Tuesday, July 10, 2001
Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.
As the recession deepens, some firms will be cutting back on their marketing activities and expenditures. SMART firms will look to enhance and strengthen what they are doing marketing-wise to attain profitable market share from their competitors and sell new products. The average Marketing Director is highly frustrated at the lack of cooperation in the accounting/consulting firm environment and lasts on average 11 months. The premier business development consultant to our profession shares 20 years of insights into what makes marketing work for your firm.
You can read the complete transcript of the workshop.
Workshop participants learned:
Session Moderator: Welcome to the AccountingWEB workshop room - and thank you all for joining us today! I'm Gail Perry, the managing editor of AccountingWEB, and I'll be your moderator today. I'm happy to introduce Allan Boress who will present a workshop on the role of the marketing director and what creates marketing results. Allan Boress, CPA, CFE, is the author of the new book, How to Master the Art of Marketing Professional Services.
Allan is also a consultant to professional firms on a variety of issues relating to marketing, client relationships, time management, and staff retention. Allan provides training in the areas of systematic selling, personal marketing, and client relationship management. Since 1980, Allan has taught these skills to over 100,000 professionals. Allan's training offers a systematic approach to bringing in more business -- an approach that removes the pain of fear of failure and rejection from the sales process forever.
An award-winning instructor, Allan has worked with the top professional firms in the world. He is regularly the highest-rated speaker at every conference.
Welcome Allan and thank you for taking the time to join us today!
Allan Boress: Welcome everybody. It's always an honor to do these workshops for AccountingWEB, which I believe to be an unsurpassed resource to our profession. Today we will discuss the major issues that will make or break the effectiveness of the marketing function in your firm. These issues will not be common sense or obvious necessarily. And you will benefit from what we have learned in working with over 500 professional firms as the premier marketing and sales consultants to the profession since 1980. Also, I am the author of the only book ever written on how to change the culture in a CPA firm from reactive to proactive, Building Entrepreneurial People
The way we do these workshops is to ask you for your questions on the topic first, so I can address specific needs. Kindly take a moment and type in a problem or concern you would like addressed and we will go from there! Don't be shy!!!
Gregory M. Desmond: Do you feel that the CPA/Partner should be the ultimate marketing person or closer?
Allan Boress: Greg: Who else is there? Salespeople or a referral source or a staff person can open the door but the client needs to be qualified and closed by a partner.
Sam Patrick: We're struggling with organizing and implementing a marketing culture since we've been successful without ever having to go through those pains, trials and tribulations.
Allan Boress: Sam: It's hard to change behavior and thought patterns, especially when people already successful. It is hard to change human beings. Changing the culture is a gradual process and usually happens when - to briefly continue with Sam: CPAs are change-resistant. Changing a culture and getting people to take a more active role is a PROCESS that takes at least two to three years. It consists of constant brainwashing and changing the conversation in the firm from getting the work out to selling and marketing Sam: Please forgive me for the trite or short answer. It took an entire book to answer that question!!!
Richard Stinson: Your comment regarding moving from reactive to proactive struck a chord. How do you convince partners concerned about working in the business that they should spend more time working on the business?
Allan Boress: It is the marketing person's role to make sure that every time the partnership turns their back on what they need to do, somebody else in the marketplace is taking advantage of that situation. Or they can be the aggressors. There is a huge change in the marketplace and people go kicking and screaming or when a firm has dynamic leadership and big, big goals
Gregory M. Desmond: We are a small firm and I (CPA owner) want to do the marketing sales person role, at least for now.
Lisa DeKrey: In our firm, marketing is looked at as "overhead." How do we change that?
Allan Boress: Lisa: Marketing isn't overhead!!! It is an INVESTMENT that REAL businesses take seriously.
Allan Boress: Show me one business in the real world (public accounting is not the real world) that doesn't take marketing seriously and I'll show you a loser. This is the easiest business in the world for a firm that takes marketing seriously as they will continually pick up market share and attract the best people. The problem with marketing is that it is intangible and one cannot put a deadline on results. Marketing is a continuous process that takes time.
Julie Rogers: I'd like to learn how to become part of the "management team." Because I'm not a partner, I'm usually not involved in the strategy sessions, just the implementation.
Allan Boress: Julie: The marketing person MUST be a part of the management team and be treated as a PEER by the partners or you will never have the respect necessary in the firm to make marketing work! This starts at the Managing Partner level who must stand directly behind everything you do and say… It cannot work otherwise. If your partners insist on precluding you from what is really happening in the firm, how can you really help them? You are A PROFESSIONAL PERSON -- just like them -- and they need to treat you as a peer or you might be in the wrong firm
Matthew Cochran: Hello Allan, what level of involvement are you saying we should be involved in. All of it, or only up to strategic planning?
Allan Boress: In my experience, marketing works best where the marketing expert is part of the internal conversation of the management of the firm. In real businesses, marketing is a part of everything, from production to implementation.
Matthew Cochran: I am not sure about everyone else here, but often it seems I barely have time for what I am trying to accomplish, much less what others are doing.
Allan Boress: Matt: There isn't enough time for marketing people to do their job because the partners don't understand the function. A marketing person should NEVER be doing anything an administrative staff person could do, such as managing a direct mail list, typing a letter, or some other drudgery.
Allan Boress: Marketing is a facilitation process. The purpose of the marketing expert is to facilitate the success of the personal marketing of the professionals of the firm, not supplant it.
Jerry Weisenfeld: I agree with Allan but Matt is talking about the real world. It's hard to shed those administrative functions buts its the only way to get to the REAL WORK, the stuff that the shareholders can appreciate and expect you to be doing.
Matthew Cochran: Hold on a second Allen, let me go get a partner for you to say that to again!
Allan Boress: Jerry: Appreciate what you say, but perhaps you need to better communicate that within the firm. What I would do would be to make a written list of high level projects I can't get done because they got me doing stupid stuff!!! Why pay someone a professional salary to do admin? I have clients who use temps, college students, and part timers for the admin so their marketing experts can concentrate ON HIGH IMPACT EFFORTS.
If the firm isn't going to take marketing very seriously, maybe they shouldn't do it. Marketing successfully is not something on the side; it is the LIFEBLOOD OF EVERY BUSINESS.
Jerry Weisenfeld: Allan, I have a meeting with my managing partner every Monday at 7:00 a.m. and do just what you are recommending. He keeps me prioritized and helps delegate the non-essential, mundane tasks that land on my desk.
Allan Boress: Jerry; Congratulations. Can you clone him?
Annajane Krichevsky: Can you give some ideas on the types of marketing that work best for accounting firms
Allan Boress: Annajane: For the last twenty years people have asked me for the very best marketing things people should do for their firm. Here's the answer: You have to try a whole bunch of different things over a period of time to see what works best!
Andrea Sparks: Do any of you manage sales people as well? What works best for them?
Allan Boress: Every community, every niche is different. What might work for your firm might not work for another.
Matthew Cochran: I have a partner that wants us to get back to door-to-door sales! Imagine that!
Allan Boress: The key to effectiveness in marketing is to hit a targeted niche or marketplace over a period of time in as many ways as possible to break through the muddle. I call it marketing multiplication
Andrea Sparks: We have some partners telling us she needs to cold call and others who think it is relationship building.
Allan Boress: Cold calling and door to door selling is the LAST THING ANYONE SHOULD DO IN BUILDING A PRACTICE. Sales people are good for opening doors. Unfortunately, good ones are hard to find and expensive. The ultimate responsibility for building the practice is on the shoulders of the professionals who work there. The marketing person wisely works with THOSE WHO HAVE AN INTEREST and ignores the losers.
Matthew Cochran: I have a partner that wants to build up his "small business" practice. How do I convince him to narrow that huge arena down to a market segment or niche group?
Allan Boress: Unfortunately, most firms want their in-house experts to work with the laggards who will never sell anything to anyone and who shouldn't be partners in the first place.
Matt: A small business practice -- who the heck knows what that means
Matthew Cochran: Exactly!
Allan Boress: Does it mean dry cleaners? How about gas stations. Morons!
Allan Boress: You need to take a look at the client base they already have and CLONE their best clients by a niche. Nobody does that. Very few people have ever diagnosed what their clients do or what concentration of success there is…Thus, they wind up pursuing clients by accident, if at all and wind up having to keep up with all the different aspects of different businesses. This in insanity. All we have to do is look at HOW PEOPLE MARKET TO US! There is a golf channel, for golf addicts.
They market Cadillacs to old people in Florida…There is a Disney radio station.
Andrea Sparks: Is it dangerous to market one person in the firm as an industry specialist instead of marketing the firm?
Allan Boress: All successful businesses narrow their target audience to more concentrate their efforts. Andrea: I remember the first time I consulted to Arthur Andersen they wanted me to teach their people how to market Andersen. I told them that was impossible ...Mr. Andersen was DEAD! The firm is AN INNOCUOUS LEGAL ENTITIY IN THE EYES OF THE CLIENT.
The loyalty is always generated to the individual. If marketing a firm was effective, it would work. The lead or referral always goes to AN INDIVIDUAL AT THE FIRM. However, make no mistake about it - Marketing the firm AND THE INDIVIDUAL ON BEHALF OF THE FIRM - opens the door wider as people may have actually heard of the firm. You must create highly visible PEOPLE in your niche who become CELEBRITIES and because we don't do that in this business (Know of any famous accountants?) It becomes THAT MUCH EASIER. This is the easiest business in the world because you compete against accountants.
Andrea Sparks: What if they leave?
Allan Boress: There is a risk in everything we do. That is why it helps people to groom their successors who co-market with them. People identify with people, which is why it is vital to market the individual on behalf of the firm
Allan Boress: Next question please.
Jolene Colant: so what if they leave? You can't make just one person a celebrity and expect to survive.
Allan Boress: Exactly.
Lisa DeKrey: What types of internal training can you suggest to get people "thinking marketing?" Do you have any experience with an internal sales/marketing college/university?
Allan Boress: How can anyone successfully market or sell if they don't know how? People need to be taught on a continual ongoing basis the arts of selling and marketing. Here's the good news: less than 10% of firms do this.
Brian Falony: You told Andersen you couldn't market the firm but McKinsey and Accenture seem to be doing a good job. Could you comment on that?
Allan Boress: Brian; with all due respect, the referrals don't go to McKinsey or Accenture, they go to assertive individuals who have built powerful relationships with people who can help them.
Andrea Sparks: Where do you send sales people for training if they come from a non accounting environment?
Jolene Colant: One article I read blasted Accenture and their new branding campaign.
Brian Falony: But when Tom Peters became too well recognized he was encouraged to leave.
Allan Boress: The reason McKinsey and Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) are successful is they have more people doing effective personal marketing than their competitors AND they put marketing muscle behind them.
Matthew Cochran: I would like to know about the additional training sources as well. Maybe a three-day course that does not interfere with busy season.
Allan Boress: Tom Peters was someone who rocked the boat - and was creative
Brian Falony: They are marketing the firm and selling the individuals. There is a difference.
Allan Boress: We have been training more people in our profession over twenty years than any firm in the world - contact us and we can talk - we have the only training in the world customized for this business. Accenture was forced to change their name. Their new name is ...
Matthew Cochran: Shameless self promotion!
Allan Boress: Forgive me for I sell (and am proud of it)
Allan Boress: More questions please ...
Andrea Sparks: How do you change a firm from not being industry specialized to becoming industry specialized?
Allan Boress: There are certain keys to internal marketing of your ideas. There are certain ways to sell accountants.
Matthew Cochran: Please comment on the earlier training questions about non-accounting marketers and sales people. Your firm works in that, but is it best to have someone come to our office and work with the entire staff or just send the one person
Allan Boress: Please understand that accountants are best motivated by what will happen if they don't take action versus opportunity. Also, please understand that accountants need to be sold IN WRITING WITH PROOF and, in order for your ideas to be embraced, they must be promoted OVER TIME REPEATEDLY - Never expect a CPA to take action upon immediately hearing an idea. They must think it over and it has to be logical.
Selling industry expertise is best done by comparing their firm with those that do niche. You will find associations of CPA firms, like BKR, CPAmerica, CPA Associates, IA International, all provide their members with valuable statistics. Talking to executive directors of associations, perhaps one you belong to, can help provide proof that firms that niche have higher profits and client fees and retention than those who don't.
It is also MUCH EASIER TO MARKET INTO A NICHE as usually nobody else is there. Time and time again I will have a client dominate a niche because they are marketing against generalists, whereas the partner or manager is devoting all of their time to developing recognition in a niche. And people will pay higher fees for specialists
Bruce Hamilton: I recommend three books for everyone to read if you're interested in the selling process. And they are not of the Tom Hopkins ilk. SPIN Selling by Neal Rackham, Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan, Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. Also, Huthwaite Inc. provides excellent sales training and they are the ones that developed the SPIN Model.
Allan Boress: There is another book called, "I Hate Selling" , which is the standard
Jolene Colant: I Hate Selling?
Hannah G.: I've read that functional area niches are more attractive to the market than industry niches. Any thoughts?
Allan Boress: A combination of both is most powerful; a service line within an industry niche.
Allan Boress: High payoff activities is something that we need to address in our few remaining minutes. These activities come when multiplication marketing is in place and takes place over time.
Andrea Sparks: What type of CRM software does your firm use?
Allan Boress: Our firm uses Microsoft Outlook. Others are ACT or Goldmine - they are very good. High impact activities take place OVER A CONCENTRATED PERIOD OF TIME hitting the same marketplace in as many different ways as possible.
Andrea Sparks: What about a firm-wide information gathering software and mailing database for 100+ employees?
Allan Boress: One shot seminars or the single article or speaking engagement are almost worthless. Remember -- your partner may not want to do it -- but the idea is to generate marketing momentum and repeat exposure on the same topic. I would suggest you look at ACT, or perhaps there are others out there that may have others.
Matthew Cochran: We use Goldmine with great results!
Allan Boress: As we wind down, let's take a look at the key success factors for business development results, it that is okay with you. There are certain things that must be in place for marketing to payoff in your firm big time.
Nick Veliky: I have been in Marketing for 17 years (theme restaurants) 6 months ago I joined a mid sized firm as marketing director, any suggested reading that would help make the transition?
Allan Boress: Yes. Our new book will be published this fall by the AICPA: Mastering the Art of Marketing Professional Services: A Survival Guide for the Firm of the Future.
Business development results come from:
1. Everyone must have a monthly personal marketing plan with goals tracked against actual performance of marketing tasks.
2. There must be a VERY STRONG MANAGING PARTNER presence in marketing: a doer and someone who supports it immensely and will sell it internally to their partners. Absent this, marketing cannot work.
3. There has to be a compensation system that works, especially for non-partners. Most firms haven't a clue how to compensate for marketing or even take it into consideration for promotion or raises. The people who need to create a compensation system are those that are affected by it, not the partnership.
4. There have to at least monthly sales meetings, keeping people in the conversation of what it takes to build a practice.
5. There really has to be training in this area, from our firm or another who will come to your place of business as this is the Greatest Skill in the Business World, the art of selling. How many times do we lose great client opportunities because it wasn't sold right?
6. The Marketing professional must work INDIVIDUALLY to coach those who are coachable and help them stay motivated.
7. Those that bring in business ...or who make opportunities happen...must be the HEROES OF THE FIRM AND promoted internally. Not just those that work real hard and never talk to anyone.
8. We must hire the right people in the first place ...
Julie Rogers: what would you say to a managing partner who is afraid that this will create too competitive of an atmosphere among the staff?
Jolene Colant: Julie: I wish that were a problem!
Allan Boress: I LOVE COMPETITION - THIS IS AMERICA AND THE COMMUNISTS HAVEN'T TAKEN OVER YET. In real businesses, competition is promoted
Jerry Weisenfeld: I'd love to know your thoughts on what constitutes a compensation system that works!
Allan Boress: Jerry: I have seen so many different types over the years... I think we can learn best from people who understand selling better than we do. In the insurance industry, they get an up front commission and RESIDUALS - It is BEST if staff people form a committee and sell whatever idea they have to the partners as then they will be self-motivated! I have seen great marketing results where people POST THEIR MONTHLY MARKETING PLANS in the coffee room - SO EVERYONE can see what they are, or are not, doing.
Andrea Sparks: If you don't believe in cold calling for your sales people, what activities do you suggest?
Allan Boress: I believe cold calling is great for sales people and they also need to build their referral networks with other professionals. Please visit our web site www.ihateselling.com. - I do NOT believe in cold calling for professionals
Nick Veliky: How effective do you find memberships in Chambers of Commerce and networking?
Allan Boress: Depends on the Chamber - Some are a waste of time.
Matthew Cochran: I would say most are.
Allan Boress: It depends on the POTENTIAL FOR NEW BUSINESS AND RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE THERE.
Matthew Cochran: Typically a sword fight.
Nick Veliky: What would you look for in a networking group?
Allan Boress: BIG POTENTIAL CLIENTS AND REFERRAL SOURCES!!! Ones that are not yet dominated by your competition.
Session Moderator: Before we wrap this up - we really want to thank everyone for attending today and for providing some excellent and thought-providing questions. And thank you so much, Allan, for sharing your time and insights with us!
Allan Boress: God bless all of you. God bless America. Thanks for being here - Email me with any questions.
Jerry Weisenfeld: Thanks Allan
Allan S. Boress, CPA, CFE, and author of the new book, How to Master the Art of Marketing Professional Services.
Allan is a consultant to professional firms on:
Allan Boress trains more professionals than any other individual in the world (that we can find) in the areas of systematic selling, personal marketing, and client relationship management. Since 1980, Allan has taught these skills to over 100,000 professionals.
Allan's training offers a systematic approach to bringing in more business -- an approach that removes the pain of fear of failure and rejection from the sales process forever.
An award-winning instructor, Allan has worked with the top professional firms in the world. He is regularly the highest-rated speaker at every conference.
You might also be interested in reading the transcript of Mr. Boress's previous AccountingWEB workshop: Motivating Partners and Staff to Marketing Action.