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Recently I had dinner with a friend of mine who is a solo practitioner with a practice that focuses on small entrepreneurs and family-owned companies. During our conversation she mentioned that she "doesn't do any marketing." She was very concerned that she has no print materials and has not updated her website in several months. She wanted my advice on how to find time to do more in this regard.
Recognizing that she has two critical responsibilities—to provide excellent client service and to build her CPA practice—I asked her where leads typically come from currently. She shared that she has a full pipeline of referrals that are generated by word-of-mouth from existing clients and other business advisors, especially bankers, in her community.
My advice might be shocking, but for those of you who represent small to midsize practices, especially those with fewer than 10 staff, I would say that you should be investing your limited time and financial resources in those areas that are most likely to bear fruit and not in chasing after ideas that force you to spread yourself too thinly.
Since owners of small companies often gather at local Chamber of Commerce meetings and business groups, that is where I would establish a strong presence. You can offer to host some roundtables on basic financial issues, covering topics such as "How to Read a Financial Statement" or "Year-end Tax Planning" as an example. These are relevant concerns for your audience, and they will quickly see you as a resource for their own companies.
Once you are well-regarded in this space, you can branch out to try other options. I would not spend much on promotional (self-serving) materials but instead would suggest you consider developing a document that can be emailed to prospects and avoid print costs. (But whatever you create should clearly demonstrate your ability to solve clients' problems and should showcase the value you add).
Even small firms can track how leads are generated on a simple spreadsheet. Knowing where opportunities arise can help you refine your efforts to those key areas. Instead of trying to do too much, narrow your activities to stay targeted on those businesses and groups where you can have an influential impact as a smaller player. You can't compete with the budgets of the midsize or large firms, so why bother? You have a different audience to attract, one that is usually more influenced by a word on your behalf from a trusted colleague than on your website video.
Remember, I am not suggesting that you don't need to incorporate all the tools available—from websites to LinkedIn to blogs and more—but these should not be your primary strategy. For smaller firms, as for many larger ones as well, relationships trump everything.
So my advice to my friend was that she stop stressing about all of the things she is not accomplishing and concentrate instead on all the initiatives she participates in, and on continuing to build a network of powerful relationships that will serve her well and provide her with qualified leads.
The bottom line for smaller firms is to be practical and realistic. Know where business develops and plant yourself in that space. Take root—and flourish!
About the author:
Sally Glick is CMO and principal of Sobel & Co. LLC. She was named Accounting Marketer of the Year for 2003 and was voted into the AAM Hall of Fame in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected].