“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter
It is important for CPA firms to continually demonstrate the value they bring to their clients.
“Value-added” has been bantered around the profession for years and still some accountants find it difficult to put into words. One way is to offer your clients additional services. Usually, they don’t realize that a service they are contemplating from an outside consultant is already offered by their CPA firm.
You not only need to communicate with the clients, you need to communicate with your own staff.
Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits, know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location? Have experienced partners tell them stories how they landed a lucrative engagement by chatting with a client while they were working at the client’s site.
Have you educated your team about all of the firm’s service offerings? Sometimes the newer employees really don’t know what the firm offers in addition to tax, audit and accounting. At a lunch & learn, set up a panel of 3 or 4 niche leaders to talk about how the services from their niche can benefit clients.
Can all of your team members talk intelligently about your menu of services? Provide them with an Additional Services Checklist so they can at least convey the opportunities (and who to talk to at the firm) to the client.
Design a Cross-sell Brochure to help your team and make it nice enough they can even leave it behind with a client. Here’s one-side of a sample I share – it is in tri-fold format. If you want a sample, let me know. Sometimes a piece of paper still gets your message across!
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
I have always believed that the best marketing strategy is how you serve your clients. It’s sort of the the “build it and they will come” mentality.
If your firm wins the reputation for over-the-top client service, your current clients will talk about you and potential clients will seek you out.
This week’s quote from Tom Peters says volumes about the CPA profession:
“Obviously there is a role for marketing, strategy formulation, and the like. But, ultimately, it all boils down to perceived, and appreciated, and consistently delivered service and quality to customers.”
Your competitors can find out what services your offer, what niches you pursue and the names of your employees and rainmakers. They cannot easily judge how you serve your clients. Serve your clients better than your competitors and you will win the race
Service begins with the pursuit of the potential client. It is not about selling to them or “pitching” them, it is a longer process of simply building a relationship.
Jeffrey Gitomer says it so well:
“The relationship is the biggest advantage you have in selling. People want to do business with people they can relate to. Finding out what your customer wants will help you discover your competitive advantage, but this is not as powerful as building a relationship. Coming to work early is a great habit, but may not affect your relationship building skills. The worst scenario is to try to learn a competitive advantage from your competitor. Which came first, the competition or the relationship? The relationship comes first and the sale will follow.” –Jeffrey Gitomer, excerpted from The Little Red Book of Sales Answers
To me, maybe the most important quote for CPAs to take to heart is featured below in my quote of the day section – from Harvey Mackay.
To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
I was delighted when the Ohio Society of CPAs asked me to be interviewed for their Spotlight Series. We did a few segments and yesterday they released the one about social media: Social Media & CPAs – How To Get Started & Why.
I hope your firm is taking full advantage of social media:
I write a lot about engaging your employees in their work and engaging them in the mission of the firm. I read even more about employee engagement, what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. I just Googled “employee engagement” and received 24,200,000 possibilities.
Marketers for Apple and Disney use enchantment all the time. Enchantment leads to attachment, something that is even greater than loyalty.
Now, it seems, with our employees, we must use enchantment because satisfaction means our basic needs are met. Happiness means our emotional needs are met. Enchantment gives us meaningful experiences we didn’t even know we needed.
The author of the article admits that we can’t be enchanted every day because enchantment remains by its very nature an occasional, peak experience.
About 20 years ago, it seemed work life was much simpler. I was working in a growing, progressive CPA firm. One of our main goals was to make our people say, “Wow!”. We did this periodically, not every day, of course. We had very little turnover.
Back then I wasn’t aware of “engaging” or “enchanting” our team members. We simply did our best to hire great people and stay focused on their needs, their opinions and making our culture a positive one.
Keep it simple at your firm. Occasionally surprise your people with something that makes them say, “Wow!”.
Today’s quote, below, will give you food for thought!
Whatever deceives men seems to produce a magical enchantment.
We often think of young entrepreneurs as being very wrapped up in developing things for millennials. However, the three examples are young people creating solutions for their grandparents. And, they are capitalizing on the huge market that is our aging population.
What is your firm doing to tap into this huge market? Maybe you should solicit ideas from your own young people.
And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows.
For years, CPAs have used a handful of methods to grow their practice. Most of them have always been individually focused.
Per Gale Crosley’s recent article, Rocket Powered Growth, in Accounting Today, all of that has changed dramatically. I couldn’t agree more.
Traditional firm growth model has featured:
Individual contribution: Partners each have their individual books of business and are measured on retaining and growing these books one client at a time.
Tactical: A primary activity was banker breakfasts and lawyer lunches, designed to cultivate referrals one new client at a time.
Generalist: Hang out a shingle to all comers, then wait for the phone to ring.
Boots on the ground: Face-to-face meetings with prospective buyers one at a time.
The new model for growth is very different:
Leader-driven: When leading growth, not just doing it, partners are converted to business unit leaders who own the profitable growth of a service line or industry.
Strategic: The objective of leaders is to conquer markets one at a time, not just individual referred clients one at a time.
Specialist: The faster way to growth is through focus on particular industries and buyer groups, instead of all comers.
Technology-centric: Using the capability of today’s technologies enables us to increase market size and melt away geographic borders to find buyers in far-flung places.
It is not all about the firm’s big rainmaker anymore. It requires leadership and teamwork.
As Crosley states, “In today’s competitive environment, it’s risky at best for one ‘lone ranger’ partner to know what nobody else knows and to sell what nobody else can sell.” Hunters must transform to leaders of the hunt. Be sure to take the time to read Crosley’s article.
Something I have been stressing for years is that EVERYONE in the firm has a role in growing the firm – not just one or two rainmaker partners. See Crosley’s quote below.
You can no longer rely on a small number of rainmakers, but instead create growth leaders, and leverage the strength of every member of the firm.
In a recent article in the Ohio Society of CPA’s Voice magazine, Kyle Shumate, Industry Marketing Specialist at Clark Schaefer Hackett (Top 100 firm) shares some great advice on networking.
It is a great article to share with your new hires, including interns.
Here’s Kyle’s 10 Way to Network Effectively
Determine a goal
Prepare an elevator pitch
Ask open-ended questions
Limit your drinking
Go out on your own
Think long term
Follow this link to read about each one of these. Share the link with your beginners AND with your managers. I often find that managers have procrastinated for several years about developing their networking skills.
My friend, Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, President of bbr marketing, and her team love to help their CPA firm clients GET AHEAD. Perhaps it is time to explore some outside marketing assistance to help you, so you can help your own clients get AHEAD.
Thus, their creative, humorous and unique Halloween Card. I love it!
Here is a picture of their card that I received in the mail last week. How on earth did they end up in that frightful situation?
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.
Yesterday was my birthday. As usual, I opened up my browser and hit the Google site. There it was, the Google Doodle with birthday images. There was a cake with candles, cupcakes and other birthday goodies.
I thought to myself… “today must be some famous person’s birthday – the same day as mine.”
When I put the cursor over the image, guess what appeared?
“Happy Birthday Rita”
It made me smile and think Wow! Of course, I wondered how they did this.
The point I want to make to you, CPA firm leaders, is – do you think Google has more customers than you? Yes, certainly. Then why aren’t you doing something to make your clients think, “Wow!”?