The Increasing Role of Marketing In Your Firm's Success

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An interview with Scott H. Cytron, owner of Cytron and Company. Scott delivers communications and public relations services to professional services organizations throughout the country.

Scott's writings have been published in many trade publications, including The Journal of Accountancy, The CPA Letter, Accounting Technology, The CPA Software News and the Ohio CPA Journal.

Q: Do you think marketing has gained importance in the profession? Why or why not?

A: I think marketing has gained importance in the profession in a variety of ways, but still has a very long way to go. Most firms — even those with less than five professionals — claim they understand the importance of marketing and the need to continually promote a firm's capabilities, but often do so only by sending a press release that has little or no news value to their local newspaper or business publication. Instead, marketing should be entrenched in a company's or firm's culture and in every activity performed by a firm, just as client service, technology and other aspects of operating a successful firm.

Q: What do you think is the single biggest misconception CPAs have about marketing?.

A: Most CPAs and accounting professionals believe marketing is a one-time or single approach to selling a product, service or building upon an image, and do not understand that marketing should be an ongoing, continuous investment in resources. Most CPAs also do not realize that marketing includes public relations as a component, and do not adequately plan their marketing efforts to include the three other components: a focus on the product or service itself, how to price the product or service, and the current and potential audiences served.

Q: What do you consider to be the most crucial elements of a CPA marketing plan?

A: I think there are several crucial elements. First, the objectives or goals of the marketing plan should be tied directly to the mission for the firm. If they are not directly related, then the activities in the plan have no weight or bearing on helping to make the firm successful in the long term. Second, most firms skip the measurement or evaluation phase because it may seem too laborious or just plain difficult. There are a number of ways to evaluate the success of your marketing efforts, yet few firms actually take the time to do so. If you don't evaluate how and what you're doing, how can you ever hope to improve in the future?

Q: What steps do you think CPA firms with limited marketing resources should take to implement a marketing plan?

A: Marketing does not have to be costly to be effective. I would start by finding no-cost or low-cost methods that would not be too time intensive or difficult to implement, such as updating a Web site, securing speaking engagements and even meeting with local media. It definitely helps to have a budget in place, and that budget should focus on targeting a firm's key customer base. A typical budget would allot 60 percent of expenditures to customers, 30 percent to prospects and 10 percent to everyone else.

Q: If a CPA firm can only implement one or two market-focused strategies, what would they be?

A: Concentrate and capitalize on finding the one, key differential that sets your firm apart from the competition. This is the strategic business advantage you have in the marketplace, and is the arena you want to focus on to garner the most productive short-term and long-range results. Build your initial strategies around this key advantage and concentrate on marketing efforts related to how you rise "head and shoulders" above everyone else. It will work!

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