What are your clients really worried about? – A first glance at our new SME report

by | Feb 5, 2020 | Research, Strategy

You know your clients based on the conversations you’ve had with them and the work you’ve done for them over the years. You’re familiar with their business goals, and maybe their lifestyle goals, too.

But what you don’t know is what’s on their mind the rest of the time – the things they talk about with other business owners, and their honest opinions on what’s going on in their business and the wider world.

To help bridge the gap between small businesses and accounting firms in the UK, we looked at data from our sister site, UK Business Forums (UKBF). This is a public forum for people running businesses in the UK, where they can post questions, share advice, and start discussions about whatever interests or bothers them.

That makes it a really useful resource to find out more about the UK business community. There’s a huge pool of information to draw from, with more than 260,000 registered users and hundreds of new threads posted every month.

The website also receives some 80% of its traffic through organic search, meaning hundreds of thousands of visitors are directed to the site through queries they’ve made online.

Putting that information together, we drew out some key insights for accountants to bear in mind when they’re thinking about winning new clients, and engaging existing ones.

Here’s a sneak preview of what we covered – but you can find out more in our soon-to-be-published small business insight report.

It’s the little things that matter

When thinking about the challenges faced by UK businesses in 2019, national-level problems often come to mind – struggling high streets, political instability, skills shortages and so on.

And when accountants talk about business advice as a service they offer, they usually talk about strategy, growing a business, and achieving financial goals.

While these things are obviously important to small businesses, they’re not necessarily the first things people want to know about. Most of the questions posted on the forums are focused on small details, with users looking for advice on an immediate problem.

VAT was by far the most discussed topic on UKBF’s Accounts & Finance subforum. It was mentioned 259 times in the titles of the top 2,500 most viewed threads during the quarter, more than any other word.

Many queries had to do with specific situations, with users asking about using different accounting schemes, trading with EU and non-EU countries, and charging VAT on particular goods and services.

Questions on expenses claims were also common, as users wanted to know whether they could or couldn’t claim various costs. These included, among others, questions about claiming for a first-class flight, solar panels, or glasses worn while working.

Partnership difficulties, HR frustrations and legal squabbles make up a large number of threads on UKBF.

The most viewed and replied to thread of the quarter (with 4,088 views and 194 replies) was about whether an employee who has accidentally misfuelled a vehicle should be responsible for the cost of any damage caused.

In another popular thread, a user asked “do the majority of companies ask staff to pay for or contribute to tea, coffee and milk, or is it usually given free?”

These are interesting insights for anyone looking to reach out to the small business community. Those happy to take a direct approach could easily demonstrate their professional expertise going directly to websites like UKBF and offering an answer to some of these questions.

But they also suggest plenty of ideas for content to publish on your website. You might decide to write an article answering the question “are my glasses an allowable business expense?”, for example, or create a FAQs page on the flat-rate scheme for VAT.

The success of this kind of content is also backed up by the performance of our own clients’ blogs. Content that focuses on a niche audience, or answers a very specific question, generally performs better than more general, unfocused topics.

Some of the best-performing posts we’ve written for our clients have been about the granular details of tax rules applying to a particular sector. They don’t apply to everyone, so not everyone wants to read them – but those who do are much more likely to engage with them.

If you post frequently, with genuinely useful advice, you’re more likely to be found by the people looking for answers, as well as demonstrating your depth of expertise to your current clients.

Find out more about what’s on the minds of UK SMEs in the full report.

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