More than ever, marketing must show a recognizable return on investment.

Many firms are cutting back on staff, and any expenditure deemed not absolutely necessary, so proving marketing's value to the firm is more important than ever.

Attributing success to marketing has always been a challenge, though, as marketing a tangible item effectively (e.g. Toyotas), will lead to more sales.  But marketing an intangible professional service effectively, like accounting, tax and business consulting, will lead to a quality appointment with a desired prospect - not necessary a new project or client.  That depends on the sales ability of the person(s) on the sales interview.

Recently I went looking for new homeowner's insurance.  Our current provider, a good company with admirable customer service, had boosted their Florida rates so high that they were about twice as expensive as anyone else.

Where do you go? What do you do?

As with any potential referral or sale opportunity where a relationship is important with the service provider, one tends to think in the following order:

1.     Who do I know? or Who do I know who would know?

2.     Who do I like?

3.     Who can I trust?

4.     Who will want the business and take care of me?

We live in a tight-knit community. Referrals are easy to come by as word travels fast. However, nobody could refer me to anyone they personally knew to help me with my household insurance needs.

A few days later, I got an arbitrary email from some guy trying to make sure I attended his fascinating presentation at the local chamber on "Protecting Businesses and Families." I had never heard of his insurance agency, but since I didn't know anyone else, contacted them looking for a quote.

Here's the marketing part: these people have been in business since 1987; they have a beautiful office building on a main road that I have passed @ 2,000 times in the last 10 years. Their service person was fabulous and went out of her way to find the right fit and save me 50% on our premium - and neither I nor anyone of the dozens of people I mingle with in the various chambers here referred them to me.

Why? It's marketing's missing link: they were invisible on the personal level.  It's sort of like yeast.  It grows and magnifies and makes marketing work.

This is the same malady that affects CPA firms as well.

Every contact, from the moment one does actually notice the building  - to being in it - to working with their personnel to the follow-up - was all really very good. But they missed the most important piece: people buy from people they KNOW, trust and like.

How can you retain a service provider if you don't KNOW them personally?

One reason our firm has grown leaps and bounds in the last 5 years is we are represented regularly and in positions of leadership in the most important target organizations for our service.

The next time the partners complain about marketing's ROA, therefore, politely remind them that all the marketing in the world can't make up for the "missing link." They have to be involved PERSONALLY and VISIBLY to make marketing payoff.

Allan S. Boress, CPA, CVA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs.  The "I-Hate-Selling" Book is available at

This blog

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

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 (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, 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:
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 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 share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.