30 Best Marketing Practices

Illustration of marketing strategy
marketing concept with financial graph and chart

Don’t let the 80% derail the 20%.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Practice Management Library

These best marketing practices are listed in a general order of effectiveness. However, every firm is unique. What works best for one firm may not work as well for others.

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  1. Have a vision for growth because it dictates the scope of your marketing activities. A marketing plan calling for 10 percent growth will need to be much more intense and aggressive than a plan for a firm content with 3 percent growth.

  1. Prime the pump. Business development cannot be turned on and off as needed. Continuous BD, even when you are busy with clients, is the only way to avoid the lengthy time it takes to ramp up. Always be closing (Glengarry Glen Ross).
  2. Remember that business development is a contact sport: the more at-bats (pitches to decision-makers), the more hits (new clients).
  3. Focus on relationships. Getting new business is all about relationships. No marketing plan can ever replace the personal touch. People create growth, period.
  4. The best source of new business is your existing clients.
  • Expand existing services, cross-sell other firm services and receive referrals.
  • Proactively brainstorm with clients to make their business more successful and profitable.
  • Clients are more likely to give you referrals if you provide them with world-class service.
    • Increase your Net Promoter Score.
    • Conduct client loyalty surveys.
  1. Focus on the 20 percent or so of your biggest clients and do more for them. Don’t ignore the 80 percent, but don’t let them cause you to ignore the best 20 percent.
  2. Manage your time. Partners need to manage their overall time to make business development proactive instead of something they reluctantly do in their spare time.
  3. Develop services beyond compliance to meet your clients’ needs and help the firm exploit cross-selling opportunities. Great examples:
    • Consulting. Learn to find opportunities for your clients, not mistakes. Understand that clients value advice running their business more than delivering compliance services.
    • Wealth management services.
    • Understand that the coming technology disruptions will decrease compliance services dramatically fairly soon. Firms need to be developing plans today to replace revenue losses tomorrow, especially in audit.
  4. Develop industry niches and specialized services. Makes marketing and business development infinitely easier. Also, niche and specialty services are more profitable than generalist work.
  5. Analyze your pricing. Be a lower volume/higher price firm, not a high volume/lower price operation.
  6. Manage your pipeline. Part of your marketing plan should be to continually feed your firm’s pipeline of sales leads.
    • Identify prospects and follow up with them.
    • Every partner creates an individual marketing plan.
    • Network.
  7. Use a CRM system, preferably one created for the CPA firm industry such as ABLE, a tool to help CPA firms grow their practice and transition from compliance to advisory services. In addition to CRM functionality, it helps partners and managers keep tabs on their best relationships, maintain a robust sales pipeline and distribute knowledge and information in a hyperprecise manner. Learn more at growwithable.com.
  8. Differentiate your firm from other CPA firms. It’s not enough to say you’re different. You actually need to be different. Get started today to differentiate your firm.
  9. Brand your firm. It’s a great way to get name recognition and to differentiate your firm from others. Actively and tastefully promote your firm.
  10. Have a marketing champion. Every firm needs someone who owns the firm’s marketing plan and coaches other firm members to be successful in their marketing and business development efforts.
  11. Provide training in business development.
  12. Provide mentoring in business development. Without it, the training alone may not be effective.
  13. Offer bonus plans for staff who bring in business. The bonus plan will not be motivating unless it is coupled with ongoing, proactive sales training.
  14. Impose accountability for marketing and business development. Goal setting is a must.
  15. Set rules for partner compensation that treat bringing in business as a big factor in allocating partner income.
  16. Nurture referral sources. This takes constant care and feeding to maintain existing referral sources and create new ones. Stage referral events on a regular basis.
  17. Implement a marketing plan. Make your marketing firm-centric, not partner-centric. Rainmakers are always welcome but create a firmwide marketing plan to drive all firm activity.
  18. Use blogs, newsletters and social media to create and enhance your firm’s name recognition and establish thought leadership.
  19. Follow up on all marketing and business development activities designed to identify opportunities: seminars, blogs, newsletters, networking events, direct mail, etc.
  20. Never go on a sale pitch alone. Embrace team selling. Bring along a staff person to learn from watching you. Bring along a senior firm member with a different area of expertise to show prospects the diversity of your firm’s talent.

26.  Make bringing in business a criterion for partner. 

  1. Start staff as early as possible in businessdevelopment.
  2. Polish your elevator speech.
  3. Join a CPA association and/or AAM to avoid living in a cocoon. Learn from other firms by being with them.
  4. Consider mergers as a great source of growth.

Malcom Gladwell, the deep-thinking columnist and author, said that if you want to get good at something – really good – you need to practice it 10,000 times. To be good at growing revenue, CPAs need to truly understand it and practice it relentlessly. Once a day, five days a week, totaling 10,000 times takes 38 years – way too long.

But three times a week for 10 years – 1,600 times – will do the trick nicely!

We want you to adopt this philosophy and practice it 1,600 times:

  • To be profitable and successful, revenue growth is an absolute necessity.
  • Achieving growth requires time.
  • Achieving growth requires focus.
  • Success at growing revenues requires the right attitude. Without the proper “can do/will do” attitude, firms and their CPAs are doomed to fail.
  • Revenue growth is like sports. You need a game plan (as in football) and a deep understanding that practice development is a contact sport: the more at-bats, the more hits (as in baseball).

We wish your firm all the success in the world in growing your revenue and developing your firm’s highest potential for a profitable, productive future.

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