From the 2008 Tax Season Survival Guide
Today’s contemporary firms manage their practice with a different focus
and vision than what the accounting profession deployed in the past. Traditionally
in the past, firms would rely on quality service and referrals as almost their
exclusive method of winning new business. Now, a large number of firms use “old
school” marketing and sales techniques, and nurture business development
strategies as well as advertising to attract new clients.
Three aspects are needed to take your firm to its highest potential:
This area addresses the image of your firm. You an conduct an acid test to review your literature, website, letterhead and logo. Ask yourself two questions. First, do these items reflect the services as they are today and tell your firm’s story? Second, if you were a prospect or referral source, would these items impress you enough to take action? Outdated and low-quality materials will put your firm in weaker bargaining position or may completely eliminate you from consideration. Image is a huge element that many firms let slide or overlook completely. They get comfortable relying on referrals and devalue the impact their image may be having on their profitability.
Many firms blend marketing and business development into one function. Over the last decade, it has become common for firms to hire a Marketing Director. The marketing function is a vital role, but it requires different skills than a business developer brings to the table. A firm’s marketing function centers on branding, client retention, increased awareness in the community with seminars, coordination of advertising, and helping shape the strategic direction for the practice. This leaves a limited amount of time for the Marketing Director to focus on new business development, which is often a nurture-oriented effort.
This has been an emerging trend in the accounting profession. My firm has been conducting business development and marketing for the accounting profession for over a decade. When we first started, there were a limited number of firms employing a Marketing Director. Back then, almost no one had a dedicated business development professional. Today, hiring a Business Development Director, referred to as a Sales Executive outside of our profession, is probably one of the hottest trends in the accounting profession.
If your firm is experiencing staffing issues, don’t stop marketing, push hard. That’s when you have the opportunity to open doors and steal the next tier of clients from firms that are also facing staffing and service issues. Many firms are understaffed and overworked, but even the busiest of firms should be continually marketing and conducting business development to attract the highest possible level of clients. The way to impact profitability and increase the value of a firm is to have high-margin, high-profile clients. The goal of a continuous marketing effort is to target those high-end prospects that bring “name recognition” and value service quality. When your efforts are successful, and if staffing is still a concern, then increase the fees on the less profitable clients until they leave or begin to pay the fees you feel are best for your practice.
Different strategies should be used based on your firm’s objectives. A firm’s first step in its marketing and business development efforts should be to identify what type of service the firm really wants to sell. What makes a firm profitable can be completely different in each practice. Here is how we approach getting new business based for each different type of service: