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One of the ways you can build your brand is to seek out public speaking engagements, such as lunchtime learning presentations.

Accounting | The Profession

Building a trustworthy brand as a CPA

Five ways accountants can build a standout solo business

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Personal branding may be the buzzword du jour—but there’s no need to get caught up in the hype. Branding for CPAs is not about launching a slick marketing campaign or posting big ads on the side of city buses. It’s about being true to yourself—and making sure the rest of the world sees your authentic self. Still, in this age where more CPAs are working solo, the need to stand out from the pack is greater than ever. Here are five solid strategies to help promote your services and attract clients.

1. Name your business

Unless you have a long history and credible track record, consider creating a company name that differentiates your own business. Plus, it’s fun to come up with a great name—one that says something about who you are and the services you provide.

2. Create a website

A website is a place to locate you and learn what services you provide, so keep it straightforward. It’s where you promote your unique skillset, your area of expertise and identify the customer segments you’re trained to serve, as well as your approach with clients (such as offering a free consultation). While you may want to include a monthly blog about a pertinent accounting matter, do not clutter the site with lengthy reads and irrelevant material.

3. Be smart on social media

The question always is: how present should one be? There are many platforms out there, but not all industries attract business through social media. While you may enjoy speaking about a timely tax issue on your YouTube channel or reposting an interesting article on Twitter, for instance, you may also find that you don’t have an audience—or that “likes” and followers do not convert into new clients.

There are also mixed opinions about whether to bleed your personal life into your professional one on social media. Anne McKinnon, brand strategist and co-owner of At Large Communications, advises engaging with your clients on a professional level only. While, Quan Ly, CPA and founder of McRally accounting boutique in Calgary, actively posts photos of his personal life, as well as networking events on Facebook and Instagram.

“My approach is to put myself out there as a person—and if you connect with me and the stuff that I like to do, then that’s where the connection happens,” says Ly. “Especially in the small business space, individuals are connecting with individuals—not necessarily the brand itself.”

4. Make connections

Networking is the principal strategy where you should invest your time and energy, says McKinnon, whose own tagline is "Get Out There". Attend networking opportunities such as conferences, industry events, professional social groups, etc. McKinnon recommends not attending these events with a group of colleagues with whom you’ll huddle together. Instead, go alone, and meet new people.

Be brave, talk to the people around you, think of great opening lines, discuss each other’s businesses and exchange cards. Go with a mission: hand out 10 business cards by the end of the event. “It’s the one-in-10 rule. Of the 10 cards you hand out, one is a potential client,” she says. It’s said that you have four seconds to make an impression, so nail down a well-polished spiel about your business and what you specialize in. Be sure to execute your follow-up strategy.

5. Talk the talk

Seek out public speaking engagements. Many corporations host lunchtime learning presentations, so choose an engaging topic to speak on. It’s another great way to meet people/prospective clients and promote your area of specialty.