Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Eric 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
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.
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
I 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?
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.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
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.
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Gale 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.
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
I love quotations by famous people (and some not-so-famous people). I find them inspiring and sometimes very useful – if you heed the advice given.
One of my favorites for my CPA consulting activities and for life in general comes from Henry David Thoreau:
Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify!
What I often find as I work with public accounting firms, and the CPAs who live inside them, is their motto often seems to be:
This came to mind recently as I read a series of three tweets by the highly respected author and consultant, Alan Weiss, @BentleyGTCSpeed.
- You don’t need a business plan. You need a marketing plan.
- Can you explain in 10 seconds why a client is improved by working with you?
- Telling a prospect how you do things is like reading through the yard sale ads.
Inside your firm, strive to keep things simple. Don’t spend so much time formulating a 25-page strategic plan. Identify fewer initiatives and a shorter timeframe.
How’s it going with your performance feedback system? In most firms the people receiving the evaluation dread them and the people delivering the message dread them.
When you get an audience with a prospective client do you talk too much?
Keep pace with change, always be evolving and KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart). Today’s quote, below, is also one of my favorite ones for accountants.
It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
W. Edwards Deming
Monday, August 19th, 2013
Do you get tired of hearing about the topic of partner compensation? Do you, as a firm leader, continue to read about it, talk about it, attend conferences about it, hire consultants to advise you about it and and yet never feel like you have the right partner compensation system in your firm?
Join the club. There are a bunch of you out there.
Who’s worth more, the partner who serves clients expertly, builds relationships and has above average technical knowledge or the partner who is best at pursuing prospective clients and landing them? The age old question continues.
As far as current trends for 2013, what I am hearing is pretty much what I have heard for many years. #1 – rainmaking, #2 – firm management and #3 – technical expertise.
As we move ahead into 2014 and beyond, I am desperately hoping that another HUGE factor becomes prevalent in CPA firm partner compensation – talent development. I have already heard about one, large, prominent firm that asks their partners: Who did you recruit to the firm? Who would say they are here because of you? How are you developing those people?
Many managing partners think that if they can learn how other firms are doing partner compensation then they can do the same thing and all their worries will disappear. Wrong.
Partner compensation and all CPA firm compensation is highly dependent on geographic location. Partner compensation depends on the wants, desires and opinions of ALL of your partners and the culture your particular partner group has adopted over the years.
If you are considering revamping, updating and revising your partner compensation (and many firms out there need to undertake such a journey), it means lots of discussion and investigation into what your own group of partners think and care about. Of course, you should also build in accountability – goal-setting for partners and rewards based upon achieving those goals. Firm after firm tells me, “we have no accountability.”
If you need some resources:
Partner Compensation Checklist from Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory.
CPA Partner Base Salary Guidelines from Marc Rosenberg of Rosenberg & Associates.
Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.
Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
I find all the stuff that Jeffrey Gitomer does (books, speeches, articles, newspaper columns, videos) motivating. He focuses on sales training but much of what he says applies to any business person (or human being for that matter).
Check out this post I did earlier this year featuring Gitomer talking about adding value. CPAs talk about “value added” all the time but can they describe what that really means?
Today I came across a video by Gitomer titled, Don’t Just Sell – Create Demand! It’s only 47 seconds long – watch it below.
He talks about John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio. I live in Dayton so it caught my attention. Patterson created a demand for the cash register, watch the video to find out how.
How about you and your CPA firm, are you creating a demand for your services?
You don't earn loyalty in a day; you earn loyalty day by day.
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
In talking with CPA leaders, I believe that many are now beginning to understand the difference between push marketing and pull marketing.
Just as marketing activities are changing for CPA firms, so are leadership activities. Progressive firms have embraced the fact that they must move from Push: Command and Control to Pull: Connect and Collaborate.
Tom Hood shares some great slides on this topic on Slideshare:
Leadership is still about….
So true. I love the quote Hood uses on this particular slide:
“First I get all of my men facing the same direction.” – - Napoleon
The fall marketing season is coming up, the fall recruiting season is coming up – maybe it’s time to get all your men (and women) facing the same direction.
Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Yesterday I was reading an article via Fast Company titled, Want To Conquer A New Skill? Do It Every Day.
Did you ever think about how you became a great accountant (CPA)? You practiced, every day. You did taxes over and over again. You did auditing and accounting over and over again. You did accounting work every day. Fact is, even if you have been an accountant for decades, you are doing accounting work every day. Thus, quantity improves quality.
Often in public accounting firms, you shield your staff and even some of your partners from taking part in rehearsals for marketing, networking and selling. Managers often say they weren’t told that they had to bring in business to become a partner until they reached manager level.
Practicing to become a rainmaker should begin as soon as a new entry-level person enters your CPA firm. Just as accountants do a huge quantity of accounting and tax work to become a skilled CPA, they should be doing marketing things to become a great marketer.
Don’t shield your people from marketing activities – push them on stage to rehearse. Partners should take staff along to every possible networking event, make writing articles part of their on-going professional development, train them in responding to client questions and being more proactive in keeping in contact with clients.
If you are an accountant and feel like you might struggle in talking to strangers at a business reception – attend more business receptions and talk to more people.
I like a phrase used in the article: Try fast, fail fast, learn fast.
Or, as your mother used to tell you: Practice makes perfect!
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.