Marketing for Accountants Survival Guide
Our profession is still primarily a word-of-mouth referral business. Therefore, any marketing concepts that you utilize should start with your current clients and expand outward. I provide marketing consultations with literally thousands of CPAs, RTRP Tax Preparers, Enrolled Agents, and accounting firms across the country. It becomes very evident who is successful and why when you talk to them and observe practices they instill in their marketing communications.
#1 - They support their clients' year round. The biggest producers are committed to their clients' tax and financial health. They provide them with year round tax planning tips, client newsletters, and information to help them cut their taxes and succeed. There are no shortcuts. If you want to be perceived as a market leader, you'd better act like one.
#2 - They show their personality in their marketing communications. Whether that be in their copy, images, or color scheme, best-in-class firms are not afraid to put themselves out there and separate their firm from the pack. If you market like you are selling a commodity, your audience will perceive you that way--meaning lower fees and less loyalty. Start talking about benefits and what you can do for your clients rather than adding the latest organization logo or creating a 30-item bullet list. Why is Apple so successful? They utilize short and to-the-point advertising that gets their personality across.
#3 - Expand your audience with social media. Never before have small firms had such an easy and cost-effective way to expand their audience. Think of social media as the modern-day word of mouth. If you get your clients talking about you, it reinforces their relationship with you and makes it easier for them to refer business your way. I have written a previous blog article covering social media for accountants that highlights the best practices.
#4 - Become approachable. Do you have a professional Web site? Do you use smart phones? Do you answer your email? These are key elements that differentiate you from the pack. Those who are proactive build better reputations. They are more likely to get unsolicited referrals, and because they promptly follow up, they gain new clients.
#5 - Fire unwanted clients. Think about how much more you could get done by eliminating clients who hoard your time. They are not profitable, probably stress you out, and will continue to take advantage of you until you stop them. If you don't have the heart to fire them, raise their rates.
#6 - Use push technology to reach your audience. Email newsletters, Facebook, and RSS feeds are all forms of push technology. They allow you to send messages directly to your audience versus waiting for them to come to you. And if you are using email newsletters, make sure the articles are on your Web site, not just delivered by applications like Constant Contact. Bottom line: You want clients to visit your accounting website often to see other services you provide. Streamline office tasks like appointment setting and document sharing. I had a prospect tell me just the other day he brought his website down because only 5-10% of his clients were visiting. Well, I know at least 30% of our tax accounting website clients visit their Web sites every month since that is the average newsletter readership. And guess what? The articles on their site are not embedded in an email.
#7 - Focus on a niche. The fastest way to grow your practice is to specialize. First of all, it is easier to get picked up by Google when you are using less competitive key words. You quickly can become an authority figure on a subject. Secondly, clients perceive more expertise in a specialist. I see this firsthand in the entertainment business, where CPA firms specialize in movie producers. The perception is that they must know some hidden tax strategies, and they can charge much more than a perfectly competent CPA down the street.
#8 - Create an annuity product line. Whether it be virtual accounting, offsite CFO, or year round tax planning packages, annuity services are taking over the old hourly-based offerings. First, they provide a steady revenue stream. Second, they provide clients with the comfort that you are there for them year round at a set price. They are no longer looking at you as a clock watcher. Plus, you will be able to provide a better level of service since you are closer to your clients on a more frequent basis. It is a one-sale versus continuous sales effort. And once you have them, the annuity just keeps building as you add on.
These are just a few marketing ideas for accountants that can dramatically change your direction with very little investment. I will continue to build on these thoughts in future blog posts.
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Lee Reams II
I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.