Cole, Gene H., The National Public Accountant
Editor's Note: This is the second of three articles by Gene Cole on effective marketing. The first article appeared in the June National Public Accountant.
Now that you have a good marketing program and you've positioned yourself as the trusted advisor, it's time to plan to increase your client base. Your written plan should include the costs for marketing and staff. New business is yours for the getting, but staffing is the real problem. Try to minimize staff contact with clients. A good bookkeeper can complete the work of many more clients (nearly double), if not answering the phone. There are two major benefits to being the client contact. You will have a much better understanding of the client and be able to identify billable needs quicker. The bookkeeper will not take 50 of your clients and start her own business.
The program should focus on the message, the offer, the target market, marketing methods, and follow-up. Few clients will respond to your first effort. Select a good prospect tracking software package and use it. The most important rule is the 3 Ps -- Persistency Pays Plenty. You must follow up in an organized, structured manner. The software will make this job easier.
In your message, differentiate your firm from your competitors. Use credentials or niche experience to establish your credibility. Make your offer simple. "A FREE! Brochure with 30 tax tips" or "A FREE! 45-minute consultation" will encourage a prospect to respond.
Marketing, focused on new client acquisition, encompasses many different strategies. Consider the following:
* Slowly. The best results may come from mailing 50 pieces a week instead of 2,500 at one time. Getting 20 new clients in a four- to six-week period is very stressful. New clients have increased problems and require more initial handholding. Acquiring a new account in a short period of time is usually at a higher price. Your cost should be under $100 per monthly client if obtained under a slow plan. Under a quick plan, that cost can quickly rise to $300-$500 per client.
* Website. If you do not have one, get one, You can buy packaged sites from $10 to $30 per month. Several practitioner-marketing sites will give you one page for free. Do not get fancy with lots of slow loading graphics and 25 buttons. Keep the main message short and make sure it can be read in ten seconds or less. The site headline must be your biggest benefit. Mention your web address on every marketing document, including your business card. Websites work and do bring in a few new clients each year.
* Phone Follow Up. You can double your sales from seminars or direct mail if you make a follow up call. Three or four days after contact, call the prospect. Think first! Do not call restaurants during lunch or construction prospects in the morning. Your job is to book an appointment. Do not say, "Can we get together to talk about my tax services?" Do say, "Is Tuesday at two or Wednesday at ten in the morning best for you?" Assume they will book a meeting ... they will.
* Consistently. The best marketing plan covers the entire year. A $1,000 marketing budget will result in more clients over twelve months than if you spend $1,000 in one month. You must be consistent in your efforts and consistent in your materials. Use the same color theme and type styles for all of your marketing materials.
* Ebay. Internet auctions and bid services offer another opportunity to pick up new business. The problem is the fee. You will need to bid at $20 to $30 per hour to win. If you are just starting out or have excess capacity, you way wish to work the Internet market. A few professionals have established a practice that is almost totally Internet based.
* Telemarketing. Many practitioners are very successful in this area. A number of the franchise operations tout telemarketing as the only way to go. If you have little or no money for marketing, become your own telemarketer. …