After developing five accounting firms from 1984 to 1994, I spent the next fifteen years assisting over 2,000 accountants develop and improve their accounting firms as a Practice Development Consultant. This experience showed that many accountants had implemented many marketing programs that fail.
The primary reason most accounting marketing programs fail is because the accountant attempts to treat his or her services as a commodity. Unfortunately, this often leads to very low response and low quality of clientele. There are volumes of accountants who have tried very expensive marketing programs offered by many companies lured by difficult-to-enforce guarantees experiencing disastrous financial consequences. The majority of these marketing failures centralize on the programs using commodity-marketing techniques.
The accounting industry is not commodity driven; it is driven by trust and loyalty. Trust has to be established. It cannot be sold. Accordingly, if an accountant attempts to sell his or her accounting services as a commodity or product, he or she will fail.
The first step for an accounting services marketing program should be to identify a business that is seeking the services of a CPA or Accountant. If a business is pleased with its current CPA or accountant and is not seeking the services of a new CPA or Accountant, that business is not going to change accountants. Any attempt of an accountant using a marketing program to sever that relationship by aggressive selling techniques will only diminish the business’s perception of the accountant and his or her firm. The wise accountant will never pull a businessperson away from his or her existing accountant if that person is satisfied with the accountant or CPA. Acknowledge the situation as a good one for both the business and the CPA Accountant. Never attempt severing that which is good for the business, neither the CPA Accountant nor the Accounting Industry.
Having acknowledged that a CPA Accountant’s marketing program should have the capacity to identify a business seeking the services of a new CPA Accountant, the second step the accountants marketing program should produce is to have the business seeking a new CPA Accountant to become interested in you and your accounting firm. If your marketing program has a business seeking a new CPA Accountant becoming interested in you, the new client meeting will be much like meeting with referred prospective clients. They will be openly interested in you. You won’t feel yourself in the position of having to sell them into using you or your firm. Remember, the accounting industry is based on trust. The key for your success in your marketing program is its ability to provide you the opportunity to establish trust and demonstrate how you can help the prospective client.
Once you have a business in need of accounting services interested in you, the third step your accounting services marketing program should perform is showing you how to demonstrate your ability to help your prospective client in your presentation. Too many accounting marketing programs fail because they are predicated on the CPA Accountant performing sales presentations to new prospective clients. Businesses are not interested in being sold accounting services. Businesses are interested in how the CPA Accountant can help them and their business. The CPA Accountant should provide the examples of how they can help and apply those examples to his or her business. It is important he or she understands and sees the value you are providing. Most businesses do not understand the value a CPA accountant provides. If your accountant-marketing program centralizes your presentations about you and your firm, it is the wrong marketing program; the program must centralize your presentation around the prospective client and your ability to help him or her.
Finally, the fourth step your accountant’s marketing program should provide you is techniques to price your services in relationship to the value you demonstrated in your presentation. Your objective is not to discount your firm’s services to entice a new client to come on board, but to price your service as a good value in relationship to the value you are providing. For example, if a prospective client could choose to spend $1,000 to have a CPA or Accountant prepare his or her business tax return, he or she or may not choose to do so. However, if that same CPA or accountant showed the prospective client tax-saving strategies that will save him or her save $5,000 per year in taxes, the client will definitely choose to have that CPA Accountant prepare his or her taxes for $1,000. He or she will perceive using that CPA or Accountant of great value. Observe in the example, the primary factor of why the prospective client decided to come on board was not the absolute cost of the service but the value received in relationship to that cost.
In summary, there are four steps an accountant’s marketing program should employ. It should:
1) identify a business seeking a new CPA or Accountant,
2) generate an interest in that business in using you or your firm,
3) show you how to demonstrate value in your new client presentation, and
4) price your firm’s services in relationship to your value.
If your accountant’s marketing program fails to employ any of the four basic steps or attempts to market accounting services as a commodity, it is recommended that you abandon the implementation of that program. You will avoid frustration and possible financial disasters. Remember, the key to a successful CPA Accountant’s marketing program is never sales oriented. It is placing you and your firm in contact with a business that has a need and is interested in you or your firm fulfilling that need.