Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Trying to be All Things to All People

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.” – John C. Maxwell

Many CPA firms have remained generalists. They do compliance work for all types of businesses of all sizes. Maybe that is why many people who need a CPA think they are all alike. These firms try to please everyone and probably end up being an average firm.

Some of the most successful firms are evolving into experts. They have become known for special expertise with specific types of businesses. You know who they are, the auto dealer firms, the medical firms, the dental firms, the native American firms and, now, even green firms.

If you continue to try to please everyone, you may end up not pleasing anyone.

Here’s a good post by Seth Godin – Beware of false averages.

  • The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
  • Andy Rooney

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Friday, April 28th, 2017

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Because of all the concerns about cybersecurity and the opportunity that it provides for CPAs to provide cybersecurity-related assurance services, I wanted to share a press release from the AICPA this week.

AICPA Unveils Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework

Voluntary Engagement Will Help Companies and Auditors Communicate Cyber Risk Readiness

NEW YORK (April 26, 2017) – At a time when organizations around the world are facing cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever for them to demonstrate to key stakeholders the extent and effectiveness of their cybersecurity risk management efforts. To help businesses meet this growing challenge, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has introduced a market-driven, flexible and voluntary cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

“Cybersecurity threats are escalating, thereby unnerving boards of directors, managers, investors and customers of businesses of all sizes – whether public or private,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president for public practice. “While there are many methods, controls and frameworks for developing cybersecurity risk management programs, until now there hasn’t been a common language for companies to communicate about, and report on, these efforts.”

The AICPA’s new framework will enable all organizations – in industries worldwide – to take a proactive and agile approach to cybersecurity risk management and to communicate on those activities with stakeholders. Two resources that support reporting under the framework are being released today:

  • Description criteria – For use by management in explaining its cybersecurity risk management program in a consistent manner and for use by CPAs to report on management’s description.
  • Control criteria – Used by CPAs providing advisory or attestation services to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the controls within a client’s program.

A third resource for CPAs will be available in May:

  • Attest guide – This guidance, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls, will be published next month to assist CPAs engaged to examine and report on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.

Building on CPAs’ experience in auditing information technology controls, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee identified the emerging need for cybersecurity-related assurance services. The goal was to enable companies to more effectively communicate the robustness of their cybersecurity risk management programs to key stakeholders.

“The framework we have developed will serve as a critical step to enabling a consistent, market-based mechanism for companies worldwide to explain how they’re managing cybersecurity risk,” Coffey explained. “We believe investors, boards, audit committees and business partners will see tremendous value in gaining a better understanding of organizations’ cybersecurity risk management efforts. That information, combined with the CPA’s opinion on the effectiveness of management’s efforts, will increase stakeholders’ confidence in organizations’ due care and diligence in managing cybersecurity risk.”

For more information and links to valuable resources for CPAs providing cybersecurity advisory and assurance services, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.

  • Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
  • Maxwell Maltz

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Know Your Competition

“It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.” – Gianni Versace

As I have interacted with many firms over the years, I have observed that some partners are not worried at all about their competition and some partners are almost obsessed with beating their competition.

No matter your degree of concern, it is a good practice to be aware of your competition, their strengths and their weaknesses. In reality, they are strongly targeting your best clients (just like you are targeting theirs).

As Jeffrey Gitomer (sales guru) says, it is a sales war and winner take all. He also suggests some Competition Success Strategies:

  • Speak kindly of your competition, or say nothing.
  • Respect competition, and others will respect you.
  • If others speak negatively about anything or anyone, DO NOT join in.
  • Know your competition’s weaknesses, but focus on your strength and value.
  • Know why they won, when you should have.
  • Know how they speak about you, and build response into your presentation.
  • Know how to beat them until they hate you (hating them is a waste of energy).
  • Your only victory is when you get the job.

Read more here.

  • Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed - there's so little competition.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Just for Fun – Taglines and Slogans

“Semper fidelis” – Marine Corps motto

I think everyone knows who you mean when you refer to the tagline – Just do it! Can the people working inside your firm quickly recite your tagline? It is something familiar to your clients?

Just for fun, here are some famous taglines from over the years. I bet you can remember the company using the tagline:

  • Finger Lickin’ Good
  • The king of beers
  • Because I’m worth it
  • Let your fingers do the walking
  • Don’t leave home without it
  • M’m! M’m! Good!
  • Where’s the beef
  • The ultimate driving machine
  • Got milk?
  • We try harder
  • The happiest place on earth

More fun…. thanks to Accounting Today, I found a list of CPA firm taglines. Many incorporate the words:  Numbers, add, and passion.

  • Beyond the numbers
  • Strength in numbers
  • It all adds up
  • Our strength. Your numbers.
  • The passion to unlock potential
  • Passion works here
  • Turning vision into value
  • Delivering on the promise
  • Your success is our business
  • See beyond the numbers

For even more fun, here are some law firm taglines:

  • We take it personally
  • Solving your legal puzzle
  • Law. Life. Passion.
  • Right there with you
  • Getting it done
  • Results. Period.
  • Unusually good
  • Fewer lawyers. Bigger impact.
  • Small but mighty
  • Ready for trial!
  • We make the complex simple
  • Putting imagination to work

My firm used “Pushing the Possibilities.” How about your firm? I hope you have something catchy!

  • Slogans rarely convince the unconvinced. However, they do rally the troops already on your side.
  • John McCarthy

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Don’t Be Typical

“We are a full-service accounting firm serving clients throughout the area, dedicated to providing our clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs.”

“Since 1984, our Certified Public Accounting firm, has been providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. Our expertise ranges from valuable tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services such as audits of financial statements, preparation of financial statements, consulting and financial planning.”

Do the above descriptions sound like something that is on your website?  They are typical of what I see as I visit CPA websites from across the country. Although I have been urging you to get creative with your website for years, I still find many that look the same way they did in 1997 (or earlier).

While your accountants are busy for the next couple of months, it’s time for your firm administrator or marketing director (coordinator) to get busy updating your website.

Make it friendly to the first-time visitor. On the home page, tell them how you can help THEM and not so much about YOU. Save the information about your firm for a subsequent page. Some things you need to convey:

  • Immediate resources for the visitor
  • Your energy, enthusiasm, and excitement about what you do
  • The dedication of your staff to client service
  • How you can solve their business problems
  • How you are unique

Consider this advice from Lee Iacocca:

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

  • You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will.
  • Stephen King, on writing

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Need A Cartoon To Use For Marketing?

Sometimes accountant cartoons are not very funny to those of us working in the CPA profession. But, there are times when a good laugh will do you some good and be appreciated by your clients. If you need custom cartoons for your newsletter, website or Facebook you might want to contact Jerry King.

I recently heard from Jerry and thought he might be a good resource for some of my readers.

Here’s a sample that I could relate to! Contact Jerry King here.

JerryKing

  • Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.
  • Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Client Accounting Services

Consultants, firm associations, state societies, the media and the AICPA have all been telling you about the opportunities available if you offer Client Accounting Services.

Yes, many firms used to think that “write-up” work was very low margin work. The cloud and technology have made it very lucrative.

galeRead this excellent article from Gale Crosley‘s recent newsletter:  “From ‘Dull’ and “Commoditized’ to an ‘International Star'”.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
  • Mark Twain