By Steve McIntyre-Smith, President, MarketingForAcountants.com
In days gone by professionals NEVER did any marketing. In fact, it wasn't even allowed in most countries until the mid 1980's, and even then, only in a very conservative and restricted manner.
Once open for business one simply put a brass nameplate outside one's office, had a letterhead and business card printed, called a few Bank Managers and other contacts and the work started to flood in.
If you were a half decent accountant, your clients then started to refer their friends to you, and before long you had more work than you knew what to do with.
But today, it just doesn't work that way, and here's why:
- There is so much more competition.
- Clients are better educated (in some regards) about their needs.
- Clients are more inclined to "shop around" before making a choice.
- Price is now up for discussion and negotiation.
- An accounting service is now regarded as just another business expense.
So what can we do to make things better for ourselves?
Well, actually, lots - but there are a few rules we need to follow in order to be successful.
Rule Number One
Whatever your client perceives as reality about you and your firm IS REALITY. (At least to them)
There is only one reality that matters, and no, it's not yours, but the client's and prospective client's viewpoint. As far as they are concerned, their opinion of you and your firm, is reality to them.
This is so important. If a prospective client believes that you're not "God's gift to the Accounting Profession," then you're not. Period.
The reverse is also true.
The first thing we have to work on is the opinion of our existing clients, contacts and prospective clients.
These are potentially a rich vein of new work and new clients. It might be depressing to know, but some of your existing clients may not rate you as the best accountant on the market. How can they if you've never shown them how much you have saved them each year in tax and other areas.
We have to learn how to tell our clients more about what we have done for them each year, and what the RESULT of this work has been. Only then can they start to make a judgment call on the value you are to them.
Once clients understand what you have done for them each year, such as:
- How much tax you have saved them
- The estate planning work you have done which gives them tremendous peace-of-mind
- The restructuring work you did that raised finance that has provided a platform for growth
Whatever it is that we have done for the client, we have to make sure that they know and appreciate the value you have added to their business.
Rule Number Two
Your client has no way of assessing the quality of your work.
If they did - they'd probably be in practice themselves.
The point is, as stated above (rule number one) we really do have to tell our clients what we have done for them, why, and what the results are.
Only then can they accurately assess the value you provide. And that's the key word. It isn't cost that makes some clients change advisers, it's VALUE, or, more accurately, PERCEIVED VALUE.
Most business people start their own company because they need to satisfy three basic human needs:
Sometimes the circumstances in which the business was started are less than ideal. For example they might have been laid-off from their regular job of twenty years, so have gone freelance - or their parents might have died and they inherited the business - but before too long, their main goal comes back to these three basic issues.
If we can help our clients to meet these basic human needs, then they will keep coming back to us, and refer new clients to us at every opportunity.
How can we do this?
Money is an easy one. If we can show clients how to improve their business, either by cutting costs or operating more efficiently or if we can help them reduce the amount of tax they need to pay, then we become a trusted and valued part of their team.
But satisfaction? And security? Not often associated with the services of an Accounting firm. Or so you might think. But on delving deeper, isn't that what we are really about?
If we help a client to become wealthier, then their level of personal satisfaction must surely increase in line with their wealth. With increased wealth, comes increased financial security. They see that their retirement is going to be financially comfortable and their comfort level increases accordingly. They see that their business is properly structured and doing well, and, again, their comfort level increases.
This is cutting a very long story rather short, but the bottom line is that we have to add value to the client in order to be valued (by them) ourselves.
Rule Number Three
It isn't one single part of the marketing effort that makes you successful, it's the combined result of them all.
This is a little like going back to school, but the point makes it worthwhile.
It's a simple equation and the sooner you get to grips with it, the sooner you'll see results.
Tools x Audience x Effort = Results
It doesn't matter how good your marketing tools are, or if they get to the right market at the right time, or if the effort applied is huge, if ANY ONE of these elements is zero your results will ALWAYS be zero!
Writing a great letter and sending it to the right people will sometimes produce results with very little effort (let's call that an effort factor of 1). But doing the same thing, with a effort factor of 5, should produce 5 times as many prospects from the same work.
The "effort" here could be one of many things. It could simply be whether or not you followed up the mailing (or e-mailing) with a telephone call. It could be the number of ways you gave the recipients to respond (always offer them the option to telephone you, mail in a coupon or reply-card getting you to call them, visit your web site or use e-mail or fax options). It could be the day your message arrived (never time a marketing message to arrive on a Monday morning - people don't respond to these for obvious reasons).
A combination of the right message, using the right media, with the right effort is VERY powerful. That's one of the main points we focus on in our consulting work with CA and CPA firms - getting ALL the elements right and then showing you how to use leverage to benefit many times over from doing the work just once.
Rule Number Four
Everyone Has A Role To Play In Marketing
From the front desk to Senior Partner via the newest clerk in the office, everyone has a role to play.
Each time a client has contact with your office, they form an opinion of the quality of your firm by reference to how that contact was handled.
Their satisfaction with their interaction has an effect on their satisfaction with you or your firm.
It is important that everyone realizes their own particular role in the marketing function and ensures that each time they interact with a client or prospective client, they perform at their best.
Understanding the importance of "Judgement by Association" and the effect it has on your firm's bottom line can turn an ordinary receptionist into a star "director of first impressions". This is another of the keys to success we discuss in our eBook, "Low Cost, High Impact Ways To Win New Clients".
All of these factors play a part in determining your results.
By Steve McIntyre-Smith, President, MarketingForAcountants.com
2766 Folkway Drive, Unit 44,
Mississauga, Ontario, L5L 3M3, CANADA.
or visit us online at http://www.marketingforaccountants.com