I attended an enjoyable evening out on Friday night. It was the Institute of Accountants annual dinner in Glasgow and the event seemed to me to be a great success. Obviously the only way you could spend an evening in the company of 500 accountants is if someone else is paying, so I’m very grateful to our generous client for the invite and the hospitality. To many in our industry accountants are anathema. Popular belief is that advertising people are the polar opposite of accountants. Stereotypes paint us as flamboyant, positive and spendthrift and accountants as cautious, parsimonious and dour, in industry I’m not sure which stereotype is most appealing though. As business stands currently accountants hold the upper hand, or so it seems from this side of the boardroom. Budgets cut and expenditure on hold seems to be the most popular phrases clients use these days and these directives normally emanate from the financial department. Our normal reaction to this is to blame accountants for their lack of foresight, and on occasion we’ll be right, but in my opinion that misses the heart of the problem. Accountants aren’t idiots, if a business needs to make savings somewhere they look to see where they can do this. If our industry hasn’t explained its value, demonstrated how effective it is and underlined the fact that all businesses can’t survive without it then is that really the accountants fault? Have we spent enough time and effort analysing what a client has spent their money on, what’s worked and why and what lesson’s we’ve learned and what we intend to do with them. Two recent meetings brought this into focus recently, the first was a new business meeting on Monday. They were a ‘walk-in’ they had heard good things about us and got in touch, that is still the best form of advertising. They have always done their marketing in-house, but as their spend grew they found themselves constantly questioning what was working and what wasn’t, and being unable to find an answer. They are hoping we can as they need to ensure every penny is accounted for. I also met with one of our Northern Ireland based clients last week, a large car manufacturer. The motor industry has suffered more than most recently, however in Northern Ireland this client has enjoyed a good year. This is great news and vindicates the brave decision they took to keep marketing when many were suggesting they shouldn’t. What’s also pleasing is that they’ve embraced new media and much of their growth can be directly attributed to the web, we can see instantly what’s worked and what hasn’t.
Being able to prove what we do works isn’t enough. We need to demonstrate more than that and we need to make sure that everyone a client employs understands this, not just the marketing department, if we want accountants to start viewing us as essential for all businesses rather than just good company on a Friday night.