Archive for the ‘Sales and Marketing’ Category
I am a big movie fan and get to watch my fair share of films in the theaters. However I generally try to stay away from the television, other than an occasional show, as I feel TV is a big time zapper – and it simply doesn’t thrill me.
However, recently my mother-in-law – with whom I get along really well – was visiting for a few days and I made an exception by watching an hour-long cooking show, “Dinner Impossible.”
Being the marketing addict I am, of course I watched the show from a
If you are not familiar with this show, Chef Robert Irvine serves stunningly
creative dishes for both intimate gatherings and huge crowds, all without
warning and at a moment’s notice.
On this episode, he has cooked on a desert island, in an 18th-century
kitchen, in an ice hotel, for cowboys on a cattle drive, for master instructors
at the Culinary Institute of America, and at the inauguration of Pennsylvania’s
What I observed as I watched the show was that, at the end of the day, it
was a cooking show presented in a very interesting and entertaining way.
Irvine was required in this episode, to cook a gourmet, seven-course,
fundraising dinner for forty-five guests who had each paid $15,000 for this
The extraordinary key that elevated this show from just a run-of-the-mill
cooking program into an intense one-hour drama was that he had to cook
this meal in these difficult conditions:
He had only five hours to deliver; he had to cook using camping gear; there
was a severe thunderstorm while he cooked; he had to catch his own fish,
and one of the assistants hated to cook.
So why would the producer go to all this effort and expense? The answer
is that they must create something extraordinary to attract the viewers and
keep their interest for the entire one-hour show.
The lesson from this is that we have to ask ourselves what extraordinary
things we are doing in our practices to get the attention of our prospects
Most practitioners don’t do anything…hence the opportunity for you.
A number of years ago, I stumbled across the following saying that has
stayed with me ever since:
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
What it means for you is that you don’t have to be a superstar marketer to
excel in your CPA practice.
Your competitors (other CPAs) are doing such a lousy job in marketing
that any improvement you make in marketing your practice will make it
stand out by a mile.
Happy New Year!
One of my mentors for the past 15 years has been Stephen Covey, author of the bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His ideas were instrumental in helping me turn my practice from struggling to highly successful.
One of the seven habits that Stephen identifies is “To Begin with the End in Mind.” What he means by this is that being able to create a clear picture of where you want to go will help you get there much faster and more easily.
It’s rather like embarking on any journey to an unfamiliar destination.
Imagine you were driving to Alaska for the first time. Without a map or clear directions, you’d end up taking many wrong turns or driving in circles for hours and perhaps not even getting there at all.
It may seem a fairly obvious error. But that’s the way many CPAs attempt to run their practices or their careers. They have no clear picture of their desired destination and no map of how they plan to get there.
The end results can be the same – a great deal of wasted time and even failing to get where they want to go.
A Strategic Objective can serve as a clear picture of your desired destination and can be your road map for getting there.
A Strategic Objective is a one-page document that describes your practice at its best and addresses the following big questions:
• This is who we are.
• This is how we operate.
• This is who we serve.
• This is our competitive advantage.
To create your Strategic Objective, you need to sit down and develop a clear vision of where you want to go with your practice. Envision in your mind exactly what it will be like at some stage in the future – perhaps three, five, or ten years down the road.
Creating the first draft will take you a few hours and then you’ll spend a bit of time over the next few days refining it.
Here are some crucial questions that will help you develop your Strategic Objective:
• What is the big picture for your practice? Think of your practice
as a product and specify what the end product will look like in the future.
• Who are your employees? How many? Describe them.
• What will your gross billing be? $200,000; $500,000; $1 million;
or several million dollars?
• What services will you provide?
• What types of clients will you be attracting? Geographic areas?
• What is your Unique Service Proposition (USP) ? What makes
you different from the competition? What is your reason for
• How many days/hours will you work each week (during tax
season , in the off -season)?
• What is the legacy you will leave behind?
As soon as you have a clear Strategic Objective for what you want your practice to look like in the future, you will be much closer to making it a reality.
You can’t run a CPA practice in today’s world without having an effective website. That is the place where your prospects will go to see ‘the face’ of your firm, who the people behind it are and read about the experiences of others who have dealt with you. Not having an effective website that is not updated regularly is like telling your prospects and clients that you don’t care about your firm.
I have observed that a large percentage of CPA firms purchase a website from a service provider that sells generic website templates that simply don’t work in the real world. You want to advertise you are unique in your field, don’t you? But if your site is nothing but unique and looks cheap to boot – you will turn prospects away. Distance yourself from the crowd and be different from your competitors.
Here are the most common mistakes I see CPAs make with their website:
Too Much Information
Your website should not be like a brochure with technical information written in small letters. How many people really read those? Same goes for you site. It has to be built with the client in mind, as if the client is sitting in front of you and you are telling him/her about your practice. Cluttering your site with a lot of information will only tell them you have an information dump.
How Are You Different?
That is something you should pay attention to. Why will the prospect be better off with your firm instead of others? Your website needs to accentuate your strengths and uniqueness, not copy what your competitors have done.
You Talk Too Much About You
Too much “we” and you lose people because you talk about yourself too much. That is why people go to websites – to see how they can be helped. Talk about how your service can make their lives easier or faster and better.
Your Site Hasn’t Been Updated
You have to show that there are people behind your site, not just electronics. You can do that by updating your site and making it current. Your site needs to reflect the industry’s standards and be up to date on new technology and information.
There is No ‘About You’ Page
This is very important. People who are looking to hire a new CPA firm want to know that there are real people behind it. You have to establish a sense of trust, and you can do it in the ‘About You’ page. Make that page as personal as you can, never generic.
One of the most important things is people’s endorsements. Anyone can say his/her firm is the best in the world, but can you prove it with clients’ feedbacks? Prospects want to know what other people went through as they consider to hire you.
There is No Real Address
People want to do business with other people, not with logos. Not having a physical address on you site feels like it is a company that can disappear overnight. Street address, phone number, e mail address and even a Google Map embedded in your site with driving directions, will tell your prospects you are not afraid to look them in the eye.
It’s Hard to Navigate
People’s attention span is pretty short these days. If the navigation on your site is not intuitive and easy to follow, you will lose prospects that are frustrated with the process.
These are the most obvious trust breakers that drive people away from websites without the practitioner realizing what they are doing wrong. Make sure you are not guilty of any of them. More information on how you can create a killer website can be found here: www.CPAmarketingGenius.com
Last month, we talked about time management techniques and I shared with you a couple of my time management techniques. Let me share with you one more:
3) Manage your time in blocks. In other words, cluster your client appointments. Many CPAs make the mistake of scheduling their appointments whenever the client is available, as opposed to thinking about when it would be BEST to schedule their appointments for efficiency and time off.
What I do for myself is to identify the things that are important that I accomplish and those are blocked on my calendar.
Let me give you a few examples:
- If I have my quarterly meetings with my business clients, those are first blocked off, back to back.
- Any client projects that I am working on get blocked off.
- Staff meetings get blocked off.
- Time assigned to marketing and meeting with prospects gets blocked off.
Try that and you’ll probably find, like me, that there is little time or space left free. That leads to the conclusion that we have to conserve time that is normally wasted, which is why I believe firmly in this next practice.
Each of my projects and activities has an amount of time assigned to it. So, for example, for my staff meetings I will assign 20 minutes and I want to be done by then…that means we have to be efficient and to the point.
Allocating time towards marketing your accounting services is one of your most important responsibilities. If you follow the regimen I have prescribed in this blog post and the prior one, you will find yourself with several hours you previously didn’t think you had. This is time you can now allot towards marketing your CPA firm.
In my work as a consultant helping other CPAs to market their CPA firms, one objection I hear often is “But Salim, I just barely have enough time to do the work to deliver my services to my clients. I simply can’t spare a lot of time to think about marketing.”
My first answer is that if you want to grow your CPA practice, you don’t have any choice: you simply must make time for your CPA firm marketing.
My second answer is that I know you’re busy. But, as we all know, having time for high-priority tasks is a matter of managing your time. Here are two time management techniques that have worked well for me in my practice:
1) Don’t be a slave to the phone. I don’t answer the phone. I have administrative staff who do that. They screen my calls and either take a message or transfer them to voice mail. I block time on my calendar to return phone calls from 12:30-1:00 pm and 4:30-5:00 pm every day. My clients know that I will respond to their calls during these times. I also encourage them to send me an email for faster response. The benefit of emails is that I can forward them to the appropriate person who can handle that email. Most questions from my clients, my staff can handle. That frees me up a lot. I believe that if you apply this one strategy in your practice, you will easily free up several hours in the week just with proper handling of the phone.
2) Make and use to-do-lists. It is very important to maintain those. A daily to do list, a weekly to do list, a monthly to do list and a yearly to do list. That is crucial for maximum time productivity. I have been using these for several years and all my staff members use them too.
In next weeks post, let continue this conversation.