President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
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Why One Professional Association Isn't Enough

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Jun 14th 2018
President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
Columnist
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Many CPAs belong to a local or state accounting society for all the right reasons, but simply belonging to one is not enough. Why?

If you want to grow your practice this usually means adding more clients who need what you have to offer: professional accounting and value-added services. You need to market and joining a professional association in an entirely different field can provide the access you need in a comfortable environment where you have a decent chance of picking up more clients.

The Joy of Associate Memberships

But you say, “Stop right there.  I’m not an anesthesiologist or an engineer. Why are they going to let me in?” Many professional associations offer associate memberships to people (and firms) not directly employed in the field. They are welcome because they provide services used by members of that profession. Banking and insurance are good examples. So is accounting.

You’ve been down this road before. You joined the Chamber of Commerce and became active. Why? Woody Allen famously said:  “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Then you discovered 15 accounting firms were represented. You want better odds.

As an anonymous example, let’s use a manufacturer’s association in a larger Texas city. It has 493 members including 91 associates. How many accounting firms in those 91 associate memberships? Just one. That’s an ideal situation!

The county medical society tells a similar story. They have a “Circle of Friends” including 45 firms paying $ 3,000 - $ 10,000 annually. Lots of banks and law firms. One accounting firm.

What’s My Game Plan?

“In it to win it” is used to rationalize buying lottery tickets. The same rule applies in professional associations. You want to attend meetings, become a worker bee and look for opportunities to speak. Here’s a roadmap:

  1. Do you have one or more clients involved? Great! This profession is likely your niche. You are an expert. Your clients can introduce you to the members they know. This shouldn’t be uncomfortable because there are lawyers and bankers in the room. You are another qualified professional providing a service they all use.
  2. What are the committees? These organizations usually rely heavily on volunteers. Committees like membership, social and hospitality put you in front of lots of people. The finance committee associates you with handling money.
  3. Do they have a publication? It’s probably online. Sometimes it’s in print. They need free content. As an accounting professional, you are in a position to write about tax issues in simple language. There’s usually a byline for people with questions to reach you. This also helps advertise your profession.
  4. Will the group share the membership list? If so, you can announce and offer a webinar addressing a topic they need to know about and would otherwise need to pay to gain the information. “How the new tax act affects you” is a good fit. If you have access to a talk on cybersecurity or identity theft, that’s good too. Both these problems involve financial data. That’s in your wheelhouse.
  5. Do they have dinner meetings with speakers? These might be monthly meetings with a speaking slot. Doctors might be used to hearing about new drugs or medical procedures, but other topics can fit too.
  6. Do they have hosted dinner seminars? These are usually offsite with costs covered by the sponsor. Yes, this can get expensive, but if everyone attending is a doctor of a manufacturing company owner, they are likely highly qualified prospects.
  7. Do they do a trade fair? If the manufacturing association has 91 associate members, it’s a pretty safe bet they hold at least one event where they are all encouraged to rent a booth and tell their story.
  8. Is there a statewide annual conference? It’s common for local chapters in professional associations to gather for one big event. These usually include seminars, committee meetings, trade show booths and hospitality suites. Your story gets out to a wider audience.

Is it Worth My Time?

Everyone needs a marketing plan to bring in new business. You might rely on referrals, but it’s a passive strategy. You can’t ramp it up without being pushy and obnoxious.

Embedding yourself in a professional association can put you in the center of a group of highly paid professionals or business owners. Raising your visibility can bring business to you, especially if you are the only CPA in the group.

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