There are two reasons why marketing fails at many CPA firms, regardless of their size, or the time and money they spend to grow their business. Either or both of these conditions may apply to your situation:
Reason why Marketing Fails at CPA Firms 1 – You view marketing as business triage.
One of the two reasons why marketing fails at CPA firms is because your company applies a collection of tactics (often labeled as a “marketing campaign”) only in response to a problem; typically initiated by the loss of a key client, or decline in revenue. When business is good, little or no time is invested in marketing. When business (inevitably) takes a dip, only then does marketing becomes a priority.
Reason why Marketing Fails at CPA Firms 2 – You expect marketing to deliver immediate results.
Either because your firm views marketing on a “cause & effect” tactical basis, or because marketing triage must be applied quickly to revive an ailing company, the marketing function is given insufficient time to produce tangible results. It’s no surprise that marketing professionals have the shortest tenure of any business function.
The hard truth is that very few CPA firms understand marketing, or have the discipline to design, implement, measure and adhere to a consistent marketing approach that builds brand equity and market engagement over a sustained period.
Considering the two reasons why marketing fails at CPA firms, to establish the infrastructure and internal culture necessary for any marketing discipline to succeed, we offer the following rudimentary strategy:
Create a Written Marketing Plan
The Plan need not be a lengthy document requiring a 3-inch binder. A two- or three-page memo is often sufficient to describe a Plan that includes:
- Specific Goals…such as, “add 4 new corporate accounts over the next 6 months.”
- Tactics…such as, “in-depth research on high-value corporate targets; direct outreach to CEOs with compelling pitch; bi-monthly relationship nurturing with relevant content.”
- Responsibilities…detailing who will perform the various tactics.
- Timeline and Budgets…identifying how much money will be allocated, as well as the deadlines involved in each tactic.
- Performance Metrics…to apply at defined stages, over the course of the initiative, in order to make any necessary course corrections, and to evaluate overall ROI.
Without a Marketing Plan, you’re likely to waste lots of time and money. And unless it’s a written document, you won’t have commitment or accountability necessary to succeed.
Gain Senior Level Commitment
The honcho in corner office (which might be you) must understand, endorse and support the firm’s Marketing Plan. This involves more than lip service. If your Plan isn’t properly staffed and funded at the outset, then there’s no real commitment to marketing.
Do a Few Things Very Well
Your marketing success will be based on the quality and effectiveness of a limited number of strategies / tactics. Firms sometimes go overboard, thinking there’s a correlation between the size of its marketing investment and business results. But less can often be more, in terms of marketing ROI.
Build and Nurture your Database
Direct and easy access to your company’s clients, prospects, referral sources and opinion leaders is essential. Without an email pipeline, the marketing value of the content you create is close to zero. If your firm’s thought leadership simply sits on its website or social media, you’re missing the opportunity to build relationships with your target audiences.
Create Meaningful Content
Self-serving, long-winded white papers and research reports have very limited appeal. Generate content that validates your company’s intellectual capital, that’s easy to read, and focuses on timely topics that people have a genuine interest in. These topics do not include how great your firm is. Allow people to draw their own conclusions about your firm’s potential to add value.
Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness
To be included on the short list of candidates for an assignment or long-term relationship, you need to build awareness with key decision-makers. To accomplish that goal, share your content directly with target audiences on at least a quarterly basis.
Two Reasons Why Marketing Fails at CPA Firms – Final Thoughts
Most importantly – with apologies to the classic movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross” – CPA firms (and individual practitioners) must commit to:
…for the discipline to be effective. Otherwise, the traditional short-term, hair-on-fire approach to business development will keep your firm or practice from ever reaching its full business potential, regardless of its quality or reputation. Happy hunting.
For more tips and information on how to properly market your CPA firm, or other types of professional service focused firms, check out these articles.