Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why CPAs Don't Market

I attended an AICPA conference over 10 years ago at Bally's Las Vegas (my notes are on a hotel notepad). A panel was charged with giving reasons why CPAs don't market. Here are a few:
  • Too busy
  • Firms don't require marketing skills
  • Presume clients know what they need and that they'll tell the firm
  • Egos - CPAs don't want rejection
  • Don't value marketing hours like chargeable hours
  • Unfocused marketing efforts
  • Don't measure results
  • Negative mindset - don't believe they can do it

How many of these reasons are still true today? What I've learned so far is that effective marketing requires consistent effort. Firms must establish expectations and accountability. Marketing plans focus marketing efforts. CPAs benefit from marketing and sales coaching/training and must believe in their skills. And, perhaps most importantly, CPA firm leadership must "walk the walk" to support their firms' marketing programs.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Elf Yourself

How many of you received an "Elf Yourself" e-mail during this past holiday season? I received four, one of which included me and my husband. Very funny.

OfficeMax's holiday site allowed users to paste their own photos on the heads of four dancing elves and e-mail the results to friends and family. As reported in the February 15, 2008 issue of Marketing News, from its launch in mid-November to just days before Christmas, the site received more than 120 million vists during which more than 75 million elves were created at an average rate of 60 elves per second. Statistics weren't given for or

What would be some options for the accounting marketing world? How about Let me hear from you!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Personal Action Plans

They go by different names. Gary Boomer ( refers to 90-day Personal Game Plans. Morrie Shechtman ( promotes Personal Action Plans to develop financial, personal and professional goals for 90-day, 1-year, 3-year and 5-year time periods. And, one of David Maister's ( favorite stories is about coaching pigeons, "Come on pigeon, you can do it, I will help you." The story relates to setting short term goals, acknowledging achievement, and setting subsequent short term goals in order to achieve the overall goal.

Whatever you call it, writing your goals and making a commitment to achieve them is a key to success. Goals keep you focused and help you prioritize your time. What I've learned so far is that accomplishing goals is very satisfying and is the motivation to accomplish even more.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cupid's Targeted Marketing

Cupid is the most famous Valentine symbol, known for aiming his arrows at Gods and Humans causing them to fall deeply in love. Perhaps we can call Cupid one of the first targeted marketers!

Like Cupid's arrows you should target your firm's marketing efforts by developing niche specialties. The place to start in selecting a niche is to conduct a marketing audit of your firm. The key areas on which to focus are the following:

An analysis of your firm’s client base. Segment your clients by SIC/NAIC codes. Then, for each industry, calculate the standard cost, fees billed, yield, percent of standard, average fees billed, average hours billed, average billing rate, and number of clients. Also, analyze your client base by sales volume, geographic location, and services provided. Graph this information to give an accurate picture of your client base. This will show you in which industries you are spending the most time, earning high fees, experiencing high collection rates, offering a variety of services – all opportunities for niche market development. It will also show unprofitable industries, those you should avoid.

An analysis of your firm’s current services and skills. In addition to traditional accounting, auditing, and tax services, what services is your firm competent in providing? What services does your firm provide that your competitors do not provide? Do your partners and professional staff have the skills to build a niche or should you consider hiring an industry specialist?

The trends affecting your clients. Talk with experts and clients in the industry to understand its service needs and hot buttons. Trends that influence an industry niche can create opportunities for additional firm services, expand the scope of services to existing clients, and provide services to new clients experiencing the same trends.

What I've learned so far is that Cupid is a story of love and niche marketing is a successful strategy for CPA firms.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The More Things Change ...

I received an e-mail recently from an experienced marketer working for a CPA firm for the first time and in his position for less than one year.

" ... the stumbling blocks you mention (on your Web site absolutely apply to my situation. I got here and immediately had to put out fires, have lacked focus, cannot seem to gain the confidence of partners, feel like I lack credibility in their eyes, etc. Fortunately, I report to the managing partner who supports me a great deal. I have had some successes and feel like I am making some slow progress. I am wondering what suggestions you might have."

Here are a few suggestions. First, determine the needs and expectations of each partner. They are your clients; it's important to develop one-on-one relationships with each of them. Second, get yourself focused. Create a marketing plan. Utilize a "to do" list or another mechanism to help you prioritize your activities. This will also help reduce the amount of time you spend as a fireman. Third, promote your successes. This isn't the time to be shy about your accomplishments. People want to work with successful people. By sharing your successes you will slowly win the support of those partners who have some interest in marketing. Finally, leverage the support of your managing partner. Work with him to prioritize your activities and promote your successes.

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Beginning

Yes, it was 22 years ago when I became the first marketing coordinator for Israeloff, Trattner & Company in Valley Stream, NY (the firm has since moved to Garden City). Little did I know that this was the start of my accounting marketing career! The firm had 20+ partners, most of whom wanted nothing to do with a marketing coordinator. In fact, the partner-in-charge of marketing wanted me fired because he thought that I was too quiet! (Now, those of you who know me must be very amused!) Fortunately, I had a very marketing-oriented, supportive managing partner in Bob Israeloff.

What were a few of my first lessons as a CPA firm marketing professional? First, I discovered the partners who were interested and motivated in working with me. The others were probably relieved. Second, I read as much as I could about professional services marketing and started building my network. Third, I started learning not to take things too personally. Remember, at that point, CPA firms were allowed to market their services for just six years. I represented change, something many CPAs are uncomfortable with. These lessons are still relevant for every accounting marketer.