This week one of my marketing corner-stones has been seriously challenged.

My commitment to ‘being different’ has been seriously challenged.

Instead we should all work at being ‘Simply Better’.

Be ‘Simply Better’ and your firm can increase your sales just like Shell did when they focused on ‘Simply Better’.

Let me explain.

A big example…

In response to a competitive attack by Mobil, Shell looked closely at customer requirements.

Shell uncovered category benefits that all petrol stations are measured against, in a customer’s heart and mind. Bet you recognize them:

- Drivers want to refuel at a reasonable cost

- Drivers want to be sheltered from the sun, wind and rain

- Drivers want to pay and exit quickly

- Drivers want clean and working pumps and toilets

Shell then set about investing in clean toilets and a buying experience that met these 4 customer category needs. They closed a large number of outlets and invested in improving many others.

After an initial 20% increase in sales, sales settled down to a 10% increase. When you think Shell serve upwards of 25 million customers a day from 56,000 petrol stations a 10% increase has been worth the effort!

Shell did not set out to be different from Mobil and their other competitors. Shell set out to meet the category needs of their customers simply better than the competition.

Crystal clear focus…

The ‘Simply Better’ approach means that category benefits need to be your focus.

Not the specific or unique benefits your firm delivers.

In their book ‘Simply Better’, Barwise and Meehan have a ‘cut-through-the-clutter’ message for you and I.

The ‘Simply Better’ focus is not ‘be better at what your practice specifically does’, but focus on what your clients want from the category called ‘accountants’.

Simple next steps for your accountancy firm…

To unearth the ‘category needs’ of your business owner clients you need to ask customers and ‘not-yet-customers’ some simple questions:

- What do they like about what accountants do for them and their business?

- What do they dislike about what accountants do or don’t do?

Rather than assuming you know the answers, I suggest you ask a few clients and see what you get back.

If you were to ask me…

I have been a business owner buying accountancy for almost 25 years so have a good personal insight. Plus, having hosted an accountancy practice development programme with Durham University for several years, I’ve witnessed other business owners describe their ‘accountant category needs’ to rooms full of accountants.

This experience means you can regularly find me on stage at conferences, and in consult meetings with firms, talking about the three category requirements business owners have for accountants.

Category needs to think about:

I believe you should ask your clients and prospects yourself but my suggestions are:

1. Business owners want to get their tax and accounts done at a reasonable cost

2. Business owners want these services to be done in a timely fashion

3. Business owners want to be advised about how best to manage their finances, their tax, and even better-manage their business

Most accountancy firms obsess about the first one and forget, or pay lip service to, the other two.

Like Shell, master the act of delivering on these (3) basic category needs and you will be a more successful accountancy firm.

I’m not convinced your competition are as smart as Mobil, so you should get a better-than-10% uplift in revenues.

Please let me know what answers you get back from your clients and ‘not-yet-clients’ when you ask them the two questions suggested earlier.

What would you say are the category benefits business owners want from accountants?

For more valuable business insights to guarantee your firm is 'simply better' please click here to read my blog posts.

Paul Shrimpling