Used to have a client in a faraway city that required me to rent an apartment there. It was a very nice place: furnished in a beautiful condo building.
One night I got the munchies in the middle of the night and went into the kitchen. I wasn't the only one hungry; about 1,000 cockroaches were in the kitchen, too. It was like a nightmare.
For the first 6 years I was in practice here in Lake County, FL I was the only CPA out in the community (the target market) doing marketing and networking. I spoke in front of target audiences and wrote in certain publications and took leadership roles in select organizations.
Then the Great Recession hit and never ended, but got worse. Approximately 90% of my business clients went under; our county was very hard hit with no recovery in sight.
The Recession must have hit other CPAs as well, because they are now like those cockroaches in the kitchen; they are all over the place.
The difference is that the cockroaches know what to do. The accountants might starve to death if left to their marketing instincts.
I watch and chuckle as the CPAs stand around trying to figure out why they are there and what to do.
So, here are some bullet-proof tools for the novice marketer forced into marketing:
1) Talk to only one person as your initial quota: if you are introverted and shy as 90% of our peers, break through by approaching just one person - only one. Then leave if you want. Anyone can do something once. The goal is to incrementally make yourself comfortable with talking to strangers and not even thinking about it, as it becomes something completely natural.
2) Pretend you are not there to sell, but to be a business therapist. Shut the heck up. Ask people about their business and be interested in what they have to say. People fall in love with people who listen to them.
3) Sit by people you don't know. I had a CPA firm client in Hollywood, FL who invited me to the monthly chamber breakfast. He was considering resigning his membership over fear that a competitor CPA firm dominated the chamber. Indeed, there were nine partners of the competing firm at the event! Where were they? All sitting at the same table talking only to themselves.
4) Display the proper behavior for the situation. I remember my daughter's first wedding (don't ask). I don't like parties and have no close friends. I would have preferred to go to her wedding, eat and leave. But I was the Father of the Bride, and that requires a set of behaviors totally opposite than my natural personality, but APPROPRIATE FOR THE OCCASION. Once I realized the correct behavior that was necessary, I applied what I knew was correct: I greeted everyone, smiled a lot, pretended I was happy to see them, and made them feel welcome and comfortable. That's pretty much the same APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR FOR A NETWORKING EVENT. At our monthly chamber breakfast here in beautiful Eustis, FL, I pretend I am the host, smile and stand by the breakfast line and greet each person as they get into line for food (that can be 50 - 100 "touches"). I sit with strangers and ask them about their business. I get their cards and ...
5) Get one business card as your quota and write a follow-up note. This idea is widely acknowledged as helping get George H.W. Bush be nominated and then elected president. It was his main marketing tool within the Republican Party. He was a prolific note writer to people he met. Bill Clinton took this a step further: he would come back from events and spend an hour writing notes about each person he met as he built a database of contacts and circles of influence.
6) Be there for the next event to catch people in the buying cycle. It is vital to come to events on a consistent basis, so in case someone realizes they need your services or has a referral, they can be quite confident you will be there the next time so they can talk to you.
These 6 tools will better equip you for maximizing your personal marketing ventures. Stop being a cockroach; start being a marketing machine.
Allan S. Boress, CPA, FCPA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs. He has consulted with over 500 professional firm and trained over 200,000 professionals since 1980. His "I-Hate-Selling" methodology is available at www.ihateselling.com