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11 Free Steps To Advance Your CPA Firm's Marketing Efforts

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Author: Brian O'Connell

Marketing usually doesn't rank too highly on the list of preferred tasks for principals of small and medium-sized accounting firms. Referrals have traditionally been describes of as an accounting firm's marketing bread and butter, but how to allocate efforts that will generate high-quality referrals is often hard to figure out. But marketing for the small and medium-sized accounting firm doesn't have to be overly complicated: Here are 10 easy, free steps you can take to transform your accounting firm's approach to marketing:

1. Monitor the source of your firm's referrals and keep your leads organized. By keeping track of where your best business originates from, you can better allocate your time going forward. Organize your referral contacts. Assign each a priority, high, medium, and low, then formulate a communications strategy for each group.

2. Never assume clients are content. Your most important source of referrals will be your delighted clients. Survey your client base to identify those who are merely 'satisfied,' then look for opportunities to convert them into fans. While you are at it, review everything your client sees, hears or touches. Is your reception area pleasant and inviting? How about your receptionist? When a client calls, do they have to fight through a voice mail system or are will they be able to talk with a real person? Are your written communications professionally written and easy to read? Are your personnel good communicators who comprehend the importance of building enduring client relationships?

3. Get to know your clients' vendors and professional service providers. These are potential sources of referrals and are not likely to be familiar with your firm, but they should be. By getting to know your clients' vendors and service providers you develop a referral source, cement client relations, and raise your image and reputation.

4. Concentrate on your clients' profits (not your own). If you are the best and what you do, you will win the network marketing game. Clients will be inclined to refer you if they see the advantage of the services you provide them and if you can help them develop their businesses. There is a limit to the demand for tax return preparation, services and audits. There is also, however, an unlimited demand for accountants and consultants who can help clients grow net profits! If you are still focusing on increasing your chargeable hours, billable rates, or net fees, it's time to reorient your thinking. It's not about increasing your billable hours, it's about increasing the value and range of the services you provide!

5. Develop a marketing plan. Most accounting firm partners and managers have only 100-300 hours a year to allocate to marketing. Why not organize this time the same way you would a 300-hour client engagement? Focus on your desired steps, actions, outcomes, time, money, and a budget.

6. Talk about Value, not Fees! When meeting prospects, accentuate the value you offer, and on what makes you different from and better than your competitors. If the client agrees to the service, and if your terms are fair, you can seal the deal. Fee terms should seem like an afterthought to the client.

7. Get to know your clients' teams. Meet the financial teams of your best clients before the tax season begins. These are valuable contacts. Build a great team for your client and you will build a great team for yourself too.

8. See tax season as a marketing opportunity: Clients are never more interested in help with their business than when confronted with last year's financial results and this year's tax liability. Plan now to cross-sell to every client you meet during the season. Capitalize on this effort. Use press releases, articles, and mailings, and face-to-face meetings.

9. Learn to ask better questions and listen to the answers. Asking the right questions is the basis of being a strong adviser. Clients often don't know what they need, only what they want. Listen between the lines. You are neglectful in your responsibility as an accountant if you can't sell a client on a service he really needs. discover what your clients' needs are and deploy your knowledge and expertise to help your them meet those needs. in the end this will benefit both you and your client and is the foundation for a relationship that will benefit you both.

10. Tomorrow is more important than yesterday. Your clients are more worried about today and tomorrow than they are about yesterday (which is the traditional province of the accountant). You can really help most of your clients by helping them use financial statements as a basis for making better business decisions.

Bonus tip: Update your firm's CPA website regularly, and make your site a useful resource for both prospective and current clients. Well-developed and clearly-written website content can answer preliminary questions and help focus your conversations with clients on your firm's more value-added services and on their specific needs.

There you have it - 10 steps (and a bonus) that can simplify your accounting firm marketing efforts.

About the author: Brian O'Connell builds your CPA Website for CPA and accounting firms throughout the United States. Please take a look at our growing list of CPA Website Designs to get design and content ideas for your own website.

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