One of the biggest obstacles that we face today is trying to figure out how to find new clients. Technology has made it much easier than it used to be a decade ago. Today, we have so many tools at our disposal, allowing us to get creative and unorthodox when it comes to marketing our services.
For me, as with many smaller firms and sole tax professionals with small budgets, marketing can be a challenge. Thinking outside the box has allowed me to market my services, while spending very little money.
There are five methods I developed that have allowed me not only to get new clients, but also virtually double my individual tax client base during the last two tax seasons.
Secret #1: Thumbtack
The first cost-effective marketing tool I used over the last few years is an online service-based marketing website called Thumbtack, where professionals can create a profile and market their services to prospective clients in their area. Thumbtack is a fairly new company with an excellent reputation and a unique system, allowing professionals to get new clients without spending a lot of money.
To be successful on Thumbtack, you have to create a great profile and provide personalized quotes to prospective customers. Depending on how many credits you purchase, the average lead you bid on costs approximately $4.25-$7, but the cost to provide a prospective client a bid varies depending on the service. Since you are working with people over the Internet, you have to find a way to get personal and make the prospective customer feel comfortable, allowing you to earn their trust and business. Thumbtack allows up to five quotes on every bid that customers request, so you are competing, potentially, with another four professionals in your area.
Here’s more advice for Thumbtack; take the time to get noticed. During the last two years, I have spent time enhancing my profile, and I also request clients to write reviews after the service is completed. Currently, with 70 reviews, it makes it easy to compete for business; the reviews help prospective clients feel comfortable that they will get excellent service from an expert professional. Having a good profile that you periodically update, along with excellent reviews, will help you be successful on Thumbtack.
Secret #2: HARO
My second tool that helped me develop my brand and social media marketing is HARO, short for Help a Reporter Out. HARO is a free, online media outlet journalists use to request professionals and experts as sources for the articles and stories they publish. This is a great way to develop national recognition without spending any money. Although you won’t spend money marketing to journalists, you will put in sweat equity spending time to pitch yourself to journalists.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds; sometimes, you don’t know what each journalist is looking for, and due to the large number of emails they get, you won’t get a reply 80% of the time. However, you have to be willing to spend some time emailing journalists and replying to their requests through HARO without any guarantee that you will get a reply.
It has taken me a lot of time to make this a successful marketing tool for me – and when I combine this with all the other online and social media marketing, the entire process helps me get clients without spending much money. Again, you never know which publication journalists are writing articles for – it ranges from small, unknown online and print publications to larger, national titles – so you have to be prepared for anything when you market yourself to them.
Through dozens of hours of marketing to journalists, I have been fortunate to be featured on television with Fox Business News, and have been quoted in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, American Express Open Forum, Bank of America articles, Staples’ website and AARP articles, among many others. I never imagined three years ago that I would have this kind of success when I began using this creative tool to market myself. The possibilities are endless.
Secret #3: Social media marketing
Developing a relationship with journalists and media outlets not only has allowed me to be featured in major publications and media outlets; it has also helped with my third marketing tool, social media marketing. I know lots of accountants reading this have social media accounts, but are you really working them as much as you can?
Every day, we hear so much about social media marketing and how successful people are with this type of marketing. It seems like every person on the planet is trying to use social media marketing to market their services. Certainly, it can be very challenging trying to figure out how to develop the perfect tools to make yourself stand out from the thousands of competitors in the industry. However, social media marketing can be very cost effective if you spend the time and effort to do all the necessary things to develop brand name recognition online. I use the features in publications to market on social media, which has allowed me to get new clients without having to spend money on buying pay-per-click ads or spending any other money. Nevertheless, I know that social media marketing may not be for everyone, due to the amount of time that you may have to spend without any guarantee that you will see a return on investment.
Secret #4: Publish articles
The fourth creative marketing tool I use is the cost-free benefit of publishing tax articles in various publications. This can be a time-consuming task, and it can take quite a while before you see the fruits of your labor. Publishing tax articles has allowed me to develop myself as a brand, while marketing the article on social media outlets to further capitalize on the marketing opportunity. For example, when a publication runs an article, I also publish the article on my LinkedIn network. You publish one time and give yourself the opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of people online. Allowing for some patience and time, this can be a very powerful tool because you have to publish articles frequently to keep yourself fresh and in the spotlight.
Secret #5: Work your clients
My final unique marketing strategy that only takes time is marketing throughout the year to my existing clients. Your existing clients are, hands down, the best source of referrals. If you fail to market yourself to your existing clients, you are failing to use the best tool you have at your disposal. I use the publications that I am featured in, and articles that I publish, to market to my existing clients. Not only does it give my clients good content to read and get educated, but it also allows them to view me as an expert, which further enhances the relationship. This also provides an opportunity for existing clients to read an article and share it with their friends, family and acquaintances – more “free” marketing to people who I would not have reached.
The marketing tools I developed have taken years to get to the point where I am able to see a return on investment. Although the investment is very little monetary and mostly time, it’s still an investment; the time could be used to do income-producing work, other meaningful tasks or even enable me to have a life!
The unique tools that I have developed are partly due to the small marketing budget that I have, and because I don’t mind putting in sweat equity to develop the marketing strategy that eventually pays off big dividends. The tools that I use are just a few the infinite marketing opportunities, and everyone has different ways to market their services. As you develop your marketing approach, you have to ask yourself what is more important. Do you spend money for instant results that you may or may not get, or spend a little money and ample time to build a long-term sustainable marketing plan that may provide a big return on investment in the future?