Expertise and Uncertainty

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In the accounting profession, the “product” isn’t always tangible. There are deliverables like financial statements and tax returns, to be sure, but much of your value comes in a less concrete form. That’s a challenge for marketing, which is one reason to work with a marketing team that has a deep understanding of your profession.

The difficulty of successfully marketing your accounting firm extends well beyond choosing the right professionals, though. This challenge extends into your interactions with clients as well as your public presentation of thought leadership. That’s because what you are really selling is, in a nutshell, certainty in an uncertain world.

Will a client’s company have the funds to expand? Will undetected fraud by a trusted employee lead to sudden financial disaster? What will new legislation or economic trends mean for your clients’ business expansion or retirement income strategy?

You can provide thorough audits to minimize the possibility of unseen financial mismanagement. You can predict income growth based on current trends and observations. You can examine financial records to detect errors and perform countless other valuable functions that increase a client’s confidence, but no amount of experience, skill or insight will allow you to answer these questions definitively. And that’s okay.

Accounting professionals, who tend to be conservative by nature, are trained to evaluate risk and build uncertainty into the models they use for prediction. They rely on rigorous data analysis to support assumptions yet remain hesitant to speak with certainty about what the future may hold. This behavior is appropriate and professional, but it can be limiting from a marketing perspective.

When the economic and political landscape is most turbulent, accountants often shut down. Though it’s a reasonable response, it can be counterproductive. These are the times that your audience is feeling even more uncertain than you, lacking your specialized understanding of what is likely and what is even possible. When the factors that control economic well-being are in flux to a greater extent than is the norm, anxiety and the need for guidance are at an all-time high for most Americans.

As I read through today’s news, the first articles I saw focused on issues with unknown outcomes: federal tax cuts and health care legislation. Both hold the potential to have a major impact on personal and business finances, leading to a pervasive sense of vulnerability. It’s unsettling for everyone, and especially for your clients! But since no one knows how these issues will be resolved, most accountants don’t want to talk about them much.

That’s a mistake. The fact is, you know much more than most do about what might happen, what could happen and what is likely to happen. You don’t know what will happen, but you do have a pretty good idea about what will not happen. You even have a relatively solid grasp of what the effect on your clients’ situation will be if different scenarios do happen.

Now is the time to share your insights, offering the information and reassurance you can. Write an article and share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. Answer questions on forums. Join the discussion and add your voice, even though it’s not an all-knowing one. Qualify your statements as necessary, but let what you know serve as a guide to the vast numbers who know much less.

I’m not encouraging you to make promises about the future, or claim that you have all the answers. You don’t, and nobody does. But you have a far better ability to provide information and answers about how things will shake out than almost anyone else. Sharing your knowledge at turbulent times will earn you not only respect as a knowledgeable resource, but also gratitude from the many who regard your leadership as a rock of reassurance, helping them feel less at sea in these chaotic moments.

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Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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