Yesterday I finished performing in The Merry Widow with The Maleny Singers, our local amateur singing group. It is a spectacular production with over 70 people involved. Out of our community of approximately 5000, and taking into account the fact that we have ‘borrowed’ some orchestra members from the Sunshine Coast, somewhere in the order of 1% of our population is a part of the production.
We opened last Saturday night to a full house with a Gala Opening Night, with some guests dressing in 1920s outfits and bringing food hampers to share. Rob Nixon and his wife joined the crowd and were both impressed with the show but equally with the sense of community around the whole event. Sunday’s matinee had them hanging out the back of the hall as another 230 packed in and we had over 300 at the closing matinee yesterday. (You can see photos and comments at http://on.fb.me/o0KWzD.)
I estimate that well over 10% of Maleny’s population will have watched the show – a staggering number. There is a buzz around the town from the grocery store to the high street to the local Irish bar.
My point is this; if a group of amateur singers can have such influence in a community, what influence can you wield in your community? I believe accountants are perfectly positioned to take a strong position as a community leader. In February, after Thomas Power inspired many of us on Hamilton Island to get involved in social media, I wrote about my strategy to help you and your clients by posting content of value both for accountants and small business on Twitter. I have recently added this blog to my repertoire and just recently recorded my first video blog. What’s your social media strategy?
But there is much more you can do than tweet and blog. One local accountant in my town started a local business group. He provides his office facilities at no charge and brings together business owners in the community to share ideas and foster referrals. Similarly, an old friend of ours from coachingclub, Marc Loader in Alice Springs, runs frequent Boardroom Briefing Breakfasts. These are hugely popular events. Marc presents on a topical issue to provide value to those attending; everyone has a great time and the briefings have become a great source of new clients for the firm.
Here’s my six step guide to influencing your community, wherever you are located:
Many business owners are having a tough time. They need someone to talk to; someone who shows an interest in them. This is precisely why client nurturing is such a core strategy for coachingclub firms. I have written before about reaching out to your clients and offering free goal-setting sessions. I know of firms who have adopted this suggestion with great feedback from their clients. This is all about supporting your clients – but it also provides you with a super differentiation strategy for your own firm.
Get off the fence. Be different. If you are running seminars, go beyond the drab tax updates that most accounting firms deliver. Capture great ideas by writing them down as you stumble upon them. Record client successes and make them into case studies. Use these in articles, social media updates and seminar presentations. Show others how you can inspire them to greater things by showcasing the success of others in your community.
Pull out your Accountants Strategy Map and highlight 10 ideas that you could take use to educate your clients, based on the work you have done in your own firm. These might be around lead generation, working capital management, creating capacity, pricing, customer service or many other topics. You know much more than you think and you can help your community by sharing your knowledge with them and putting it into context for them.
Accountants? Excite? How does that work? I know you have it within you. What are you passionate about that you could leverage to excite your clients? How about this, from surfing nut Peter Fowler, partner in PAN member firm Collins Hume in Ballina, NSW: an International Business Development Conference for clients to be held at Indonesia’s number one fly-in fly-out exclusive surfing resort. Now THAT’S exciting! (Check it out here: http://on.fb.me/o16E03.)
This is where your social media strategy kicks in. I think every accounting firm should have a blog. Clients and others in your community can find out about you as a person by reading your blog. So be a little quirky and give away insights into what you do outside of your office. I love this blog by Melissa Browne, principal of PAN member Accounting & Taxation Advantage in Glenbrook, NSW – Melissa connects with her readers by giving away a part of herself in her blog posts (she also happens to write EXTREMELY well): http://www.business-chic.blogspot.com/. Consider other connection strategies such as regular client advisory boards. Every time I facilitate a client advisory board, the clients comment on how good it is to meet other clients of the firm and share ideas.
6. Give back
What local causes could you support? All local community organisations need help and assistance, be it volunteering your time by sitting on committees, auditing association books, sponsoring events and if you put your collective team’s mind to it, you will find a variety of other financial or non-financial ways in which you could give back to your community. To make a different sort of impact, how about enabling your clients to give back to those in more need? Take a look at Paul Dunn’s B1G1 (www.b1g1.com.) Paul is inspiring accountants (his specialist subject) to automatically give to charitable causes – and to involve their communities in the giving as well. What a great way to bring a community together and create a real sense of purpose.
To summarise, you have a major opportunity to stand out and dominate your community. What can you take from my six step guide to create community with your firm right at the centre? What can you become known for? It’s easier than you think.