We’re not like other accountants. Oh really, not this again

Why are some accountants so keen to point out that they are not like their peers? What is it about being tarred with the accountancy brush that is so unpalatable that the very first thing said is ‘oh, we’re not like the others?’ 

Why the need to say we’re different straight off the bat? 

I don’t get it

Firstly, as someone who has spent more time than most in the company of accountants of the past few years, they are by and large both smart and affable people.

They are also doing work that matters, keeping businesses alive and sorting out business owners in the process. This is a skill, this is a profession, the advice given has real world consequences. 

So what is it about this stereotype that demands the instant distancing and why does it so often get centre stage in the marketing message?

Here’s a question. This ‘we’re not like the others message.’ Who is it for?

Is it to give reassurance to prospects that some stuffy old guy in tweed suit and a brick-sized calculator isn’t going to be at the other end of the conversation? Is herd mentality? Is it lazy marketing? (Ouch!) 

Or is it that actually the person that they are seeking to convince with this strap line is their mate? Or even themselves? I do remember this piece from a while back in AccountingWEB saying most accountants hate their job. Is that what this is?

I don’t think so. That AWEB survey must have been skewed to the corporate ranks because the owner operators, small partnerships and sole practitioners I know, pretty much all love what they do. 

The prospect cares about themselves 

Here’s the thing. I’m now a business owner, I’ve been in the market for an accountant in the last 12 months.

I don’t give a stuff if you’re different.

In fact, I don’t want you to be different because part of what I need is for you to do the basics, the HMRC stuff, the tax stuff, the deadlines stuff. And some of that, is pretty standard. Samey. And correct. Yes, of course there are more ways a good accountant can have influence, but talking about the ‘what next’ comes after sorting out ‘the right now.’

I’m selfish. I care about me first, not about you. (That can come later, once we’ve been working together for a while).

At the beginning, I want to know:

  • If you will get my world. 
  • If you will get straight into what I’m worried about.
  • If you work with businesses like mine. Similar size, sector, setup.
  • If you know your stuff, show me there’s things out there that I don’t know I don’t know.
  • Where are you based on who is on the team.
  • How it’s going to be working with you.
  • How do you communicate (Slack and Whatsapp FTW here thanks).
  • What it’s going to take to get me started with you and how are you going to charge.
       

Tell me those things and if it feels like a good fit, then you are in the shortlist.

Go on, be yourself

Starting with ‘we’re different from other accountants’ is a fail on many levels. It doesn’t answer any of my questions, it has the opposite of the intended effect in that it actually puts you in a grouping of very samey offerings.

And don’t get me started on what a missed opportunity it is in terms of search rankings.

Do you really think people you want to work with are there searching for ‘an accountant, but not like the other guy.’ Exactly.

It might be scary, but maybe just be you. 

I’d buy into that.