I am continuing with my promise to share ideas and insights from the Association for Accounting Marketing Conference recently held in conjunction with the AICPA Practitioners' Symposium. Many of the ideas that percolated at the three day event are applicable to all size firms, with or without marketing professionals. I hope that by exposing you to some of what I learned you, too, will find a few concepts that work for your firm.
At one of the opening sessions the presenter noted that today's accounting firms face big challenges including: a lack of defined strategy for growth and client service, increased competition, pricing pressures, and technology changes(i.e. the Internet) that shape the way business owners purchase services. recognizing these issues is half the battle, but identifying solutions is not very easy. Every firm needs to begin the process by defining what type of clients they serve, what services they offer and what future prospects look like. Having this information helps guide the firm into arriving at educated decisions regarding the other challenges. That's because once you know who you are, you can narrow your focus to address the specific issues of your target market. In reality, the more narrowly you define your firm's strategy, the greater your opportunities for success. When you target a well defined audience, you can offer the services they most value, which means you can charge more because the client perceives they are getting more! Staff has more confidence because they are more knowledgeable about a particular niche area, and their attitude creates even greater trust and confidence from the clients. In essence it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
With business owners exposed to about 4,000 marketing messages every day, your firm needs to craft a well-stated message that can break through the clutter because it is relevant. Studies show that 90% of business owners admit they start the buying cycle online by gathering data and information about future service providers while searching the Internet. Fortified with details, they can then complete the process by initiating personal interaction. But it is critical to note that the Internet is the original source for some of the details that are most influential in the selection process.
What this AAM session emphasized is that you must offer meaningful and valuable services to a defined audience and to be most effective, your Internet presence must reflect your distinctive capabilities.