How did UOL grow into the largest Czech accounting firm thanks to customer education?

Why educate your customers? UOL has dedicated itself to educating customers, and this is paying off in terms of increased business growth. By setting up a customer education strategy, you can achieve the same level of success.

I have known UOL since 2009. Back then, this firm was exceptional in that it was able to take care of customers online. They developed their accounting system, created a precise process, and took good care of their clients. And they grew over time, and over time, the firm tried to win customers through education. Let’s face it – accounting is not the most popular field. But still, every business needs an accountant – after all, they say you need a good accountant and a lawyer to run a business, right?

How do you turn a small business into a market leader with Customer Education?

The growth of UOL is due to hard work on all fronts. But UOL is different in one small way. From the beginning, they’ve done their best to educate their customers. More significant growth has been associated with scalable online education. I remember the first project we did for UOL – 5 animated videos for onboarding new customers. UOL found that they saved a lot of time by having the videos do so much of the work for them. Over the years, UOL has gradually expanded its content. Today, you’ll find hundreds of videos, articles, courses, e-books, and thousands of social media posts across UOL’s various channels. It’s basically not just an accounting firm, but an accounting publishing company. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. In the age of digital marketing, businesses have to strive to gain followers and continually gain and maintain their attention.

What activities does UOL do to educate customers?

UOL covers a range of audiences and includes the entire sales funnel from leads to client nurturing. They even go further, and do what often only large corporations dare to do – they are committed to supporting young people – high school and university students. So they are thinking about the future. 

Education through social media

UOL is building its brand across social media, and it’s through educational videos. For example, they create short videos for TikTok on a daily basis, which they work with across other social networks. The owner of UOL has even earned herself the title of TikTok’s Accounting Queen due to her amount of followers. So accounting won’t be such a big bore, right?
Educating the market with micro-videos has brought UOL a lot of well-deserved attention, and it’s become one of their sources for acquiring new clients. So do thousands of posts on LinkedIn and Facebook. For each channel and target audience, they create content that is relevant. This is bearing fruit.

Educating entrepreneurs

For entrepreneurs – that is, for various business managers and freelancers, UOL creates a range of activities such as webinars, writes specialized articles, and even created an entrepreneurs club. The UOL Club is not for accounting education, but to help connect individual entrepreneurs and help them do what they need to do – which is to be even better entrepreneurs. It’s kind of a mastermind. Entrepreneurs meet regularly every month and the whole thing is naturally moderated by the owner of UOL.

Accountant Education

For accounting experts and entrepreneurs alike, UOL is building an extensive online academy that includes hundreds of expert articles, videos, and courses. There are hundreds of videos alone – discussions, webinars, UOL TV, etc. Accounting experts will enjoy the fun interactive courses, of which there will also be no shortage.

Education and student support

UOL experts give guest lectures at universities and also support high school students with online competitions and games. It’s a company that thinks about the future and never sleeps!

Off-line Customer Education / Customer Training

UOL hosts a variety of off-line training, presentations, and meetings with clients and potential clients. Of course, the company has its own customer success department to take care of customers. Accountants, tax, and payroll experts work for individual customers and also support them by phone and email. 

I trust you have found inspiration in UOL and are now wondering how you can achieve the same success.  

How can you be a leader in your field through education?

First – Write down somewhere in big letters that customer education is something you need to do – it’s not just some extra bonus. Customer education is not actually an activity. It’s an approach to your customers. It’s a mindset. Customer education affects every action and decision in the company.

Customer Education Program / Customer Education Strategy

Start with a strategy – try to think of all the ways you can help people – that is, your existing customers. Think about how to set up a system that is sustainable and scalable. At Playou, we call this strategy the Customer Education Program. The customer Education Program is a methodology that covers company-wide activities and reaches into the company’s present and future. It defines the rules and methods of communication and education and roles – i.e. who will own these activities, etc. Consider hiring a Customer Success manager or even a Customer Education manager. 

Start with a small project. For example, you could start by creating educational articles, podcasts, online courses, etc.

Read the interview with the owner of UOL 

What does customer education mean to you and do you educate your customers?

In the past, customer education was only done as a by-product when we were describing our services to them. If a client came with a problem, we explained everything to everyone individually. Then it occurred to us that since all our customers were dealing with similar problems, we could educate them collectively and in an organized way, saving ourselves a lot of time and work. We started with e-books and continued with videos and articles with tips. Today, we do it purposefully and regularly, we get great feedback and it pays off tremendously.

A couple of years ago we talked about an onboarding project, was that your first customer education project?

It was the first project that was supposed to activate our clients, it guided them through the basics and also through the search for an accounting company because getting an accountant is not like getting a new T-shirt. Customer Education Video tutorials worked great for us at the time. Now we’re revisiting this topic again and we want to create video content for our customers. For now, we call it “Revealing the Cards” because it is designed to show our customers how we work and what exactly they can expect from us. Because customer success increases rapidly with customer information.

What specific difference have you felt since you implemented customer education?

It is most visible in sales. We originally started making customer education materials because of our existing customers, who needed information anyway, so we wanted to do it in a fun and meaningful way. But then we realized that not only our actual customers were interested in it, but the broader public as well, so we started sharing all our materials further. Although it wasn’t the original intention, we saw a visible increase in sales. In addition, clients have a much more positive attitude towards us. Our industry – accounting – is an unpopular topic and a necessary evil for most people. Helping clients understand and solve their problems makes us a credible and trusted brand.

The bonus is that when we explain a seemingly simple thing that many people are too embarrassed to ask, in a video, customers don’t have to feel like idiots.

Is there a difference between your current and previous customers? Is it easier to get them to engage with you?

It’s definitely easier now to get customers to engage with our service and collaborate with us because when you’re creating content regularly, people feel like they know you. Because you’re the one who explained what was burning them. It’s a great feeling when the very first time a client comes to you, they already know that they want that service from you.

In the past, we used to get messages like, “Hello, we are looking for an accounting company, please send us an offer so that you can participate you in the tender.” Nowadays, we usually get a completely different messages: “Hello, we would like an accounting service from your company, what should we do?”

So you don’t have to push anyone, that’s great. Do you also help people with their businesses in general?

We don’t do that for now, we focus on accounting, which is what we do and what we know. However, some clients expect the accountant to be their overall business guru, which is not how it works out of principle. However, I believe that by helping clients to get their accounting done right and in a stress-free way, we help with the whole business. But for example, we have established a UOL Club where entrepreneurs can give advice to each other.

Your target group is not only entrepreneurs, you also help the accountants with education, right?

Yes, that is right. That was also spontaneous. When we started educating customers, we realized that a lot of accountants of all age groups and accounting students were also following us, so we started providing education for them as well.

That’s already three target groups: entrepreneurs, accountants, and students. That’s some popularization of the field.

That’s what we wanted. Accounting is often looked down upon, and many people do not get into it because they think it is too boring and they don’t know what it is about. That’s why we wanted to get people a bit more excited about accounting, and we did. For example, we get messages from people saying that they’ve decided to do an accounting requalification course because of our videos.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but there’s definitely a lot of work behind it. What does it take and what does it mean inside the company?

Within the company, I think it is perceived positively. Many of our colleagues also use these materials. Some of them are even actively involved in the projects, they all find it normal and enjoy it. Those who are involved in the projects gain confidence and it has definitely taken the whole company to a higher level.

We don’t do many paid campaigns, but of course, it’s a time-consuming job. But in sales, you can clearly see that it pays off.

You mentioned that you don’t pay for advertising. Does that mean that customer education itself is the engine that drives the company’s growth and customer increase?

It certainly is. As for advertising, we’ve been using Google AdWords for years, but we have 99% organic reach on our social media. We give new clients a questionnaire to find out how they found out about us. In the last two years, since we have been doing education intensively, the majority of our clients come to us because they learned about us through our networks and social media or saw our work elsewhere on the internet. It definitely brings us clients, clients that already know they want our service. A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that it could really have such an effect. In addition to finding customers, we’re also finding new employees much easier.

So is it safe to say that the tutorial channel is more powerful for you than the paid advertising you have?

Definitely. Our organic reach on Facebook is 1,000,000 per month, the same on Tiktok or LinkedIn.

How long did it take to get machinery like that going?

Over a year, with each network being a little different. But it was at least a year of hard work for each of them. During that time we often wondered if it was worth it. It’s worth it.

Sounds like a perfectly doable plan to me. What advice would you give to people who would like to do it?

I get this question a lot. The easiest thing is to start, you can start any way you want. The problem is to keep it up, because a year is a long time, and you really have to commit to it and do it regularly, even if you don’t feel like it or you don’t have time. You must not slack off, it really won’t bring results in a month, it will bring them in a year, but it will. Even hiring a marketing company won’t save you from that. They may do some of the work for you, but you still need to deliver content and if you don’t work together, it’s not going to get you anywhere.

So it’s about self-discipline and perseverance. What about courage?

Courage is definitely needed. For me, it’s great that we work on everything as a team and we always have a good laugh while filming. It’s also important that the people you’re working with really believe it’s worth it. Of course, it was hard to stop being stressed in front of the camera, but that came over time. After making hundreds of videos on Tiktok embarrassing myself in all sorts of ways, I don’t care anymore.

One last question for the end. Do you have a goal or dream where you would like to get with these activities?

I certainly don’t want to increase the number of materials that we produce. But I would definitely like to improve it. Now, for example, the customer education academy that we’re working on together. We’d also like to get into real education, into high schools, and organize student accounting competitions.