Marketing: Small Plans Produce Big Payoffs

Article excerpt

A small but well-planned marketing program has the potential to increase practice revenues by thousands of dollars annually. My practice experienced an annual increase to the "bottom line" of over $8,000 by selecting one unique marketing project. If implemented correctly, so can yours.

Marketing - The Buzz Word

Marketing. It seems this word is sprouting up non-stop these days - and it should. As a result of increased competition, practitioners must continually evaluate and implement programs in order to position their practice above the rest. We have seen this trend in other industries, and it should be no surprise that the accounting and tax profession is influenced by it as well.

As an enrolled agent (EA) and accredited tax advisor (ATA) practicing in a small agricultural community (200 homes with little growth potential), it was becoming difficult to expand services to enhance the "bottom line." A small yet effective way to increase business by replenishing normal attrition, while also creating a marketing niche, was needed.

Today, many of my colleagues have indicated they harbor a number of reservations about implementing a "marketing strategy." However, after initiating a marketing program myself, I have learned first hand the values of a well thought-out and executed plan. I hope others may learn from my knowledge and experience.

Dispelling the Marketing Myths

The first hurdles to jump were marketing misconceptions. . .and there were several.

Myth Number One: Marketing is used only to attract new clients. The professional is not always in a situation to accept new clients. This may be due to limitations in manpower or undesirable clients attracted to a business plan.

Marketing is used for many reasons other than increasing a client base. It is a proven and effective way to enhance relationships with existing clients - a relationship of the utmost importance! As market competition increases, there is no guarantee clients will remain loyal. Practitioners should reinforce client loyalty through frequent reminders of the benefits/services offered by the practice.

Of course, for those seeking to expand their client base, a marketing plan is highly recommended. Utilizing a few simple marketing tools can prove to be of significant value in attracting new accounts.

Myth Number Two: Marketing has little effect on the professional's community image as a whole. Not true. Properly executed marketing activities can and will have a positive impact on a community's image of our profession. After establishing a marketing plan for only one of the services my practice offered, community awareness of the overall benefits offered by the practice increased significantly.

Myth Number Three: A successful marketing program can only be accomplished by a marketing professional. The belief that marketing and promotion are beyond the realm of accounting and tax training is an often-heard concern. How would accounting and taxation matters translate into advertising and target markets? Could these subjects be successfully merged without having the knowledge of a marketing professional? The answer is - with a little preparation - yes!

Myth Number Four: Launching a full scale marketing campaign requires not only big dollars to be successful, but also a major time commitment by the owner/principal. Again, untrue. By keeping initial marketing projects small, targeting just one aspect of the practice and dealing with one segment of the community (i.e., niche marketing), professionals can affordably and effectively build a practice. This occurs by working within your resources not only to increase clientele but to service existing clients. When applied, the latter business concept resulted in virtually no increase in overhead with a significant increase in revenue.

Starting Small Is Still Starting

While most practices provide a variety of client services, initially you should concentrate on one part or service of the practice. …