How to Stand Out from the Herd of Other CPAs: Are You a Ram ahead of the Herd or a Ewe behind?
Do you ever wonder why clients are not beating down your doors for your accounting, auditing, and tax services? Have you even tried lowering your fees with little, if any, success? Perhaps you need to develop a new marketing plan, assuming you ever had one in the first place, like most CPAs.
We accountants are good at bean counting but, quite frankly, we are deplorable when it comes to marketing. Marketing is the most critical function of any public accounting firm. You can be the most astute tax accountant in the entire Milky Way, but unless you develop a significant client base, you’ll be closing your doors and returning to work as a grunt slave for another public accounting firm before you can say, “Bialystock & Bloom”.
Many partners who are convivial and born raconteurs, who have a great sense of humor, and who love to guzzle and gobble, ironically dread wining and dining potential clients even though such entertainment is tax deductible. Go figure. They prefer crunching the numbers and banging out the tax returns and the financials. Does our aversion to marketing stem from all of those detestable case studies we were obligated to write in those required marketing courses that we struggled through in college? Or does it originate from our myopic belief that marketing is essentially selling, which we equate erroneously to bsing. We all know that accountants hate bsing. Accountants prefer dealing in the Platonic realm of numbers: that is, we are more comfortable with facts—dollars and cents—than words or talk.
But for a moment let’s be real: individuals who enjoy numbers are as common as the Javan rhino. Most people hate working with numbers and would rather undergo the primitive puberty rites of Mandan hook hanging than crunch numbers all day. It’s sad, but we accountants are an unappreciative lot, only sought after when every shekel in our client’s bank account has been seized by the IRS and the worse is yet to come, looming on the horizon. Consequently, we are associated with lots of negative imagery; feelings of pain, panic, and angst; and thoughts of revenge, murder, and suicide; and it is quite understandable that we are not as liked or appreciated as much as physicians, teachers, or chefs. Let’s face it, we’ll never live to see the day when there’s a cable show featuring “Iron Accountants”, where three accountants square off and duel an up-and-coming guest accountant specializing in trust taxation. Who would sponsor such a show? Better yet, who in their right mind would watch it?
Is there anything that we as public accountants can do to change the negative and distasteful impression that the entire population of the world has about us in general? Quite frankly, yes; however, it will require drastic action on the part of a public accounting firm to stand out and define itself apart from the herd of sheepish certified public accountants and establish a uniquely positive identity and persona. And it will require a bold marketing strategy. And here are some ideas to get you started today!
For instance, why do accountants insist on dressing like morticians? Doesn’t that suggest something grave in and of itself? We have not come to bury Caesar but merely to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. So doff the grim reaper attire for something more gay and delightful!
We all know that accounting is an ancient language, as dead as latin, but why make it even deadlier than it need be. Perhaps we could attach dignity to the profession of accounting by sporting attire associating, if not even capitalizing on, its origins in antiquity: for instance, instead of having your accounting staff dressing in conventional suits, they could instead wear Roman togas! Why not! Think how fetching some of your new male and female recruits would appear dressed (er, undressed) in Roman togas, and how regal and august the partners would look, topped off with laurel leaf crowns. Such classical garb would add just the right touch of class to your firm. Needless to say, this clothing would certainly set you apart from all of those other drearily dressed certified public accountants, whose attire would be better suited for characters in an Edgar Allan Poe poem for evermore. And on up-and-coming female staff members, those togas might lead to a surge in your services, particularly among your contractor clients. However, it may be advisable to increase your policy coverage on sexual harassment insurance; please contact your insurance agent for details.
And instead of publishing the same old looking audit, review, and compilation reports that every other certified public accountant publishes, why not print your report—representing the fruits of all of your labors—in a new, novel, different, unique, eye-catching format: for example, why not print them on parchment in latin! That would certainly capture the attention of the readers. Can you imagine the reaction of your clients opening up the financial statements and seeing your audit report reading as follows:
Tabula of Presul, Proprietas , quod / vel Procuratio
Roman Res publica
I Pelagus Via
Rome , Romanorum Empire
Nos have celebratio accompanying pondera ovis of Romanorum Res publica ( “Republic” ) ut of December XXXI, MMX, quod commemoro editio of reditus retained earnings , quod cash flows pro annus tunc nisus. Illa financial editio es officium of Res publica procuratio.
Nostrum officium est ut effor an sententia in illa financial editio substructio in nostrum audit.We se gero nostrum celebratio in conveniens per auditing vexillum universe recipero in Romanorum Empire. Illud vexillum postulo ut nos intentio quod tractare celebratio usurpo oportet fides super utrum financial editio es solvo of materia misstatement. An celebratio comprehendo probatur , in a expertus basis , testimonium suscipio amounts quod disclosures in financial editio. An celebratio quoque comprehendo censeo ratio potissimus adsuesco assuesco quod significant censeo no per procuratio , pariter ut censeo super financial editio presentation.
Nos puto ut nostrum celebratio suggero a oportet basis pro nostrum sententia nostrum sententia , financial editio relatum ut supremus tendo iuste , in totus materia veneratio , financial positus of Res publica ut of December XXXI, MMX, quod praecessi of suus operations quod suus cash flows pro annus tunc nisus in conveniens per ratio potissimus universe recipero in Romanorum Empire.
Guido, Meretricis, et Mafooch
Licentia Publicus Occurro
I bet your clients would do more than give those reports a cursory glance. In fact, they may even attempt to read it for a change. And if they request a translation, you can charge them extra for that service.
Does FASB prohibit your audit, review, or compilation reports in latin on parchment? Of course not. Neither the pronouncements of the AICPA nor those of FASB prohibit such a classical rendition to your financial reporting. I grant you, these are indeed bold marketing initiatives, but they are guaranteed to set your firm apart from all other firms and to have people banging down your doors.
Here’s another novel idea that might be a positive attraction to your public accounting firm, especially during tax season. Since you are living in the electronic age of laptops, cell phones, and wireless internet, if you are located in a temperate climate, why not consider hosting your office in a sensuously appealing environment instead of on the conventional top floor of a high rise building or in that stuffy, damp home office, which was previously your garage? For instance, why not have an office largely outdoors, with your staff basking in sunlight and cultivating a healthy and invigorating tan, surrounded by landscape grounds, fountains, palm trees, or in a thatched-roof hut at the end of a wooden pier extending out into the ocean. Think of the savings in electricity and utilities alone. Your clients and staff would certainly appreciate its decor, particularly your clients in the fishing, ranching, landscaping, farming, construction, and veterinary industries. Of course, togas could still be worn; however, bikinis and wetsuits might even be more appealing to your clientele, particularly your contractor clients. Imagine allowing your clients the luxury of a bit of fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and kitesurfing, followed by a slew of pina coladas before getting down to business and presenting them with your exorbitant tab.
Or perhaps you could open an office in a casino complex, where many of your clients spend their leisure time anyway. You could stylishly accent your office with slot machines, roulette wheels, and blackjack tables, and your staff could don the conventional, attractive, decolletage attire (see photo at left exhibiting a couple) of a blackjack dealer or a roulette wheeler. Imagine the fun. Let us not overlook the many, many possible benefits of wheeling and dealing in a gambling casino: namely, if your clients hit the jackpot on route to an office visit to you, think how more likely it would be for you to collect on all of those receivables that they have owed you over the years but have been reluctant and unable to settle up with you on. As we all suspect or know from personal experience, people are much more likely to find their wallets for entertainment than for tax liabilities and related tax services.
The possibilities are endless, awaiting the imaginative entrepreneur to seize the opportunity to distinguish oneself from the rest of the sheepish herd. Let’s face it: we certified public accountants all do the same old thing day after day after day…we audit, review, compile, prepare tax returns, and add, and foot, and cross-foot, and vouch and tick and cross tick. For you to distinguish and differentiate yourself from the other bean counters, you must create a unique image, labeling yourself as truly distinctive and different, and—if you are truly bold and ingenious enough—enjoyable, pleasurable, and fun. If you want clients beating down your public accounting doors, then try appealing to their senses, their humanity, their depravity. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Besides, your staff will love you for it, since they probably feel as negatively about you as your clients presently do. So go for it before your competitors do, and in the immortal words of John "Bluto" Blutarsky.....
Toga! Toga!! TOGA!!!
This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice. For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant.
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The Barefoot Accountant—is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Berlin, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford, Connecticut, LLC. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. Bill is a crazed animal lover, feeding birds, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, possums, stray cats, and any two-legged or four-legged critter traversing through his yard. His backyard in Berlin, Connecticut has been certified as a habitat suitable for wildlife by the National Wildlife Federation.
Bill also writes an Accounting, QuickBooks, and Tax blog: Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by the Barefoot Accountant. For entertaining articles, please see his listing at The Amazing Brighenti.