By Hugh Duffy
In marketing your business, one of the concepts that many business owners lose sight of is frequency of their message. In other words, how many times does their target audience need to be exposed to their message before it triggers a response?
All too often, small accounting firm owners will try something once, expect immediate results, and then draw the conclusion after a couple of weeks that it was or was not effective. This is analogous to a weight loss program when someone gets discouraged with the results after two or three weeks and draws the conclusion that the weight loss program does not work. Building a brand and strong reputation is a journey, not a one-time test.
Advertising works on frequency. Yes, your message and positioning need to be compelling and timing is key, but advertising and marketing work gradually over time. Frequently, accounting firm owners promote their business using a spray-and-pray methodology. For example, they will try a direct mail marketing program and expect immediate results. While this occasionally happens, the reality is that you need to create multiple touch points whereby your message reaches your target audience from a combination of mediums.
For example, your target audience might receive a couple of direct mail letters from your accounting firm, notice a "new" sign in front of your office, stumble upon your blog post while researching a financial issue, hear that you are speaking at an upcoming trade association meeting, and discover you are connected to the same people they are on LinkedIn. Yes, many small business owners are "nosy Nellies" in small communities, so feed their curiosity. After hearing your accounting firm's name multiple times, like a hot new restaurant in town, the prospective small business owner client conducts an online search and reads several online reviews about what a great accounting firm you have and places your firm's reputation into the memory bank.
In other words, a diversified marketing approach starts to create awareness of what your accounting firm does, makes your firm appear larger than it is, and creates a local buzz gradually over time with frequent messages that reach your target audience – the small business owner in a particular industry.
So how frequently must your message reach and activate your audience? Most research indicates that a frequency of less than three is a waste of money and more than seven starts to wear out and have diminishing returns. In working with small accounting firms, the challenge with limited marketing budgets is to reach the target audience two to four times within a short period of time (say eight to ten weeks). Consider your message and ask yourself:
- Is your message creative?
- How compelling is your message?
- Is your message memorable?
- How consistent is your message?
At the end of the day, your target audience wants to categorize your accounting firm into a box. Your local reputation and image will gradually take shape if you select a compelling message, stick to it for several years, and build on it over time with repetition (aka frequency). And when prospective business owners need your service and transition into search mode, you want to be at the top of their list of firms they are considering.
About the author:
Hugh Duffy is cofounder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, an accounting website design and accounting practice development firm. Hugh teaches a series of Accounting Marketing Workshops; has a LinkedIn Discussion Group called Modern Marketing Methods for Accountants; and provides outsourced marketing for accountants. He can be reached at (888) 999-9800 ext. 151 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.