Individual tax work
Advertise. By far this is the most cost-effective method of attracting clients. Individual tax return prospects are either new to the area, seeking a new provider due to poor service, or they are fee sensitive. If they are looking, they will have many accountants from which to choose so advertising is the most effective way to stand out from the pack in this group.
Small business tax work
Advertise, use direct mail and network. Most small businesses are either entrenched with their current accountant, fee sensitive or don’t know where to turn to find a qualified firm that can assist them. Telemarketing can work, but finding qualified callers is difficult and often not cost-effective.
You can use a strategy similar to the small business tax work, but telemarketing can be more successful in this area, especially if your write-up service is complemented by an analytical service. An example would be a firm that is concentrating on write-up and tax for small medical clinics, but they wrap a specialized analytical process centered around the physician’s practice performance that sets them apart from other accountants. They charge a premium for their services, and find it much easier to open doors for new prospects with this approach. Telemarketing is effective here because there is a differentiating reason to talk with the firm.
Financial services or investments
Network, speak and write. The financial services profession is a trust-oriented business. People of wealth are risk adverse, seek assistance through their other professional advisors, and educate themselves on how to select a financial advisor. Speaking engagements provide the opportunity for an individual to form an opinion on your abilities, and published articles provide instant credibility.
Mid to large entity tax and audit engagements
Unless you are targeting publicly traded companies, it is difficult to separate the tax work from the audit function. They come in one bundled package for most businesses. For this type of client, you need to use nurture marketing and networking techniques. Advertising is not that effective when targeting bigger prospects. Create a nurture program by mailing to a select group of prospects quarterly, and conducting professional, executive calling to follow-up on each prospect. Most likely, you will be targeting the CFO or Controller, and hiring a caller qualified to handle those communications is a tough task. An effective caller engages these executives into a conversation instead of reading from a script. The goal of an executive nurture effort should be to get them aware of your firm, and ready to accept a phone call from a Partner to take their conversation to the next level.
This includes litigation support, valuations, fraud, forensics, and internal controls, all of which can be marketed to the direct prospect, referral source or another center of influence, such as a trade association that has influence over their members, or the media that can provide mass coverage for your firm. Awareness is the first step in successfully selling specialty services, but positioning your organization’s quality and ability to successfully complete the task at hand with minimal risk or exposure is key.
At the beginning of the article, we discussed branding, marketing and business development. Branding is an integral part of winning the mid to large business client and selling specialty services. Although fees are always important, the larger the prospect, the more risk adverse they become and realize that quality is their first objective. The CFO of a 20 million dollar entity does not want to lose their job because they cut service audit fees to the point where the may have endangered the quality of their audited financial statements by using a less qualified firm. Your image is a factor in their decision.
Marketing cuts through all of the areas discussed above. Regardless of whether you are seeking a 1040 client or a 100 million dollar construction company, you need a marketing plan — one that defines the number of prospects to pursue backed by the level of support materials required to win the business. And you need well-written communications to get your messages read by prospects.