Let’s face it. As accounting pros, we are not always known for our ability to market ourselves. More than 10 years ago, I was interviewed regarding the inherent differences in bookkeepers and accountants, and since then, I’ve been giving the matter some thought. We talk about how a client can find a qualified accounting professional, but have we actually discussed how we, as professionals, can find clients?
#1: Know your target market/client
Do you have a general focus—“whoever falls in my door could be my client"—or have you opted to position yourself a little more strategically? I’m not advocating pigeonholing your firm, but I’d definitely advocate building strength in one or more industries or market segments. Why? Simple. If you make an effort to be the expert, clients will gossip—in a good way. To go further, word of mouth is singlehandedly the most cost-effective advertising you will encounter (even cheaper than adwords), and it carries the most intrinsic and long-term value.
Knowing your target markets, how they operate, their unique needs and what they look for in an accounting professional is crucial. I’m a believer in identifying one or more markets, mainly due to the fact that it brings focus to your marketing efforts and identifies you as a resource. Once you identify who your target clients are, figure out where they go, what they read, and what websites they frequent, then start to build a marketing plan around those places. For example, do you specialize in retail? Go to a retailer’s trade show. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
#2: Be a resource
Often, accountants get the additional role of being an in-house IT expert. I say to you … embrace it! Your clients need you, and many times they may not have the time or resources to stay on top of tech trends. As a profession, we rely on technology, more so than some others, to be efficient. Do you hear the app buzz? Maybe hosting a monthly app discussion would be an idea. Offering free advice in lieu of advertising again brings more intrinsic value than blanketing the web right next to hundreds of your competitors. You need an avenue to show how you are unique and different. This leads into my next point.
#3: Identify your brand
Please don’t hang your “Susie Accountant” sign outside. What incentive does that give me to pick you over “John Doe Accountant,” especially since I don’t know you? It doesn’t. Your current clients may love you, but to passersby you will still be “Susie Accountant.” Take some time to brand yourself. Put a small investment into a well-done logo and a website. Let’s get crazy! Start a Facebook page or Twitter account. Unify your image and figure out who you are as a company.
Once you build a strong foundation you can start working on honing your marketing efforts, but we can discuss more on that another time.