Fundamentally, there are two ways to sell services.
You can go to the market and try to influence companies to buy your services. Or, you can get the market to come to you and ask for help, which is usually preferable to non-professional sales people.
The big question is: With all the competitors in the marketplace, how do I get companies to seek out my firm?
Building your firm's name recognition is the key. The market can't come to you if it doesn't know you.
There are four stages name recognition. They are:
- I have heard of your firm, but I don't know what you do.
- I have heard of your firm and know you do accounting.
- I have a positive opinion of you as a provider of accounting services and want you on the list of bidders for every project.
- I want you to do all my work. I don't want to consider other alternatives.
Until your firm is in stage three or four, you likely won't have many opportunities knocking at your door. Fortunately, you can proactively move your firm through the stages once you understand and apply the four factors that contribute to name recognition.
The first factor is message development. Your message must reflect competitive differentiation to make your firm stand out. It must also address how your services can help meet your market's specific business needs.
For example, how many companies really want to buy an audit for an audit's sake? If you think about it, what companies really need is a line of credit or a lower interest rate or fewer covenants. These are business needs that an audit report from a recognized, quality firm can help them meet. Make sure your message speaks to your target market's business needs.
The second factor is the frequency of communication to your target market. Once you have developed a compelling message, you must expose your target market to that message 7-10 times per year in order for the market to begin to understand it.
Consistency of message is the third factor in building your firm's name recognition. Frequency of message is important, however both the message and your brand must be consistent every time you expose it to your market. Your firm's logo, tag line, color combinations and messages must be the same or your market will be confused. Be diligent about this point. The market will not take the time to sort out their confusion and understand the differences.
Finally, your budget determines the broadness of your name recognition. If budget constraints limit your ability to communicate to a large market frequently and consistently, adjust the size of your market by focusing on key segments. Do not sacrifice frequency and consistency for the sake of communicating with a larger audience thinking that casting a wider net will yield more opportunities. The truth is that ten mailings to a list of 100 targeted prospects will lead to more business than one mailing to 1,000 prospects.
If you pay attention to these four factors, your level of name recognition and the market's understanding of your firm will improve. Applying these principles over time will improve the likelihood that your market will seek you out when they need help.
2003 The Whetstone Group, Inc.
Larry Bildstein, CPA is President and CEO of The Whetstone Group, Inc., a consulting firm that helps CPA firms develop and implement effective growth and marketing plans. Visit http://www.thewhetstonegroup.com for more information.