Voices

Is your firm the victim of fake reviews?

Millions of people gladly air their complaints on social media platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and the like every day. How can you, as a responsible accountant, defend or perhaps insulate yourself against false accusations and unfair comments?

First and foremost you need to be proactive and diligent. You need to find out if anyone is posting anything about you. I would suggest Google Alerts, an excellent and free system that will periodically send you information in the form of an email on whatever topic you would like (in this case the topic is you). So if someone is writing something about you, you will know it.

Secondly, and just as important, you need to shore up your reputation management campaign. The truth of the matter is that you really can’t stop people from saying untruths about you. Sure, you can get injunctions and court orders, but at the end of the day, you can’t prevent the readers of those posts from developing their perception of you. More importantly, we’ve all heard the old expression that “perception is reality” regardless of how diligent and responsible you are. The question becomes, how do you get and stay in front of those false impressions?

Your reputation in town is everything. To have a successful practice, you need to make sure you’re an accountant in good standing within your community.

Your principle focus needs to be to develop the deepest roots possible with your clients and prospects as the best option around. What you’re trying to do is create an impenetrable fortress of goodwill from your clients.

Fill your office, your website and your promotional ventures with testimonials. If for example, your site featured 30, 50 or 80+ testimonials of clients raving about the fantastic service you provided, and about the post-appointment follow-up calls you made to them, or how understanding and empathetic you are to their specific needs, all these things go a long way towards building your reputation fortress.

But what exactly do you say? Before you can say anything, you have to know to whom you're speaking. Traditionally, being all things to all people is a surefire recipe for failure.

You need to target your audience, which means you need to do an inventory of your current client base. This is the only way to develop your reputation as “the” resident expert in your county on “this” particular accounting issue.

• To create your inventory, you will need to determine why clients come to see you. You will have to sort out your clients according to their financial needs. You may notice that the majority of your clients come to you to help them with their business ventures, cross-border taxation, forensic accounting, etc.

• Say, for example, you establish your reputation as the preeminent specialist in town working with high-tech firms. Begin by focusing your message on those particular clients with that need in your practice. You target your writing very precisely, with engaging content, on your blogs, newsletter, materials you send, e-books you write, etc.

• You may have several niches, write and target your marketing to each particular segment. Create different pages for your website for each business segment.

• Be client-centered rather than firm focused. Write robust and informative pieces; but consider your audience, and translate accounting jargon into easy to understand and grasp the language. Create regular communication and a proactive business advisory relationship. I believe that it was Albert Einstein that said the definition of genius is “Taking the complex and making it simple.”

• Create your testimonials on video. Feature clients who are thrilled with the results of their relationship with your firm. Make sure your videos are problem-solving and relatable. You must “sell solutions rather than time.” Every video should engage and compel.

• Prioritize regular communication and trust. Trust is the most reliable predictor of choosing a financial advisor and building a superior reputation for solving client needs. Conversely, poor communication is one of the leading causes of abandoning a financial advisor.

In the end, might there be someone who says something fraudulent about you? Sure.

The cornerstone of good reputation management is the ability to navigate your practice through the storms and tempests. Continue doing great work, but from now on, let others know how good your clients think you are.

Just remember, you can’t transform or build up your reputation by anything you say about yourself. You will solidify your reputation on what others say about you — be proud of it!