When it comes to selling things, the human tendency to package can make life easier. When you’re marketing yourself and trying to sign on new clients, you’ll want to take full advantage of aspect of human psychology. Bundle services together and suddenly a new client will be bringing you as much business as two or three clients in the past.
When it comes to buying things, packages are attractive because they seem to simplify the client’s life. If an insurance company offers me a package deal on car insurance, home owner’s insurance, and life insurance, suddenly I have so many fewer decisions to make-and I don’t have to deal with three different insurance agents. I might save some money, but even if I don’t, I save aggravation and time, and most people value their time as much as their money. Costco or BJ’s Club are good examples of packaging in the retail world, and the number of people that flock to these giant stores indicate the popularity of packaging. Fast food places have the value meal, which is a package of a sandwich, fries and a drink.
What is also important is to offer different packages, i.e. to give the client options. When I first started out, I offered piecemeal services at standard rates. Then I realized that clients work in a different way. Many people like options. They don’t want to be “forced” into taking something that doesn’t suit them. They want the option of small, medium and large. Going to the example I gave of the restaurant, they have a small value meal, medium or large.
”Small, medium, or large” doesn’t quite work for accounting services. The principle I use to distinguish between levels of service is this: the more accessibility to me and to my staff a package offers the client, the higher the fees. So while we can custom tailor the service package to fit their needs, nonetheless the services are packaged based on frequency.
In addition to packaging your services, you should consider cross-selling. Many years ago I learnt while attending a seminar by the legendary marketer Jay Abrahams that there are 3 ways to grow your practice:
1) Increase number of new clients
2) Increase the fees paid by each client
3) Increase the frequency of purchase or sell the same client more services
Cross selling is the way the CPA practitioner increases the frequency of purchase.
When you have a relationship with the client, you can offer them other services that will help the client. How does one go about finding out the services that your clients need? Not to oversimplify it, but really, the best way to find out is by asking. We recently conducted a survey and we called up most of my business clients to ask them how we were scoring and what else we could do that could help them. It’s really very instructive to hear the clients’ perspective on things. I have also found this to be one of the best ways to find out other services we should be providing.
Here’s a partial list of additional services to offer:
Financial planning or wealth management services
QuickBooks consulting – Outsourced accounting (A couple of years, we packaged our QuickBooks consulting services as either a 10-hour package or a 20-hour package, to be used in one year.)
Business valuation services
Using this list as a starting point, talk to your clients and find out what services they need that you could offer. Specialize in what your target clients want, and you’re just about certain to grow your practice.
Most CPAs don’t have a strong enough foundation on the subject of marketing. Even in college, we focus a lot on accounting theory and hardly learn anything about real world marketing, despite the fact that many CPAs will be, effectively, small business owners running their own practices. If you’re like most CPAs and haven’t spent much time thinking about marketing, let’s start with fundamentals.
I think of marketing as the 3 M’s:
Market first, message second and media third. The order is very important. Most folks get it wrong. They choose how and when to advertise based on which advertising rep solicits them, which means they are starting at the wrong end.
The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to identify your target market. Many CPA practices make the mistake of skipping this step, but if you truly want to grow your practice, you must begin with a clear sense of your ideal clientele. Identify a group of people or businesses that fulfill the following requirements:
You would really enjoy working with these clients.
They will recognize that working with you is essential.
They can be easily identified and contacted.
They will happily pay what you’re worth, without negotiating.
Resist the impulse to serve anyone and everyone. You’ve heard the old saying “You can’t be all things to all people”? Remember it every time you’re tempted to try to market yourself to everyone. When you target the mass population (everybody) as the ideal client base, you will have a hard time differentiating yourself from others in your field. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to create a specific message to speak to everyone in a way that makes them want to work with you – and creating too many marketing messages could be confusing for prospective clients.
Without a clearly defined target market, you’ll also find it difficult to establish yourself as an expert in a particular area, type of client or situation (remember that experts make more money, get more clients, are more sough after by the media, etc.)
One of the most important secrets of marketing is knowing WHO your ideal clients are (the ones who’ll recognize that working with you is crucial to solving their problems, pay you what you’re worth and tell others about you), figuring out WHAT their particular issues are, WHY they’re having them and HOW you solve them. You have to begin by defining your real ideal market:
EXAMPLE of markets or niches that my firm targets:
- Businesses with revenues of $1.0 to $10M, with up to 50 employees, within 10 miles from my office
- Dentists within 10 miles from my office
- Chiropractors within 10 miles from my office
- Service professionals within 10 miles from my office
- Business owners who belong to your place of worship
Notice how far any one of these demographics is from “anyone who’s willing to pay my fees.” That’s not to say, of course, that you’re going to turn away potential clients who aren’t in your niche market. But you can’t begin to effectively target those in your most desirable market until you’ve clearly identified who they are.
Remember, the order is important; market first and foremost, followed by message and then media. Make sure you’ve taken the time to clearly indentify your market.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from CPAs is a poor return on marketing dollars. The reason these CPA practitioners get poor results is because they don’t understand the difference between good and bad marketing. Following just one basic principle can help you start on the road to better marketing: Give up on bad advertising and invest your money in good advertising.
You might be thinking: I do the same kinds of advertising as all the other CPAs in my market-surely it must be the “good” kind of advertising. But the worst mistake accountants make in marketing their CPA practices is assuming that because a lot of other practices use a particular kind of advertising, that kind of advertising must produce results. So, like lemmings, they all keep wasting money on a traditional kind of advertising that really doesn’t produce results.
Are you throwing good advertising dollars into a black hole?
You are, if you spend your advertising budget on institutional ads (also known as image ads). You know what they look like: the name of your firm in a tasteful font, a few lines of text or bullet points listing the services you offer, your phone number and address. We are so surrounded by institutional ads that we might come to think of them as “standard” ads. They’re in the yellow pages, the newspaper, local newsletters and magazines, and even now on the internet.
Don’t be an advertising lemming!
Just because everyone else takes out institutional ads doesn’t mean you need to do the same. Sure, you probably want to be in the phone book. But any money you spend on institutional ads could probably be better spent on direct-response advertising. A quick comparison of these two kinds of ads should help you to understand why institutional ads are just plain bad marketing, and direct response is just plain good.
What Is an Institutional Ad?
Most common form of advertising (unfortunately)
Also known as Image Ads
Lots of blank white space
Ad talks about you and how great you are
Doesn’t direct the potential buyer to a buying decision
Hopes to build “brand awareness”
Most times it is a waste of money
What Is a Direct Response Ad?
Ads that asks the prospect to respond directly
Focuses on the customer and his or her needs
Purpose is to stimulate a phone call, letter or visit.
Can be tracked and made accountable
Direct response advertising makes a complete case for the practice and the services it provides. It overcomes sales objections. It answers all major questions. It promises results, backing up the promise with a risk-free, money-back guarantee. Direct response advertising is all about your customer and his or her needs. Its purpose is to stimulate a phone call, letter or a visit. Best of all, unlike an institutional ad, it can be tracked so you can make every dollar you spend on it accountable. This then helps to measure the effectiveness of each ad.
The bottom line is this: Direct response advertising turns prospects into clients, and institutional ads don’t. If you are going to spend money towards marketing your accounting practice, make sure you’ve taken the time to understand “good” marketing techniques. The results you will get from the latter will be dramatically different than following what most of your competitors do i.e. institutional advertising.