Advertising: Make Sure it's Legal
Though not all accounting firms feel that advertising is the way to go when it comes to getting the word out, it’s also not a bad idea. Several of the Big Five have regular ad campaigns in place, which allows them greater exposure (they hope) to their target audience.
If you are thinking of advertising there are a few things you should keep in mind. Since accounting firms offer a service and not a product, the approach to advertising may be slightly different. However, it’s not a bad idea to be familiar with some basic rules and make sure you keep them in mind before you start designing that catchy ad.
- Be Accurate – Obviously you aren’t going to want to mislead your prospective clients. Not only will you end up angering someone if they find out about your dishonesty, but you can be liable for lying. If you are offering a new service, avoid saying you are an expert (unless of course you are one). If you are unsure of how your ad is going to be perceived, don’t hesitate to have your company’s attorney look the copy over.
- Get Permission – If you are using a quote from a client or a contact in the community, make sure you have the individual’s permission. This goes for everything from a photograph, a quote from a famous person or your neighbor next door. Endorsements are a great thing to use in advertising but only if you have received consent from the individual you are quoting. If you do decide to go with an endorsement, make sure the individual sees the ad and signs off on it before it is seen by the world.
- Treat the Competition with Respect – If you are going to compare your service to that of another company and plan on using that company's name, make sure you have accurate information. It’s also a good idea to avoid criticizing your competition. It will only result in you looking bad (think about the mudslinging going on in political advertisements) and can result in unwanted legal action if what you advertise turns out to be false.
- Be Prepared for New Business – If you make a big push for a new service it’s not likely that the floodgates are going to fling open and crowds are going to come stampeding through your door. However, be prepared to take on new business and make sure your staff is updated and prepared as well. Being unable to accommodate new business after advertising how ready you are will destroy any credibility you have.
In all of the above situations it’s never a bad idea to have your attorney look over your copy to ensure it is not going to compromise your firm in any way. You also may want to consider hiring a copywriter to help get your message across. Most good copywriters will know how to write your ad without getting you into trouble.