“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
We became acquainted by doing a panel webinar about unique career paths you can take in the accounting profession for what is now AccountingFly. We continue to stay in touch and we both are passionate about tweeting.
His name is Robert Raiola and he is Director of the Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP.
At the time, Robert (@SportsTaxMan) was tweeting on a regular basis about his specialty – sports – and he had a few thousand followers. As of today, Robert has done over 29,800 tweets and has over 51,500 followers – that’s a home run for a CPA.
Just to show you the power of Twitter, it has helped him expand his reputation for being an expert – something every CPA should do – and he has been featured on a national level via Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc.
David Maister, the guru advisor to professional service firms, always said you have to decide what “you want to be famous for” and then pursue it with passion. How is that working for you?
Below is a recent example of the great exposure being an expert has gotten for Robert. Over the years I have blogged six times about @SportsTaxMan (just type his name in the Search box on the right).
Robert knows what he wants to be famous for and he is achieving it. How about you – think about it this weekend!
I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
Last week, the Ohio Society of CPAs unveiled their new brand. I love the “Advancing the State of Business” focus and the video that talks about what CPAs in Ohio really do to help Ohio advance the state of business.
CPAs in all states are really doing the same thing.
I want to share the video and I hope you’ll take three minutes to watch it.
Is this the year that your firm needs to rebrand itself? Is your logo stale and out-dated? Winning client opportunities and attracting top talent is ALL about your brand. What are people in your business community saying about you?
Whether you do a rebrand or not, why don’t you do a similar video to help your clients understand how you can help them move their business forward. Put the video on your website and use social media to “drive” people to your website. Mention the video to current clients and ask them to share it with their business friends
If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
I have blogged about accountants using Twitter numerous times. However, I continually ask CPAs, “Do you have a Twitter account?” and the answer is almost always, “No.”
CPAs are usually more tentative in adopting something different. However, with Twitter I urge you to jump-in, set-up an account and pick a few people/organizations to follow so you can understand how it works and figure out how you can use it for efficiency – Yes, I said efficiency.
Here’s my approach – – I follow a few people/organizations because I want to use Twitter to keep me informed. I selected a few news sources and CPA management resources (and some family members) and I check Twitter every morning – very early – to get the latest world and national news. I can keep current much quicker than reading a newspaper or watching TV.
I check it periodically throughout the day (takes 30 seconds) and I tweet throughout the day, especially if I am attending an event that is of interest to CPAs. I want to share information (that’s the whole point).
Managing partners, your people would love to read some tweets from you! Set-up a private Twitter and only allow your employees to follow you. Then tweet about your day – – “I had breakfast with the President of US Bank this morning.” “Here’s a good article from the AICPA.” (include the link).
I have tweeted nearly 11,000 times and I have nearly 4,000 followers (that’s a fairly big number for someone focusing on the CPA profession).
Check out my friend, Robert Raiola (@SportsTaxMan) he’s a CPA Twitter wizard. He has 50,000 followers.
LinkedIn is for the people you know. Facebook is for the people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know.
Email is losing the communication battle. Most people want you to text them. Your incoming generation of employees do not use email. Your young clients do not use email.
Not so long ago, you had to be in the office, sitting at your computer to answer and send emails. Now, you carry a small mobile device that allows you immediate connection no matter where you are located.
Your clients know you are looking at your mobile device. They don’t care where you are when they need to ask you a question. So forget the auto-responder. It just fills-up the inbox of the person sending you the original email.
Do not use auto-reply telling people you’re out of the office (for the holidays or otherwise). Either respond, or let them sit until you return. If I send you an email, I don’t really care where you are or what you are doing.
Yes, email is declining but it is not going away completely. It is still appropriate for certain types of communication. I have known accountants who actually brag about how many emails they receive in a day. There is something wrong with that picture.
Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, it's relentless.
According to a recent article on Fast Company, 70% of today’s workforce is actively looking for another job or is open to hearing about a new job opportunity.
Another study tells us that a recent college graduate will hold between 15 to 20 jobs in their career. That means they are going to change jobs every three to four years. They will always be looking.
This certainly does not paint a rosy picture for CPA firm leaders. Growing firms hire extensively from the college campus and invest significant dollars in the first three years of their career in training and development. For them to leave at the end of three years is an expensive scenario. At three years, they are just at the point where they can be really productive.
Here are some trends:
Job boards are no longer the primary source used by job seekers. Job seekers, along with employers, are looking via social networking sites. Even the recruiters (the ones your firm has relied on) are finding their candidates via LinkedIn. According to a recent survey, 79% of recruiters said they found candidates via LinkedIn. 26% through Facebook and 14% via Twitter. Firm leaders are telling me that the recruiters are presenting to them the same people that they can find on LinkedIn themselves.
Here’s an important trend to follow for CPA firms. Employers will target marketing to job seekers. Accounting firms must invest in building an employer brand, just like they invest in building a brand to attract new tax and accounting clients. CPA firms can develop action steps for retention by surveying their people and talking to their people to determine what they need to do to become the CPA firm employer of choice in their market. What kind of impression does your website make on a potential new hire? It seems that the investment in, and focus on, building a unique career page on accounting firm websites no longer has the attention it had several years ago.
In-person networking is back. Since the social media space is so crowded, it’s now unique to network in person. Young people intent on building their careers and finding career opportunities are focused on building a base of “people they know.”
Do they know you and your firm? Are your people “out there” networking to identify future new hires as well as potential new clients?
In the world of public accounting it is all about the number of people you know. Using social media is key but so is face-to-face networking.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
I keep urging CPAs and their team members to sign-up for a Twitter account. Yet, I still find that many people in the CPA profession are not using Twitter.
Here’s my suggestion for getting started:
Establish an account.
Be very selective as to who you follow.
Be sure those you follow offer something of value.
Follow just a few, especially at first.
You don’t have to “tweet” anything, just read what others tweet, at least for a while.
I use Twitter (@cpamanagement) to keep me current. I follow some news feeds (CNN, NPR), some CPA profession experts, leadership experts, a few CPAs who actually tweet, Fast Company, etc. You can visit my Twitter page and see who I am following. I also don’t hesitate to switch some out and back in, experimenting to see who gives me the most value and staying within a manageable number.
A couple times a day, I quickly scroll through my twitter feeds on my iPhone and see the national/world news, current business trends (Fast Company), and what’s going on in the CPA profession.
There are a lot of people out there saying a lot of things on Twitter and via other social media. Most of it is just noise. Follow those who give you value – for your CPA firm and for your life. Ignore the noise.
Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.
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.
Geni, who is one of our newest members, has been a huge resource as the Consultants’ Alliance has ventured into the world of blogging. Plus, she has now helped us launch the CPA Consultants’ Alliance Newsletter.
Be sure to access our first issue here. You can subscribe to the monthly newsletter by visiting the website. While you are there, check-out the bios of all our members. Following our blog and subscribing to our newsletter provides you with some amazing thoughts, ideas and news about current trends from some very well-connected CPA profession consultants.
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.