Marketing for Accountants with Karen Reyburn
On Episode 141 of The Unique CPA, join Randy Crabtree as he takes a dive into the dynamic world of accounting marketing with the insightful Karen Reyburn of The Profitable Firm. As a CPA turned marketing guru, Karen shares her expertise on effective client education, the power of niche marketing, and how accountants can leverage AI to transform their practices. Explore the importance of understanding your audience, the benefits of choosing a specific focus, and how to ensure your firm stands out in a crowded market. Whether you’re looking to refine your marketing strategy or you’re curious about the future impact of tech, this episode is full of actionable advice and forward-thinking ideas.
Today, our guest is Karen Reyburn. Karen is owner of The Profitable Firm. We’ll probably call it “PF” going forward. Her website is WeArePF.com. PF is actually a marketing agency for accountants—that’s what intrigued me when I first met Karen, is that discussion we had. She actually recently released a book or published a book called The Accountant Marketer—aptly named, obviously. I had the pleasure of meeting Karen at a conference this past year out in South Carolina. And so, Karen, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Thanks for having me! Great to be here.
And I did not mention that you are also a CPA who happens to be, what, living the last 20 plus years in Scotland?
That’s exactly right. So I grew up in Arizona, got my accounting degree and my CPA in the States, and then came over to the UK for… a couple years was the original plan. And then I stayed, and I kept staying, and I kept staying, and finally, one day I went, hey, I think this is home now. So I’m now a dual British-American citizen, so you know, on my way towards Jason Bourne level in passports.
Nice. Only two, you’re not gonna go with the multiple names and all that?
Yeah, I know, this is what I need to keep working on that. I mean, next steps.
I didn’t mention this when we were talking in pre-show conversation, but our producer is actually in Scotland.
Ah ha! Yeah.
He was in Edinburgh, but he recently moved, like, an hour outside, I think, of Edinburgh, but, I keep, uh…
Oh, beautiful, beautiful country, no matter what you pick. I always say completely unobjectively, which is not true, most beautiful country in the world. That’s my personal opinion. A lot of Americans, especially, I talk to, a lot of accountants I talk to in the States are always like, oh, I just went to Scotland or I’ve been wanting to go there. So If anyone is thinking of it, I could not recommend it more highly. A lot of beautiful places to go.
Well, it’s definitely on my list. And, with Justin there, I know I have a guide that can, at least, give me pointers, and probably hang out together. So I’m looking forward to that. I’ll probably have to get that on the plan.
So you just started giving a little background on yourself. It is an interesting, unique—ooh, unique, tying into The Unique CPA—a unique journey that you’ve had, but why don’t you dig a little deeper, you know? I guess you gave us the whole plan, but you didn’t go to Scotland to be a marketer, you went there to work in accounting still, right? So why don’t you give us a little bit of your journey?
Yeah. Interestingly, it was, I got my degree in accounting I started to get my CPA. I worked as an auditor, and I was good at it, it challenged me, I enjoyed it—to a point. But then I also had hit the point where I was a little wanted some room to stretch, I think, with that and didn’t know in what direction. So when I originally went to Scotland, it didn’t actually have to do with “I want to get a particular job or work”—I just wanted to go to Scotland and I did one of those things where you go for a little while and then you come back and you miss it and you think about it and talk about it all the time, so you end up going back for a little while longer. And then you stay, and you stay, and you stay. And I was fortunate enough to get a job in an accountancy firm Scotland because I had the background as a qualified accountant with the auditing experience.
But I worked for that firm as an auditor for six months and then they very quickly were like, hey, I see lots of skills here for our business development and growth and marketing. Do you want that? And I was like, yes, please! And I didn’t even know entirely what business development meant—that’s, you know, this is 22 years ago. And I’m like, young and keen and energetic and, sure sounds great!
And it turned out that the business development and consulting and marketing was the bit I liked better. So what happened is over a period of time, I stayed with that accountancy firm, then I moved to a network of accountants who consult accountants on marketing and other areas, and I worked with them for five years. And then I saw the space there for accountants who needed to get marketing done, like executed—you know, the content written, the website designed, the blog posts written, the social media posts, the videos edited and published. And what was happening at that time, this was twelve years ago when I set up PF, is that there were so many people advising accountants what to do and saying, you need to do this, and you need to have a website and a good brand and be on social, and all this. And the accountant is going, okay. I hear you. I believe you. Now what?
And then they would have to go out and find a branding agency, and find a website agency, and find a content writer and repeat the same story to all those different suppliers. So I created PF to be the creative agency for accountants. I wanted to niche with accountants, I wanted to focus exclusively on them so we could serve them better, help them faster, and also be more profitable ourselves—and also because those are the people I knew. That was the audience I knew, that was what I understood.
And then we combined the executing with the strategy and the branding and the big projects and the, you know, finding that balance of the initial foundational work with the continued monthly marketing work. So we’ve become the outsourced marketing agency for accountants—you know, they outsource either a little, or some, or a lot, or all of their marketing to us depending on what they need: size of their firm, position of their firm goals, etc. And it’s very collaborative. You know, we were talking about how important collaboration is. We consider that one of the highest priorities in marketing when you’re getting help, because you cannot abdicate—well, you can, but it’s a bad idea—to abdicate your marketing.
You know, people call it delegation, but what they mean is, here, do this stuff and I’ll go run the business, and that doesn’t work because the marketing has to match the business and match the team and match the client. So that’s where it all flowed into, and now we’re in a place where, as you said, I’ve written the book. You know, I’ve got the Accountant Marketer book that summarizes what we’ve been teaching and training accountants in. We’ve got coaching groups. We’ve got foundational work, brand, and website projects, and then we do monthly work with accountants as well.
Alright. So this obviously sounds almost like and I’ve already used the term “unique” before, but now from a unique standpoint, this one stop shop. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it, but I’m gonna say one stop shop, for all things marketing. But I love the collaboration part of things that you talked about, you know, that they have to be actively involved, because I think collaboration is just so important, just in our profession in general, but in everything we do. So from that standpoint, where you get to coaching with them and how are they collaborating, how does that work? And what’s the next step, I guess, from there?
Yeah. A great question. What was interesting is when we began PF, it was just to help accountants do stuff. So we started in, like, let’s send emails for you, let’s create a website page, let’s help you run a webinar. And what happened was every time without fail, we’d go in with these noble ideas of running an email campaign, discovered they didn’t have a CRM system. They didn’t even have all of their emails of their clients, much less their prospects on a list somewhere. So there were so many foundational aspects that weren’t there—just basic marketing things. And I equate it to an accountant working with a new company, a new business, who doesn’t have the bookkeeping in place before they need the management accounts and the P&L and the strategic discussions.
So what happened at PF was that we backed up a bit. We began backing up and saying, actually, let’s look at your brand and look at your website first, because when we get both of those right—brand meaning far more than just your name and logo, but who you are, who you serve, what is the issue that they face, what your values are, and what your unique approach is—and then the website, again, more than a pretty few templated blocks or nice looking pages, but what are the core messages you need to get across to that audience? What are they struggling with? What’s your call to action? What are you revealing about yourself on your website?
So we did brand the website for a while, and then over time, we discovered we were also missing the, okay, we need to make sure we’re super clear on the goals that you have, personally and for your firm. Because we’re gonna help you with marketing, we’ve gotta hark back to those goals, and say, if your goal is to retire in five years, that changes the kind of actions you’re gonna take. If your goal is to double the amount of clients or half the amount of clients in the next year, that changes the approach and the types of marketing actions.
So then we added that in. So now we have four foundational areas that we go through with every accountant we work with, which is their goals, their brand, their website and messaging, and their plan, so the actions that they have. And then what we discovered after doing those was that the more educated accountants were about how marketing works, the better those sessions went, the faster we were able to implement and create campaigns and get results from those campaigns. And we looked at that pattern and said, well, if the accountants who are most excited and enthusiastic—or at least willing, let’s just say at least willing—we got the excitement later. And often that happens. You know, accountants would say, listen, I’m not very excited about this, but I know I need to do it. And our goal, my particular goal as an educator and a trainer and a coach, was to say, I want you to understand that this can actually be enjoyable, and you’ve got some messages in your head that are telling you, “I’m an accountant. I’m not a designer. I’m not a creative person. So I’m not able to do this, or this isn’t my job.” And we were helping them—still are—helping accountants to understand that in order to do great marketing, when you understand that all you’re doing is taking all that stuff that you do so well—talking with clients, having a great team, having a good strategy caring about the firm you have, having values that are important to you personally and to the whole team—all marketing is doing, and I know that makes it sound so simple, but it is taking all of that that’s in your head and in your actions and in your meetings and in the way people talk about you, and putting it tangibly, intangibly, words, visuals, etc., so that the prospect who doesn’t know any of that yet, sees it, reads it, engages with it, and goes, “Think these might be my people.”
And that’s what we’re educating them about so that when you come to marketing, you don’t see it as, “Oh, I have a bunch of stuff I need to do. You know, do I need to do blogs?” And we’re like, most likely, yes, but let’s talk about your audience and what they need. Are they more apt to read a blog post, or are they more likely to watch a video? Would they watch an hour long YouTube video, or is a 30 second TikTok gonna be better for that audience? So it’s dividing the what are the marketing actions I need to do, from why are we doing this in the first place, and then bringing them back together. And that’s where the collaboration comes in, and that’s where the coaching comes in. So I identified—this must have been about eight years ago—I just realized we were repeating the same sort of concepts about marketing to accountants, So I made a list of them, and there happened to be twelve. And I, you know, my philosophy on lists is make the list until it stops. and that’s your number. So instead of trying to come up with 10 or 20 or 101, just list them out. And it came up with twelve.
And those twelve really haven’t changed over the past eight years to say when you understand these twelve things in order—the first one being your audience. Always start with audience—when you understand these twelve things in order, all your future marketing is better, faster, more efficient, and more enjoyable.
So I started a coaching group based on those twelve elements called The Accelerator, been running that for eight years. We’ve had 500, 600 accountants go through that, and that is where I wrote the book from because I’ve been teaching that, coaching that, learning from accountants, them learning from us, and the book now just has the twelve chapters and the twelve elements So our coaching now is you can be coached by me by reading the book or listening to the audiobook. You can be coached by me by adding coaching sessions. You can join the coaching group. You can have one of the team coach you through it one-to-one, but those principles are applied—I won’t say they’re the same, because it’s not the same for every accountant—but they apply to every accountant. And it’s your choice whether you apply it yourself, which is no problem, or get a little bit of help or get a lot of help. But you need to apply those twelve.
Yep. Yep. That’s interesting. I wanna go back a second too. So something—a couple things—you said early on. And one is you go in when you meet with them and find out what their goals are. When you’re coaching, are you having to even help them figure out their goals? Because I think sometimes, accountants don’t really understand what their goals are or who they should be working with or what is their favorite client and who they should be identifying. Is that early on in the process just helping them through that?
Yeah. It’s a great question. I would say that those foundational sessions, the goal brand website plan, they go one of two tracks. One track is the discovery track. So that’s where the accountant says, listen, I’m not actually quite sure what my goals are. Now I think you and I probably know, and even those accountants listening probably know, you know more about your goals than you think, but it’s our job or whoever’s helping you to draw that out from you. So we have people saying, oh, I don’t do any marketing, or I have no idea who my audience is, and then we start talking to them and realize, yes, they are doing some marketing, and they have some idea, but it’s not very clear. So that’s a discovery route.
The other route is more the development root. They are crystal clear on their goals. They’ve done work. They’ve documented things. They have strategy discussions. They’ve hired consultants. A lot of times we get accountants who come to us and say, listen, with all due respect for your process, I have done this stuff, can we just get to the executing tomorrow? And we’ve, again, learned the hard way that that doesn’t work because if you’re clear in your mind or you think you are—that’s another important point—but we’re not, then how can we help you? So the foundational sessions are always a benefit to both. That’s why they’re there. They will either help the accountant discover those things, or they will help them dig deeper and develop them further.
And we’ve always had accountants, even the ones who are truly crystal clear about those things—and then the questions we’re asking them, they’re going, that’s a really good question because I set those things two years ago, and my firm is different now, so do I need to just check those values, and make sure the words and phrases we’re using are reflecting who we are now, not who we were yesterday? And that’s the type of firm that we work with is the firm owner, especially, but the firm values are are somebody who is always open, always like, hey, I can always learn more, I can always see things from a different perspective, and recognizing that marketing is not locked in stone because your business isn’t locked in stone. Your accounting business is gonna keep changing.
And then the other thing I wanted to go back to what you just mentioned, and you mentioned it when you started your firm and you called it, well, you called a “neesh” firm. I called a “nitch” firm. This is an argument I always have with people.
This is how I have taken the British language in some way. I was telling someone, the rule is you don’t get a Scottish accent unless you’re born here. I was like, I don’t make the rules. That’s just how it goes. So people who are like, oh, you don’t sound Scottish. I’m like, wasn’t born here. But there’s a lot of words, and that’s just one of them. But, yes, whether you call—
You know, only the very specific audience that you have is what we mean.
Right. Yeah. I heard it in “process” and one other word too, where I’ve gone, okay, there’s a little accent there, because you don’t have much at all. But so when we talk “nitch” or “neesh,” but “nitch” for me, I’m a huge fan of accountants having a niche expertise. And they can have multiple depending on the size of the firm. I assume when it comes to marketing, that is an important aspect? Do you talk about niche with them?
Yeah. It’s another great question because, I do 100% believe in a niche in the sense of a specific audience—what’s really important and I want to stress, is that it doesn’t have to be an industry.
And that’s a hang up that accountants can get is saying, well, if I have a niche, than it has to be, I work with creatives, I work with construction, I work with dentists. Now that is the easiest and most efficient niche to choose. You know, if you’re gonna—we’ve experienced it ourselves.
Because we only exclusively work with accountants, if an HR consultant says, can you work with us, we’re like, listen, you seem like a great company, great person. That’s not our area. Why don’t you go talk to this agency who work with HR consultants?
But when an accountant is considering working with us and they’re like, oh, wow. You get it. You know the language. You have the history, but you’re still working uniquely with each firm, then that helps and makes it more efficient. Same thing is true for accountants. So if you’re able to do that, great. But if you’re not, don’t let that prevent you from having a very, very specific audience, which might be a personality type, you know? We work with type A, ambitious, owns multiple companies, for example. And you drill down into that and say the qualities and characteristics and fears and worries and motivations of these people are “this,” so then all of your marketing and your messages and your content is for people who will come to your website and go, “Oh, that is me.”
And one of the things I like to ask accountants is if someone goes to your website, and it says, we work with small business owners who want to grow or have personal goals that they want to achieve, who in the world is gonna be like, “Ahh! I feel so seen. You know, this is so amazing. Like, they work with small business owners.” Nobody’s gonna do that. It’s still gonna feel generic. So it’s your job as an accountant to identify what the patterns are with the clients you love. And this is another element that accountants need to face with their clients is you might feel an obligation to work with whatever prospect comes to you. But that obligation doesn’t exist. It’s made up in your head.
All accountants think that it is, yeah. I’m sorry—I cut you off.
No, but a lot of small business owners do that too. I did it in the early days. If an accountant came to me, I’m thinking, well, I’m obliged to help them.
But you’re not obliged to help them, because you need to work with the people you’re best placed to serve, and who you like—and I would even go so far as love.
You know, the kind of clients that you’re like, when their name comes up on your phone, you go “ah!” as opposed to that heart sinking like, “Oh, this one again.” And if you have any clients, and I guarantee, you know, those of you who are listening, you know who that client is. And if you still have one when the text or the email or the phone call comes, and your heart sinks, that’s a little warning sign to you that not only that person, but anyone like them, or businesses like them, are not a fit for you, and it’s your job to figure out why. What are those patterns? So then you go both ways and say, well, these are the clients we love. These are the clients we really don’t love. And these are the ones in the middle. And then it’s your job to figure out how far on the scale you’re gonna go. Does that make sense?
Oh, completely. I do a lot of presentations on mental health awareness, especially in our profession. And that’s—what you just said is one of the things that I bring up. I mean, if your heart drops when that phone rings, then that is somebody that you need to figure out if there’s a better opportunity for them or better option for them to work with someone else.
Yes! It’s the same thing with team members, you know? Just because somebody applies to work with you, if there’s anything that is giving you red flags or even if there’s a bunch of what I call pink flags, which are not quite red, but they could be—but if there’s a bunch of those in the interview process, it’s not gonna get better.
So release them to go work where their best place to work is, so that you don’t suffer the emotional cost, the financial cost, and you and I and everyone listening knows the emotional and financial and energy cost and team cost of taking on a client or a team member but taking on a client who’s not a fit, who doesn’t match your values, who treats you and the team poorly, or is a nice person… but.
And that’s another one I always encourage accountants is to listen to your own wording. If you’re talking to someone, and saying, listen, this client, they’re such a nice person, but… whatever comes after the but negates what went before.
So that’s nice that they’re nice, but you’re not in a charity, presumably, presuming all the accountants listening wanna have a profitable business. And again, it’s just saying it doesn’t mean they’re not a nice person. It doesn’t mean that they’re a horrible person who doesn’t deserve to get help. It just means you may not be the one that’s for them.
Yeah. And I think that’s so important. I think that’s, honestly, especially if we’ve just started a firm, our mindset is, take on everybody, help everybody. And honestly, we think we’re obligated, we really do, to help everybody. We gotta get rid of that mindset So if you’re starting your firm, sure. Take on who you need to to have revenue.
Yes. Great point.
But as you grow, as you find the passion, the client that you’re passionate about, just start to veer that way. Start to, you know, start to talk to Karen, and start to build the marketing around that client.
Yeah. And I love what you said there about starting to fear that way. A lot of accountants are thinking, okay, fine, I hear you, I’ve gotta go all in, I’ve gotta pick this niche, whether it’s an industry or focus, and I’m not allowed to take anyone else. And we’re not saying that. We’re saying, you know, one of my phrases is start small, start safe.
Yep. I love it
Start with something. This is gonna be a marginal improvement or the minimum viable marketing that you can do, that will make that a little bit better, then make it a little better and a little better and a little better until one day, you suddenly realize, hey, I’ve got a really clear idea of who we work with. It’s on our website. It’s in our marketing. When I have a sales call with a prospect, I am able to say, do you know what? From what you’ve shared, I really don’t think we’re the best fit, and I honestly wish you well. And I’ve experienced that myself in PF sales. We had somebody come to us recently who has so many good things going for them—there were things that we could potentially help them with—but for a variety of reasons, we both at the end of the call said, I’m not sure that this is right, right now.
And my priority for them was—and I told them this—I said, we’ve had some experiences like you’re sharing and our experience is that if you started with us right now, my concern would be in three months, you’d be very frustrated and feel like you’re not getting where you need to be, and this is why. And if you’re ready and willing to go slowly and take your time, we can help you. But if you want to jump in fast tomorrow, just get somebody to do some executing stuff if that’s what you want because what PF is best at is the the slow and steady wins the race. Quality over quantity. Start with the good stuff. Get the foundations in place.
You know, accountants look at the Google Maps of marketing and go, but I could take this road. It’s a shortcut. It’ll only take me 30 minutes, and we go, I know that Google Maps says that, but we’ve driven that road, and, actually, there’s a bridge on it that always gets stuck and always gets flooded and it’s supposed to rain this weekend. So if you wanna do that, it’s gonna take you two a half hours, your car might break down, and then you’re gonna have to come all the way back around and start again.
So If you want to do that, feel free, but if you want to do it right, take the long road—and it’s better and easier, and as you said, less mental and emotional strain along the way. So that’s an approach that we take.
So a couple things I wanna touch on probably the future of marketing and where we are now and what’s gonna change. But before even that, and we’ve been talking about marketing, and I think everybody understands what marketing is, but I think there’s some people that are like, okay. What do you mean? What am I gonna market? How am I gonna market? You’ve mentioned a couple things, you know, webinars, I’m guessing being a guest on a podcast, different things. So what are, like, the key things that you now suggest people do, and I’m guessing it’s different to each client, but from a marketing standpoint, what are some of the key things?
Yeah. I mean, broadly, I always have and I still do recommend what’s called organic content marketing.
So that just means you are creating content in a variety of formats—could be a blog post, could be a blog post with a video, could be a video series, could be social media posts, could be a whole range of formats or media. But the content is based on what your clients and prospects most want to know. And this is another challenge area for accountants who haven’t addressed their marketing before, is they might be thinking, well, we just need to tell people that we’re accountants, and here’s our services, and we work with these kind of industries or whatever and that’s that.
And we’re saying we’re in a place now where the buyer of accountancy firm services generally knows what an accountant does. I realize there’s a lot of things they don’t know, but they’re coming to an accountant for a reason. It’s like saying my pipe is busted, I know I need a plumber. I have a general idea of what plumbers do. But if I talk to this plumber and this plumber, and both of them say, hey, we’re plumbers, we help people with pipes, that doesn’t tell you much. But if this plumber says, well, actually, we work only with new house builds because often we find that this issue happens with your pipes, then that makes you go, oh, I’m a new house build, so I’ll go to that one. So the more clear that you can be in your marketing, the better it is for the audience who’s coming.
So the answer does vary, you know, depending on the firm and on their audience. As we said, you know, some people would love to read long blog posts. If you’re working with the construction industry or, in the UK, like, tradespeople, you know, you’ve got, like, a plumber or a joiner or an electrician, I would guess most of them would prefer to watch videos. That’s our experience that that would be something they can watch quickly on their phone while they’re in the truck waiting for the next appointment. So you’re not choosing your marketing content saying oh, I listened to Karen and Karen said I have to write blog posts, but what is it that my audience will read or consume or watch, what are they going to lean towards, and then how can I take the content that they most need to know about? They don’t need a list of the fact that you do payroll and bookkeeping and management accounts—they don’t need that. What they need is for you to say, our approach when we work with you is this way.
And I often say it’s like when you’re looking for different suppliers, and I’ve had this happen to me before, I’ll say, oh, we need help in this particular area, and you talk to five or six people, and every single call, they are saying to you, this is how we approach it. This is who you’ll be working with on the team. This is how our pricing is structured and why, and here’s the benefit for you. The more you can put of that in your marketing, and on your website, and in your content, the better the sales call will be because then you don’t have to spend a half an hour repeating all the things that you’ve repeated in every other sales call, ad infinitum to eternity. They don’t have to spend a half an hour listening to you talk because they’ve already done it, hopefully, in advance of the call. They’ve watched your videos. They’ve read the stuff on your website, they’ve absorbed that content. And then the sales call is, does this fit? What issues do you have and how does this fit? What services do you need? How much do they cost? And when do we start?
So it’s not an easy answer, and I know a lot of accountants want to be given that. But I would say the key is to pick a form of content that appeals to your audience and do that consistently. So if all you do is write a blog post every week for two years, that’s better in my opinion than firing off randomly or, you know, shiny things. Like, oh, squirrel, let’s go off and do Facebook ads for a month, and let’s go off and use this new social. And you know what? We’re gonna be the TikTok people. No we’re not. What your audience wants is to build trust and see you consistent. So if you’re consistently writing blog posts or consistently posting on LinkedIn—if that’s where they are. Accountants love LinkedIn because that’s what they love—but always ask, is my audience there? Are they on a different social platform or no social platform? And then choosing that from there. And I will say, of the twelve elements I talked about, in the book and in the coaching group, the latter half, the latter six, are things like your website, email, blogging, video, social media—those would be the core ones that I think is good to pay attention to. But if you’re doing none of them, pick the one that you’re most likely to be consistent with and that is most likely to be appealing to your audience.
Yep. So I think that’s great advice. You know, it’s not one size fits all. It’s what’s best for your potential client base and all that. And then we know, we’ve seen what going on just in general, social media has been a big part of marketing in general, and I see a ton of firms getting a ton of inbound leads just through the correct social media for them. For us right now, YouTube has become one of our biggest lead generators, and it just seems like people are going to YouTube to get information. What about one of the key things, and it’s affecting every part of, you know, it seems like the world right now, but, like, ChatGPT or AI in general. Is this going to be affecting marketing? Do we see future trends in that?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, This is one of those pivotal things when you look at the the the charts, you know, of what happened with, Twitter, TikTok, and chat GPT, and you look at the time it took each of those to reach a a hundred million users, you know, you’re talking like nine months and then three months and ChatGPT was, like, five days.
That’s my rough understanding, but it is, like, lightning fast. And whenever something happens like that, where something takes off so fast that the world, including those who are creating ChatGPT, or updating it, are behind, because the world is grasping at it so fast, that to me is an indicator that this is just the way. It’s like a river. Like, you are not gonna stop it. So if anyone is listening, thinking, oh, this is a fad, this will drift away, I would argue that by saying, did you say that about online accounting software? Did you say that about, you know, some of these things that just took off, and the people who picked it up straight away and at least were willing to do something with it, benefited from that. And, you know, the river is gonna bring you along the way eventually, whether you ride it in your boat or whether you’re, you know, swirling around in a whirlpool and struggling with it.
That being said, we are also still in the very early stages where we’re scrambling and it’s changing and we’re figuring out how it applies. You know, almost like, okay, we still have horses on the road, we still have horseless carriages and now we have cars and we have this Model T. Like, what’s happening? How do we fit all this together? The people who, you know, took care of the horses are still in business, but we know that that’s probably going away—what does that look like? And this is just a time of great opportunity. And one of the many positives I see about AI and ChatCPT and marketing, is it’s an opportunity to play with something in the early stages. And that can be hard for accountants, because you can be wanting me to tell you what to do with it or how to use it, or is it good or bad? And you know, it’s morally neutral. It’s a thing, like the internet—that’s another one that changed the whole face of the world. But it’s a thing. And how you use it is you try it for different things, like we’ve had accountants who said, oh, I’m gonna use ChatGPT to come up with blog post titles. That can be really helpful, but you still gotta tell ChatGPT something. What are you gonna say? What kind of prompts are you gonna give? There’s loads of consultants out there better than me in terms of understanding where AI is at, helping you understand how to prompt ChatGPT better. But this is that combo. It’s still just a tool—a very powerful tool. The internet’s a powerful tool, a car’s a powerful tool, AI is a powerful tool, and it’s how you use it. And it still does not negate knowing who you are, who you serve, what your values are, what the issues your clients have, and how you solve them. That is still your job to figure out.
And if you use AI to create a you know, nice photograph of yourself to go on the website, great. If you use ChatGPT to help you write your blog post when you hate writing, great. But if ChatGPT gives you a blog post and you go, oh, it must be good, that’s where you’ve gotta check it because all ChatGPT is doing, at least to my understanding, is gathering—gathering, gathering, gathering from the wealth of information. There’s still that unique element in your mind, the unique approach, the unique voice that you have, and just a few little tweaks can make sure that your audience reads that, or watches your video or whatever it be, and actually connects with it. And, you know, you’ve seen, I’m sure Randy, I’m seeing it everywhere, where people are going, well, I chatted with somebody on a website and it was really annoying because clearly I was talking to a robot.
And I wanna talk to a person. And this is where if AI gets so good they can’t tell, great. You know, and that’s the case in some places. But if people can tell, they’re gonna get frustrated because they don’t want a robot, especially with accounting services. They want a human who understands them and their needs and their business. So I say, you know, use it. Play with it. Try it. Look at it like a creative exercise. Be like a child: Ooh, what does this button do? And listen to what other people are trying with it to help them be more efficient in the good marketing that you’ve strategized to do.
Yep. I think that that’s great advice. I’ve used ChatGPT quite a bit just for,I do all kinds of presentations. I’m out speaking. It’s just like, to get concepts in place, like, you know, creating a great culture is something that I’m very passionate about, but I can’t—I have a hard time defining what that is, what is a great corporate culture, and how do you define it. And so I went back and forth with ChatGPT, and like you said, I gave it lots of inputs and lots of, you know, basically who I am, what I think, and then what other people think. And so it came up with this one, basically, one line sentence that it’s not defining it, but it allows me to build off of it when I’m discussing stuff. So it says—
—Something to build off of.
Exactly. So it came up with this one line that is, poor cultures are based on rules, strong cultures are based on relationships—which is my mindset, the way I look at things. So it took what is in my head and actually made it to a point where I can think, oh, yeah. I can start there now, and now I can build off of that when I’m out talking. So, yeah, it can be great for things like that.
Well, and and that’s a perfect example because it’s giving you that sentence. You could slim that down even further and say “Relationships, not rules.”
And have that designed up in a graphic and put it on a social post and record a whole video or ask ChatGPT to help you with the structure for a video. What do I talk about with rules? What do I talk about with relationships? So it is—it’s a matter of using it. And another example, two examples, of AI that I’m really appreciating are Fathom AI, which is a note taker, connects with Zoom and I think other accounts, but definitely Zoom, and it gives you a summary of the call that is generated in seconds after the call ends that says, here’s the points we covered, here’s the questions that were asked, here’s the actions that we agreed. Oh, and best of all it links to the recording. So if you say, oh, here’s the homework we agreed, and if you click here, it’ll go to 38 minutes 57 seconds where we talked about that. And the first time I used it, I went, oh, my word, I’ve just gone from 15 minutes follow-up tasks to 30 seconds follow-up task for me. That is worth it for me. And it was free initially, and now they’re charging.
Now they’re charging, yeah.
The other one is Munch which is for video. So you upload a video, and Munch tells you which clips to clip out that are most likely for your audience to want to listen to. And there was someone I was talking to who said, oh, I’m gonna try this, and I don’t think it’s really gonna work that well, but I’ll give it a go. And she uploaded her video, and Munch said “use this one minute clip for TikTok or Insta.” She’s like, that clip? Really? That one? And she goes, you know what? I’m just gonna try it, but this will not work. This is gonna bomb. And she put it up on Instagram, I think, and got—think she said 500 times more views than any other video she’d ever put up. And it was her own content—that’s the important thing. Munch wasn’t creating the video.
Munch was just saying, listen, I kind of know the globe. This is what people wanna hear. So that’s where I think AI can help take the best of who you are and what you want to share and get it out to the people that you want to get it out to.
Yep. Alright. Well, I think that’s probably a good way, the future, to wrap up this conversation. But before we do, do you wanna put a final bow on top of that conversation before I ask a couple questions? Otherwise, I’ll jump into it.
No. I think we’re good. Well, I would only add that I don’t love the phrase “future-proof,” which I know gets thrown around in the industry because of what we’ve learned with COVID, what we’ve learned with where the economy’s at right now with AI.
So I’d say just be aware, this isn’t about protecting yourself from the future, this is about leaning into the future and saying there’s so much available to me, let me just take what I can from this, and use it well so that I get to work with clients I love.
Yep. Alright. Perfect. Well, a couple final questions. One, you know, we’ve been talking marketing and amazing information, and I appreciate that, but I’m a big fan of you are not your job title, you have passions outside the work, and I like to hear everybody’s passions outside the work. So when you’re not helping accountants with marketing, what is it that you love doing?
Yeah. Great question. I love writing. I’m a big writer, and that does still connect because my first book is for accountants and marketing, my second book which I’ve written and I’m working through the editing process right now is about how accountants are creative. I’ve got a couple other books in the pipeline about rest and how important that is for creativity, about keeping going, you know, perseverance and the right way is the long way. So writing is something that comes very naturally.
Travel’s a big one. And especially, I’d say in the last couple years, really focusing my travel on Scotland, because it’s a small country, but it has so much. You know, I’ve lived here 22 years, and I’ve still got more islands to visit and mostly the Scottish Highlands and Islands—I’m really passionate about those. And walking, big fan of walking and hill walking, which again, you know, combining with getting out into the outdoors.
Didn’t I see somewhere coffee and whisky or something like that too?
Yeah. So I have five personal pillars. One of them is coffee, one is whiskey, and one is walking, and magic—in the sense that, you know, I love anything that helps you realize that there’s often more than what we see. There’s deeper things than what we see. Even the magic of a sunset. Or of connecting with somebody you’ve never met before, or amazing food or something like that. So those kinds of things that I do feel strongly about.
Yep. Nice. And then if anybody wants to find out more about you, your book, PF, where would they look?
Yeah. So me personally, you can look me up on LinkedIn. My website’s KarenLReyburn.com. If you go there, you can order the book. We’ve got all the links for the paperback, the ebook, and the audiobook. So those are all out.
And for PF, go to WeArePF.com, and there’s a button there that you can fill in a form and have a chat with us. And our approach is, listen, if we have a chat and we’re not the one for you, or you’re not the one for us, you know, we’ll be honest about that. And I always wanna make that clear, because a lot of accountants we talked to have had bad experiences with marketing agencies or have worries and fears like, oh, no, they’re gonna sell me something I don’t want, and we’ll regret later. And our philosophy is we will have as many calls with you as you need or want, whether it’s two or six or whatever, to answer every question you have so that if you decide to work with us, when you do sign the quote, you feel confident, excited, motivated, and sure that this is a direction you wanna go.
Nice. That sounds awesome. Well well, Karen, I appreciate you being here today and being a guest on The Unique CPA.
It’s a pleasure. Thanks, Randy.
About the Guest
Karen L. Reyburn is the founder of The Profitable Firm, which assists accounting firms in finding their best clients through varied marketing initiatives. Karen’s goal in PF’s founding was to help accountants learn and enjoy marketing, and to see and believe in their own creative abilities. PF’s focus is on collaboration, with team members and firm clients all around the world.
Karen completed her bachelor’s in Accountancy at Northern Arizona University in 1997 and earned her CPA license in the U.S. as well, but she has lived in Scotland for the past 20 years, and now holds dual citizenship. She formerly served as an Audit Senior, a Business Development Director, and a Client Services Director before founding The Profitable Firm.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.