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.