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Most CPA firms, of any size, focus on building their brand—having a strong reputation—in their target markets. The larger the firm, the more resources it has to deploy, from people to finances to time, to accomplish this goal. But that doesn't mean the smaller firm has to get left out in the cold.
It's true that for smaller firms and solo practitioners, it is harder to invest the time and the dollars needed to distinguish the practice. Most new business evolves from word of mouth from existing and loyal clients and from friends and business colleagues in the community. But as more and more of the Gen X and Gen Y-ers take over responsibility for running their family businesses or ascend to leadership status in a private company, they may do business differently. This is where a smaller firm can leverage technology and relationships together to compete more efficiently.
Make time to blog about relevant business ideas, and consider tweeting a business tip or retweeting an interesting and timely article, and posting ideas and starting conversations on LinkedIn. These can all help to bring an audience to your door. However, it is as important to build personal relationships in the community.
Every generation in an ownership role looks to people they trust for advice. In some instances it may be their other advisors (bankers, attorneys, or consultants); in other cases it may be other business owners like them (trade association or chamber of commerce connections); or it may be the referrals and testimonials they find online that tout your capabilities.
Smaller firms like yours can become active in trade associations as well as local business and civic groups—joining committees and making a meaningful impact. You will have significant exposure across the group and will have many opportunities to meet new people as a result. You can also post glowing referrals from your clients and colleagues. Encourage them to talk about you on Yelp or some other internet platform that showcases you as a distinctive firm.
Finally, you can partner with other small firms to offer roundtables or seminars that are specifically focused on the needs of your client base. Providing critical information is an obligation of trusted advisors like yourself, but it is often easier to accomplish this (and more successful) if you enlist the help of others in the community who also serve your marketplace. Form some key strategic alliances and help each other out to spread the word about your collective value.
Acknowledge your limited time and finances and use these wisely. You cannot be all things to all people but you can develop a well-recognized name, no matter what size you are, when you pursue a structured and consistent process. If you stay targeted, investing your time within the key segment where you can have the most impact, you are most likely to reap the best rewards.
About the author:
Sally Glick is CMO and principal of Sobel & Co. LLC. She was named Accounting Marketer of the Year for 2003 and was voted into the AAM Hall of Fame in 2007. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.