There’s a so-called old piece of wisdom that says: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In reality, it is an old wives’ tale because it isn’t true – not for relationships and not for tax advisory businesses. If you want more business, if you want more referrals and more growth, you need to up your ‘visibility’ in a way that is relevant to your audience.

Thought leadership is one way to achieve this goal.

The founder of the networking organisation Business Network International (BNI), Dr Ivan Misner, has what he believes is the most critical concept in networking.

“The VCP Process® – visibility, credibility, profitability – is a continuum,” he says. “Once you achieve credibility (and not before), you then need to start asking for referrals in order to achieve profitability. Profitability does not result automatically from visibility and credibility.”

What Misner is describing is true of marketing as well. While marketing – regardless of your methodology – will help you achieve visibility with your clients and potential clients, which in turn leads to credibility, you still need to do the hard work. In networking, it’s asking for referrals. In your online marketing, it’s about proving you are an expert, you are trustworthy, and you are good at what you do.

In this COVID-19 environment, opportunities to meet people face-to-face and interact personally to clinch new business and maintain existing business, are reduced. There is more emphasis on digital ways of working, shopping and socialising. While many accounting firms were dealing with the disruptions brought to reporting and compliance (and the rise of greater emphasis on advisory), COVID-19 is accelerating the change.

In this new climate, tax advisory businesses are advised to grow their online presence and visibility – to expand their digital footprint – in a way that establishes their credentials as expert and trustworthy.

Thought leadership can help you do that.

1. Be valuable 

We are living in an age of content shock. There is quite literally a deluge of content (list stories, how-to stories, updates and reports). For example, content about the increase in the provisional tax threshold is relatively common. It is important content, it is of value, but it is not valuable because it is common. By all means, it is the kind of content that any practice should be creating and sharing, but it won’t earn you thought leadership.

Thought leadership comes from creating content – blogs, podcasts, opinion editorials, videos et cetera – that are unique, and you achieve that by applying your unique expertise and interpretation to the events (like tax developments) going on around you. Always look to understand and communicate what it means for your audience at a granular level

2. Stand for something

Your clients and potential clients want you to have an opinion. It’s why they pay you. Thought leaders have an opinion, and they are not afraid to express it. If you try to be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to nobody. 

3. Aim for relevance

A content piece about how to improve cashflow is of value and also a common theme. Most companies, consultancies, banks and accounting firms have content about this. One way to differentiate your content and improve engagement is to add relevance by referring to the events and circumstances of the day.

For example, ‘Maintaining cashflow this COVID-19 Christmas’ is current and timely. It is relevant because it refers to the issues of the day. Commentary about everyday problems and developments on the tax front should always be made in the context of the times in which we live.

In summary

It’s not easy to ‘stick your neck’ out and establish your expertise, authority and trustworthiness through thought leadership, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. 

Whether you get more business from referrals or other marketing and sales methods, thought leadership will benefit your practice because it says that you know what you’re about.