Thursday, April 15, 2010

Want Some Effective Marketing Ideas For After 4/15?

My last post was an explanation of the simple but highly effective 3M “stickie” marketing technique you can use to leverage off your tax season efforts. This is a form of personal marketing that studies and personal experience have affirmed is the most effective way to “sell” personal services, i.e. those of accountants, lawyers, engineering firms, architects, etc.

We’ve examined personal marketing techniques, i.e. how you actually go about converting your prospect into a client, many times throughout the life of this blog and the topic is covered in detail in my CPA Practice Builder manual, so we’re not going to get into conversion techniques now.

Today’s blog is about addressing the question of how do you meet the prospects in the first place?

Personally involving yourself in marketing does require you to carve out the time to engage prospects. That typically means you select a few activities that will give you access to a population of desirable potential clients.

When thinking about which activities/organizations to get involved with, first pause and consider the competitive landscape. For example, a well-established hypothetical group with the name, “Greater Dallas Business Owner’s Association,” would be a magnate for lawyers, accountants, consultants and related service providers wishing to join.

This leads to the observation that there are some organizations that are such obvious business development opportunities that their membership is skewed by the number of ancillary networkers wishing to fish in that particular pool. This is a challenging scenario for even the most skilled anglers. As someone relatively inexperienced with personal marketing, is this an environment that lends itself to your success?

If experience is any guide, the most effective approach is to mix your choices up a bit so that you include some mainstream choices (Elks, Merchant’s Associations, Rotary, et al) with others that are less traditional.

As the first example, let’s assume your practice focuses upon small to medium businesses. Go ahead and join one or two local service clubs. Pick those whose mission you believe in … sure, you want to create opportunities for yourself but it is always good to give something back and be a positive force in the community.

Now, how about something a bit more creative. Two examples jump into mind. The first one from an accountant in Pennsylvania who describes herself as a “fanatic” about keeping her practice’s costs under control. Her office is in a large complex of small businesses, both retail and service. In 2006 she went around to all the local businesses and promoted a mutual or joint purchase group to pool their buying power and thereby obtain paper, toner, office equipment, etc. at lower prices. She would, she told them, cut a good deal with a local supplier and they’d all save. Because she was an accountant, she wound up becoming the coordinator of the control process. A few people signed up and the program limped along for a couple years … successful in saving the members money, but in a minor way.

Then the present recession hit and many more of the local merchants joined. She quietly demonstrated her competence and built trust by handling the details and without really any specific intent on her part began to acquire more and more of the businesses as clients (Blogger’s note: personal marketing without even trying!). Contrary to the gloomy national experience, she estimates that her practice has grown more than 30% in the past two years, virtually all of the growth attributable to members and referrals she’s received from them.

The second example is a CPA whose sister owned an independent (non-chain or franchise) restaurant. He handled the accounting needs for her and a couple of her friends who also owned diners. He became conversant with their issues and wondered how he could attract business from other, similar owners. There was no association, club or group, so instead he created a highly focused newsletter that addressed specifically their relevant tax and financial issues. He wrote his first newsletter and sent it out to about 30 local eateries. Each three months thereafter he sent another, and the list began growing. After the second and third issues he began getting calls. A year and a half later he obtained 9 new clients, and he’s getting one more approximately every month. [NOTE: this example has been an inspiration to me to create the same sort of focused newsletter for my clients. We’re just getting this going and once we have some results I’ll report back to you. This may turn out to be a low cost form of effective personal marketing that works for everyone.]

Does your practice focus upon high wealth individuals and estate planning? An obvious choice is the local symphony support organization. As a group they’ll generally be older and reasonably affluent. Sounds like a perfect opportunity. Want something less obvious … how about the CPA who suggested his mother join her country club’s “women’s investment group?” When they had a capital gains question, he attended a luncheon meeting, was as charming as he could be, answered their inquiries and became the de facto “go to” technical source for the group. Within a year he was handling the accounting service requirements for virtually all the ladies in the group. I’m told subsequent referrals led to a total of over 20 new and very high quality clients.

Do you have a high volume 1040-based practice? Another CPA is a gun fancier and enjoys target shooting. He joined a local gun club and from that met a lot of law enforcement personnel and firefighters. Both groups have steady work, decent incomes and tend to hang out with their “own.” Taking a further step to fit in, he then became an associate member in local police and firefighter groups. After some time he was fully accepted and eventually leveraged his presence within these two populations into dozens of new clients.

As you can see from the foregoing, there are no rules – the essence of your search is to determine the best ways to reach “your” type of prospects. Do these examples provide some inspiration for how you can create an effective personal marketing campaign of your own?


Wyatt said...

Working to help others in your community with your expertise is a great way to become well known. "select a few activities that will give you access to a population of desirable potential clients" Local is certainly effective but there are also online opportunities as well. People asking questions on of different online communities. When you carve out the time to give advice to people both on and offline, your firm benefits. It is about really helping people without the expectation of something in return as the examples in your posting demonstrate. Off to dig into some of your archives, good stuff, thanks!

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