e caught up with Laurence Vogel from content provider agency Informanagement at the annual Accountex London exhibition last month. Informanagement provide accountancy firms with a range of services and content that feed directly into their websites. From monthly email newsletters, their File and Sign document portal through to branded tax books and tax cards, Informanagement have been working with accountants in the UK and Europe since 2002.
Hi Laurence, it was great to see you at this years Accountex, how did you find it this year? From talking to some of the exhibitors I hear that day one was extremely busy?
This year’s show was really good. I think the best of our 4 years there. Day one is always busier than day two but it’s what you make of it. You need to proactively engage with attendees and I think too many just step back and hide on their stand afraid to engage with passers by.
This was Prosper's first visit to Accountex, but I understand this is your fourth year exhibiting. Have you noticed a shift or a change in the type of exhibitors? I saw a lot of Software as a Service companies, and the obvious large presence by major players such as Quickbooks and Xero.
There has always been a lot of software providers exhibiting but there has definitely been an increase in providers to the market over the last few years. One area this year where I noticed a growth in exhibitors – outsourcing. These providers allow firms to focus on what is important and outsource the grind of compliance work.
Now Making Tax Digital has come into play, and more and more practices are integrating software into their day to day business operations, have you noticed more practices embracing a more digital approach to their business, such as getting on board more with social media and content strategy?
Definitely, but not enough accountants understand how social media and content for client communications can work effectively for their practice. There is still a lot for practices to learn.
I enjoyed watching the talk about Social Media best practice by Della Hudson. Do you think some Accountants need to make more of an effort with their social media to appear more personable or engaged?
Accountants need to understand where the value is in social media. For most firms that have a presence it is purely that. Connections that they do nothing with. Accountants need to understand how publishing content can add value to their profile and improve their presence.
A lot of practices will state that word-of-mouth is their tried and tested route to new businesses. Do you think this is a sustainable approach or, going forward, would you say that competition and the general ’social media savy’ of accountants clients will force practices to either adapt and get on board with new marketing or get left behind?
95% of good quality new business for accountants is from referrals. This will be the case ongoing. Social media can add to that by improving awareness and increasing the number of opportunities over time.
Are you seeing a larger adoption of the content services you provide at Informanagement? If so why do you think this is?
Yes I am. Practices are looking to find ways of communicating more effectively with clients and contacts and they don’t want to send out more of the same – generic content. Our platform is the only one offering practices targeted pieces of communication to clients, giving those firms a distinct advantage over their competitors.
Prosper have just completed our first report analysing one hundred individual accountancy practice websites across Essex. Bar a few notable exceptions, there seems to be little in the way of differentiation. Some 59% of firms used blue as their primary or secondary brand colour, and design seemed to not be a strong point especially in the way that information was presented to the website viewers. However there were six or seven practices that really stood out in the way they presented themselves. Numbercloud in Saffron Walden had a stunning website, Lucentum made use of some fun illustrations and Ellacott Morris featured copy that put a smile on my face. What are your thoughts on the state of accountants websites? I appreciate thats broad question but do you have any feelings on the current state of play?
Accountancy firms still have some way to go in creating a point of difference between themselves. For me there are two things most firms are not doing correctly with their website:
I’m a believer that lack of differentiation (regardless of your industry sector) forces customers to make their buying decisions based on price - because if you can't articulate why you're different or better than the next company then why would the prospect care? Do you think Accountants fail to differentiate themselves generally in their branding, their use of copy on their websites or their commitment to social media or other communications?
Yes I think that is true. For accountants to be truly different they need to focus on promoting advisory services rather than compliance. Compliance is a commoditised product but advisory services offer greater scope for firms to be really different.
I recently attended a Design Business Association course in London talking about new approaches to marketing, and one of their findings was that printed newsletters were gaining more attention and generally cutting through the marketing noise more than the traditional email newsletter (especially in the case when companies were approaching each other for new business). Informanagement produce printed newsletters for their clients. What are your thoughts on the role of printed news and marketing communications in 2019? Do you feel it still has a place and can have an impact?
Print media is definitely making a comeback. We have clients ordering more printed assets than in previous years. This ranges from printed newsletters and factsheets to tax cards and tax books. People are inundated with emails that if an email is not opened and acted upon immediately then it will, more than likely, never be read/acted upon. Therefore print is becoming a way of cutting through the clutter and noise.
Your February blog titled ‘Chicken or the egg’ talks about the necessity for accountancy practices to be reactive to what their competition are doing and to make sure that they are communicating their new and existing services effectively to their clients. I think it would be fair to make the assumption that clients that work with Informanagement appreciate positively the role that marketing can play in their business.
However my research suggest that a lot of practices, (with unsecure and non mobile friendly website for example) do nothing of the sort. As marketers we both understand the power of branding. In this industry are we facing a tough battle of persuasion to get accountants on board with effective branding, design and communication? If so why do you think this is? A highly conservative industry perhaps?
The industry is definitely conservative but with the right solutions accountants will adopt. Historically accountants have not always been able to market themselves so the ‘older’ generation will always be slow to adopt new ideas. The influx of younger accountants as partners/starting their own practices will adopt this quickly as it is all they have known. Also, those younger partners need to build up good portfolios of clients and the marketing and branding, along with social media and client communications compliments their new business efforts.
What can we look forward to from Informanagement in the foreseeable future? Can you share any exciting news or developments with us?
Informanagement is always looking to push the boundaries of client communication and practice marketing. Our platform is unique for accountancy firms, giving them an edge over their competitors. We are always working on new functionality and regularly running out updates for our clients so definitely watch this space.
(Image courtesy of Accountex)
Written by Ben Stanbury