When you’re a marketing strategy consultant, everything comes down to marketing strategy

This morning, a colleague called to brainstorm ideas on how to promote an upcoming program on "reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce".  Her concern was that the small business owners she was targeting had opted not to attend other programs on diversity.

To address her concern, I immediately donned my strategic marketing hat.  Some would say that when you have a hammer, everything is a nail...

Helping prospects recognize they need what you have to offer

My first observation was that the prospects probably didn't recognize how much they might benefit from the program (the second of nine potential obstacles to a sale).  Else, they would have expressed more interest in similar programs. This could have been for any of the following reasons.

They may not have recognized that:

  • They have the problem the solution purports to addresses-or believe their current solution is adequate,
  • The solution is relevant to their situation
  • The source of the solution was credible and/or
  • The proffered solution would resolve the problem,

We approached these reservations one at a time.  First, we determined that it was likely that many of the small business owners did not already have a solution for "reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce".

We based this assumption on the fact that most companies hire "people like them", and most business owners tend to turn to their peers for advice.  We believed that the target audience would agree with our conclusion. So, we looked for ways to persuade them that the program would be relevant.


Stepping into prospective buyers' shoes

To do so, we tried to step into their shoes.

To anticipate their concerns, we asked ourselves two questions.  The first was, "What might come to prospects' minds when they thought about diversity?".  Then, we asked, "What was most important to them right now?"

We guessed that most people think of diversity in terms of differences in race, sex, age, or national origin.  Yet, the term has broader implications.  It can also refer to a host of other populations that share common circumstances that differ from our own.

We anticipated that what would make the program relevant to a group of small business owners was examples of how a "diverse workforce" would significantly affect the success of their businesses.  Luckily, we had recently encountered a few great examples.


Buying from those we know and trust may not always be the best approach: a personal example

Recently, I decided to migrate my website to a modern platform-and began looking for potential vendors .  Some of the "usual suspects", recommended by my colleagues, prepared proposals that addressed a number of my stated  requirements such as maintaining the "look and feel" of my current site.  Nevertheless, a number offered alternative designs despite the fact that I had indicated this was neither a need or a preference.

That said, at the heart of my requirements was a need for strategic guidance.  I indicated this by stressing the importance of ease of maintenance and ease of upgrading the site-to accommodate future unknown requirements.

I began to fully recognize my need for strategic guidance,  when the bids that came in had little in common.  At that point, I began to search the web and social media for resolution to the disparities.

My research surfaced only one company that focused on strategic issues-and provided numerous examples of its capabilities in this area-and that company was located overseas.  Given the sample size, I'm not sure if this company had a different perspective because it was located in another country or if this was an individual difference. Nevertheless, it was interesting to me that no US firm popped up in the couple hours I spent searching the web and social media.


Credible sources help raise awareness of value:  additional examples

There are more influential sources that we could draw on to demonstrate relevance. One is Jeff Howe, the author of the bestseller Crowdsourcing.  He  notes (on page 152 of his book) that it  takes a diverse group to devise innovative approaches to challenging problems.

Another came from panelists at last week's conference on the future of marketing. In discussing what it takes to develop successful products, they advocated building cross-functional teams composed of marketers, developers, and designers.

Their rationale was that when professionals work in functional silos, they tend to approach problems in much the same way they did in the past. They noted that companies only come up with market-disrupting solutions when employees work in teams that can view situations from multiple angles.


Strategic marketing is a never-ending process

I felt we had come up with some great ideas for helping prospective attendees recognize how they would benefit from the program.  At the core, was demonstrating how diversity can help companies achieve competitive advantage.

Now, "all" that was required was to summarize the above "arguments" in concise compelling copy and move to the third of nine potential obstacles to a sale-creating the sense of urgency that would render our prospects "ready to buy".


Whether you're a small business or a strategic marketing consultant, assemble a diverse team

What struck me as ironic, when considering all of the above, is that the very reason we often don't recognize the need for products and services-that might benefit us-is that these products and services are a) unfamiliar,  b) don't seem relevant because we don't have examples of how people like us have benefited from them and/or c) are not recommended by the people "like us" that we know and trust.  Perhaps we need to involve a more diverse team in our buying process.

Written by:

This blog

by Barbara Bix - In tough economic times, more and more clients are looking to their accountants to help them improve the bottom line. Often, the best way to do that is to start with the top line-since one can only decrease expenses so far. This blog discusses concrete actions you and your business-to-business clients can use to accelerate revenues.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.