Transforming Client Accounting Blog
Recently a discussion topic was posted on the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor Solution LinkedIn group about what it means to be a trusted business advisor and how to best keep an open communication stream with clients.
When thinking about marketing strategies for trusted business advisors, one of the LinkedIn group members said, “It’s all about positioning yourself as not only your client’s trusted financial advisor, but also as their trusted business advisor.” He went on to say that advisors need to focus on general management issues, not just tax and accounting matters, and to visit with clients at least once quarterly to ensure you are kept abreast of what’s happening in their business.
Another member concurred that one of the most valuable techniques a trusted business advisor can employ is the “human touch” method of checking in regularly, outside of the service cycle. She wrote, “Nothing says I’m thinking about you and I care about your success more than an outbound e-mail or phone call out of cycle.”
“Avoid being on the wrong side of the price/value curve,” commented another member. “Now more than ever, we need to communicate value.”
Some of the marketing strategies several people mentioned included:
- Webinars to communicate legislative/regulatory changes and how those changes may impact your clients’ business;
- Client newsletters and white papers on broader, general management topics demonstrating your command of not only the profession, but of the business world overall;
- Speaking engagements aimed at value-added services and issues clients face in the current economic climate; and
- Hiring marketing, communication, and/or public relation staff to assist the firm in establishing its position as a trusted business advisor.
You might consider joining the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor Solutions LinkedIn group to learn more about best practices in the profession, to share advice, to ask questions, and to become a member of a 1,000+-person group of professionals like you.
Additionally, “Becoming a Trusted Business Advisor: How to Add Value, Improve Client Loyalty, and Increase Profits” was recently released. Find out how to uncover critical client needs in ten minutes or less; how to help your clients prioritize their wish lists; and how to help them quantify the value of addressing each of the issues that keep them awake at night!
Further, CPA2Biz is also here to help you build your Trusted Business Advisor brand and relationship with your clients by offering several marketing programs to help keep your firm’s trusted business advisor status prominently in the marketplace, including:
- CPA Client Bulletin is a monthly newsletter designed by the AICPA as a marketing and communications tool for your practice. Choose to send as an email newsletter, print newsletter or as a pdf file you can post to your site. Your firm stays top of mind, and your clients and prospects will appreciate the tax, business, and financial planning ideas. Build your reputation as a trusted business advisor with CPA Client Bulletin.
- Google AdWords provide you with expert Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and consulting services to help you target local, regional, or national clients in a cost-effective way with your own customized online Google advertising campaigns.
- Ready-to-use and customizable emails, flyers, and web site content and PowerPoint slides that you can download and share to help explain the benefits of cloud-based accounting services directly to your clients.
If you have trusted business advisor tips and marketing techniques, please share your thoughts and comments here.
CPA Marketing Tips – Fast and Easy Ways to be found on the Web
As a CPA firm, it’s critical that people in your state, county, and city know how to find your firm and the services it provides.
Below are some fast and easy marketing tips to help your firm be found on the Internet, particularly on GoogleÔ, one of the world’s most-used search engines.
You or someone in your firm can do each of these in minutes to help spread the word about your firm and increase your search results in Google.
- Natural search results using keywords
- Google Places
- Advertising on Google
Let’s begin by talking about natural search results. Natural search results are the results a user retrieves when he/she inputs a search term into a browser, such as Google. For example, let’s say a person is looking for a CPA in Cincinnati. They might enter a search term, such as “CPAs in Cincinnati”. If you practice in Cincinnati, your firm’s name should appear on the first page of the browser results—in this case Google, but only if you’re using online marketing to its fullest.
What are keywords?
Keywords are terms you use to identify your web site, specialties, office location(s), key partner names, firm name, and services your firm provides.
Let’s take an example from our “CPAs in Cincinnati” exercise. When searching for CPAs in Cincinnati, you can see the results on the left of the map. Those results were provided using keywords such as “cpas in Cincinnati,” and “Cincinnati CPA,” on their web site keywords meta tag. For example, one site uses
<meta NAME="Keywords" Content="cincinnati CPA, accounting firm, tax, accounting, cincinnati, Ohio, [your company name]">.
Another way to ensure your listing shows up on the front page of Google is through the use of Google Places.
Google Places is a way to mention your firm’s web site and services by location (local area or region). It’s a simple process to set up, and takes little-to-no maintenance to sustain. You can add as little or as much information about your firm into the profile account. Note: You must have a Google account in order to set up a Google Places profile.
With Google Places you receive a dashboard to easily see who is clicking on your profile, and how often people are searching for CPAs in your area. You will also be able to discern the impressions, or views, your site is getting, along with the actions people took to become more familiar with your firm.
Notice on the graphic above, that the two firms with reviews are highlighted. Reviews are a very helpful way for potential clients to learn more about your firm from those who are already clients. Once the firm’s profile is established, encourage your clients to write and post positive reviews.
Placing your firm's name and creating profiles on these sites not only increases your firm’s exposure, but also amplifies your natural search engine results through the use of multiple listings on various sites. The more your firm’s name appears on the web, the more relevant it will be in the Google algorithm, or with any search engine.
Most important, though, is to ensure that your clients and potential clients find your firm’s name when they are searching for the services they need, when they need them.
Is your firm easy to find on the web? If not, you may want to employ some or all of these approaches.
In July, Inc. magazine released the “30 Under 30” list of “coolest, young entrepreneurs.” They are revitalizing what it means to be a business owner, with unique brands, innovation, and philanthropic acts—all the while making money, and loads of it.
Working with these smart, up-and-coming professionals means you, as a trusted business advisor, may want to consider adding them as a client. But note: They don’t expect business as usual or the way their parents and grandparents did things. They want fresh ideas, new technology, and innovation that mirrors what they are doing in the business world.
Are you ready for that? Is your firm prepared to become the advisor for the business owners of tomorrow—and in many cases today?
Some things to consider:
- Portability: Does your firm offer secure, online access to financial information these busy entrepreneurs need to review anytime, anywhere?
- International Regulations: Are you and your staff current on international financial regulations governing businesses doing business internationally? These up-start businesses are not just focusing on business in the United States. Many are also doing business overseas.
- Staff: Do you have the talent who can speak the millennial “language”? The kind of staff that can help young business professionals understand what’s needed in order to maintain and gain in the business world?
- Scalability: As more and more millennial business owners continue to spread their wings, is your firm prepared to scale with their needs? Is your firm the firm of the future?
- Building Trust: In order to gain trust, you must first trust. According to Charles Green, founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associate, “Before we can expect them to understand and appreciate where we’re coming from, we must first take the time to make them feel understood.”
Recently, members of the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor LinkedIn group* were asked:
“What advice would you give them [the 30 Under 30] as leaders of start-up businesses?”
David wrote, “One of the biggest mistakes I made back when I had my own business was not recognizing a profitable exit opportunity when it presented itself. I was so busy working IN the business and I could have done a much better job of working ON the business. If I were to start a new business today, I would have a very clear understanding of at what point(s) I would sell the business as well as keep an eye and open mind to my potential buyers.”
Dallon added, “My advice to them would be to start their business planning with a targeted profit or cash flow number and work up the income statement instead of starting with sales and working down the income statement to arrive at net income.”
What advice do you have? What other considerations are needed as trusted business advisors who acquire millennial start-up companies as clients?
Add your comments here, or share your comments in the AICPA Trusted Business Advisor LinkedIn group.*
* Click here to learn how to join the LinkedIn group.
As a partner or executive in a small- to mid-sized firm, you may wear many hats, one of which may deal with marketing. But that’s not your specialty or your core business. What you have found out by being a trusted business advisor, is that:
- Your clients want to hear from you and look to you to keep them abreast of current trends and regulations;
- You need to market in order to gain new business; and
- Having a strategic marketing plan is core part of the business development plan.
Bay Street Group LLC and Capstone Marketing released a brief whitepaper, The Seven Keys to Success in CPA Firm Management—New and Exclusive Research into the Habits and Best Practices of Today’s Highly Competitive Tax and Accounting Practice that delved into the critical success factors for today’s accounting firm, including Marketing and Business Development.
Of the 1,400 CPAs who participated, findings concluded that 38% of respondents targeted niches and specialties, and 15% follow a written strategic marketing/business development plan.
“We struggle to grow in a competitive marketplace with lack of a marketing plan and no niche. So we are left to fend for general clients, which are hard to come by as a small player in a big market,” commented one survey respondent, a senior executive at a small-sized CPA firm.
That leaves you asking, how do you market to current and potential clients while continuing to focus on your core business? You may also ask:
- What type of marketing should I do, newsletter, email, brochures, etc.?
- What should I email and to whom?
- How often and how long should it be?
- Who’s going to write it?
- How do I get my firm’s name on it?
- Who will answer any questions it generates?
- Do I have to do this myself?
You don’t have to do it on your own. In June, the AICPA launched a comprehensive Marketing Toolkit to help members promote their practices and services. It contains a host of resources and information to assist in marketing and communications efforts, including:
- The CPA Client Bulletin a popular client-focused monthly newsletter of general business, tax and financial planning tips that you can email or mail to your clients or leave in your reception area.
- Marketing 101 guidance
- Client Satisfaction Surveys
- Successful Selling Tips
- And so much more
Additionally, Bulls-Eye! The Ultimate How-To Marketing and Sales Guide for CPAs, written by thirty-seven of the industry’s most successful marketing and sales minds, offers step-by-step guidance on building compelling, on-target marketing campaigns that delivers powerful results for your firm.
Whether your firm is in its infancy or is blossoming with growth, you can gain a competitive advantage as a trusted business advisor by leveraging marketing and making it a priority in your business development plan.
Get started today building your reputation as a trusted business adviser and helping to keep your firm top of mind with your clients.