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Avalara is pleased to publish industry thought leaders who help accountants, bookkeepers and other tax professionals be the best they can be.

Accountants and Bookkeepers are great with numbers, but when it comes to marketing and branding, most accountants and bookkeepers that I talk to will admit to me that they get a grade of “NI.” Needs Improvement.

In the video for this write up, we’re going to look at a product that I use every year to define and in some cases, re-define my branding. This year, it was critical to me because I launched my personal brand as an extension of what I was already doing.

I use a product called The Brain, in order to lay out my thoughts, and how I view my entire universe. This includes everything from my personal interests to my business interests, with ME at the center.

As you read on, I want you to think in terms of laying out your universe. You can even do it with Pen and Paper, as long as you do it.

The first step in Marketing and Branding yourself is building your home base. This is your “money site.” All roads in your eco system should lead back to this place. The roads, in today’s world are your social media outlets. We’ll get to that later. There is no point in building roads that lead to an empty lot.

Your website should not just tell people what you do. It should tell people who you are.

When I first started Nerd Enterprises, I was talking with a CPA about joining forces and building an accounting and bookkeeping practice together. He wanted to name it “Superior Accountants.” I wasn’t willing to budge on my name, Nerd Enterprises, and we never got together.

Along the way I’ve received much validation about what I was doing. I will be discussing this along the way, but first, we need to get you properly introduced to the world. We need to know the following important pieces of information about you:

  • Who you are.
  • What you do.
  • Whom you do it for.

These might seem like simple questions to answer, but they aren’t. It’s important that you think about them seriously, because they will play an important role in how you develop your WordPress site.

Who are you?

This is truly your brand. I went the “nerd” route, because I identified (and still do) that way at the core. As a kid I actually loved to learn, but my social fears caused me to cover that up. I actually pretended to be “less smart” so I could fit in better. What a shame. It wasn’t until my 30’s that I came to appreciate the real gifts that I had. The ability to learn and then break things down in ways that made it easy for others to understand. At the end of the day, I realized I was someone who loves to learn and “play.” So when I first named my company, “Nerd Enterprises” back in 2003, I place the tag line after it, “Funny name, Serious Business.” I’m a guy who knows how to get things done, and have fun along the way. I know when it’s time to get serious.

If you’re a person who takes things more seriously, embrace that. Build your brand around the fact that you take your work very seriously, and the results are self evident.

The key to understanding who you are, is in how and where you find your voice. It amounts to a clear recognition of what your strengths are. Then once you have defined your strengths, you will want to exploit them to no end. That’s what I’ve done, and it has served me well.

What Do You Do?

This is where you define your streams of revenue. I want to encourage you to go deep on this one. If you tell people that you prepare tax returns, or that you’re a bookkeeper, then you put yourself in a big huge box with 100,000 other people who also prepare tax returns. The trick to branding yourself well is standing apart from the crowd. What is it, about what you do, that sets you apart from the crowd. I later learned a great way to articulate this, from Susan Solovic.

You want to create a noticeable difference.

Branding is about making sure that people remember you when the time comes to either hire or refer you.

Next you’re going to be inclined to say that you, “save people money, and free up their time, by simplifying their financial lives….”

This is better, but now you’re standing alongside the other 50,000 people who decided to go only one step further. Keep going.

Try and answer this question for people:

  • 6 Months after I am working with you, “How will my life be different?
  • Another great question to answer is, “What do you bring to the table?”

Write out 100 bullet points. I’m not kidding. One. Hundred. Bullet Points. Answer these questions, and then you should be able to put something really clear and unique together.

That’s how I came up with the headline on my LinkedIn Profile:

I bring my QuickBooks, Sage, Xero and other productivity software e-teaching super powers to the table. Let’s Eat!

Whom Do You Do it For?

A very effective technique for writing sales copy that gets people’s attention is to start it off, by addressing the intended audience, specifically. Who is your target audience? Once again, I am going to ask you to go much deeper than, “small business owners.” It has become more and more important these days to pick a target industry. Then see how else you can narrow it down.

If you look at the first line on my LinkedIn profile summary you will see this technique employed, very specifically, and quite literally:

Attention Small Business Owners, Sage Users, QuickBooks Users, Xero Users, Bookkeeping Professionals, Tax Attorneys, and CPAs!

The idea here is that when someone is reading this, and they see that they are included in one or more of these groups, they have their cue to read on.

Write out some more bullet points, defining your target audience. Don’t think in terms of your present audience. Think in terms of whom you would like your audience to be. I put Tax Attorneys in there, because I had done some audit support work for one, and I really enjoyed it. At one time I thought I might build a vertical based on having tax attorneys refer me their clients who are being audited, and need proper books compiled.

Before we build, or rebuild that website, we need to work on the above. We need to define you, and create your identity, and it must be based on whom you really are, at the core.

One last thought. That last comment, about whom you are at the core, must be the cornerstone of your entire brand.

Authenticity is the key that will open the doorway to marketing and branding success.

Be yourself, not whom you think others may want you to be.