A Constant Flow of Hot, New Marketing Ideas by Allan S. Boress, CPA, CFE
Busy season is almost over, so it’s time to kick start your marketing to catch up for lost time. Are your tired of trying the same old thing? Ideas tend to get stale and occasionally competitors awaken and put something into action you were already thinking about (but couldn’t get the partners to act on…).
So where can you get a bundle of hot and refreshing ideas? Adopt the world-view of one of the riches men in the history of the US.
The Right Perspctive
W. Clement Stone was a fellow Chicagoan who started with nothing and became a millionaire a few hundred times over as founder of Combined Insurance Company and “Success Magazine.” He was the author of Success Through a Positive Attitude, a best-seller of its time, and still available on the web.
Stone said that the major keys to success are to
- Assimilate and
- Apply what he or she sees and comes in contact with on a daily basis in their own lives to their personal situation or business.
Let's examine that. I will always be grateful to Stone for this concept as I have used it repeatedly in building several successful businesses, including my CPA firm and international consulting practice. THIS IS NOT COMMON SENSE. Few businesses utilize these concepts consciously in their own businesses; even fewer CPA firms do as they tend to be closed-minded to what other businesses out in the real world are doing.
One must keep their eyes and ears open in daily life (in what they observe at clients, in other firms, in the public domain in general, in politics), and in what they read, see on TV and hear on the radio.
This means that you must always look for what others are doing well - and not.
This notion of observing the world with the idea of using other’s ideas is not what 95% of all professional firms do. They have too narrow a focus on their own problems and getting the work out to pay attention to the world.
Therefore, they are doomed to repeating the same mistakes over and over again -- without even realizing it.
And most of our peers STILL innately believe that as a "profession" what happens to “real businesses” doesn't apply to us.
You don't have time? It doesn't take one additional moment of time to change one's focus -- to recognize what is going on -- and it makes life and business more interesting and fun.
How can the practice of “recognizing” how others are marketing to you work in your firm? Easy – you can bring everyone in on the game:
- Ask everyone to note 3 ads, commercials or promotions that have particularly caught their attention over a week’s period of time
- What did they like or not about each?
- Why did these promotions catch their attention?
- If deemed successful, is there some way it could be applied to your firm (pretend the partners wouldn’t be around to pooh-pooh every idea)?
What one sees must be correlated to similar situations in their own business.
For example, I was supposed to receive a promised wake- up call at 5:30 a.m. today from the front desk at the Marriott I am staying at in Louisville. They called at 5:50 a.m. Perhaps the worst thing a hotel can do is miss a wake-up call. I am now upset at Marriott Corporation, and have a lower opinion of them as a business. I am much less likely to ask to stay at one again.
How can you relate this to your own firm?
- Have you ever missed promised deadlines?
- Do you make promises you cannot keep?
- How do you think clients feel about that?
Here's another example: Last year you took the kids to Disney World. Have you ever noticed how the employees there are generally happy and gracious? Even the guy cleaning up Fantasy Avenue has a smile on his face.
By the way, Disney gets its people to be happy and pleasant by telling them that's what's required during the hiring process!
Employees are always "on stage." If they don't like this idea, they should work some place else.
Why couldn't your people be on stage? Do you think people like communicating and being around negative and serious people?
The most successful people I know in our profession are this way in the public domain, even though it takes an effort for them.
And it doesn't take one additional moment of time.
Disney knows that the attitude an employee (or partner) portrays to the world has an immense impact on the success of the business.
How can the attitude of the people working at Disney World relate to your business?
- How does their general "happy and gracious" attitude affect Disney’s success?
- Are your employees “on stage?”
- What if your employees, and partners, had such an attitude?
Now let's absorb what we have just identified and associate it to our business to make us more successful.
In the first situation (Marriott), we could declare a firm policy to never miss deadlines or make promises we can't keep (of course professional firms do this all the time and wonder why clients beat them up on fees and leave).
In the second situation, we could make it a written and reinforced firm policy that we are to have a positive and cheerful attitude when dealing with clients, referral sources, prospective clients, and anyone who comes in contact with the firm (versus having a permanent look of constipation on one's face that so many CPAs tend to have).
People should feel better, not worse, for having come in contact with you today.
You can change the culture of the firm over time by hiring positive and enthusiastic people instead of so many negative and critical ones.
You can retire or fire your sourpuss, cancerous partners.
You could even try to make working for a professional firm FUN, instead of miserable (maybe then you wouldn't lose so many good people).
Once you've decided what you want to assimilate into your firm, you must now make a determined effort to constantly reinforce your message in your meetings with staff and partners. You must implement the idea and manage it to make sure it sticks.
It takes time to create change, especially in professional firms, which tend to be highly inflexible.
To succeed wildly at marketing, remember what a Director of Marketing client of mine had as a philosophy that brought her firm much success. She said, “Whatever the accountants want to do, we never do. Whatever they dislike, we do immediately.”
Voice of the Editor
Which isn’t completely true. I mean, occasionally I drop by when I manage to sneak out of the nonstop frat party over at Going Concern, but I’m mostly a wallflower over there. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given express permission (or explicit orders, if you like) to wander over here to AccountingWEB more often.
Why is that, you might ask? My job is to replace the irreplaceable Gail Perry as Editor-in-Chief. What does that mean? I don’t really know! I think it’ll be fun getting a feel for things, throwing in my own thoughts here and there, and listening to the discussions you’re having about the accounting profession.