Branding and Marketing

Cloud Accounting: My Love Story

Cloud accounting is the most fabulous thing to ever happen to small business owners and financial professionals. As it becomes more mainstream and the novelty wears off, cloud accounting companies need to find creative ways to carve out their unique niche in the market to continue to stay relevant. Read below to hear why, as a girl who loves celebrity gossip, I'm obsessed with this new industry and my advice to them as they grow their businesses.

I remember the first time I heard of "cloud" accounting. I was at my desk, buried under a million spreadsheets and trying to make sense of a thousand invoices and contracts and systems that didn't talk to each other. At the time I was at a ski resort and in charge of making sure our group visitors paid "accurate" invoices. Accurate is the operative word when I had to reconcile lodging, restaurant, ski and Food/Beverage systems that did NOT integrate. At all.

It was during one of those days that I wanted to throw my desktop out onto the ski hill, that I came across a company that had an interesting name. 

Before cloud accounting, my days were dark and lonely.

Before cloud accounting, my days were dark and lonely.

I looked up their website and it was love at first sight. Beautiful accounting software with Tiffany blue all over their marketing material. I literally heard the angels singing and realized this was the only way to get me, or any other accountant who actually liked having a social life, to begin to enjoy their job.

Their name was Xero.

I immediately became a fanatic about cloud accounting and researched all of the other companies within the space. I literally stalked Xero on social media, frantically researched the online version of Quickbooks, Sage,  Wave... Kashoo...Freshbooks (btw, why is Canada so obsessed with accounting? ...hmmm...a peaceful global takeover is brewing. You heard it here first).

All of these companies were popping up and I wanted to tell them all how much I loved them.

Strange coming from a girl who loves watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. But, I've always wanted to work with numbers since I realized at the age of 5 that money could buy me all the Barbies in the entire world and by the age of 8, I was creating budgets and projections for the fun of it.

If you've never been an accountant that knows that they love what they do, but HATES how they have to do it, it would be hard to understand my seemingly manic obsession with these companies. I literally wake up in awe, every single day, about the powerful way these tools are integrating data from various sources and doing it in such an aesthetically pleasing way.

Tissue, please.

Now everyday's my birthday with cloud accounting.

Now everyday's my birthday with cloud accounting.

When I wrote my first post about the future of  accounting a little over a year ago my poor little site crashed and I was contacted by Thompson Reuters because "for an accountant, you write really well."

I knew I was onto something. Because for me, cloud accounting is not just a means to make a TON of money (read here how I scored my first 6-figure client), it's about a lifestyle.

Cloud accounting is a lifestyle that allows someone, who in the past had been forced to be in the background and hide behind computer screens and tax returns, a life of luxury and freedom.

Finally, financial professionals can be jet setters and the trusted go-to experts for small businesses and corporations everywhere.

And it allows young finance professionals to immediately make their mark without waiting for some thirty years to pass before someone finally realizes that they have something fabulous to offer. 

As small business owners and accountants become more comfortable using cloud accounting, and the novelty wears off, it's important that these companies find ways to differentiate themselves.

Cloud accounting is a lifestyle. Rockin my Tieks and drinking champagne while doing my books. HEYYY! #MoneyandMimosas

Cloud accounting is a lifestyle. Rockin my Tieks and drinking champagne while doing my books. HEYYY! #MoneyandMimosas

You can't be everything to everyone. And as soon as you try to be, you'll lose the loyalty of your die-hard fans.

I get questions daily about which accounting program is best for such and such business; and if I wasn't so obsessed with these programs it would be hard for me to share which one is best for each unique business.

As an accountant, I started off by marketing only to beauty and fashion professionals. Why? Simply because I liked fashion shows and was the only financial professional attending these events. A clear brand identity was key for me to make a name for myself as a young professional.

Accounting programs need to do the same thing. There is plenty of room for Kashoo, Wave, Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Sage, Xero and others to all have a piece of the pie.

Having a strong brand identity is essential to making sure any company stays relevant. Especially accounting tools that, on the surface, seem to do the exact same thing.

How should they create a solid brand? Check out my 7 tips:

  1. Get clear on what makes your product different- if you need an example, check out my post on Kashoo. Their partnerships with Paychex and Liberty Tax are fabulous. And they allow an accountant to "copy" a business file just in case a new small business client didn't create theirs correctly.  
  2. Get clear on what you're not- Wave is a free solution and an excellent introduction for business owners. I've recommended them to entrepreneurs who are not quite ready to hire my services or feel that they can handle it themselves. However, Wave does not, and should not, include an eco-system of integrations and sophisticated accounting functions. It's clean and easy, not full of fancy accounting options.
  3. Get clear on who you're speaking to- Freshbooks is a fab example. They are known for invoicing and clearly state that they are for companies with under 9 employees. Genius.
  4. Develop a unique online presence- Xero's website is absolutely gorgeous and speaks to those that are design minded. They also offer a TON of free content supporting small business owners and accountants looking for ways to grow their business.
  5. Capitalize on your established community- Quickbooks clearly has the upper hand and rightfully so. Continue to build with those that already love you. Whether it's sponsoring events put on by your accountants or spotlighting them on your site or social, show them that you LOVE them. 
  6. Have a social mission- Sage is a huge supporter of businesses owned by women. They make this very clear on their social media and events they choose to sponsor. Your users want to know you're human and care about what's going on in the world.
  7. Find unique ways to engage your accountants- Sorry, but a free accounting profile is boring and everyone does it. Get creative.
  8. BONUS: Contact me!-  HA. But for real. This isn't even a shameless plug. Just a plug. Have you seen my portfolio? Click here. If you want to have longevity, start tapping into the 20-something accountant generation.  Just sayin.

Danetha Doe is a product launch strategist and total geek about cloud accounting. She likes giggling, champagne and playing with money. She has worked with brands such as Google and Neutrogena.

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Rockstar Profile: 7 business tips from the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Thank goodness football season is back!  Even if you don't watch the game, it's the perfect excuse to plan parties and drink awesome cocktails.

As a former NFL Cheerleader, and track athlete, I fully appreciate the work that these athletes have put in to become the best of the best in their field.

And there's a lot that we can learn as entrepreneurs from their dedication to excellence, particularly the leaders of these organizations. According to Forbes, the NFL brand is on track to be worth $5 BILLION in 5 years.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated. I had a blast cheering for the Indianapolis Colts from 2007-2009.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated. I had a blast cheering for the Indianapolis Colts from 2007-2009.

 Kelli Finglass, the current director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC), is making waves in the world of sports and quickly making a name for herself as a thought leader.

The brand she has built for DCC is the best in the NFL and NBA, and has created a mass of revenue and exposure opportunities not only for the Dallas Cowboys organization, but also for the cheerleaders on the squad.

They are the only squad with a nationally televised reality show and has landed a number of corporate sponsors including JC Penny, Sports Illustrated and American Airlines. From launching innovative merchandising products to providing a platform for DCC cheerleaders to attain celebrity status, Kelli has defined herself as a distinguished thought leader within the sports and entertainment world.

So, what are some things we can learn from Kelli as we build our own brands?

Here's a tweetable! Below are 7 tips for you to use to build your brand as a thought leader within your space.

  1. Use video to market your business. Video is very powerful, as we've seen from the DCC reality show and the engagement it has generated. According to Entrepreneur, the average Internet user watches 186 videos per month and video in email boosts conversions by 50%.
  2. Showcase your employees. Throughout the reality show, DCC showcases their veterans or ladies who have been on the squad in previous years. Your employees are your company's best ambassadors. Let them be in the spotlight and give them the opportunity to build their own presence and identity.
  3. Show the "behind the scenes". One of the powerful pieces of the DCC reality show is that it allows us as fans, and DCC hopefuls, to see what it's like to go through the audition process. Allow your clients and fans to see what it takes to create a new marketing campaign or how your organization finishes a plan.
  4. Maintain a holistic view of your services. Kelli is very aware that her ladies are talented dancers that also need to engage with various people, entertain the fans and have unique personalities. If it was just about dance, she could handpick ladies from a top dance company. But it's more than that! Similar to DCC, your services and products serve a higher purpose that goes beyond the features. For example, if you're an accountant you may help reconcile books, but you also help your clients plan for unforeseen challenges which will save them time, money and heartache.
  5. Get your fans/clients involved: DCC allows its fans to pick a lady they want to see make it to the finals. This drives traffic to the website and overall engagement with the squad and show. For your next marketing campaign, allow your followers or clients to help you decide what you should offer. Ultimately, they are the ones that will use it!
  6. Partner with other businesses. DCC works with Kitty Carter's dance company to help get their ladies prepared for auditions. Find ways to create strategic alliances with companies that support your business. Are you a brand strategist who doesn't like designing websites? Find a designer that you can outsource that work to. You help them build their business and they will likely refer business to you.
  7. Be different. Be BOLD. The biggest takeaway from Kelli's determination to build a brand for DCC is her commitment to be different and make her squad stand out. From offering new merchandise (most squads only offer a swimsuit calendar) and securing a TV deal, the DCC is in a league of its own. How can you go against your industry's standards and make a name for yourself?

And now I want to hear from you? Which of these 7 tips will you use for your business? Leave a comment below.

Danetha Doe is a product launch strategist and total geek about cloud accounting. Her consulting practice helps companies develop a comprehensive financial plan for rolling out new products and services. She has worked with brands such as Google and Neutrogena.

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3 ways to brand your accounting practice

With the emergence of cloud based accounting, accountants are now faced with the task to find creative ways to stand out from others within their industry.

Since many of the data-entry functions can be handled with any given app, small business owners are looking for accountants to help them grow their business with a reduced focus on bookkeeping, tax compliance and regulations.

After working with companies such as the San Francisco 49ers, Audi and Neutrogena to help build their brand presence, I've realized that image is everything and have since used these branding strategies to build my consulting practice. 

Why branding is so important

Lois Geller, Forbes contributor, writes,  "A brand is a promise. Your brand has to plant itself in the hearts and minds (especially hearts) of prospects and customers. It has to be memorable." 

Often times, accountants are seen as commodities. One is just as effective as the other as long as they have the "credentials" to file taxes and handle the books. But, with new accounting applications and social media, it will be those accountants that embrace developing a unique brand and strongly convey that they are a business partner to their client, that will rise to the top.

Examples of accountants with great brands

Three fabulous examples of accountants who are already doing this are Stacy KildalBlumer CPAs and FusePhase

  • Stacey, with signature hot pink hair, not only defies what accountants "should" look like but has also built a business that includes a huge media presence. She is the host of two shows, RadioFreeQB.com and very active on Twitter.
  • As soon as you visit Blumer CPAs' website, you think that you've stumbled upon a creative agency's. Lo and behold, it's a CPA firm's site catering to digital marketing experts. Jason Blumer, founder of Blumer CPAs, also hosts a podcast called the The Businessology Show and blogs frequently.
  • Jay Fife, founder of FusePhase, hired a content marketer to help build his practice's quirky online presence, to generate informative yet easy to understand blog content and create a really fun video to describe what they do for their clients.
When it comes to your brand, don't be afraid to be bold.

When it comes to your brand, don't be afraid to be bold.

Why you should give it away for free

Sharing free content and having an established media presence is key in any profession, but especially in the accounting world when it is vital to establish the "know, like, trust" factor that clients crave.

Cari Sommer, Forbes contributer, interviewed multi-million dollar business coach Marie Forleo about branding and discussed the importance of giving away lots of free content to build a rock solid brand. 

One of my rules for positioning yourself as an expert is to share generously. The only way for people to know that you have something valuable to say is by taking the time to actually say it! Marie is a great example of this. Providing her community with valuable content and information has been critical to her business growth.
— Cari Sommer, interview with Marie Forleo of marieforleo.com

3 ways to brand your accounting practice

Not sure where to start with your branding? Here are three tips to get you rolling.

  1. Get glamorous. Hire a photographer and have an awesome headshot taken. I recently caught up with David Leary from Quickbooks and chatted a little bit about branding for accountants. His #1 suggestion to accountants was to have fun with your photo and show a little personality. Btw, if you haven't seen his headshot, it is full of personality. Check him out on twitter @davidleary
  2. Write a weekly newsletter. Email marketing is not dead. Capturing emails and sending regular tips is a sure way to develop trust and convert followers into clients.
  3. Offer to host webinars. Connect with your fave accounting applications and offer to host free accounting webinars to their users. It's a triple win- the application loves you, the users benefit from the content and you can build yourself as an expert.

Tell me a little bit about your practice. What are you doing to build your brand?

Danetha Doe is a cloud accounting expert. A business coach and former NFL Cheerleader, she has worked with companies such as Audi, the San Francisco 49ers and Neutrogena to help build their brand presence.

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