Allen Boress: How to Measure Your Firm's Marketing Performance

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Recently we received the following email:

Dear Allan:

How can we know if people are doing personal marketing? We know that the economy is booming, our firm revenues are up over last year, but that has to be temporary -- it just can't go on forever! So how can we ensure that everyone is doing their job in keeping the momentum going? It's so hard to stay focused on marketing individually when there is more work to do. Why is it that some people and some firms are so much better at this than we are? -- Rick R.

Dear Rick:

It's difficult staying focused on bringing in business and doing the business you have, especially if your book is growing. And the way most people are compensated in this profession, if you bring it in you have to then do it (which is total insanity), is certainly not the way our friends in the legal profession compensate their partners.

I've said it before and was the first to do so: This is still the easiest business in the world because we compete against accountants, not business people.

I will answer your last question first.

Recently I read a great article written by Larry Williams in his newsletter Commodity Timing. He made an observation that the best commodity traders in the world have specific characteristics. Real business people, entrepreneurs, in my observation these past eighteen years of consulting to our profession, have these same two traits:

1) They are NOT stubborn

The most successful people in our profession are open- minded, like new ideas, are eager to try just about anything to see if it works, and are willing to be wrong.

Last year I did a program with a firm wherein I mentioned that I believed they had a problem with their reception area. Of their three receptionists, two were highly indifferent; the third was a gem. I mentioned this in our program on client relationship management -- I believe the receptionist is a highly important area of the firm. I suggested that they either talk to or dismiss the prior two and have the third train them or new hires.

"I disagree!" said the Audit Partner-In-Charge. "We have a fine reception area!" he boomed. Maybe he was right. But in about twenty different experiences with the reception area, and in many others observing how they treated others, I thought they had a serious problem.

What if I (an acknowledged expert on the subject of client relationship management, marketing and selling) was right and he was wrong?

Of course, being stubborn, he wouldn't even hear of it, so the problem stays or gets worse.

Once again, you can look to our training as accountants for this man's attitude: he was merely being (overly) consistent. Isn't that what stubbornness is (to the extreme)? Or are you too stubborn to see it?

Successful people don't have all the answers, are constantly looking for new ones, and are willing to learn from just about anywhere, including the people who work for them! Bill Gates didn't dream up Windows -- Apple did.

The second trait of successful entrepreneurs is:

2) They have a KILLER INSTINCT

Is Bill Gates seeking more market share or less? What would a typical accountant do?

I can just hear the conversation now: "Hey Bill, we're really backed up in the plant -- it's getting harder to find new people, and we might have to expand, hire new workers, and you know how hard that is, or buy new machines. Are you sure you want to bring out Windows 98?

Can't we just take care of the business we have?"

Bill Gates has a KILLER INSTINCT. As his business surges, he wants more. He sees the finish line and he surges ahead, even though his knees hurt. He knows that if he eases up, here comes the competition.

In an interview in USA Today, Gates made the following statement: "Your current market share is not a predictor of future market share."

Would you agree or disagree?

What the heck do you know? Who knows more about marketing and business? You or Bill Gates? There are about eighty billion reasons that he knows more than you or I.

Bill Gates knows that the day we stop marketing consistently and assertively as a business, is the day we start falling behind.

Would Bill Gates succeed in public accounting? Bill Gates would destroy his competition, because they think like accountants, while he is a true entrepreneur, a risk taker, a mover and shaker, an irritant in the marketplace -- a person with a killer instinct who won't be happy until he has 100 percent market share.

What are you happy with? Do you even know your market share?

It is the two traits mentioned above that make certain few firms and rare individuals far better at running their business.

Keeping It Up
The predicament that you, Rick, mention about being busier than heck, leaving less time for personal marketing, is endemic of our profession.

Jay Nosebag, a prominent practice management consultant to our profession, said CPAs basically suffer from two problems that negatively affect their practice: They are reactive by nature and basically too tight with their cash.

Jay noted that CPAs rarely look at expenditures as investments, but as money taken out of their personal pockets.

Net result? They refuse to invest in technology, office space, keeping their best people, training those people in soft areas (that turn out to be the most important areas of client maintenance), marketing and client retention activities.

CPAs also refuse to hire enough administrative people to allow partners and important staff the time to do that which is most productive: billing, marketing and romancing clients and referral sources.

How many times am I going to run into a partner who has to type her own letters, Xerox their own stuff, send out their own direct mail, make their own follow-up calls? All things that could be delegated out to open time for what's really important just to save a few bucks.

Instead of gearing up for more business, with more resources -- CPAs are struggling by reacting to the economy. They are losing more good people because they refuse to pay what it takes to keep them, or treat them the way they want to be treated. They refuse to invest in constant interviewing, and oh-my, head- hunters who cost money. They refuse to add office space, updated equipment, and administrative help.

All of these investments would allow you to have more time to personally market your practice and the firm. Or you will keep falling behind when you should be surging forward.

Counting What Matters
I had the great fortune to have had what I considered to be the greatest sales trainer in the U.S. as my personal mentor. He said: "You can't manage results; you can only manage and measure effort."

Don't be stubborn: Trust me folks, he knew more about this topic of selling and personal marketing than you do.

It is vital that people be held to specific goals on an annualized and monthly basis for their personal marketing efforts.

Allan Boress, CPA, CFE is the published author of 11 books on marketing and selling professional services, including a best-seller, The “I-Hate-Selling” Book now in its seventh printing and published in 7 languages. He has twice been named one of the Top 100 People in the Accounting Profession. He has trained over 200,000 people in the art of selling and personal marketing worldwide. Visit for all sorts of articles and ideas. Email [email protected]


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