You’re on this page probably because of the simple fact that you aren’t getting the results you want to be getting from your marketing, as you build your tax or accounting firm.
And we’d love to help you fix that.
Since 2007, we’ve worked directly with over 2,000 tax and accounting firms (i.e. those who have enrolled with us as paying agency clients, and whose number is growing every week), interacted with our 23,000+ free members, and done a BUNCH of single-variate and multi-variate testing within the tax and accounting industries — and we’ve developed a fairly comprehensive understanding of how to successfully market a tax or accounting practice. We’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t.
But just as with the tax code, the marketing landscape is continually shifting under all of our feet. Heck, if it were easy — everyone’s firm would be going gangbusters. What worked REALLY well in 2007 may not continue to work in 2021. But this is why you are here: because we pay attention to these things so YOU don’t have to.
And when it comes to your marketing, it’s extremely difficult to prescribe a specific solution without digging into the particulars of your firm, and how you are approaching the marketplace.
That said, and despite the continually shifting marketing landscape, there are some tried and true principles that can help you to diagnose what might be ailing in your existing marketing … and give you the tools for finally getting the results that you need to grow your tax or accounting firm.
When your tax or accounting firm marketing isn’t getting results, it usually boils down to one of these five possible factors:
Regardless, we’ll address each of these factors, and when you make changes according to these principles, your marketing will suddenly start to soar — and you’ll know why.
It used to be the case that we could “silo” our prospect’s attention within the particular media we have chosen to communicate our message. This was (and in certain ways, still *is*) the case with direct mail. But with most every kind of marketing media (social, display advertising, PPC, websites, broadcast, etc.), the prospect is INTENSELY distracted.
In fact, there’s a very good chance that right now YOU are considering clicking away from this webpage (which would be a big mistake, but let’s call a spade a spade here). And your prospects are in the same position whenever they evaluate any of your marketing. A recent study showed that US adults are subjected to over 5,000 marketing messages per day.
Which means that you better recognize this fact: Marketing now, at its very essence, is about building relationships.
And the way that this occurs in the “real world” is through a slow and steady process of earning relationship capital by providing good value. Consider this word from New York Times bestselling author, Seth Godin:
So, this being the case, it should fundamentally dictate the nature of your marketing.
For example, when tax or accounting firms have a website, often it’s one churned through a software setup system — and they’re usually just happy if they made a few changes to the boilerplate wording!
And when visitors come, and dig a little deeper … there is nothing on the site, except for, essentially, a brochure.
So again — a click away, and your visitor is gone. In short, there is no reason for your website visitors to actually begin some sort of relationship. You are, instead, banking on the fact that visitors either are …
A) Already looking for YOU OR …
B) Just want “any old” tax professional or accountant.
What, you think that your mission statement on the “about” page is going to do the trick? There simply needs to be more.
And then, of course, there is that old standby: “Subscribe to our emailed newsletter.”
If you have this on your website, I challenge you to look at your analytics. Visitors come to a site like this, and here’s what they think: Please Sign Up For Meaningless Spam.
An “email newsletter” has no compelling reason for me to actually act. Visitors certainly aren’t dying to add more newsletters to their life.
Note: That doesn’t mean they won’t read good, regular notes from you; if you do it right, they WILL. But they’re not actively seeking to sign up for more newsletters in their lives.
So this is what you need to be thinking, and it is the foundation for ALL of your marketing:
→ Every piece of your marketing is the beginning of a relationship ←
So ask yourself this question before you place any kind of marketing: “What are the micro-level commitments that my prospects would be willing to make in order to indicate interest?” This could range from entering their email address, calling your office (about that here in a moment), to connecting further on social media. But then you MUST have in place an actual system (i.e. something written down or automated and not “winging it”) to move that prospect from “cold” to “warm” to “hot” … to SOLD.
Which brings us to…
Nothing happens until you SELL something. And we are aware that this is sometimes a sticking point for those in our industry, but it is a crucial skill to acquire.
Life is filled with forms of selling. And everyone put on this earth uses some form of salesmanship every day. (Some people just don’t realize it.)
For example: you sell your kids on getting up and going to school. You sell your spouse on going out to eat at a nice restaurant this weekend. You sell your employees on taking good care of your clients. If you don’t think all of these things have some form of selling in them, then we’re going to have to keep trying to “sell” you on this idea.
(Why? The more you understand that everything going on around you is happening because somebody SOLD something, the better off you will be “selling” yourself and your services.)
And this can be a crucial “missed base” for a tax or accounting firm. (And you may not even know it.)
Salesmanship counts: Preparing a tax return is one thing. Selling yourself and your tax services as the “best in your market area or segment” as you sit with a client is even better.
Your ability to SELL yourself and your firm is, for the purposes of your business growth, more important than actually knowing how to prepare a tax return as effectively as possible (which is, of course, extremely important — but we’re assuming your excellence as a “given” for the sake of this conversation).
In fact, many of our most successful clients are only “average” when it comes to effectively preparing a tax return.
Why is this important? Because it proves the point again. Sales is more important than the actual technical skill in a business, especially a service business.
Here is a significant missed base, where salesmanship plays an enormous factor:
Answering the phone PROPERLY in a tax or accounting office is one of the most important things you can do to increase revenue in your firm. With clients that we have worked with, you could point to numerous times when they had the “right” person answering the phones in a tax office — and just because one of the better “selling” employee was on the phone, that particular office would see an extra “bump” in client business that day.
The opposite is true as well. There are some tax firms that have a “not so good” sales person on the phone most of the day taking calls, and sure enough you would see it in the numbers at the end of the day. This is why our most successful clients don’t let ANYONE answer the phones unless they are a manager, key employee, or are specifically trained to sell over the phone. (It truly is that important.)
What kind of person is best for answering the phone? Start with people that like talking to other people. If they enjoy engaging other people in dialogue, they’ll usually do well at qualifying a prospect over the phone on the kind of services they are looking for, explaining why your tax business is a good option for that person, and then using some simple closing techniques.
It doesn’t have to be too complicated. But identifying and deploying this person is critical.
There are plenty of people out there that are just naturally good at “persuading” others to follow along with a simple “sales” presentation over the phone and asking them to come to your office and do business with you. (They might not know anything about taxes and that’s OK. You can find plenty for them to do other than the actual preparation of taxes and books.)
Here’s what the person needs to be able to do:
LISTEN to what the caller is saying
ASK a qualifying question
CLOSE the person (into coming to the office)
If the person answering your phones can do those things, then you’ve got yourself an excellent phone sales person.
Some arithmetic for you to think about: If the person you have answering the phone “sells” only 3 more new clients per day (that otherwise you may not have brought in), multiply this by the number of days in a tax season (about 90).
That means a phone person doing “just a little bit better” on the selling side can bring you an extra 270 new clients into your office. (Those kinds of numbers can take some tax businesses from an average season to an excellent one, all because of the person on the phone.)
And if you are doing year-round work (as are most of our clients), then this math keeps becoming more obvious.
Are we selling you on finding the right person to answer your phones this year?
(By the way, it shouldn’t be you. In the beginning this is OK, but you need to be concentrating your efforts on overseeing “everything”, not just one task like answering the phone.)
A quick side note:
We regularly diagnose these issues during our complimentary Leadflow Acceleration Sessions. Make sure you take advantage of that.
A few more “quick tip” sales techniques to use in your tax or accounting firm:
There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of sales techniques you could apply to your tax or accounting firm. Here are a few of our favorites that our clients have found helpful…
* Make your tax office pleasant for your clients.
You may have heard of the “WOW Experience” Tom Peters has made famous. Well, along those same lines, try to make your office as pleasant an experience as possible.
Examples: A DVD player/TV in the lobby for kids to watch videos. Offer snacks, candy or drinks for clients having to wait. Provide gift certificates from area merchants within walking distance from your office. If your model includes clients waiting in a lobby for a longer period of time, you can provide this as a courtesy. You might be surprised at how your business “neighbors” might be willing to offer something special.
* Prepare a list of responses to “negative objections” before your client uses them. You should know ahead of time what possible objections your target client might have about some of the services you offer. You want to have your answers ready to overcome the objections when they come up.
Example: Over the phone, the prospect says, “Your prices sound high.” You can overcome the objection by saying, “We will never have the lowest price in town, but I’ll guarantee you that we are less expensive than having to deal with mistakes made by poorly-trained preparers.”
* Keep all of your sales messages as simple as possible. Clarity is important. Being easily understood will help you sell more tax services. Whatever you do, do NOT undertake a long, drawn-out speech about your services. Keep your selling phrases short and sweet while you are on the phone or with a client in person.
Example: Say, “We prepare MOST tax returns on the same day.” Instead of saying, “We prepare some tax returns while our clients wait, others (if they are more complicated) take longer and we have to get them reviewed, etc. Oh, and if you don’t have all your information ready, we won’t be able to finish the return in one day and…” This is likely to be one of your competitor’s biggest disadvantages. Take advantage where appropriate.
Final note on salesmanship:
If your marketing isn’t getting the kind of results that you expect — it may not be the “fault” of the marketing. Consider other places where your new client funnel could be leaking. Your intake process is likely to be a significant culprit.
Tax and accounting firm owners, by necessity (and often inclination), are steeped in the tax code and FASB regulations — and the legal code and healthcare requirements and stimulus packages … well, you get the point. By reading this far on this page, though, you also recognize the value and importance of marketing your firm effectively.
Unfortunately, the marketing landscape is changing almost as often as the tax code. And when CPA’s or tax professionals delve into the marketing world, it’s easy to fall prey to sales sharks and marketing “gurus” who promise the moon but whose follow-through lands someplace closer to Iowa (and nothing against Iowa, but it sure isn’t the moon).
And because of the nature of how quickly marketing techniques change, the necessity to stay up-to-date has never been more critical.
And so when CPA’s or tax professionals begin to implement new marketing ideas, it is often with the mentality that THIS IDEA will be the one that (finally) brings in the flood of new clients that they have been banking on. It is a kind of magical thinking that too many business owners bring to their marketing. They expect that the “next great tactic” is going to be what brings their tax or accounting firm to the level that they’ve always dreamed for it.
But then the next great tactic rolls into their feed or inbox. Now THIS is going to be the one that saves the day!
Can you relate?
Marketing tasks are never as “easy” as they are made out to be. Just to set up one “simple” landing page you need:
a web developer
email broadcasting platform (with automated follow-up)
delivery of whatever is being promised on landing page (“lead magnet”)
And more. Most of all, this takes TIME. It all seems so simple — until you dive into it (perhaps just like preparing a tax return for the first time).
Which is why so many marketing strategies put into place by independent tax and accounting professionals look more like this:
… and as a result, this could be why your existing marketing isn’t as effective as it needs to be.
Marketing a tax or accounting firm properly requires orchestrating a variety of elements together (website conversion, social presence, email marketing, phone strategy, sales, SEO, etc.) — and doing so seamlessly. It is NOT as “easy” as some so-called gurus would lead you to believe.
Implementation is everything. And of course it sure is nice to have some help in the process.
Marketing and relationships still come down to some basic truths: more than ever, your clients and prospects crave recognition, validation and respect. And YOU can provide that to them.
If you are spinning your wheels going after NEW clients, it may be that you need to take another look at the acres of diamonds under your feet. In fact, there are simple, easy and often-overlooked steps you can take to stimulate referrals, win back former clients, and increase revenue from your existing client base.
And it’s never too late to put them into place.
1) Existing Client Retention
As you no doubt have realized, you CANNOT “assume” that your existing clients will come back to you every year. That’s especially true if you don’t have any system in place to build, seal and develop relationships.
Yes, you can send a “tax planner”. That’s a basic step, but not nearly enough.
Every year, it is a good idea to send about five direct mail pieces to former year’s clients, incentivizing them to come in EARLY for tax preparation (which dearly helps your operational systems), and encouraging them to refer their family and friends. These can range from full letters (conversational and friendly) to postcards.
The point is — making every effort to “remind” your clients that they made a great decision last year to trust you … and to keep them from being seduced by your competitors and the exploding amount of “free” online options will bear much fruit.
Don’t miss that step.
2) “Lost” Client Win-Back
Did you know that the most common reason you had clients NOT come back to you last year wasn’t because of anything you did wrong?
But there is this place inside of each one of us that just assumes that clients who “move on” and off of our current client list did so because we screwed up somehow.
That’s just false.
How do we know?
Simple. Each year, our most successful clients will pull the list of non-returning clients (stretching back the last three tax seasons), and send them some a couple of direct mail pieces (a sample for this is available in the free members area). These “lost” client campaigns are consistently the MOST responsive direct mail campaigns of each season for clients who try it.
But you have to do it properly.
The key ingredients are that you:
A) acknowledge that they didn’t come in last year and
B) give them a big incentive for their return this year.
The style should be conversational and warm.
Again, you’ll find a sample letter that has been used successfully for many of our clients within our free members area.
Adding these two components (existing and lost client campaigns) will go a long way towards fixing some of what ails your existing marketing.
After you have considered the above issues, and missed opportunities, you can take a deeper look into the actual reasons why your existing marketing is failing.
Usually, it comes down to one of three problems:
- Wrong target market
- The wrong message for that market
- Media that doesn’t actually reach that particular target market.
Choosing the “wrong” target market usually means choosing NO target market. Marketing pieces are most effective when they speak to the conversation occurring within the minds of your prospect … and if you aren’t clear on a particular audience that you are targeting, this becomes an impossible task.
And so what this malady normally produces are bland, “image-oriented” marketing pieces that make no specific claims and simply catalog a list of services, thereby seeming to rely on a prospect who would be looking for “any tax or accounting professional who happens to show up in my mailbox or on my computer screen.”
This kind of marketing is characterized by:
- No headline speaking to a particular need or benefit
- Pure focus on YOU, your firm and the services that you provide with no communication directly to the prospect regarding what they care about (this particular one is extremely common, and one of the greatest culprits of failing marketing)
- Generic stock photography
- No offer or “call to action”
If you take a good look at what you are putting out and it contains these characteristics, then you may get some response, but not nearly what you could if you corrected these problems.
This problem is much easier to fix than the first one. It occurs when you use marketing materials that actually speak to a specific desire or need for your target market — but you just happened to use the wrong message.
To use the tax preparation industry, as an example, there are a variety of “broad” target markets that you could pursue. Each of these targets has a particular message that *most often* resonates. Note: these are BROAD generalizations, and there are certainly always exceptions.
- Lower Income: Typically seeking speed of refund, larger size of refund
- Middle Income: Seeking hassle-free experience, speed of service, accuracy
- Upper Income: Seeking exclusivity, “white glove” service, specialized tax planning and deductions
- New Homeowners: Seeking a service they can trust which understands local and state taxation dynamics (and same issues as above)
Et cetera. You can become much more granular with different demographic selectors, and it’s always a good idea to search within your client list and determine what your “best” clients have in common, in order to identify your best markets to target.
So if you are pursuing a particular target market, and are not seeing the results you would like, evaluate whether your message speaks to what your market actually wants.
As with the previous issue, this one is also more easily fixed than the “lack of target market” problem.
Finding the right media for your message is a simple matter of testing. If you have a proven marketing piece that matches a particular target market (i.e. you have had success with it already in some form — whether direct mail, online advertisement, etc.), then it only makes sense to deploy it into a variety of media.
Simply put, you probably recognize that having one “line in the water” is great — having 20 is greater. 🙂 So if another particular media that you are testing isn’t hitting the numbers you need, you simply move on to another media (after sufficient testing — one marketing piece does not make an effective test).
If you are *certain* that you have the right message, for the right market … but you HAVEN’T found success with your pieces, we suggest you evaluate according to previous elements on this page.
Also, for a much deeper dive into “Market, Message, Media” issues go right here.
If you are still facing difficulty with your existing marketing, this is what we are here for.
The best “next step” would be to register as a Free Member and explore the resources available to you. Members also receive access to our paid services, and … well, 2,077 (and counting) tax and accounting firms can’t all be wrong.
Click the green “Get Started Now” button to access those resources.