Marketing Lessons for CPAs from Hillary

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By Allan S. Boress, CPA - Want some outstanding marketing training?

Paying close attention to politics is like going to a marketing seminar every day. Campaigns spend millions with media and guru consultants trying to make the sale with you.

Now that Sen. Clinton has conceded (temporarily), let’s take a look from a marketing point of view at what worked, and mostly didn’t work, from a marketing standpoint for her campaign – and how it applies to your marketing as a CPA firm:

1. Never, ever take your customers for granted; we can stop right here. This was the fatal error they made from the very beginning.

Basically, their marketing philosophy was “Vote for me because you are supposed to.” Not a lot of power in that; sort of like going to a defensive strategy when you are ahead by 35 points in the first quarter.

She took her clients for granted, just like the vast majority of CPA firms do.

People HATE to be taken for granted and will often go out of their way to do business with someone else if they feel that way (see GM, Ford, One thing Toyota NEVER does is take their customer for granted. They are always seeking to improve their product, anticipating wants and needs (Prius is a great example).

2. Watch out for the emotional pendulum! I have mentioned this concept often before in this blog: There is always an emotional pendulum swinging for or against you in the mid of the consumer.

As a body in motion tends to stay in motion, being very positive at the early of a sales cycle as Hillary was, can only lead to danger later on as the buyer swings negative. Similarly, her opponent went way positive in February, and barely made it to the finish line as her campaign started swinging positive again.

Lesson for CPA firms? You want to be presenting last in a multiple selection process. Often the firms that go early are overcome by the latecomer as the pendulum swings against them and in your favor. And, how the market feels about you is never stagnant. So, if you have some kind of a bad rep for something today, you have only one way to swing!

3. Forget Satchel Paige. He was the great Negro League pitcher who made it to the majors in his fifties after the color barrier was broken. One of his favorite quotes was, “Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.” He must’ve worked on the Clinton campaign!

You must ALWAYS be aware of what your competitors are doing. They can come out of nowhere and take market share. Of course, most CPA firms are too busy getting the work out and monitoring their grotesque profits to pay attention to trivialities like this. Many don’t even know the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, let alone pay attention to what they are doing.

This explains why our CPA firm has been sucking away the best clients from other local firms for the last three years. They don’t know what has hit them until too late, as it happened with Hillary.

4. She didn’t find her niche until too late. The more specific you are with your targeted market, the easier it is to get noticed, be seen as offering value, and make the sale.

Her opponent immediately knew who its best targets were, while Hillary was pursuing a generic buyer (the whole potential voting population). When she started pursuing her best targets she made headway immediately, but it was too late.

5. Chemistry is 50-80% of the sale. Let’s face it, Hillary isn’t the friendly, open type. People don’t gravitate to her because of her great personality. This is her opponent’s strength. And although he has no new ideas, and the ideas he does have are proven failures, he does know his target market, what they want, and appears to have a Bill Clinton kind of magnetism about him.

Lesson for CPA firms? Make sure to send your best salespeople on important sales calls. People buy the person primarily in selling the intangible professional service. People hire people they LIKE and will make excuses and go out of their way to do so.

6. Her campaign missed the pop of multiplication marketing (e.g., a new book). Because they took her market for granted, her campaign did not do something many successful campaigns have done in the past: put a best-seller on the market during the campaign. JFK had Profiles in Courage, Obama had his book on hope.

Is it not obvious Gore would have won in a landslide if his movie had appeared in 2000?

Hillary’s previous books were published a long time ago, and she missed out on the additional positive publicity as well as a different way to hit her audience other than campaigning. A book on the importance of a strong America, or on patriotism, or on family, would have locked up her base earlier on and helped her overcome the Obama stampede.

7. Don’t be something you’re not. I almost gagged when I heard the sound bites of Hillary speaking at the NAACP last year. She was doing her best impression of a southern drawl, and it was embarrassing. Obama isn’t a homie, and never pretends to be. What you see is that you get; an Ivy-League educated, intelligent professional politician.

8. Persistence pays. Got to hand her that, Hillary is a determined, strong, persistent person. When others would have given up and become discouraged, she was still at it and almost pulled it off. So must you and your marketing efforts.

Thanks to Hillary and her campaign for spending 125 million dollars to teach us some very important lessons about effective marketing.

By Allan S. Boress, CPA, author of The “I-Hate-Selling Book”, available at and

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