EP56: Dorie Clark - How To Stand Out In A Competitive Bookkeeping Marketplace

Bookkeepers are everywhere.

As a result, prospects have a lot of choice, so what makes you stand out?

Why should someone choose you over another bookkeeper?

Today's guest, Dorie Clark, who is a branding expert, author and speaker that has worked with Google, Microsoft & Yale University, feels you can get an advantage by becoming a recognized expert.

During this informative conversation, you'll learn...

  • Why you should take control of your narrative and personal brand

  • The three ingredients you'll need to broadcast your bookkeeping expertise to the world

  • Why you should always look for ways to bring client value and create additional revenue streams

To find out more about Dorie, click here.

To investigate the various resources she mentioned in this episode, visit these links:




To order her new book, Entrepreneurial You, go here.


Michael Palmer: 01:38 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a fantastic one. Our guest is a marketing strategy consultant, a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and the author of the books reinventing you and stand out. She's also recognized as a branding expert by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc magazine. I know this is pretty impressive and she's a speaker for clients such as Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank. It's an absolute pleasure to have her on the show. Dorie Clark, welcome to the podcast. 

Dorie Clark: 02:23 Thank you so much for having me. Great to speak with you. 

MP: 02:25 Yes, and that's our pleasure and I'm sure the listeners are excited to hear your take on helping them stand out. Rock and roll. Yeah. So first story, before we get into things, can you share a little bit about your career journey leading up to this point and how you became recognized as a leader in branding and marketing? 

DC: 02:48 Yeah. Thank you so much, Michael. So I have written a few books. My first one was called reinventing you. And the reason that, uh, that I started with that was that early on my career had a lot of twists and turns. I actually started as a journalist and ended up getting laid off and couldn't find another job in journalism. So I had to reinvent myself into different areas. I was a, uh, a political spokesperson for a while, uh, first on a gubernatorial campaign, then on a presidential campaign in the US. Um, I ran a nonprofit for a while and eventually I, uh, 11 years ago I settled into the career that I have now where I write books and speak and do some business school teaching for the Fuco School of Business at Duke. But what I really learned from that process, and this was something that I hammered home in my first book, reinventing you, was the importance of really taking control of your narrative, taking control of your personal brand. 

DC: 03:46 Because other people are not necessarily paying that close attention to your career path or your journey. You know, you have been learning and growing over the past few years and other people, they may not necessarily recognize it. A lot of times their perceptions of us are out of date. And so learning to, to take control and make sure that they understand who we are today, where we're going today, what kind of clients we're looking for, who we can help. That really makes a big difference in terms of our ultimate business success. Yeah, that's really fascinating. In fact, it sort of has me thinking on it as a stream of thought of, you know, people really don't know who we are. Yeah. It's, it's true. It's true. You, you know, we, we kind of implicitly assume that, you know, oh yeah. Well, people get it. They know me. 

DC: 04:36 They talk to me. They see me every day. But through the course of my research, what I came to realize is that most people form a perception of you when they first meet you. Of course, you know, they're, they're sort of learning about you. But then unless there is a really compelling reason for them to change or to update their perception of you, they mostly don't. And so ultimately, let's say you joined a firm, you know, seven years ago and you are the, you know, the young kid fresh out of college and you know, now you've advanced your senior associate, maybe you're even a partner. And a lot of people still think of you as that kid. And so we have to be aware of that and we have to actually start taking action so that we can begin to correct and reshape that so that people get it. 

DC: 05:25 That, you know, no. You know, Now I am a seasoned professional and so the kind of opportunities, kind of referrals that should be coming to a seasoned professional, I want you to think of me. Hmm. You know, it really is, I think, easy for us to fall into that trap because we know ourselves well enough. We live our own lives. But the, the trap is that unless we pay attention to that and pay attention to what people think about us or know about us or, or sort of have dropped us into this category, as you say, we could be really minimizing on our potential.

MP: 05:58 So how do you sort of gauge what people, like their perception, how would we know what their perception is of us? And then, you know, going through the steps out of we actually start to change it. 

DC: 06:12 Yeah. Well one of the strategies that I actually suggest in my first book reinventing you, it's something really simple. It's a, it's called the three-word exercise. And it involves over the course of let's say a week reaching out to about half a dozen friends or colleagues who know you reasonably well and you ask them a very simple question. And that is, if you had to describe me in only three words, what would they be? And the reason that this is so helpful, you know, it's not that they're necessarily gonna say something that, oh my gosh, you've never heard before in your life. More likely it'll be stuff that's familiar to you. But what actually is helpful, the reason that this is so important is that most of us have a real blind spot. Most of us have no idea what it is about ourselves that other people find most distinctive, that other people find most unique about us. And if you can begin to get insight into that, it enables you to figure out what your strengths are and what you can lean into to really drive your competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

MP: 07:23 So, uh, once we've done that, we understand what these are, what are the strategies to actually bring this into the marketplace?

DC: 07:34 Yeah, so I think that you know, once we are cognizant of what some of our strengths are, then we need to begin asking ourselves, all right, well, you know, what actions can we take to manifest them? And this is something that I spent a lot of time talking about in the course of my most recent book that they came out stand out. And it's really a question of how do you get your expertise recognized more broadly. And so ultimately what, what I discovered in the course of doing this research is that if you want to have your talents really recognized by other people, there are three things that you need to keep in mind, uh, at three kinds of actions that you can take. The first is content creation. The second is maximizing your social proof and your third is building your network. Let me just explain briefly. 

DC: 08:28 Content creation is, is something that, you know, it might, it might seem unnecessary or superfluous, right? I mean, a lot of, a lot of people, uh, who are in bookkeeping, they might get business from referrals. That is, that is all great. That's fantastic. You should keep doing that. But if you want to build your profile above and beyond the folks who already know you or their inner circle of friends, it is to start creating content so that the wider world can begin to see your ideas. Because the truth is if, unless someone has actually worked with you directly before, they have no idea. If you're good at your job, they, you know, they just don't know. It's okay. Well, you know, one person might be as good as the next, but what enables them to have insight into who you are as a person and how you think is if you are creating content, you know, let's say helpful blog posts or things like that, tips about running your business better, things like that. 

DC: 09:28 It enables people to say, Oh, I like her style. She has really good ideas. This is the kind of person I would want to work with. And the truth is, by creating that content, it makes the sales process a million times easier. Because when people come to you, they've already done the homework. They've already, you know, googled you, they see that and they say, boom, I'm sold. I know I want this to be my service provider. So that's one. Number two, social proof that is essentially a, you know, an old fancy way that psychologists use of, of meaning credibility. What is it that gives you credibility in the eyes of other people? And one of the easiest and fastest ways to do this is to find known brand to associate with so that you will appear to be pre vetted by other people. It's really hard for folks to know, should I trust this person, should I listen to this person? 

DC: 10:19 But if you have associations that they already recognize, oh, she is a, an officer in a professional association or she's involved with a local chamber of commerce, or he has worked with x, Y, Z clients, and they're all people in the community that I've heard about. Well, that gives a kind of credibility. It makes people stop and say, all right, I should listen to what he's saying. And then finally, your network of course. Uh, and that, that could be in the form of referrals that helps get your business. But also there are the people who help you have better ideas. They're the people who are able to give you insights into ways of running your business better, whether it's managing employees, whether it's new software or systems that you should be upon. It just keeps you current. It gives you access to the best thinking in your field and they're the people who often can really help you take your game to the next level. 

MP: 11:13 This is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Definitely speaking my language. I absolutely love it. And now that one that I, I want to sort of dig into these three. The first one I think is going to be maybe a challenging one for our listener. Their bookkeepers, they're not used to typically creating content for, for anyone really. It's a technical role, doing the bookkeeping. And so how can we help them with how they might be able to create valuable content that their prospects and current customers, cause I actually loved what you were saying around bringing out your brand through this content, but as well for new prospects, but as well current customers?

DC: 11:50 I mean choose what better way to change their perception of you than to start offering and talking about all the wonderful things that you've been up to and things that you've been learning that might be valuable to them. 

MP: 12:04 Absolutely. So here's, here's one way to do this, that they can really serve a great function, both in terms of how you're perceived by your current clients, but also in terms of the value that you can bring to them. What if, for instance, you started blogging regularly. This could be your blog, it could be for a business publication in your area, you know, whatever it is. And what if you were able to suggest coauthoring a piece with some of your clients that included tips on running your businesses finances better. You could, you could team up together and help get publicity, not just for you, but also for your clients. Again, that that gets extra points in terms of social proof as well. Because if presumably, this is a respected member of the community, people will say, Oh wow, you know, he's a bookkeeper and he's working with them. 

DC: 12:54 Well, you know, that's, that's great. He's, if he's good enough for them, he's good enough for me. So that's one possibility. Another is you could do an interview series, you know, you don't necessarily have to be writing specifically about, you know, here's a blog about bookkeeping techniques. I mean certainly you could do that, but you should have a broader purview. You can think about ways to improve businesses overall, especially businesses, finances, you want to be considered an expert in the overall realm of how to make a business owner's life better. And so you could be interviewing your clients for their success stories or their ideas, you know, shine a light on them. That can be a great thing. You could even interview people that you dream of as potential clients. And you know, obviously, this is not sort of a quid pro quo where, Oh yes, of course, they're going to hire you because you interviewed them for a blog. But it's a way to make an initial contact to make an initial connection. At least get to know them. They have to know who you are before they can even think of hiring you. And so it's, you know, it's, it's playing the long game, but it's a way of, of making an initial connection in a generous and giving way. Um, so there's a lot of possibilities. 

MP: 14:06 Yeah, it's a long game. And I want to emphasize this. It is a long game, but it is a winning game and a game that creates almost a, um, uh, nudity of business because all of these examples that you've given I think are just brilliant and, and powerful. And they're not like a one-off. You're doing, you do one of those things that you've just mentioned or, uh, that is just mentioned. They're going, it's gonna hit a couple of different elements that, that she's been talking about. I mean, going and interviewing a prospective client or even maybe an authority inside of the community, uh, like an accountant or a tax account, different specialists. I mean, my mind is just running wild with all sorts of opportunities. If I think of a local economy and the different players in that local. And then there's an endless amount of stories that could be told around being successful. 

MP: 14:55 And from the angle and perspective of being powerful with your finances. Uh, it's fantastic. Now you also mentioned, I think this is really, I try factor because if you, this trifecta move, I'm going to call it that you said to go in and do a joint call authored piece with one of your clients. I mean, not only is that going to be content it hell in, you've got that building, they're going to help with the content, but they're also going, it's an authority play because now you're associated with that authority and it's a network play because they're going to share it with their network. You're going to share it with your network. I mean, you're doing all three that you recommended. I love that one. 

DC: 15:38 It's rated, it kills all the birds with all the stones. 

MP: 15:41 Yeah, it's absolutely 

MP: 15:43 cool.

MP: 15:49 Now one thing, not everyone is a writer. What do you have to say about that? 

DC: 15:56 Yeah. And you know, it's, it's actually fortunately easily addressed a lot is yes. I, first of all, we have more options than ever today. So, so really I use the word content deliberately because it's, it's not necessarily about, oh, you have to write, you don't have to write. Once you have to do is find a way to share ideas. And so, you know, maybe your form is audio. Maybe you could, you know, folks who create podcasts like this, maybe they're public speakers, maybe they could get out and start giving more talks to the, you know, the Chamber of Commerce do a workshop or the, the local first group or you know, whatever, whatever it is, the local rotary, maybe their format is video. I mean, that used to be incredibly expensive, but these days you literally, you literally can do it on your telephone. Um, I actually, uh, created an entire online course and was able to, you know, people think, oh, that must be so expensive. 

DC: 16:55 No, I did all the filming myself and I spent, uh, about $150 on all of the gear that you needed. Just your smartphone plus, you know, a tripod and a few other things. And I was able to create very nicely done videos as a result of that. So if you, if you're interested in doing youtube videos, you can do that. I actually have a free, a free resource if folks are interested. I, I literally have a list of just all of the tools that I did. I used in, in filming my course. Um, you know, everything that I needed in order to have a, a sort of cheap video setup. Folks can get it at Dorieclark.com/videotools. So you know, v I, d e o t o, o,l, s and that can be another way of doing it. So there are many, many options. 

MP: 17:43 Tearful. I love it. And I think it's the message really is looking at what you're already comfortable. Start there and then work with that. And that can evolve. And I know I've seen it evolve for myself doing one thing and then trying out another and seeing what you really enjoy. I really enjoy podcasting and I think it's, for me, it's so, he's like, I get to speak to people like you and ask questions and learn and share all of that with, with, uh, our, our community, which is so much fun. So find something that, uh, I think have some fun with it. This is, this is, uh, to, to evoke the curiosity in yourself for other people and what might be valuable to them. Uh, this is just excellent. Now we've hit those three points, which I think there's gold inside of actually going out there and becoming recognized and reinventing and, uh, yourself, which is the title of what first book and then as well standing out. Let's, let's talk a little bit about standing out. What do bookkeepers need to do to be the recognized experts in their area? Now I think we've hit a little bit of that, but are there other strategies that will make them really be, hey, you know what, they're the recognized expert of this community. 

DC 18:59 Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, I, I think that the framework that I shared about the three pieces of content creation and your social proof and your network covers a lot of facets, but I'll, I'll say there are many sub tools that people can use. Um, and in fact, I actually created, if folks are interested, I actually created a scored a questionnaire. It's a scored assessment that people can take so that they can grade themselves on the scale to figure out in which areas of being a recognized expert, they're strong and in which ones they need to do a little bit more and emphasize more. And if anybody wants that, the recognized expert evaluation toolkit, uh, they can get it at Dorie clark.com/toolkit. Um, so that's one possibility to suggest. But you know, I would say overall it really comes down to, in the early days of your business, you're, you're gonna want, of course, many of your, your listeners will be doing this to focus on direct, uh, you know, sort of, sort of, you know, person, person to person sales referrals, you know, asking for the referral. 

DC: 20:07 Eh, it grows from people that know you, that have worked from you that like you and trust you, but the challenge and the thing that we need to do overtime is you know that is a working strategy and a winning strategy. So many people keep doing it forever and you know, yes always keep doing it to a certain extent but what you also need to do and many people don't make this transition is that over time as you build more and more of a stable business and a stable business model, you need to shift a little bit and shift some of your energy away from the person to person sales and more into what I what I will term just marketing meaning long-range client development rather than short term client development and in shifting that mentality away from kind of the quick hit or the quick kill, you know with a, with the client business to thinking, okay, if I write this blog post, it's probably not going to get me a client tomorrow. But if I do enough of them it will probably get me even more clients. A year from now and being willing to take that delayed gratification. 

MP: 21:13 That is valuable, very, very valuable advice and I think that's the long play conversation which um, I'm really excited and hopeful that our listeners and many of them will take what you've been talking about and start to put together a strategy that will have them start to build this long play to really stand out their market. I believe in this 100% and just know to my heart that any bookkeeper that takes on these strategies that you've given them in the next 12 months, let's just say 12 months as a random, might be 18 months. It might be 17 months, but don't hold us to that number, but in the future, not that far away future, you put these things into the marketplace, you will stand out, you will be the recognized expert and that will bring many fruits that will be exciting and valuable to you, to your business, to your family and to the people that work for you. Now there's another really exciting thing that's happening and so honored to be able to say this is that you have a brand new book out and it's coming out today. 

DC: 22:21 Yes, that is right. Uh, thank you very much for asking a, my new book is called entrepreneurial you and the subtitle of it is monetize your expertise, create multiple income streams and thrive. And that is something that that I'm, I'm sure many of your listeners are clued into because really, you know, especially if you're a bookkeeper, is all about monetizing your expertise. But I in the book profile more than 50 talented six, seven, even eight-figure entrepreneurs who have built up businesses in creative ways and especially have been able to create multiple income streams by just thinking a little bit differently about what they're doing. You know, for bookkeepers, like folks in many other service professions, most of us earn money through just, you know, doing our thing. You know, you, you get paid for bookkeeping service, okay. You provide a bookkeeping service. I am a marketing consultant. 

DC: 23:21 And so, okay, people pay me for that and you get money for that. If that is great and certainly you're diversified to a certain extent because you have a lot of different clients. And so, you know, thankfully, uh, you're in a better position many in many cases than folks who have, uh, you know, just one, one paycheck from one employer and you know, if anything goes wrong there, it can be very precarious. However that I make is that we need to get even more strategic about diversifying ourselves and diversifying our revenue streams. And so thinking about other possibilities, whether that is, you know, anything from coaching other people on how to do what we do or, you know, saying to yourself, full, okay, I have, I have these good relationships with all these clients. What else do they need? What other ways could I serve them? And in thinking through that question, figuring that out, you're able to provide new opportunities for yourself and new ways to make your business both more lucrative and more secure. 

MP: 24:22 Wow, that's an exciting, exciting book. I'm looking forward to getting my copy of it. And it's really exciting that we're able to release this episode on the very day that that book is being released. So if you're listening to this in the future, it was back a few weeks or months, wherever the case may be. But um, let's not forget to ask this, how, what is the best way for them to actually get this book? 

DC: 24:45 Thanks. I really appreciate it. Um, the book is available, uh, lots of places. Certainly, Amazon.com, Barnes and noble people can get it. Um, but probably the best way, uh, is that if they would like to stay in touch with me and get information about how they can obtain the book and get a, get a free resource. I have a, an entrepreneurial self-assessment. It's actually 88 questions that actually help you apply these principles to your own life and think about how to develop new income streams in your own business. Um, folks can download that for free at Dorieclark.com/entrepreneur 

MP: 25:22 Great. And of course, there are lots of links that you've given lots of value of giving. We'll have all of these in the show notes, uh, that, uh, will be available for the LR. And so exciting. This book is all about leveraging what you know, to, uh, take that and monetize that into your own market or maybe new markets. But you're absolutely right. When you have customers, you're working with them, you intimately know what's going on for them, it's, that's an opportunity to look at what else do they need, what else can they be, uh, seeing you as valuable and using that value to grow their business, which they're willing to pay for. 

MP: 26:05 So how do we, I'm really curious, what was your favorite example? He said there are 50 different entrepreneurs in that book. What was your favorite? 

DC: 26:14 Yes. Such a good question and so hard to pick a favorite, but, uh, if I had to pick one that I thought was particularly inspirational, there's a woman that I profiled named Stephanie O'Connell and she is a, someone who's really established herself as a millennial personal finance expert. And the lesson that I really extracted from her, I mean we all know that in the course of building your brand, building your business, it can be a long process. It can be sometimes a process, but she was really able to keep herself motivated and keep herself going by creating milestones, sort of interim milestones and getting excited about that. And what I mean by that is that oftentimes what gets us discouraged is that we look at where we are and then we look at the finish line and say, oh my gosh, I'm so far from that. 

DC: 27:06 I'm so far from, you know, getting on Oprah or having a New York Times bestseller or you know, whatever, whatever the marker is. And Eh, for Stephanie, she realized that you have to celebrate each step along the way. And so for her, when she started blogging, you know, at first it was for free. It felt like nobody was noticing. But when the first time came that someone paid her for a post, even though it was $25, she realized that's a milestone. That means she's going in the right direction. She looked for other things. When someone that she respected retweeted one of her posts that was assigned, she was heading in the right direction. Um, when she first got someone who reached out to her and instead of her having to pitch herself, having someone come to her and say, Hey, will you write for us? That was assigned, she was heading in the right direction. And so I think for, for all of us in our businesses, it's easy to get down. Sometimes things don't happen as fast as we want them to, but ultimately, um, what we needed to realize is that as long as we're making progress, as long as we're moving in the right direction, that can and should be enough to encourage us to keep going and to persevere. Because more than anything, it's consistency and persistence that enables us to build a great business. 

MP: 28:27 Wow, that's very inspiring. And I think I'm glad you mentioned it because it, not only is it a great story, but this whole concept of celebrating even small milestones, uh, and we shouldn't even call them small milestones. They're milestones. So let's not discount the fact that any progress is great progress and it means we're on the right track. And so this idea of celebrating these milestones, I think gives people an opportunity to lift up and focus on what's working versus, oh, I'm alone in my business working away. I'm not saying raise the results I want. You know, it's a way to ward off frustration or even depression or even the thoughts of maybe I should do something else. Because being in business for ourselves and being out there in the marketplace is not easy. And if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. There's both pros and cons that go along with it and you feel this, Dory, you've been at it long enough, you've had some highs, you've had some lows, I'm sure, but look at you and your career path and your journey. 

MP: 29:29 I mean it's from journalists who now global level thought leader on helping people stand out and be recognized as experts. I mean that it's a long play. It's a long game. If you would've stopped or not continued doing what you're doing, you wouldn't ever have gotten there. It's such a great example of this woman who's celebrated every move and kept moving. For you, listener, what's something you can celebrate today or that's happened recently? Maybe it was getting a new client or a client thanked you or whatever the case may be. Celebrate it. Celebrate that and make it be a milestone on your journey to success. This has been such an excellent and informative and as well as an inspiring interview, Dorie. I've learned a heck of a lot just from this short period that we've had together. I do want to say on a few to, on a few episodes we've had authors on and I, I restate the books and I want to do it again. 

MP: 30:26 I want to say, go to Amazon, go to Dorie's website, wherever you choose to do it by her books and put them on your reading list. If you're not educating yourself, you are moving backward. The world is moving at an incredible pace and reading something and consuming. You don't have to read the whole book every page, but I'm sure there's gold in there to find the time to grab that gold and educate yourself and make continual improvements in your mind and in your belief about yourself. So put, reinventing you on your bookshelf, but standing out on your bookshelf and go and get dories brand new book, which is the entrepreneurial you, the entrepreneurial you. I hope I got that title, Bang on and put them on your, on your reading list and make it happen. This is what this podcast is all about, to inspire you, to educate you, to give you what you need in order to be successful in your business. 

MP: 31:17 And we know that education is one of the fast tracks to do that. So thank you, Dorie, for educating our listener today.

DC: 31:24 Awesome. Thank you so much, Michael. Great speaking with you.

MP: 31:30 Yeah, it's been great. That wraps up another episode of the successful bookkeeper podcast and what a podcast episode it was. We actually had a lecturer, a world-renowned thought leader speaking to us about standing out. I just absolutely loved this episode. So if you'd like to get the notes that we spoke about today and the links that Dori shared, please go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com where you'll find all of those links as well as all sorts of valuable free business-building resources to build your successful bookkeeping business. Until next time, 

MP: 32:04 goodbye.