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"Brand-boarding"​. Introducing on-boarding with a difference

February 20, 2020

Some of the most interesting conversations I have with accountants these days is around the on-boarding of a client:

  • How to ensure they have their expectations set from the start
  • How to ensure you're getting the right client for your business
  • How to get them past the post so that the sign up process becomes a dead cert rather than a protracted conversation or a wrangling over price

In short, the aim is that everyone knows the score, the accountant can feel in control and guide the client into "good behaviour" and the work will subsequently be better, easier, more enjoyable and worthy of the price.

On this note, it's fair to say that James Ashford's name will come up 9 times out of 10 in these conversations. And that is testament to the fantastic work he's doing on the accounting front.

So what is "brand-boarding" then? Am I going to take us into an entirely different direction? Am I going to berate all the conversations that I bear witness to? No. Because, for me, "brand-boarding" is simply looking at the on-boarding process from a different perspective which adds to current thinking and provides additional value. Let me explain.

As far as I can tell, there are some quality conversations to be had around on-boarding and it seems to be giving accountants a degree of power and confidence which a client of mine said this morning "we all sadly need as we aren't the type of people to feel confident or trumpet our own successes". That's great. But from my perspective the focus is on what the accountant gets and not what the client actually deserves too. This is fine because chances are long-term it may actually be a benefit to the client as well. But if we could simply do the following, some interesting and beneficial benefits may suddenly come into play:

  1. Consider on-boarding as a transaction with the conversation and the benefit being two way
  2. Devise a process that the client would actually need and benefit from, nay would be surprised and delighted, during the on-boarding process
  3. Start the on-boarding process much earlier. It doesn't start when your potential client picks up the phone
  4. Make the on-boarding longer taking into account that signing on the dotted line and receiving all of their account material is the start of the journey and not the end
  5. Devise an on-boarding process which takes into account your brand values which should define your approach at every stage and clarity too how members of your team should bring that on-boarding process to life

That doesn't really explain "brand-boarding" to the full. Yes, it puts your client at the heart of your business. Yes, it thinks about how you are going to on-board rather than what you are going to do. And yes it uncovers the fact that the client needs to be guided into a relationship which is 2-way and more emotionally driven. And the result? Yes, less quibbling over price and a client that is ready to sign much earlier. But what else?

This may still sound rather vague so an example may help. Today I met with a new (to me) accounting firm. They have big and exciting plans for the future and are already talking about the technology that will enable them to provide an amazingly efficient service to their clients using less time. And of course the conversation gradually turned to the subject of on-boarding and yes, I heard about the "1-3-12" approach (thanks James again) and I also heard about the plans for what will happen in-between these moments so that, and I quote "the client will be so ready to sign up that the discovery call will be a done deal".

It was at this point when videos were mentioned and other interesting options when I asked, "and what will your target customer want and need? What will they be expecting and what will they find useful? And most importantly, how does this fit with your brand?" Silence. And some blank faces.

So here's the real rub. "Brand-building" is about thinking about the relationship between client and accountant in equal measure. It's about thinking about what both needs and when and also about how these needs are fulfilled.

Ask yourself these questions to start to move towards achieving the recommendations above:

  1. How is your brand actually going to deliver this on-boarding process that meets both needs? Have you completed your brand values work with a specialist and has this defined your approach and the culture in which you operate. And how does this translate to your activities within this important on-boarding process?
  2. What would actually surprise and delight your client? Who are they specifically? What are they looking for and how could you deliver value above and beyond to ensure that the deal is done with you?
  3. How are you going to start the on-boarding earlier which is (sorry to the accountant I spoke to earlier) that awful "fluffy stuff" or better known as social media? What is the content that you'll put out to start to interest people out there? What are the events that you'll host? What will be the topics? Tone of voice? Medium (podcast, article, video etc)
  4. Where does the on-boarding end and what happens in-between these points? If there's a check in at 3-12, what do they look like? What will you be saying? Where will you be saying it? Over a beer, in a boardroom, or online? Will you be handing over information or conducting an interview or something else?
  5. Have you really considered your brand values and what they represent to your business and your on-boarding approach? Has your team played a part in devising these or have they come down from on high? Are they stuck on a wall never to be looked at again? How could they be embedded further and really influence the on-boarding process? Or haven't you done this work? It's o.k to admit it, but now's the time to start.

Brand-boarding. A two-way relationship. A long-term relationship. A mutual dialogue. That adds value and on-boards better. A signature of your brand and like no-one elses.

Brand-boarding. Are you at a point where this feels necessary? If yes, get in touch

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