As you will know, IR35 is hardly new in our world of accounting. But it will take on a new significance in April this year.
After a 12-month delay thanks to coronavirus, 6 April is the date when changes to the off-payroll working rules already in force for public sector organisations will be rolled out across the private sector.
You’ll already be advising contractors that their medium and large clients will become responsible for determining employment status from this point.
It is anticipated that many such businesses may take a cautious approach, unwilling to risk scrutiny by HMRC. This may have unfavourable tax consequences for your clients.
The fear you may be feeling is that it will have unfavourable consequences for you, too. Some say that with private sector contracting being driven back in-house, that accountancy practices could lose up to 20% of their client bases.
IR35: every problem is an opportunity in disguise
The good news is that by adjusting your content marketing strategy, there is plenty you can do about it right now.
While we experience disruption in these markets caused by the pandemic and longer-term trends, now’s an excellent time to look at both your buyer personas and content calendar.
- Are they still aligned to the markets as they stand and the direction of travel?
- If a percentage of your contractor clients fall away because of the tax law changes, who would their ideal replacements be for you?
- How can you attract these people and their companies to your services?
The power of buyer personas
You may have already gathered that at PracticeWeb we are strong advocates of buyer personas – concise profiles of your typical clients, personified. They are fictional representations, but grounded in fact and research.
In preparing them your thinking is channelled towards understanding that your broad client base is made up of individual people – people with differing motivations, requirements, focus, and problems.
But, at the same time, people who have common ground.
If you are new to buyer personas, we’ll just recap what they include. A good buyer persona will bestow some demographic traits like age, sex, profession and a job title where possible – they are after all meant to appear as a believable person.
It will then highlight drivers such as what goals they are trying to achieve, what frustrations they experience, and what factors will influence their decision making.
All the information is then concisely presented in an easy-to-read document used as a reference within your business.
By going through the buyer persona process and identifying what makes different types of client tick, it allows you to target your messaging more effectively. With this insight, you can hone your marketing so that it resonates deeply with these people, and marries up your value proposition to their individual needs.
You can prove to them that you understand their sector, their challenges and opportunities, and demonstrate how you can help. In a crowded market, this gives them a compelling reason to pick you before your competitors.
New buyer personas in the face of IR35 changes
With the world turned on its head by the pandemic, and the IR35 changes meaning you may need to plug a gap in your client base, reviewing your existing buyer personas and identifying one or two new ones is a sound place to start.
Who these are will depend on where your specialisms lie.
There are obvious types of potential clients that may be worth exploring.
First, for example, consider startups. With so many people made redundant in the wake of COVID-19, a proportion of them will seek new opportunities by launching their own limited companies.
Or, secondly, what about tech businesses busy trying to seize an advantage from the new appetite for digital commerce and online working?
Of course, you will want to ensure that whichever sectors you target are more than just passing fads and will bring lasting value to your client base.
Using buyer personas to thrive after IR35 private sector changes
So now you have developed new buyer personas – what next?
Well, if the buyer personas define who you are talking to and what messaging to use, you now need to spark relevant, meaningful conversations or engagement with these people. That is where content planning comes in.
What do your potential clients want to know? What do they want to talk about? How can you help?
There are a few ways you can find out, maybe using a combination of approaches. For example, an SEO approach would see search engine data interrogated to find out what people ask Google about the relevant topics.
Alternatively, you could look to what your client base is already asking you. For instance, here at PracticeWeb, we have a policy whereby if more than one client asks the same question, as well as answering it personally for them, we will devise a piece of content to address that question and answer to a wider audience on our website.
There will also be regular topics that need addressing. For example, seasonal subjects such as the Budget and the various tax deadlines.
A useful framework for bringing this planning together is a content calendar.
You may already have one, but just in case you are unfamiliar, this is a schedule of content topics that you will write about over the coming weeks or months – maybe looking as far as 12 months into the future.
Slot your content ideas for your new buyer personas into your schedule. And there you have your content marketing plan for countering a potential drop off in your client base following the IR35 rule changes in April 2021.
Professional support with content marketing
All of the above can be carried out in-house, and many firms will do so; but it is, of course, easier said than done.
We can help you identify new opportunities if IR35 bites, and plan and deliver your content strategy.