Greathead, Damien, Vice President, Receipt Bank
Yes You Do Need Marketing
To be growing you need to be marketing. It’s that simple. Unfortunately many accountants have forgotten how to market or never learned in the first place. Here are 7 key considerations to help you get your marketing up and running quickly.
Have a Plan
Your marketing plan needs to answer the following questions:
- What marketing activities will we do?
- Who will do them?
- When do they need to be done by?
Have a Target
The most successful marketers know who they’re going after. And since your marketing dollars are not infinite, spend some time in the planning stage to identify the future clients you want. You might target particular industries. Ask yourself what industries are doing better than others? What industries do you enjoy working with and find interesting? And what industries do you have a specific expertise or reputation in? You probably have a few in mind already.
With the industry targeted, you now need the list. You can buy lists; you can join trade/industry associations to access their member lists or you can build a list through Google searches. And quality is so much more important than quantity. For example, a list of 300 government contractors will yield better results in the long term than a random list of 5,000 people.
Unfortunately in accounting firms, marketing only happens when there’s a lull in production. But you need time and consistency to cultivate the sales pipeline. Your goal is to be second in line. Think of client satisfaction as a wave; sometimes a client will be overjoyed with the service they are getting from their current CPA and not interested in switching; other times that satisfaction will be in the trough, their current CPA may have missed a deadline or a phone call was not returned promptly. Your marketing needs to be consistent enough to put your firm in second place and come immediately to mind. So think about your direct mail campaign, 4 mailing pieces a year to your 300 government contractors (above example) will yield better results than 1 mailing piece to 1,200 prospects.
TIP: An e-newsletter (and social media) is a great way to consistently connect with your clients, prospects and referral sources. And remember an email address is an email address is an email address. Have some fun with it in the office; whoever contributes the most NEW email addresses each month wins a gift card.
So how does this marketing happen with the consistency required for it to be effective? The only solution is a dedicated marketing person. Some readers have just fallen off their chair and are immediately making excuses; we’re too small or that will cost too much money. But hear me out. If you’re a small firm, the most basic marketing plan may consist of Direct Mail and an e-newsletter. So what needs to get done each weak?
- Update the database (including email addresses)
- Send 25 letters
- Make 25 phone calls (test their phone manner early in the interview process)
- Coordinate the newsletter (TIP: Partner with someone to create the content)
Maybe 5-10 hours a week? Who is perfect for this? College students studying marketing. This Marketing Assistant Role gives them much needed experience and is a cost effective way to get your marketing department up and running. The marketer’s role will increase relative to the size of your firm and your growth aspirations.
If you want marketing to happen you can’t add the responsibilities to someone’s already full job description. You need someone in the dedicated role to make sure the marketing activities, however many they are, happen consistently.
Give Something Away
Every marketing piece has to have an offer; and not a free consultation. You want the audience to do something. You want them to call or register on your website; it could be a free book, a top 10 tax tips list, an internal controls checklist* or a strategic planning questionnaire*. Your marketing person also needs a reason to call. It’s much easier to call a prospect to give something away then ask something of them. And having a giveaway will also make it easy to measure the success of your campaigns.
Get on the Phone (to businesses that is)
Don’t waste your money on Direct Mail to businesses if you don’t plan to follow up on the phone. When you hire your marketing person, ask how they feel about ‘smiling and dialing.’ Beware! If they reply with “it’s not their favorite thing to do”, keep looking. It’ll never get done. Look for someone who enjoys being on the phone and enjoys the challenge of getting past the gatekeeper. Create scripts* and practice them together and don’t be afraid to test different openings. Let them know they’ll be hung up on, but the goal is to get you appointments. Maybe offer an incentive for appointments made, for example $100 for an appointment with a prospective business client.
Test, Measure, Repeat
There’s an element of luck when it comes to marketing. However, we can also bring some science into it. Certain messages will appeal to certain markets more than others. You’ll have to test what works best for you. Change your email subject to see which email gets more open rates; and change up the offers to test what giveaway the marketplace wants. Track these numbers and incorporate the successes into future marketing activities.
Consistent marketing will yield results. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Start small. The more comfortable you become with marketing, and the more ingrained with the firm’s culture it becomes, the broader your marketing activities will become.
* Available online at www.2020groupUSA.com
Damien Greathead is the Director of Operations at 2020 Group USA. Among other things he works with accounting firms around the country to develop and implement results driven marketing programs.