How many are you making?
By Hitendra Patil
Proactive marketing is as rare as a marketing plan or a marketing budget at many firms. Getting new clients is one of the top 5 challenges for firms of all sizes. Accountants seem to be not doing enough of the right things.
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1. Not Doing Enough to Get Found by Prospects
It is estimated there are about 660,000 CPAs in the U.S., 80% of which are believed to be in the corporate world. That leaves 132,000 CPAs in practice. And there about 53,000 LinkedIn profiles that include the word “CPA” in the profile headline. In other words, 1 out of 2 CPAs is either not on LinkedIn or don’t use the profile headline to reflect that they are CPAs.
Prospects search Google or LinkedIn or other platforms for “accountant,” “tax preparer” or “CPA” when they want an accountant. You want to be found by them. At leading trade shows, the booths of “accountants’ website builders” vendors get many visitors – many of them with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or other public domain email addresses. Even in 2015! ‘nuff said. Some 92% of respondents in Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey say their largest source of new clients is “referrals.”
2. Not Hanging Out Where Prospects Are
Your desk is not your destiny! Accountants spend an enormous amount of time at the office. A ship is the safest at the harbor, but that’s not where it is supposed to be.
We asked the question to many CPAs who have growing practices “What gets you new clients?” and the most common answer was “Networking like crazy.” It does not mean just networking events but being in front of prospects and talking with them by phone. Same goes with social media. Being on FaceBook and LinkedIn is not just about having your social media profile, but being where prospects are spending their time. And yet, just being “in front of them” in itself is not marketing. CPAs need to be seen as experts, which leads to being able to find relevant people to convert into clients.
3. Not Promoting Themselves as Who They Truly Are
CPAs seem to commoditize their marketing message to their prospects, so much so that prospects have a hard time figuring out who is better than others. Using templated websites to minimize the cost of web presence is just making everyone look alike. The real issue is the perception of this essential marketing investment as a cost. To reflect the true-who-you-really-are, CPAs need to invest both time and money into their web-presence. Branding, if done right, creates an emotional connection with your prospects. The word CPA is not a brand but associated with your name. It can help the brand that you want to create. e.g. John Doe, The Restaurant CPA; Jane Doe, The Dental CPA; Jim Doe, The IRS Negotiator CPA and so on.
Instead of just stating what services you provide, branding means you must tell why you provide those services. E.g. John Doe, The Restaurant CPA, could say something like: “Having been born in a family of restaurant owners, John saw two sides of his parents’ world – one when the parents were excited, happy and delighted running their restaurant, creating awesome food for clients, and the other side, tense, frustrated and unhappy when parents tried to do their bookkeeping and accounting themselves. But John always had a way with numbers. So John became an accountant to help restaurant owners focus on their passion i.e. owning and running a successful restaurant.”
4. Not Maximizing the Best They Have
Each one of us does some things better than some others. Maybe it's a specialized knowledge, deeper experience or different levels of passions and motivations. Have you maximized selling what you do the best?
Here is why: Even when you know you're the best, it still has to be a “fit” for your clients. Not all clients will appreciate your best because they simply don’t see the need in their situations. Not all clients will need your best in any of their situations, e.g. tax planning will not be a dire need for someone who has single income that's hardly taxable. Your best has to be sold to as many people as possible, but only to those who need it. And at times you have to create that need in their minds because they simply won’t know they need it. It could be as simple as focusing on a particular niche or focusing on those who have a certain level of revenue.
5. Not Being As Responsive as Prospects Expect
Many studies indicate that the number one reason clients leave CPA firms is the lack of timely communication, i.e. lack of responsiveness. And the habit spills over onto marketing and sales efforts. Research from other industries indicates that responding to prospects “within minutes” increases the sign-ups by at least two times. Reaching voicemail and not getting a response when needed is one of the topmost frustrations for anyone doing business with you or wanting to do business with you. Being a “crisis magician,” – i.e. delaying or being invisible when someone needs you – is a sure recipe for an epic marketing disaster.