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3 things that marketers can learn from accountants

November 6, 2014 | Posted in: Articles & News, Flex Marketing news, Marketing pow wow

paper workYou don’t have to be a “marketer” as such to take on board some valuable lessons from accountants, you just need to be someone who aims to cover this function in your business, whether you are a sole operator, someone with a multi-faceted role or just a business owner that does a bit of everything.

With a key client of mine being a mid-tier accounting firm, I often draw parallels between their every-day world and mine. This may be mainly because of my predominantly direct marketing background and natural tendency to test and measure everything, however even if you have nothing to do with direct marketing, other aspects of your marketing could benefit.

Here are the three areas of accounting that are often broken into specialist divisions and they perfectly identify my pick of words that should become part of your marketing vocabulary:

  1. Audit

What is auditing? It is the process of examining, inspecting, reviewing, scrutinizing, evaluating etc that allows you to dig deep into something to really understand what the drivers, issues, risks and opportunities are. So a good example in marketing is auditing your target audience as this is sometimes an area smaller businesses fail to identify properly, which makes succeeding in some marketing initiatives challenging because they are likely to be “off the mark” with what their “real audience” wants. Have you spent sufficient time understanding your prospective customers’ attributes, values etc? This may involve actually talking to them to confirm or deny any personal theories you have about ‘what makes them tick’!

You can also audit marketing processes. This can be helpful for uncovering what the real customer experience is and identify what is ideal. For example, you could map what happens from the start of a ‘typical’ customer interaction, through the sale to whatever you identify the “end” to be. Are calls being answered quick enough, are orders being filled according to the customer promise, how are customer complaints or returns handled, what do you do with positive customer feedback?

  1. Tax

We all tend to groan when we hear that word, however what would it mean in a marketing context? It is something that is a compulsory cost of doing business – in some cases it can be considered a strain or a heavy burden. A good example are “no quibble guarantees” i.e. we’ll replace or refund your item without question within first 30 days following purchase. This is a marketers “peace of mind” tool. It helps customers feel more comfortable with their purchase decision because the ‘risk’ has been lowered. The result of such policy can be increased sales – all good! The flip-side (and this is where the burden comes in) is knowing that there are certain customers who will take advantage of this policy – e.g. buying clothing to wear once and return it!

Obviously certain measures can be put in place to avoid the latter, however it is important to know what the taxes are in your marketing strategy. As with any tax we pay to the government, it is prudent to make provision for this inevitable cost of doing business. Estimate and budget for a certain % of your sales to be off-set by the expenses associated with your marketing strategies. It is a given that there will be ‘taxes’ associated with your marketing initiatives in some shape or form…just try and know what they are up front!

  1. Advisory

This final area of accounting that may have relevance for marketing your organisation is advisory. It is useful to remember that it is your choice whether you ‘operate in silo’ or not. There are people and resources out there that can help you make better informed decisions. You could consult an expert, you could do some research by visiting competitors, reviewing case studies, even google can sometimes be a helpful advisor (albeit questionable for medical matters!). Even if you are the first in your market or industry to do something or are actually creating a market for something, there are bound to be transferable learnings you can take from others. When they invented the “cronut,” a relatively new edible treat that is a cross between donut and croissant, do you think they didn’t find out what made a good croissant or donut first, before they starting combining the best features of the two?!

So, we all probably have more in common with accountants than we realise! Remember next time you are at a social function struggling to make conversation with an accountant, that creativity and accounting can mix if you put your mind to it!

Flex Marketing