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May/13

13

You Can’t Just Do it; You Have to DO it

When an individual accountant or firm engages me for accounting firm marketing advice it is typically for one of three reasons:  1) they need help  in finding more new prospective clients, 2) they need help in converting more of the prospects they have into clients, or 3) they need both more prospects and want to convert a greater percentage into clients.

My last three engagements have all been about the need to develop more prospects.

Though the three clients are located in different areas of the country, they all share one (very) common characteristic: they are trying to market for new prospects but if you look at the results, they aren’t really doing it.

Let me explain … an essential element of effective marketing your accounting practice is consistency and, to coin a word, sticktoitiveness.  Marketing isn’t a single, silver bullet action; it is instead a process and requires time to accomplish its job.

As I explored with these three clients what they had previously been doing to market their practices, we talked about various techniques such as advertising, networking, LinkedIn, writing unique content, online marketing, etc.  In each instance my new clients lamented the lack of success they had experienced with each of the tools we considered.  “Been there, done that,” was the consistent response.

But, they really hadn’t because they didn’t DO it.  Instead, they tried something, e.g. a newsletter, once or twice, but didn’t get a reaction and so they stopped that and then tried something else.

This approach doesn’t work.

Heidi, an accountant in San Francisco, gave one presentation and obtained three new clients.  Fantastic!  Only one 30 minute presentation and she generated about $60,000 in annual billings.

Well then, the argument goes, if she did that with one presentation, doesn’t that prove one-time, rifle shot marketing can be really productive?  Perhaps there is an example where the answer is yes, but not in this instance.  In fact, Heidi had been cultivating the organizer of the event (as well as a couple of the members) for two years.  Only after these relationships had ripened sufficiently did he invite her to speak.

You don’t have to engage in a lot of different marketing initiatives to attract new prospects.  Most accountants don’t have time for that.  Instead, select a few and consistently focus upon them.

For example, if you choose networking and creating unique content (blogs, white papers, etc.) as your two primary marketing activities, an effective strategy might be:
•    join a niche group that has a membership populated by a fair percentage of desirable prospects and not a lot of other accountants (we’ll assume you’ve joined a trucking association as an associate member);
•    attend consistently and befriend the group’s leadership and program chair;
•    let members know you are an accountant but don’t sell; just participate;
•    once you feel like you’re part of the group, find something in CheckPoint, CCH or other information source that touches the group’s members, e.g. sophisticated depreciation strategies for owners of capital equipment;
•    tell the program chair that you have some information that might help the members retain more cash within their businesses;
•    write up the essence of your information and get it out to the group via a presentation (if you can’t get in front of them, at least lobby for it to be distributed to the members in writing);
•    post the same information on your web site, blog, and send it your existing trucking company clients;
•    repeat in 6 – 12 months with a new subject.

With accounting practice marketing, the goal is to accomplish three things.  The first is to present yourself as someone who is likeable and is easy to work with.  The second is that you’re technically competent.  The third is that you provide your clients with a good experience, e.g. you return calls, get things done on time, charge fair fees, etc.

As just one example, what I’ve described above satisfies all three criteria.  If you create a marketing plan, consistently DO the action items it and stick with it, you will generate new prospects for your practice.

As always, please let me know what marketing techniques have worked for you and let me know your comments.

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