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 www.ihateselling.com