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How to develop your Story Book

Business Story Books tell a compelling, authentic and fluid story. Both content and form are important in delivering an informative and inspiring story that promotes brand awareness.

Content that you should cover in your Story Book:

1. Who you are.

The aim is to establish credibility. Talk about your people and how you work together to achieve great results for your clients. This section is more about your personalities than your credentials. Minimise the 'what' you do, technical jargon and how long you've been in practice. Be proud of the fact that you are CAs and speak from the 'why' - why you love doing what you do.
2. Your Purpose, Vision and Core Values.

Known as the employee engagement trifecta, these are crucial messages that should be evident in your story book. Simon Sinek said it best, 'People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.'
3. Why you are different.

CA firms operate in a world of perceived sameness. Every CA website promises that its partners will be proactive and that they 'add value'. Don't repeat these over used messages, be original and look beyond 'hygiene values' - honesty and integrity - that are a given. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don't have points of difference, then you better find them fast.
4. Your service plans.

Ensure this section gets across these key points:
  • You offer price certainty and transparency
  • Under a service plan your clients will get more contact and therefore more advice
  • Great business advice produces better businesses
Cleary define your service plans and make them easy to digest with effective and cohesive graphics. Make it clear that you customise these for each client; one size does not fit all. Don't overcomplicate your plans. Keep service lists short and sweet and eliminate fluff. Less is more.
Don't commit to pricing of special services in your Story Book, these should value priced.
5. Describe the services you provide.

Your services may be a mystery to clients. What does annual Strategic Planning mean? Summarise your services with a non-technical paragraph (focus on benefits not features). As an acid test, a first time business owner should understand what you've written, and be compelled to take action.
6. Your specialist services.

If you provide unique services, well above and beyond what businesses might expect from a CA firm, yell these from the rooftops.

If you have a deep understanding of certain industries, promote this. Stand out in the crowd and appeal to businesses who are frustrated that their accountant DOESN'T understand what they do.

If you offer regular educational events for clients and prospects make it clear that you are committed to the ongoing education of your clients.
7. Tell your technology story.

Your Story Book should convey that you get the cloud. Promote that you have a comprehensive knowledge of Xero and other web based accounting solutions. Advertise the importance of the growing add-on ecosystem to aid profitability and productivity in the SMB community.

Remember to appear agnostic. Mention suppliers other than Xero to avoid alienating potential clients who are currently wedded to another solution.

Consider longevity when specifically mentioning add-on suppliers. These can come and go and clients may not be familiar with what we consider to be household names. Instead of naming supplier brands, speak in terms of the solutions they offer, e.g. point of sale or CRM solutions.
8. Client testimonials or case studies.

A simple format that works:
  • A natural client photo and brief title highlighting 'the gist' of their experience (max. five words)
  • Their results summarised, highlighting the specific benefits of working with you (< 75 words)
  • A powerful opening sentence that draws the reader in (this may reflect their situation, problems and concerns) prior to engaging you
The above process brings the client situation to life. It helps the reader to identify with real-life business situations and challenges, and to see how you can help them too.

Include five or more different testimonials and ensure you have client approval before hitting print.
9. Location is no barrier (optional).

If you're attempting to gather clients nationwide, make it clear that location is no barrier. You could map your country and plot the locations you currently service. Explain how you overcome location as a barrier and mitigate any potential objections.
10. Call to action.

Give appropriate contact information and get future clients to commit to doing something. Discuss how easy and painless it is to change accountants. Consider the following calls to action:
    • Call us now and make a time for your free business review
    • Email us for more information today
    • Visit our website to register for our next education event
The content of your Story Book should be concise, easy to read and lack generic, repetitive fluff that people don't want to read. It needs to be full of exciting imagery and lead the reader from cover to cover. And remember, a picture paints a 1000 words. Less is usually more.

Using design to tell a better story.

Your Story Book design must reflect the firm's established brand rather than the designer's fashion statement of the day. If your brand is due for a refine-and-refresh then you may need to do some groundwork before designing your Story Book. When a firm's branding is strong, the message will be clearer. A murky, bland brand will simply dilute your message.

Engage the professionals.

It's highly unlikely you have the internal resources to develop the copy and design for your Story Book inhouse. Stick to what you know and engage the specialists; copywriters and designers who can bring your Story Book to life. This is money well spent!

Discuss imagery and photography to be used

Consider how you'll reflect your brand graphically throughout the Story Book. Have someone in the team research relevant precedents to draw ideas from. Pinterest is an excellent way to do this quickly. Presenting some examples of what you like should help streamline the design process.

Great imagery doesn't have to cost a bomb. Unsplash is an awesome free licensed stock photography site. However, limit photos of people who are not actually your people. With this in mind, for longevity, leave the full team profiles to your website.

Clarify your message before embarking on the Story Book process.

Prior to meeting with your copywriter, draft-scope your ideas on the 10 content points above. This information will be a great starting point. The story should be yours, not theirs, so don't fool yourself that you can skip this step.

Consider your firm's digital voice; the tone that you want your marketing to reflect. What potential clients do you wish to target? Are they young entrepreneurs or professional corporate types? Discuss tone with your writer and remember it's likely their first draft will need refining. You must commit to the writing process to ensure the best outcome.

Triple-check spelling and grammar.

A single spelling mistake can ruin your message. Get multiple people to read and proofread your Story Book prior to signing off the final version. Your reviewers must read it at least twice. Once for the content (how it grasps the reader) and then a second time purely for spelling and grammar.

Get quotes from several printers.

Consider the optimum book size for your story. The inside pages should be multiples of four (the front and back of a book leaf). Larger print runs are always more cost-effective but consider how many you're likely to go through before ordering a stack. They will date.

Always get a proof before signing off the final version!

Ask your printing agent for a proof of the final product. Different printers behave differently. This ensures that the colours, the sizing and the overall feel of the product is exactly what you want.

Review your Story Book (and add fresh testimonials) every six months, as well as prior to re-printing. Maintaining your Story Book should be referenced in your Marketing Plan. Like your story, your Story Book will evolve with time.

Your Story Book is an extremely flexible piece of marketing collateral.

You can easily create a digital version for prospects to peruse on your website and social platforms.

Check out our Story Book below...
By Natalie Eady.