mindset.

If it’s general advice on LinkedIn you’re after, then we’re happy to add that value before we even think about selling the benefits of our LinkedIn Lead Generation services. I’ll stop short of saying I’ll take you on a few dates as I don’t think it would go down well at home, but I’ll certainly provide you with value, position myself as an authority and develop trust until the cows come home. Get in touch and we’ll start your LinkedIn lead generation journey today with a review of your profile. Just email us at hello@invokemedia.co.uk

Jack Barron

Director

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starting his marketing journey at age 15 promoting music events, Jack went on to plan, market and execute his own events before joining the British Army and serving two front-line tours of Helmand Province. Upon returning to ‘civvy street’ he set up Rebel Marketing to provide marketing consultancy services to the events industry. At around the same time, he undertook an Events Management Degree at the University of Central Lancashire, attaining a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor Degree, before moving to Manchester to work as the digital marketing manager for a city centre agency specialising in financial services marketing, eventually becoming their marketing director.
Whilst there he undertook an MSc in Marketing Communications at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity before reactivating and rebranding Rebel Marketing as Invoke Media in 2015. After moving Invoke Media to his hometown of Preston in 2018 to support the development and growth of the area, he has since started further studies and is due to complete another MSc in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire.
Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. His experience working in the fast-moving events industry from a young age, along with a strong drive and discipline fostered by his time on the front line, all contribute to the work ethic and values of the company.

Hospitality

Read Time: 5 Minutes

 

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases now in the millions, and with more and more countries going into lockdown, the question on many peoples minds is ‘When will it all be over?’.

Whilst we should spare a thought for those suffering and their loved ones, I don’t think there’s any shame in thinking forwards to what the marketplace will look like when this crisis is over, and I think it’s wise that business owners not only plan their recovery strategy, but be prepared to execute it at short notice.

None of us knows whether this crisis and lockdown are going to last 3 weeks or 3 months. Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer gave the indication that the lockdown could be 6 months, with others suggesting up to 12 or even 18 months.

The uncertainty of the current situation is without a doubt a contributing stress factor to both individuals and businesses alike. For many, the lack of there being a light at the end of the tunnel is troubling. It stifles optimism and drive, and of course, it makes planning for the future difficult.

It’s like being made to go out on a run, but not knowing exactly how far you’re going or for how long you’ll be out. At some point, your motivation is going to wane, but you may only be 100m from the finish line…who knows? Given the number of people who’ve taken up daily marathon-length training sessions on my Strava feed in recent weeks, that was probably a bad analogy.

I think it’s fair to point out right now, we’re marketers here at Invoke Media, not public health experts. We aren’t going to be making any predictions in this article about when this crisis will be over or the impact it’s going to have from a health or political perspective, we’ll leave that to the Facebook warriors looking for a bite.

What we do know about is business, and I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss with you some predictions about how businesses and consumers are likely to act when the lockdown is lifted. Let’s have a look firstly at how consumers may act.

Consumer Behaviour

When will the market return?

Hospitality Manchester

It’s difficult to say how exactly people will react without knowing when the lockdown will be lifted, and what that will look like. There are suggestions that we could go into full lockdown, whilst others say we’re likely to go into a ‘semi-lockdown’ scenario, with most industries returning to work but certain activities and industries being prohibited, such as sporting events and restaurants reopening. The fact is, we don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s essential to note that many people, are experiencing a reduction in wages or income, but that could be offset with reduced costs as they travel less and learn the benefits of cooking meals at home instead of eating out. Again, it’s difficult to quantify the impact on individuals personal financial situations, when there are so many variables at play and people in such different circumstances.

What we do predict, however, is a quick rebound in the market for hospitality & leisure in the days and weeks following the lockdown. After weeks or months stuck inside, we predict Brits will be flowing to restaurants, bars, spas and hotels to enjoy all of the creature comforts and small luxuries that they have missed. As a species, we place high value on resources that are limited. Scarcity as a marketing and sales tactic is one of the most powerful motivators in persuasion, and it is one that has been deployed effectively to the population in recent weeks without any effort from marketers or business owners. We expect a short period of hedonism, as those with expendable income ‘blow off some steam’ after months in the house with their three-year-old on constant repeat. Expect meals out, nights out, weekends away and general ‘treating oneself’ to be one of the first orders of business.

This obviously provides an opportunity for those in the industries affected to recoup some of their losses from an inactive period.

On the flip side of that coin, there is also the possibility that people may be apprehensive about engaging in pursuits that place them around others, as they practice extended social distancing until they are confident the threat has passed. It’s hard to say, these are unprecedented times and there’s no rule book to follow, what we advise is to prepare for both eventualities.

It is also of note to mention that this period of hedonism and spending could be short-lived, as some economists predict a looming recession.

Broken Habits

Let’s quickly take a very simplified look at the habit formation process.

Credit: Blue Oceans. Based on Charles Duhigg’s “Habit Loop” in The Power of Habit.

Reminder: The Trigger or Cue 

Routine: The Behaviour or Action

Reward: The Benefit from the Action

Humans are creatures of habit. We know what we like and when presented with too much choice (or too little!), we’ll often go for the safe option. Let’s use a meal at a restaurant as an example.

Let’s say I go for a meal out every Friday with my girlfriend for ‘date night; (Trigger/Cue). I get to the restaurant(behaviour/action), being greeted with a warm smile from the Maître D and swiftly directed to my table, I have a great meal and on my way out get another glowing smile and farewell as if from a lifelong friend. I’ve had a great experience (benefit/reward).

The chances are that I’m going back. There’s been a positive feedback loop and the habit-forming process has begun.

The following week we go on date night again, we look online at the vast array of options of where to eat and can’t decide (a very real problem with my girlfriend!), after 20 minutes of trying to make a decision we select the restaurant from the week before (the habit is formed).

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and we won’t want to eat at the same place every time. After a month of eating there, we might decide to try somewhere new, have an experience that isn’t necessarily bad but just isn’t as good, and then go back to our original restaurant the following week.

Let’s break this down to the restaurant example again:

Reminder (Trigger/Cue): Girlfriend/Friday

Routine (Behaviour/action): Visit Favourite Restaurant

Reward (Benefit): Have a Great Meal & Experience

Habit: Return to Restaurant Following Week

How does this affect your business?

Being in lockdown means that many of our habits are broken, not by choice, but circumstance. In my example above, date night itself is now broken as a habit, not just the choice of restaurant.

This means that when the market does return, you may find that many of your customers take the opportunity to try a competitor or alternative solution. They may have been forced to find alternative ways to get the reward that you once provided and in fact now prefer it due to the experience or its cost. They may not even restart ‘date night’ or the habit that brings them to you.

On the flip side of that coin, you may also find that you have a completely new pool of people open to trying your business who were previously loyal to a competitor. We’ll come on to this in a minute.

As I keep saying at the moment…treat adversity as an opportunity.

What can you do to make it work for you?

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to keep the positive feedback loop going if you’ve been forced to close during the lockdown. The restaurant example I gave earlier couldn’t be more apt. Whilst some have opened a delivery service, for most people the actual experience of going to the restaurant is as important as the food itself.

You can, however, do the next best thing…stay front-of-mind and build desire. Front-of-mind (also called top-of-mind) awareness is essentially brand recognition and recall, it’s staying in front of your customers and being the first brand in your industry that they think of. We wrote an article on in recently that you can read HERE. When I talk about building desire I refer to teasing the benefits of what you offer in a tasteful and situationally aware manner. See this post we created for a client as a good example (if we say so ourselves).

By keeping your customers engaged, across multiple channels, you are keeping the embers of their habit cycles burning. You’re staying at the forefront of their minds and maintaining their loyalty. You’re also raising awareness in those who’ve become disengaged with their usual provider, providing an opportunity to capture their loyalty when the market returns.

Clamber for Market Share

Have you ever been paintballing?

As a man with a military past, I normally fare quite well. One of the tactics I employ in the classic capture the flag scenario, one I’ve had to utilise in a real-life scenario, is to dash forward in the opening minutes, to find the best cover and launch my attack or make my decision as to the next best course of action. One thing that is hammered into you when conducting attacks as an Infantryman is to keep the momentum going, and the same principle applies in paintball, as it does business.

It’s about gaining ground and putting yourself in the most favourable position to launch your assault, keeping a rate of fire that puts you on the front foot and the enemy (or competition!) on the back foot.

European empires of bygone centuries used the exact same strategy, albeit on a larger scale. Grabbing land and carving it up amongst themselves, providing them with resources as well as strategic advantage and thrust.

I use the military analogy purposely, as business strategy is directly modelled on military strategy. The words and concepts have been directly brought over from centuries of military knowledge into the corporate and business world.

How does this affect your business?

When the market returns, it will be a ‘land grab’ situation, with businesses clambering for market share. Everyone will be dashing forward to gain ground (the customers!) and put themselves the best position to capture the flag (customer loyalty).

This is why it is essential that you not only invest in engaging with existing and prospective customers but plan an aggressive marketing campaign that can be executed at short notice.

What can you do to make it work for you?

There’s a saying that’s I consider to be a little cliché, but accurate: “Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail”. I’m sure you’ve seen it on a boardroom wall somewhere, accompanied by a picture of a soaring eagle or some other ‘motivational’ image…but there’s a lot to be said for it. If your business is unable to trade, then you need to be planning for when it is able to. Use this opportunity to get your plan in place, get prepared to execute it and when the time is right you’ll be ready to pounce.

Capture The Flag

The game has already begun, it’s time to make your advance forward and gain ground. It’s up to you to execute some of your own positive habits to give your business the best chance of survival and success post COVID-19. To summarise, we recommend you adopt the following strategy:

  • Keep your current customers engaged with regular (and appropriate) communications across multiple channels. Agitate the problem and build desire. Remind them why you are the best at what you do, and what a great experience you provide. If you can spare a budget for ad spend, then do so. Investing in keeping your business in front of as many people as possible is a wise move.
  • Mitigate the loss of loyal customers and those who have ‘broken the habit’ by staying front-of-mind, positioning yourself as the caring, responsible business that you are, and treat your customers well in uncertain times. How you treat your customers and staff now will be how you are remembered in 3 or 6 months time.
  • Be prepared. Get your recovery plan in place, make it aggressive and bold. Be prepared to invest in advertisements and get in front of as many of your target audience members as possible, in as short of a time as possible. Develop offers and provide them with the cue/trigger to undertake the action/behaviour so they can receive the benefit/reward that your business provides. Use the adversity you are presented with, as an opportunity to win loyal, habit-driven customers, and put yourself in a better position than you were before any of this happened.

If you’d like us to help you do this, or to ask any questions about the article above & business in general, please get in touch.

Email us at: hello@invokemedia.co.uk and myself or one of the team will be happy to help.