Eighty seven.

How to market a ‘boring’ business.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from accountant Claire Owen-Jones.

She says…

“I have a ‘boring’ business and make a ‘boring’ podcast. I’m okay with that — I’m an accountant so I am very familiar with DULL — but I struggle with how to market it.

Via the podcast I answer common accountancy questions. This week’s episode is 7-10 minutes of me explaining payments on account, for example.

How can I make the un-fun more memorable and/or appealing?”


• • • • •

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This episode is supported by AXA Business Insurance.

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:28] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:38] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For the Kids community, do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one. Last time we were talking about..

[00:01:47] – Frankie
Making the most of a coworking space.

[00:01:50] – Steve
Yes, it was. And you know what? I have been hanging out in the kitchen a lot more!

[00:01:54] – Frankie
I saw on Instagram! Yeah.

[00:01:56] – Steve
I even bought in a cake for the Macmillan Cancer coffee morning. I even re-logged into Slack. Still don’t like it.

[00:02:04] – Frankie
Liz Fisher says:

“Frankie and Steve, I had your words about coworking in my head when I signed up to the free hot desk days at my local one this week. The trial went okay and there are lots of pluses — exercise, chats, life, someone else’s electricity, but some minuses too — people, noise, accidentally buying half of Waitrose, not great ergonomics, no second screen.

The thing about people and vibe being important is spot on because although the environment is okay, I didn’t feel like it was very ‘me’ there, which put me off a bit. I do love the fact I can walk in there though and encouraging a freelancer out of the house is always a plus.

I found I have to be clear about what I want to get done and not take anything requiring too much unbroken concentration because it just wasn’t the right place for me to try and do my deep flow stuff.”

[00:02:46] – Steve
That is very funny about Waitrose! My cowork space is right next to a Waitrose. It’s something to bear in mind. I think that’s why I’m eating Borders lemon drizzle biscuits. That wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t next to a Waitrose.

[00:02:58] – Frankie
Well, someone said theirs was above a McDonald’s. Who said that? …Louisa Ellins said she’ll be trying her first coworking space next week and it’s above a McDonald’s. Not a Waitrose. Danger!

[00:03:10] – Steve
Speak to your accountant and see whether McFlurries are allowed on expenses.

[00:03:14] – Frankie
Yeah, exactly.

[00:03:15] – Steve
Emily Crosby got in touch. Emily says:

“I like Steve.”

Thank you, Emily. Oh, hang on. There’s a comma in it.

Emily continues:

“I, like Steve, have an office in a coworking space. I find it has the best of both worlds. All the boundaries you spoke about, the sociability, but I can also shut the door and ignore people if I want. On that note, the only thing I would add is not to feel too obligated to socialise. My coworking space has quite a social calendar and a core of long term members who like to socialise a lot.

When I first joined, I had a bit of FOMO and was beating myself up about not joining in. 18 months in, I’ve learned to join in with the things I can do — work and childcare permitting — and ignore the rest and to suggest things I can do instead. I no longer feel like I’m missing out.”

[00:04:04] – Frankie
Tori Beat says:

“I recently had a trial day at a coworking space within a new museum building down the road for me. They don’t advertise trial days, but I turned up with my laptop and was uncharacteristically cheeky enough to ask if they’d let me in for a few hours. You usually need an annual membership to be able to book a desk, but I figure if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

[00:04:21] – Steve

[00:04:21] – Frankie
Tori continues:

“They were very happy to let me try it out, so I’ve signed up and I’m hoping to make some nice connections as well as getting out of the house occasionally. There’s also a lovely coffee shop downstairs for a change of scene and cake. We’ll definitely be investing in some noise canceling headphones, though.”

Great tip! A lot of food chat here. It’s all about the food.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:08:17] – Steve
Okay, question for episode 87 comes from Claire Owen-Jones, who is an accountant at loudandclearaccounting.co.uk.

Claire says:

“I have a ‘boring’ business and make a ‘boring’ podcast. I’m okay with that. I’m an accountant. So I am very familiar with dull, but I struggle with how to market it. Via the podcast I answer common accountancy questions. This week’s episode, for example, is seven to ten minutes of me explaining payments on account.

How can I make the unfun more memorable and or appealing?”

[00:09:00] – Frankie
It’s an excellent question. Yeah, it must be hard to do something like accountancy or law. Like, how do you make T’s and C’s appealing? I don’t know.

[00:09:12] – Steve
First up, sometimes we need dull.

[00:09:15] – Frankie
Yeah, right!

[00:09:16] – Steve
I’m not entirely sure I want a ker-razy accountant. I want an accountant who knows how to do their job.

What I mean is, like… We are running businesses and I think ‘dull’ is in the eye of the beholder sort of thing? Like, I imagine Claire being at dinner parties, perhaps throughout her life, and somebody saying, “What do you do?” And then she says, “accountant”, and she sees their eyes glaze over.

But what if, Claire, you met a small business owner at that dinner party or party, and I mean… it wouldn’t be from the Doing It For The Kids community because we’re all at home knackered watching Strictly. But let’s imagine you actually meet one of us and you say, “accountant” and we’re like, “Oh, my God!”

[00:10:02] – Frankie
So Rob says he has an anecdote about that where he talks about… If you don’t want anybody to ask you about your job, you say, “I’m an accountant”.

I get what he’s saying because it’s ‘dull’ and nobody wants to talk about accountancy. But I always would say exactly that to him — I’m like, “Yeah, but if she was sat next to me and said, ‘I’m an accountant’, I’d be like, ‘Oh, sweet! Is McDonald’s McFlurry a legit business expense? How many can I get away with in a week?’” I would be that person.

So what are we saying now? It’s all relative? It’s all relative.

[00:10:32] – Steve
I think it is all relative. The thing is, I’m not tuning in to your podcast, for example, to be, I guess… ‘entertained’ or to hear the latest crime thriller. I’m there for information.

Now, here comes the next bit. I think a lot of, you know, you say… “How can I make the unfun more memorable and or appealing?” You struggle to market it. I think it’s how you put that ‘dull’ information across. It’s about how friendly you are, how approachable, whether you say it with a smile, whether you make the complicated uncomplicated. Like, that’s what I want.

So I could listen to an accountancy podcast and it could be very dry. It could make the complicated feel aloof and still out of reach for me. Or I could listen to one and the person seems like they’re charming, that I want to hang out with them, that they’re taking something that I don’t understand and making me go, “Oh! That’s how it works”. It’s about how friendly and approachable and understandable you make the ‘dull’ in quotation marks topic. I think it’s about being yourself. Like, you’re not a stuffy accountant. It’s about how you appear online.

[00:12:43] – Frankie
Yes, I totally agree with you on the like… it almost doesn’t need to be fun because as long as it’s clear and people understand it, there will always be a market for what you’re doing. But I just feel like Claire’s got this internal turmoil going on. I don’t know Claire that well, but I know her well enough to know that she’s FUN. Like, if you go to her About Page… Have you been to her about page on her website?

[00:13:07] – Steve
Well, I met the team.

[00:13:08] – Frankie
Yeah! So it tells you about her. And then there’s a section called Meet the Team and it just has a picture of her over and over again with different job titles. That’s funny.

And then she recently did this thing where she took the HMRC hold music and remixed it in 20 different styles. She did like, a pop version and a dance version and a disco. So I feel like it’s not that the ‘boring’ needs to be funny to be appealing, but it’s that Claire — her business is Claire, and Claire is funny and therefore yeah… I feel like she’s got this push and pull in her own head about, “But I’m an accountant, that should be serious and boring”. But no, “I’m Claire. I’m funny and silly” and whatever. It feels like, to me, it’s more about her own internal struggle than it is necessarily about reaching the right people.

Yeah. I think for all of us, there’s that balance between being professional and being taken seriously and building trust with our potential clients, but also not stifling our own personalities in the process. There is a balance to be found there. I would argue we struggle with that balance on this podcast! Like, we’re trying to be professional and give useful business advice, but also chat a lot of nonsense.

[00:14:27] – Steve
Also, we can think about marketing as being adverts and blog posts and podcasts and all that, but I think it’s also about all the little things. It’s about your interactions, about your customer service, about how you reply to things in communities or on social media, how you make your customers, or anybody who comes to you with a query, like how you make them FEEL. Do you make them feel like they’ve had a nice chat with a friend? Do you make them feel like they can trust you? Do you make them feel excited about running a business? Because a lot of accountants don’t. But do you?

Yeah, by being human, by being you, being memorable and appealing — that’s in you and how you make people feel every time they come into contact with your brand, but more importantly, with you.

[00:15:22] – Frankie
Ultimately though, people have to trust you and know that you’re going to do all the things and tick all the boxes and HMRC isn’t going to hunt them down. I mean, that’s all that anybody wants, an accountant, really.

[00:15:32] – Steve
It is. But one of the reasons I love my accountant is because unlike previous accountants that I have had, they are warm and personable. They do reply to me in normal language, no question is stupid, even if they’re thinking it. Plus, when they create reports and things for me, there’s an element of enthusiasm about my business and stuff. And sometimes their emails have GIFs in them that make me smile.

Yeah, like the baseline is that we want an accountant who knows what they’re doing, but what then elevates someone who is going to be recommended and remembered to be memorable and appealing and stuff, I think is a more human approach to the ‘dull’ industry, in this case, accounting.

So, yeah, we want you to know your shit, but we also want to enjoy the fact that we’re hiring you.

[00:16:34] – Frankie
That’s a really good point. The word ‘enjoy’.

Like for a lot of people, I imagine interactions with their accountant does not bring them joy. If you can be the accountant that brings your clients joy every time you show up in their inbox, they’re going…

[00:16:47] – Steve
…they’re going to remember you! They’re going to recommend you.

[00:16:49] – Frankie

[00:16:51] – Steve
I mean, you’re called Loud and Clear Accounting. Maybe you could record yourself shouting financial advice in various different places? Film it as well, because it would be good for LinkedIn, won’t it? So, you on a beach, you at the top of a hill…
[00:17:06] – Frankie
Yes. *shouting* “Pay your Class 2 National Insurance!!”.

[00:17:11] – Steve
*Shouting* “Submit your tax return on the 6 April!”

[00:17:16] – Frankie
That’s actually a genius idea. There you go. On top of a mountain, on the beach, in an empty aisle at the supermarket.

[00:17:23] – Steve
Yes. Right.

And then you put that on the end of each podcast and then you go, “You want to see the video? Go to my LinkedIn page. It would be lovely to connect with you”. Meanwhile, it’s on your LinkedIn page and people are going, “Who the hell is this yelling helpful financial advice?” Well, it’s Loud and Clear Accounting.

[00:17:41] – Frankie
Just think of Dom Joly on his massive phone. That kind of vibe.

[00:17:44] – Steve
*Shouting* “A McFlurry?!”

What would your advice be?

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