Being asked “why?” can be a really difficult question to answer.
“Why should I buy this?”
“Why should we use you when our current accountant is cheaper?”
Most people attempt to answer this question with a “what” or a “how” answer such as “Well, the reason you should choose us is because we provide an outstanding service, bespoke to you, and we do that by preparing accounts, bookkeeping and financial data in a way that is easy to understand for someone with little to no financial knowledge and we do this because we want you to work less hours for a better profit”.
That’s not a bad answer at all. It answers everything that we’ve been asked.
But it isn’t the right answer.
There are loads of other accountancy practices out there that provide an amazing level of service, for a competitive price, and some of them are also able to explain things in a way that the less financially astute person would be able to understand.
This doesn’t set us apart from anyone else. In fact, it turns what we do into a commodity and it makes it easier for potential clients to justifiably say “no” as they can get the same services that we offer down the road at a less expensive accountancy firm.
The “what” we do and “how” we do it become commodities, and if we display our services in this way, then there will always be someone that can do a little bit more of the “what” or “how” to put them slightly ahead of us, until we have to come up with another “how” or “what”, or we have to start competing on price.
The “what” and “how” we do things is really simple-
· We keep you compliant and operating within the confines of the law from a tax perspective,
· We offer tailored advice to certain clients to help them grow,
· We take out of hours calls for some clients who aren’t able to speak with us during the day,
· We liaise with some of our clients’ suppliers to ensure a smooth service and good payment terms so that everyone is happy
And we provide these services to quite a high standard. But so do a lot of other accountancy firms. Some larger firms are able to do even more than we are, and some smaller firms are able to do most of what we can do at a lower cost.
So recently, I’ve had to take it a step further, and start thinking about why clients should choose us over a similar firm. The thing is, I know why they should, but quantifying why is very different to quantifying what and how, and that’s because these three key questions are dealt with by different parts of the brain. The part of your brain that deals with “what” is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. The part of your brain that deals with “why” is responsible for feelings, behaviour and decision making, but has no capacity for language. It’s also the part of the brain that gives you a “gut feeling” when you know that something is right or wrong- obviously your stomach doesn’t have any thought power (or I’d be in a constant state of headache)- this is just how the non-lingual portion of your brain is expressing what it needs you to make a decision on- by making you feel like you’re making the right or wrong decision.
We all know that it’s difficult to convey why we think something is the way it is, or why one thing may be better for us than another thing, but in our mind we know why we need to make that decision- we just can’t put it into words without attempting to quantify that feeling or emotion. The way we usually quantify why we need something is by looking at the benefits and features of that particular thing that we want, but that only satisfies us on a “how” and “what” level. Knowing how something works and what it does is very different to knowing why it works, or why it does what it does.
I always try to ask clients how they feel after our initial meeting, and how they’re feeling after several months of working with us and the answers usually centre around “It feels like a weight off”, or “safer than I did before”, or “more aware of what’s going on in my business”, and after years of asking, it hit me that our “why?” is actually their “why?”
We do what we do because we want our clients to feel safer, less stressed, more aware, happier, more focused on their business (or less focused on their business depending on their goals), and sometimes we even want them to feel less safe about what they’re doing because we know that they won’t act on what needs doing unless the outcome of action actually makes them feel safer than inaction.
You’re probably running your business for a multitude of factors (or maybe even just one):
· You don’t want to be answerable to anyone else- probably because you’ve had to answer to someone previously that didn’t know what they were doing or why they were doing it.
· You want to work less hours- to spend more time with your family, more time with your friends, or maybe just more time working on yourself.
· You want more money- to build a better life for yourself and your family, and probably because you want to do more of the above.
Very few people have a “why” of “I’m doing this to reduce my tax bill”- this isn’t a reason for running your business, it’s just a by-product of running your business. Clients also tell us that they want to pay themselves more, and again, this isn’t a “why”, this is a “how”- “I want to spend more time on holiday with my family to create experiences, and I’m going to do that by paying myself a better wage”.
So, I came up with the idea that “Our why is your why”. The reason that we are in the accountancy and consultancy business is because those services are the “what” and the “how” of reaching your “why”. I want to make sure that our goals are aligned with our clients’ goals- if they want a bigger house because they need the space, then the reason that we provide our services is so that they can improve their business and get that house, or donate to that charity, or make an impact in the world, or even just work less hours than they’re working at the moment.
So, in response to why you should choose to work with us over another accountant, I’d say:
It’s our goal to empower you to live the life that you want to live, whilst running a business that sustains your choices and we do this by providing accounting and consultancy services that give you the insightful data that you need to make impactful decisions, whilst halving the amount of time you spend cutting through financial red tape.
This article isn’t just about us. When I’m speaking with some of my clients about their growth plans, we talk about who their ideal customer is, and what they do to attract them, and this subject always comes up. You’re in a competitive industry where there are literally hundreds of businesses within a few miles of you doing exactly the same thing, with similar offers, trying to attract similar customers. Most customers nowadays aren’t looking for the cheapest night out or for a restaurant that offers 3 courses for X amount. They’re looking for an experience- something to talk about, write about, take pictures of, and post about online- and you’ll notice that very few of these posts actually mention how much they’ve spent, or what was on offer when they visited. They talk about the experience they had. You run a business that creates experiences and memories for its customers. Your “what” and “how” is their “why”.
Most businesses panic when they see sales fall, and they attribute it almost immediately to the “what” and the “how” of what they’re doing- “we must be too expensive”, “we’ve not had a promo on for ages”, “down the road does two bottles for a fiver, we should be doing that too”. Makes sense, right?
Wrong. It most likely isn’t anything to do with your pricing, it’s to do with the experience you offer and the story that you share. “We sell great food” isn’t much of a “why” it’s more of a “what”. “We give customers a second-to-none experience by providing exceptional food, delivered with exceptional service, using locally sourced ingredients” is a much better chain of “why, what, and how”. In the same way that you want to know why you should choose us over another accountant, your customers also want to know why they should choose you over another bar, restaurant or hotel, and if you start to boil this down to promotions and offers, all you’ll ever be is a commodity as opposed to an experience. Ask yourself why you’d choose to go to your restaurant above all others.
Why choose us?
Because we understand.
Because our why is your why.