It is a classic debate in CPA firms. Are events worth it? Are they an investment or just an expense? Consider the debate settled: They are an investment and they work as a business development and retention tool. Accept it.
Now that you've accepted that events work, truly embrace the idea and approach creating an event strategically and purposefully to serve your firm's business development needs.
First, set goals for your event. Key goals may include, but are not limited to:
Establish how many existing clients you want in attendance.
Establish how many prospective clients you want in attendance.
Determine key messages you want your guests to receive at the event. Do you want to simply say "thank you?" Is your goal to communicate a new service? Do you wish to introduce new hires to key clients?
Determine the number of new referrals you want to generate.
With goals firmly established, be sure to provide everyone in your firm (from CPAs to administrative assistants) with key talking points for the event. Talking points ensure your event goals are met. At the same time, they give focus to everyone on staff. For instance, if one of your goals is to say thank you to existing clients, one of your talking points might be: "We are so pleased you came today. We are always so hard at work ensuring we do a great job for you, we rarely have the opportunity to just say how much we appreciate the trust and faith you put into all of us at the firm." Talking points generate conversation and establish a comfort level for staff members who may need assistance in social situations.
Along the same line, veteran CPAs must lead by example. They should introduce new hires and partners to clients. In fact, you may want to go the extra mile for your event and pair veterans with younger staff. They can mingle together and provide insight to your firm's teamwork and resources.
Also, ensure your event is effective by creating a long-term plan, budget and timeline. Give yourself and others in your firm enough time to prepare a guest list, send invitations in a timely manner, and coordinate the logistics flawlessly. One person should be designated to spearhead the long-term plan. Whether you assign a specific staff member or hire a resource outside your CPA firm, this individual should be responsible for meeting deadlines, tracking RSVPs, finalizing vendor contracts (catering, facility rental, etc.), supplying talking points to all staff members, and keeping everyone on track to accomplish the established goals.
Finally, be sure to follow-up with existing and prospective clients after the event! Contact them to communicate how refreshing it was to see them outside of a business meeting and to follow-up on any leads or questions they may have brought up during your event.
By approaching an event with strategy and purpose, you provide your CPA firm with a prime opportunity to grow new business and retain your existing clients.
"Business Development: Resources to Use" is an eight part series written exclusively for AccountingWEB. The series' authors are Jill Mercer, president of Wilson-Mercer Marketing and Vanessa Stiles, president of Victory Sun, Inc. Visit their websites at www.wilsonmercer.com and www.wearevictorysun.com.
Other articles in this series: