6 Low Cost Strategies to Market Your CPA Practice like a Big Firm
In the world of pre-Internet professional firms, business to business marketing was generally conducted face-to-face and through the simple step of hanging a sign outside the company’s front door. In fact, many professionals considered paid advertising or strategic marketing things which diminished their overall image and cheapened brands. Times have certainly changed.
Marketing budgets and aggressive strategies are now the norm for success of any type of company. Understanding this but not wanting to stoop to the level of “wheeler dealers,” and without the budgets of Top 100 firms, small office CPAs can grow their businesses without sacrificing professionalism. Most CPA practice marketing can be conducted and completed both efficiently and with less financial investment than expected.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that marketing differs from paid advertising and sales. Marketing is both a science and art of ensuring your company is “top of mind,” the first one thought of when someone needs a CPA. Sales is handshake marketing that most professionals dread, that push to convince someone at the other end of the hand grasp that they have no other choice, but to call upon your services. Advertising is a creative medium of paid placements.
In today’s heavily branded world, sales is often seen as too aggressive and advertising as less credible. Marketing is about educating your potential and current customers, developing a comfort level between you, establishing expertise and gaining a less invasive but consistent presence so new and returning clients will think to turn to you, first.
Marketing is not necessarily costly. Even big firms market more for efficiency and impact than by budget, and top companies are skilled at using free mediums such as social media to spread their expertise and build clout. Below are six ways to maximize your top-of-mind presence without spending a lot of money.
Six Brilliant Marketing Tactics with Little to No Cost
Get On the Social Bandwagon
It does take time to build a solid network on social media, particularly for a professional services brand. But, if you write sincere personal messages and relate how you and the prospect are already aligned, connection results will be more positive. For example, tap into all areas of your life: church, educational contacts, alumni program members, Chamber of Commerce associates, friends, acquaintances, etceteras. On occasion (but not so frequently that you become a spam artist), send an interesting article link or tip related to your area of expertise. In a brief note, explain why you thought they may be interested in the information. Cost: $0
Maintain a Presence at Fundraisers
Fundraisers often need volunteers to assist during the event. For public television, for example, volunteers are needed to take calls on camera and such volunteers are often allowed to wear logo shirts. Volunteering at fundraisers provides visibility and puts your small company’s hands on the pulse of the “who’s who” of donors, people who can both afford and need CPA services. For many fundraisers, volunteers are compensated by banner displays or other self-promotional trade outs. Cost: $0 to very small investment (i.e., group membership, reusable shirts and signage)
As a CPA, you know that adoption is generally expensive. This is not true of highway adoption through your state or regional transportation department, however. When adopting a roadway, you and your company are responsible for keeping a two mile segment of highway clean, at a minimum of four times per year for a two year agreement. The Department of Transportation places highly visible highway signs on your adopted section, giving the CPA company’s name. Choose a highly traveled area of road where locals will pass the sign and enjoy the subliminal and consistent top-of-mind messaging without paying for a large billboard. Cost: Small budget for garbage collection.
Subject matter experts are often spotlighted on news television, providing insight into news story aspects relative to their expertise. These people have costly public relations firms and speaker’s bureaus at their side. You can gain the same local effect, however, by working with your local newspaper, television, radio and websites. Provide articles like this one, but offering tips for better accounting, spending and saving. Hone your skills in very simply and concisely explaining concepts of your expertise and build rapport with media people who often need someone to call upon for story insights and on-air appearances. Provide them with a formal resume or list of qualifications and subject matter you are qualified to discuss. Cost: $0
Host Committee Meetings or Telethons
Committees often need a quiet and closed area to conduct group meetings. For quality organizations consisting of members you might work well for, your conference room or other office area is perfect for meeting their needs. The same holds true for telethons, such as those conducted by college alumni groups. Offer your space and phone lines to your alumni group or similar fundraising entity. They will be pleased to take you up on the offer and bring with them plenty of quality people you can network with, right in your own office space. Cost: $0 (but consider going the extra mile and supplying some food and drinks as a kind, memorable host)
Become a Wordsmith
Business journals, newspapers, local publications and websites (such as blogs) love building relationships with guest editorialists. Write a helpful or warm-hearted article that would speak directly to each publication’s individual audience. Ensure you do solid research first, by reading each publication and distinguishing their “voice,” market geography and demographic (level of education of their readership, for example). Most general public newspapers and magazines are written at a 7th grade reading level, so ensure you adhere to such important standards, or your article will be rejected. Emulate the writing style of their published articles. Approach the publication with your written story and talk to an editor about possibility of having it included in their next print. Be open to their suggestions and edits toward an ongoing relationship. Cost: $0, plus publication cover price and subscriptions (it is in good taste to be a subscriber before talking to the editor)
Hopefully, this article got you thinking about steps you can take to give your tax preparation business a booster shot. Something that contributes to your bottom is line is streamlining how you serve clients from an efficiency perspective.
For example, if you’re not using electronic tax filing, you may want to consider it. If you began to efile 1099 and W-2 forms, you’ll typically see results for clients faster than using paper forms. That’s a time savings on your end that lets you focus on finding more clients instead of using up time serving the ones you have right now.
If you’re starting or running a fledgling CPA business, this tax season needs to be all about using time better. Like most tax pros, you’ve got clients with employees and sub-contractors.
If you’re wasting time printing and routing tax forms, here’s how you cut that time and work in half. I’m using eFile4Biz.com to file 1099 online, and using that freed up time to look for new clients. They lead the efile service industry, and they integrate with the major accounting brands. Watch the video below, and good luck this season.
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