Tax Accountant Advertising That Works

Advertising that isn't tied to selling effort is like a fishingpole without a line.
-G.D. Crain, Jr.

It's a funny thing, to get "recognition". Thinking about this yesterday, when the CPA Technology Advisor and the National Society of Accountants included me in their annual "Top 40 under 40" issue this year. (Here's the issue: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cygnus/csn_top40under40/#/38 )

What does it mean? Not a whole lot.

Sure, I'm grateful. Apparently a client nominated me. Feels good. But what's the old saying? ... That and a buck will get you a cup of coffee.

And you know what? The same is true for most of your advertising, which I'll explain here today. This piece is very important for you to understand, so read the whole thing.

Tax Accountant Advertising That Works

I've coached my share of tax professionals over the years. Hundreds, in fact. (By the way, one of the major items of feedback we got on last week's evaluation process was that you want MORE direct feedback into your firm. Well, that's coming. Stay tuned.)

When I start with them, we take a look at their advertising. IF they're doing any, I ask them why they are advertising, and often I hear the owner (or even the Marketing Director) say: "To get our name out" or to "build awareness of our firm".

Frankly, this line of thinking is fine for huge firms with bazillions of dollars to spend and months and years to wait for results. But for the small-to-medium sized firm, this kind of marketing is a hit or miss proposition...and usually, that means "miss".

Instead, after observing what happened in the firm I helped grow into a multi-state, multi-million dollar behemoth (as well as with my most successful coaching clients), I am a strong, enthusiastic advocate of direct marketing.

Why? Because it's one of the only forms of marketing which can be directly tracked for ROI. Do you have six figures to spend on "hope"? Because if not, then you should work to get seriously good at the style of marketing which quickly brings people in through the door, just like an investment--as opposed to an "expense".

There's other forms of marketing, but Direct Marketing can be tracked--I LOVE tracking! But before we get into more details on Direct Marketing, let's talk first a little bit about the others.

There is "image" advertising.  This type of advertising is often intentionally used by big corporations and blindly-copied by smaller ones.  It essentially says to consumers, the press, the board and/or to stock holders, "here we are, here's who we are, here's what we do and we're nice guys, our product is neat"... but it never asks anybody to buy anything or to take any action.  It's classic image building.

Some examples you're probably familiar with include the AT&T sign you see behind the plate at the World Series, the Charles Schwab commercial you see during the Sunday morning news programs and during some sports telecasts, most bank advertising, CNN signs in airports...this is all pure image advertising.

Ad reps, consultants and the media love to sell you this type of advertising because there is no possible way to measure its effectiveness. Is it working? Is it paying for itself? ...Who knows?

The next approach is a little bit better, and I've heard it called "Non-Measurable Response Advertising".  This type of advertising is trying to sell something, but unfortunately it is still basically unaccountable for its results.  TV commercials for a particular brand of car fall into this category.  The intent of those commercials is to get you interested enough in that car to go to the show room ... but there's still really no way to tell how many people who came to the show rooms this week were influenced by those commercials.

Would they have come anyway as a result of the dealer's own newspaper ads?  Who knows?  Again, there is a place for this (social media is one example), but it shouldn't be your only "arrow".

Retailers all run sales ads - "here's what's on sale--come on in!"  But they still have no clue who's coming in because of that ad, or if the traffic wouldn't have just been decent even if they hadn't run the ad.

They can guess.  They can look at this weekend's higher traffic against last weekend's traffic and attribute the difference to the ads ... but if you're at all aggressive, it gets worse.  If they advertise the sale via the newspaper, two radio stations and flyers... how do you tell what works and what doesn't?  Again--ad agencies and the media like to sell this type of advertising because it's difficult for the advertiser to measure the results.

Another type of marketing is public relations and publicity (Sort of what happened with me, at the CPA Technology Advisor).

You can hire companies to issue press releases and articles about your products or services, and your company and they will work to get them placed in various media.  These firms can arrange interviews and talk show appearances.  And, though you can measure them by how much actual exposure they get for you, it's still generally difficult to then measure how much business came from the exposure.  Also in this category is the sponsorship of everything from a little league team to an Indy 500 race car or a golf tournament.

All three of these types of marketing probably have some place in a firm's total marketing plan. In fact, here's where they WORK: When you include "direct response" elements within the ads. E.G., create a separate "landing page" (mini-website) towards which you direct campaign respondents (again, social media is perfect for driving traffic to such a page--which, incidentally, is the secret to our program's success). Or give SOME concrete incentive for people to call or email your office besides the standard message that "you're (yet another) great tax professional." This can be a Free Report, a special discounted offer, some new service announcement, etc.

But here's what I want you to come away knowing--and to begin implementing in your marketing immediately: Gather warm prospects with your advertising. Build your herd. Give them directly what they're looking for, and the keys to the kingdom are yours.

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