You May Be Your Firm’s Biggest Differentiator

Who are your favorite vendors and business partners? Are they the ones with the best professional pedigrees and impressive lists of degrees and designations? Or are they the ones you look forward to seeing, whom you trust implicitly and just plain enjoy talking to, and for whom you have some personal context like family situation, interests, quirks and history? You no doubt value their skill and credentials, but I’ll bet what you appreciate most is the way it feels to interact with these individuals: on level ground, as friends as well as professional contacts.

If these contacts left their current firm, you’d probably follow them to their new situation, right? I certainly would, and most others would make that choice as well. This pattern of picking the personal relationship over straight business is human nature. We value the people we know more than we do the simplicity of sticking with a particular company. And that’s why it’s so incredibly important to share a bit of yourself in your professional world – through your marketing, your interactions and especially through your bio.

Not every firm takes the news that they need to get a bit personal in stride. We get a lot of skeptical looks and pushback when we present the idea of sharing some unique and personal details in partner and staff bios. They may feel it’s unprofessional or uninteresting, or be uncomfortable with the idea because they haven’t seen it from competitors. What usually helps them overcome any hurdles is learning that bio pages are the most-read on a professional services website. More readers are interested in learning about you than about the firm. Sharing what makes you different as an individual helps potential clients relate to the people who will serve them, and helps them feel comfortable in establishing that relationship.

Many accountants forget the levels of stress and insecurity that are often triggered in those who seek the services they provide. For all kinds of reasons, dealing with an accountant can create negative feelings. It may be based on fear of looking ignorant, embarrassment about financial mistakes and perceived or real financial illiteracy, a sense of inappropriate relative poverty or wealth or even simple discomfort with the necessary exposure that accounting services entail.

Whatever its source, there is a strong and discomfiting sense of vulnerability that accompanies choosing and using an accounting professional. Offering a little personal information in your bio works to counteract those feelings of vulnerability and lopsided exposure. It doesn’t take much, but those little personal insights you share in your bio are a deeply appreciated gift to potential clients. You’re helping to put them at ease and in some almost imperceptible but meaningful way, making the equation more equal by exposing yourself just a tad. This makes it easier for your clients to do the same.

Sharing a little of your personality also makes it easier for those seeking out a new financial services firm to distinguish one from another and find the one that offers the best fit. To the outside observer, most CPA firms look shockingly similar, from the buildings to the services to the rates. That’s not how it appears to someone on the inside, of course, but for those in need of your assistance, it can seem nearly impossible to know how to choose the right firm or individual within that firm. Even more savvy corporate clients can face challenges when choosing between multiple firms, particularly if they are working from a list of referrals. So how do you rise above the rest?

Maybe it’s through your soccer coaching, your knitting addiction or your lingering love of surfing and the Violent Femmes. Perhaps you volunteer with the same organization or, like the reader, dream of lush gardens despite a black thumb. It might be your taste for raspberries or your fear of spiders, but whatever it is, if you give a glimpse of yourself, somebody will appreciate what you’ve given and relate to it. And that ability to relate on the most human of levels is more likely than anything else to be the deciding factor in choosing your firm over all the others.

Showing a bit of personality sets you apart and communicates that little spark of humanity that makes all the difference when firms appear practically identical from the outside. When new clients are reading about your professional qualifications and why they should hire you, they should also find something they can relate to that will make them want to hire you.


About the Author

BBonnie Headshotonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of bbr marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, implementation and outsourced services to professional services firms across North America. You can learn more by visiting


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