By Brian M. Finnigan, vice president and chief marketing officer, 1st Global
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him or her and sells itself.
— management expert Peter F. Drucker, 1909-2005
What do fly-fishing clubs, the FBI and thought-provoking riddles have to do with your business? Each can provide a platform to market your services to new and existing clients.
Many CPAs and tax and accounting professionals falter because they fail to effectively market their services. If your firm’s growth has flatlined, you must make a commitment to marketing. Marketing isn’t easy; it requires both time and money to be effective.
One of the most effective ways to market your services and brand is through the strong relationships you already have with existing clients. Relationship marketing leads to a greater client experience with your firm. A greater client experience translates into a stellar reputation for your firm, which in turn leads more of the right clients to your door.
These five relationship marketing strategies, when applied in tandem, can grow your business beyond your expectations.
Many CPAs and financial advisors are fearful of, or don’t know how to network. But networking is nothing to be afraid of, and it can have a tremendous effect on your business.
The first step to building a network is to get involved in your community. A 2010 advisor survey by Senior Market Advisor showed that 57 percent of wealth management advisors use community involvement to broaden their audience. You can do this by joining a community group like the Elks Lodge, Rotary Club or your local Chamber of Commerce, where you can meet and interact with a diverse range of people (and potential clients). Start by figuring out what you like about your community, how you can better it, and then locate a group that engages in these activities.
You can also join a group based on your particular hobbies and interests; I call them affinity groups. You can find affinity groups from book groups to wine clubs to golf groups to knitting meet-ups. Just search the Internet for your interest and city.
I know a CPA in the northeast who is an avid fly fisherman. He found four local fly-fishing groups and joined them. About five years went by and he realized that about 30 percent of his new clients came from those fly-fishing groups, and they are his best clients.
How did this happen? He wasn’t engaging with his fellow fly-fishers to sell them anything. He was just there to fish among friends. But over time, people will generally ask you what you do, and eventually they’ll either ask for your advice or tell a friend, “Hey, I know a guy …”
Remember, this is a long-term strategy. It may take anywhere from six months to two years to see results. However, if you’re active in your community and you engage in good deeds — you’ll get noticed.
Anyone making his or her living through the service of clients knows the tremendous value of referrals. What many people don’t understand is that if you don’t institutionalize referrals, you’re going to miss opportunities to ask the right person for an introduction. One quick method to generate more referrals is to put an item on the agenda for every client meeting called a “Sounding Board.” Ask the client, “Can I act as a sounding board for friends or family members that need another opinion about where their financial lives are? It’s a service I provide my best clients.”
The thought of hosting events for clients can make even the most confident professionals squirm. These events — which can range from seminars to client appreciation dinners to family barbecues — are incredibly valuable, and can be easier to host than you might think.
One simple way is to find a sponsor of your event. Many product sponsors have product-neutral presentations on topics such as women and investing or general retirement planning principles that they’ll come in and give at a client appreciation event. One firm I worked with in the past called its local FBI office to co-sponsor a “shredding party” as part of a discussion on keeping identity thieves at bay.
Not only do these seminars support your firm’s brand, but they can attract family and friends of your clients. Friends of clients may not show at first, but they will, especially if the events are high quality. Even if clients don’t bring friends to events, they deepen your client’s relationship with your firm, which heightens the chances they will refer someone to you.
A well-designed website is essential for the modern day firm. It is a highly valuable extension of the brand you’ve worked so hard to create. Existing clients will visit your firm’s website to find quick information while prospective clients will use your website to decide whether they’d like to call for an appointment. Presenting your firm’s values and services in a clear, meaningful manner is of the utmost importance. This is one of your most powerful marketing tools and shouldn’t be relegated to a college student to create and manage between classes. If your firm’s website is pedestrian, dated or looks like it was created from a generic template – if it doesn’t effectively communicate your firm’s brand, personality and modern capabilities – the prospect will likely look elsewhere for his or her accounting or wealth management services.
How many times should your firm be communicating with clients in a given year? Five, 10, 20? Experts say the best firms communicate with its clients 63 times each year. That might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. There are several client communication websites and tools such as Forefield and MarketingLibrary.net that will sell you weekly economic commentaries that you can send to clients – so there’s 52 communications out of the way, and we’re just getting started. Many of these can be branded with your firm’s logo and have a quote of the week or an interesting riddle — something that will engage clients and cement their relationship with you. Some of your best clients may forward these emails to their own network, adding to your referral base.
You can also send letters based on different economic issues you want to highlight, as well as holiday cards and birthday cards. The point is that there are many opportunities to create those 63 communications each year. One extra hint: Clients are more likely to open a communication that is hand-addressed and stamped.
These five strategies are straightforward, yet fundamental to growing a financial services business or CPA practice. Embrace these concepts because they work. If you use these five strategies and stick with them, you can be wildly successful.
1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500 in Dallas, Texas 75206; (214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at www.1stGlobal.com.
1st Global was founded by CPAs on the belief that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. Each affiliated firm is provided with education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions that make these firms leaders in their professions through dedicated professional client relationships built around wealth management.