Listen to this episode here: Focus Makes Strength

In this episode of TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz, a very special guest Michael Carter, Founder of Practice Paradox, shared his experience of how to leverage marketing strategy for accounting firms and we wrapped up some of the key takeaways for our audience

How have you been personally during lockdown?

A lot of changes have been inflicted upon people to change the way they’ve been doing business with, such as remote web or working from home. But nothing logistically changed that much for me or our clients. We service clients all over the world and we do it through the web.

Can you share some stories about your career development?

I went to university in the mid-to-late 80s. I studied “Industrial Design” and started out my professional life doing industrial design. People asked us to design their products based on their ideas. Half the time I’d look at it and think, “why are you even making this part of this?” “Is anyone going to buy it?” And I started to get really interested in marketing.

At the time, my girlfriend was studying marketing, so I started to read all her textbooks and I thought “this is fascinating”! One day I came across a statement that said “the B-class product with the A-class marketing will always be the A-class product with B-class marketing”. But with my design background, I thought the best product should win.

This made me realise that people buy their perceptions. What you think doesn’t matter, it’s about what the customer thinks. So, I made a career change from industrial design across into marketing and worked for a company called The Results Corporation. I saw them grow from eight people to about 68 in a couple of years. My team was helping to attract customers and we help businesses in medical, retail, wholesale manufacturing, professional services, etc.

I then went out on my own for a while. One day I got a call Paul, one of the two partners of Results. He created Results Accounting because had the vision that we could help accounting firms. He started running bootcamps for accountants and ended up doing hundreds of bootcamps, across Australia and UK – it’s quite a phenomenon.

I meet people saying that the bootcamp for them was an absolutely turning point. Because it helped them rewire or rethink. It’s a business development perspective on helping  small businesses, rather than just looking at financial accounts.

Tell us about Practice Paradox.

Why I started practicing paradox 11 years ago? 9 years before that, I was a co-founder at Business Fitness, and part of what we did is paperless office templates, email management, knowledge management, etc. The first five years of my time there, I was in charge of the technology because of my industrial design background. And when one of the co-founders left, I took over the marketing. I did marketing before, but a lot of things have shifted in marketing. There’s now worldwide web, measurable email marketing, social media, and the business blogging content… And I thought, “okay, I’m going to apply these new ways.”

It rekindled my love for marketing.  Because to me, marketing is actually the modern equivalent to alchemy. It’s like turn everyday substances into precious metals. With marketing, you can double, triple, quadruple the revenue of the business in 12 months. And I’ve done that multiple times now.

You don’t have to make the product three times better. You don’t have to make the service, the support three times better. What you’ve made better is the communication of value. So, I started doing webinars for Business Fitness. We actually increased our revenue in those 12 months by almost three and a half times.

Another thing I really enjoyed is the annual benchmarking study, because I do love data. By researching these data, we found the outliers, the ones that were far more profitable than average, or had far greater profit per partner because of their leverage or far-greater average client value.

And then we went to talk to them. And what I find is they weren’t this ubiquitous best practice firm that was doing upper quartile or better KPIs across the board- they were just doing one or two things better, very differently to the average.

One of the things I noticed is that. The firms who are doing proactive marketing and good at it were shining like bacons. I’ll never forget when I went and visited Kelly + Partners. Their marketing (collaterals) was professionally designed. They had what we now call “infographics” to describe the journey that they take their clients on. And I looked at it and thought, “other firms should be doing this.”

If you ask the owners of the accounting firms: “do you want to provide more future-focused value-added services, non-compliance services to your clients?” Nine out of ten would say yes.  But when we look at the revenue mix pool, only one out of 10 was delivering a significant (like 25%) of the revenue or more in these non-compliance value advisory areas.

So that gulf between intention and execution was enormous. It can be breached. They are probably not better at advising, technology or process. But the one thing I am sure is that they’re better at telling the clients what kind of value they can deliver.

Then I searched “marketing advisory firms for accountants” on google. I couldn’t find any. So I went to my co-founders at Business Fitness and said, I think we really should start up a division to help our clients with marketing. And they said, “you can go do that, but we’ll stick to what we’re doing and that’s fine”.

I then spoke at the conference ATSA, Accountant’s Technology Showcase Australia. I did a presentation called “25 cloud-based marketing apps your accounting firm should be using”. I talked about WordPress and blogging, Twitter, Bitly Link Shortener.  One person came up to me and she said, “that was * awesome!” We then had a really good chat. She became the first client of Practice Paradox, that’s Steph Hinds from Growth Wise.

So that’s why I started Practice Paradox.

What are your thoughts on a website and how valuable they are for an accounting firm?

It’s gone through phases in the early days. The first phase is the website is basically an online brochure. Then phase two, you have to have a good-looking website to impress.  But it’s not sufficient on its own. So, then it moved to the next phase of “presentation”.

I believe the website content should be in blog articles in blog posts for lots of reasons. They can educate, promote, or work as brochures. There is a hierarchy of mastery with communication. The basic level is to convey information. The next level is to persuade. Then the top level of influence is where people say “let’s do this”- when they feel the decisions are based on their own thoughts and conclusions.

Steph Hinds had a new client signed up. She asked how the client found them. Turns out the client read an article of hers 9 months ago and has been following her since.

What are the three things people should ensure for their website?

First, put SEO plugins on their website. A website 100% needs to be an educational tool. But if it’s not strategic, it won’t work either. A blog needs very specific target markets and flows on from there. You need a very specific phrase planning that you want to rank in Google.  Use all the amazing tools, WordPress, and SEO. You have to rank well.

Second, don’t have an anti-value proposition as the main headline.  A typical anti-value proposition headline is “welcome to our website”.  Value proposition would be “what you do”, “what you do for whom”, and “why you”.  It’s about benefits.

Also, update your website regularly. At least a couple of blogs per month. That’s what Google search for, good content.

What about things you shouldn’t do?

Social media hasn’t changed too much for the decade, different platforms come and go. One thing you shouldn’t do is be a “FIGJAM”. Don’t show off.

“Your brand is not the hero. You make your target customer the hero like Luke Skywalker and you make your brand the guide like Yoda.” – In the great book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.

So, use social media to shine the light on your clients’ success, don’t brag in social media. Don’t be mechanical, actually engage in conversations.

Also, with socials, don’t spread yourself across too many separate platforms, pick the ones that you feel affinity and match for your audience – where they spend their time online. I would say social media is so important to promote your own blog posts.

Launching your brand-new website is the start. Then you have to put good content on it, use social medias to promote it and use technologies.

What would be one piece of advice you’d like to share?

To leverage yourself, you’ll need to limit yourself.  Be focused. Don’t try to provide 27 different services, narrow your focus and do fewer things better.