Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Everyone Is Part Of The Sales Force

Perhaps you have heard the stories from some of your friends in public accounting who are working at another firm. Maybe it applies to your own firm. I know I hear it often in my consulting role….

“We have 8 partners but we only have 2 rainmakers. I don’t know what we will do when they retire!”

If this hits too close to home, start tomorrow enlisting your entire workforce to become part of your sales force.

How do you do this, especially in public accounting? Here’s four suggestions:

  1. Don’t wait and surprise long-time employees, that in order to be a partner they have to bring in business.
  2. Introduce every new hire, experienced or college recruit, to the firm’s marketing activities and programs. 
  3. Involve every employee in building the firm’s reputation and brand – that’s the best marketing you can do and there is a role for every person in your firm.
  4. Show your appreciation to your employees. If your people are happy in their role and with your firm, if they feel appreciated, they will become a sales force on their own. They will talk to others about the great place they work and all of the great things the firm does for them and for the firm’s clients.

If your people truly believe your firm can do a better job for a potential client than their current CPA, they will talk about it. It would sure feel good to have 50 rainmakers with potential to grow and enhance their skills than just having two who are aging-out.

  • The best way to find new business is to talk to old business.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Hosting A Bookkeepers’ Day

I think this is a great idea – host a special luncheon for bookkeeping professionals working for your clients. I know that several firms across the country host such an event and it is well received by clients.

Your firm and your people often have a stronger relationship with a client’s bookkeeper, controller or CFO than they do with the actual business owner. Enhancing that relationship not only benefits your firm it can also be of great value to the bookkeeper.

Here’s how it works. As year-end comes to a close or at the beginning of January, a CPA firm invites client financial professionals (bookkeepers, controllers, CFOs, office managers, etc.), whoever “keeps the books” to a special expanded luncheon or breakfast. It is not only a social event, it is also used to provide an educational update session on the typical year-end activities – changes in tax laws, closing out the books, dealing with the year-end payroll tax requirements, etc.

The event not only builds a stronger personal relationship with this important person in your client’s office, it assists with receiving the client’s year-end information in a more organized format. Simply informing the bookkeeper of your expectations and helping them achieve the proper format is a win for everyone.

In many firms this annual luncheon/breakfast meeting event has become tradition and is valued highly by the bookkeeping professionals.

I recently read a news article about C&D LLP hosting such an event. It was held at a nice facility (a guest ranch) and has been a tradition at the firm since 1994.

An added benefit is that they used it for public relations by sending a press release to the local newspaper.

Bookkeepers working for non-clients in their area are probably wondering why their CPA isn’t doing such an event…. and perhaps thinking….  maybe we better talk to C&D LLP.

 

  • A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers; you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.
  • Stephen Covey

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

More WE & Less ME

DSC02808I received Gale Crosley’s newsletter last week and I want to share her article titled, “Why Strategic Growth Matters More Than Ever. Individual Tactics Are No Longer Enough.”

As usual, my thoughts align with hers. Significant change has occurred and firms need to be much more strategic in their thinking and actions. Per Crosley, strategic growth is a mindful, firm-based approach that contrasts starkly with the notion that a firm can grow sustainably by partners increasing their individual books of business.

Here’s Crosley’s closing lines:

Gauge the willingness to try a different approach that’s more “we” and less “me.” Then move forward, clear-eyed and committed to the future you desire.

Read the full article here. Check out the picture from 2006!

  • There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
  • Peter Drucker

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Client Service – Be Honest, Are You Really Different?

CPAs working in public practice tell me all the time….. “We are different!” They go on to relate how they do this different and how they do that different. They truly believe they are different.

When I inquire as to exactly how they are different from their competitors most of them say, “It’s because of our client service.”  They continue to describe how they are responsive, return phone calls quickly and are available to their clients.

They are reacting to client requests and questions. Notice I said REACTING. Most CPAs will honestly disclose, they are more reactive than PROACTIVE.

Here’s my personal story from a visit to a Ritz Carlton Hotel. Eddie, the bellman/valet guy (young, smiling gentleman), opened the door to my taxi and welcomed me inquiring as to my name. As he walked me to the registration desk he asked where I was from. When I said Dayton, Ohio he remarked, “I attended UD!” (University of Dayton). As we arrived at the desk he introduced the gentleman at the desk to me, “This is Ms. Keller, she’s ready to check-in.”

During my stay, at both hotel restaurants (lunch & dinner), so many people asked… Can I help you? May I be of assistance? Is there anything you need? At both restaurants they inquired, “Are you staying with us?” Last name? and then from that point forward everyone in the restaurant(s) called me by name, “Ms. Keller.” After dinner when I departed the restaurant a different maitre d’ was on duty and said, “Good night, Ms. Keller.”

People enjoy being called by name and they hate it if their name is mispronounced or mis-spelled. Have you every mis-spelled a client name on a email, letter, tax organizer or other paper mailing? It’s a huge faux pas! Even worse, has your firm ever mailed something to a deceased client? The relatives sure hate that one!

The Ritz Carlton has systems. They teach them and they practice them. The next day as I was leaving the hotel Eddie greeted me again and immediately said, “Did you enjoy your stay, Ms. Keller? Are you heading back to Dayton? Why don’t you use our car, it’s just slightly more than a taxi and much more comfortable?”

I couldn’t keep track of how many people (employees) asked me during my 30-hour visit if they could help me, assist me, do anything for me.

What’s it like at your firm? How often do you ask your clients if you can help them in any way? How often do your employees, during client interactions, use the client’s name and inquire if they can assist or if the client has any questions? Have you trained your people to introduce themselves to visitors waiting in the lobby, to simply be friendly?

Practice civility. See the quote below from the Dali Lama.

  • Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
  • Dali Lama

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Women CPAs, Partners, Young Accountants – Focus on Business Development

This is a familiar topic. I talk and write about it all the time. I continue to meet women in accounting and young accountants just entering the profession who “don’t get it.”

What’s worse, I continue to talk to CPAs, both males and females, with many years of experience who do not participate in business development!

If you are in public accounting and you want to grow as a CPA and as a person in your profession, be sure to devote time to business development. There are things you can do in just 15 minutes a day.

Read Michael Hsu‘s blog post aimed at his entrepreneurial clients (it applies to YOU as a CPA):

Daily Habit: Devote Time to Business Development

If you are a CPA working in public accounting, it’s easy!

  • Send a link to an article on the web that is on-point for one of your client’s niche.
  • Attend a business networking event (Chamber, charitable fundraiser, etc.)
  • Write a handwritten note to a client on their anniversary with the firm.
  • Send a thank-you note to a client who ALWAYS pays on time and tell them how much you appreciate it.
  • Send a birthday card to your client.
  • When talking with you clients, be a better listener (also listen to your team)
  • Offer to speak at a client’s event.
  • Write a blog post just once a week!
  • Get on Twitter

You are going into a time of year when you will be busy. You are also going into a time of year when you will naturally be more visible, CPAs are heroes in tax season! Visibility creates opportunity, take advantage of it.

  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
  • Winston Churchill

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Trends In Accounting Firm Marketing

IMG_2681_2Eric Majchrzak is the Chief Marketing Officer for BeachFleischman CPAs, one of Arizona’s largest locally-owned CPA firms and a Top 200 largest accounting firm in the U.S.

I have been a huge fan of Eric’s for several years and appreciate all of the sharing he does to help me, and others, understand and stay on top of current trends in marketing CPA firms.

In a recent interview on Accounting Today TV, Senior Editor Danielle Lee asked Eric about the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities accounting firm marketers are facing.

One definite challenge is the fact that accounting firms are selling something that people do not want – tax returns and financial statements. Who has ever heard a client say, “I just love getting audited!” or “What a thrill to get my taxes done!”.

Eric explains it as the challenge of marketing commodity services and the role of the marketer involves helping the firm identify and offer specialty services like sustainability, Green and specialty taxes.

Another challenge for marketers is dealing with the multiple “masters” inside professional service firms. They must learn to deal with varying personalities and multiple decision-makers.

When it comes to opportunities, CPA firm marketers must become more proactive rather reactive. Help the CPAs with strategic planning, brand platform and pricing options, just to name a few.

Over 50% of people in the US have a smart phone and marketers must find a way to be relevant with content that is short but sweet when dealing with the complex issues that CPAs can solve for clients.

Take a few minutes to watch and listen to the full interview.

  • Marketing is too important to be left just to the marketing department.
  • Philip Almond, marketing director, Diageo

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Getting A Second Opinion – Two Ways For CPAs

Before making a decision, most CPAs and their clients like to hear all of the options. It never hurts to get a second opinion much like you would do in a medical situation.

Relating to your prospective clients

Many firms have been successful with offering prospective tax clients a “free second opinion.” Try organizing a marketing campaign around it. Let those important prospects know that your firm offers a free “second look” at their past tax returns and will offer comments and suggestions FREE of charge.

Relating to your firm and practice management

Has someone in your firm gone to a conference and heard a great idea from another firm and immediately began the process of implementing it at your firm?

I find this usually happens with managing partners when they attend their CPA firm association managing partners’ annual meeting. It also happens when firm administrators get ideas from other administrators at various meetings and conferences.

Gathering and considering all of those great ideas is a VERY good thing but be sure you think it through and plan carefully to ensure success. What works for your old friend Bob from the California firm (much larger than you) or what works for that progressive firm in NYC might not be exactly what would make a good fit for your firm in rural Indiana.

A lot of great ideas used by other firms and, yes, suggested by consultants like me, might not be compatible with the way your particular group of partners think or act. Just like you would do if you were faced with a serious medical situation, when you are faced with a serious management situation, gather more than one opinion, weigh your options and then proceed.

  • Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Be Unique – Do Unexpected Things For Your Clients

Nolan GiereI hear many stories from my clients and friends in public accounting.

Sometimes I hear about frustrations and challenges. But, I also often hear some really cool things, such as how firms are serving their clients by doing special things for them. Here’s a great example.

Nolan, Giere & Company CPAs in Troy, Ohio does Shred Day In The Park every year. They arrange for a shred truck to come to the Park and they invite their clients to bring things they need to shred and to join the firm team members for a picnic lunch. The clients love it!

Before and after they promote it on their Facebook page. What are you doing to make your clients smile?

shred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • One of the nice things about the Senior Tour is that we can take a cart and a cooler. If your game is not going well, you can always have a picnic.
  • Lee Trevino

Friday, September 6th, 2013

CPA Partners And Managers Clinging To The Work

I hear it all the time, CPA firm partners and managers talking out of both sides of their mouth.

On Delegating Work:

Left side of mouth: “These young people, they don’t realize that you have to work hard to serve clients. I give them a job to do. They get it partially done and then they send it back my way (and they go home).”

Right side of mouth: “Our young staff is just too green. They seem unsure and take too long to get something done. It’s so much quicker just to do it myself. My billing rate might be twice as much as theirs but I can do it twice as fast.”

On Performing Administrative Duties:

Left side of mouth: “I don’t try too hard to bring in new clients. I don’t go to many business-networking events. I just don’t have time. If I got a new client, I don’t have time to serve them properly. It would just mean that I would have to work more hours.”

Right side of mouth: “I am the one who takes care of all of our facilities management. I make sure our building HVAC works properly and that our conference room décor makes the proper first impression. I’m the one who has always done it, I can’t give that up.” – - or – - “I’m on the technology committee and have always been responsible for decisions relating to our website and the kind of laptops we purchase.”

I am sure, if you contemplate all of the activities of your firm’s partners and managers, you could add several more examples to this list.

On Delegating Work – It is every partner’s responsibility to train, mentor, coach, nurture, and encourage their replacement(s). Managers need to manage.  This is not done very well inside CPA firms. Managers (and some partners) are high-priced technicians. They cling to the client work because they enjoy it, it’s safe and it is in their comfort zone.

On Performing Administrative Duties – The big issue with this is that you are paying someone (a partner or several partners at about $300,000 each), to do the job that a professional, experienced, qualified firm administrator (HR Director, IT Manager, Marketing Director) could do at a significantly lower salary. Again, for some partners, performing administrative responsibilities is an excuse not to market, sell and bring new work and new clients into the firm. They cling to the administrative work because they enjoy it, it’s safe, and it is in their comfort zone.

  • It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
  • Mark Twain

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Leader-Driven Growth

gold-backgroundGale Crosley, CPA practice growth consultant, has a great article in her recent newsletter titled, “Leader-Driven Growth. Not Just a Bunch of Rainmakers!” It was also featured several months ago in Accounting Today.

Crosley gets many cries for help, “Gale, we need your help. Market conditions aren’t great and we’re getting hammered with competitive pricing. We have to increase our marketing so we can grow!” Per Crosley, there is a huge disconnect here.

As Crosley repeatedly reminds CPAs, marketing does not grow anything. Growth is a function of three integrated disciplines – marketing, sales and product management. And it must be consciously and continuously led.

Those few words, in bold, say it all as far as I am concerned. Rainmaking inside CPA firms should not be a game belonging to “the Lone Ranger” anymore. It takes fully engaged partners owning – Marketing, Industry Niche Management, Service Line Management and Large Opportunity Management.

All of this should be overseen by a managing partner in an orderly, sustainable manner.

Take a few minutes, follow the links above, read the entire article and obtain some insight on how to shift away from individual contributors pursuing random tactics to a leader-driven sustainable growth model that will even outlast the current partner group.

  • You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.
  • Zig Ziglar