Vikram Rajan

Background Marketing Projects

Set it and forget it during tax season.

January 24, 2011
by Vikram Rajan

Taxes, accounting and financial analysis will be at the top of most CPAs’ minds and the subject of small talk for the next few months. Your services (and seminars) are wanted, needed, sought after and discussed. Unfortunately, it is exactly at this time when most CPA firms are mired in work. Marketing is often ignored, if not forgotten, during tax season. As noted in my last column, fervent client service is an opportunity for referral marketing.

Let’s take a few minutes right now to brainstorm and brain-dump your list of Marketing Projects 2011. You can then bring on other people (vendors or staff) to continue marketing for you as you attend to crucial and time-sensitive client work. “Background Marketing” requires simple project planning and task outlining now. It can attract clients in 2011 before it’s too late for both them and you. It will also project a sense of organization and professionalism. As most firms go quiet, your marketing can remain consistent.

You should conduct what you may think of as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of your firm. This records what you’ve got to work with and what you must work on. Here’s a new definition of that acronym to help you organize your marketing: Strategic; Wishful; Opportunistic; and Tactical.

Strategic marketing projects help to position you as the firm you want others to see and the CPA you want to be. There may be an aspect of your accounting services that should be promoted better. Put some money where your mouth is and create a budget and talk about it to clients, referral sources and groups.

Strategic projects can be simple. For example, perhaps your logo and stationary ought to better reflect your excellence. Likewise, isn’t it about time your website integrates blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube and your newsletter? Your next step is to outline a series of tasks other people can take over such as marketing consultants.

Wishful or wish-list marketing projects are ones that you simply want to do — strategic or not. Pet projects are supposed to be fun, but they should not distract you, your strategic projects, your clients or your brand. Is it wishful or wasteful?

Just because the firm down the street decided to launch a forensic accounting practice doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Still, delving into a profitable or
fast-growing area of accounting may be how you’d like to shift your firm. These are the discussions to have with your partners, management and marketing.

Have you ever wished to write a book? Have you wanted to play more golf, and thought of involving your clients would be a great way to get away, without playing hooky? What have you always wanted to do to promote your practice? How can other people help you during your busy season?

Opportunistic projects are difficult to plan. They are meant to help you and your budget stay flexible. Pro-active marketing often attracts serendipities. As your antennas are tuned, you will hear of ideas and opportunities. Like wishful projects, forethought, discussion and advice can prevent the derailment of your marketing strategy.

But what if you were given the opportunity to present at a major conference, get a major VIP as a client or an impressive practice were offered for sale? You may not be able to (or want to) make strides toward such endeavors, but opportunities can fall into your lap. This is purposeful wishful thinking, not a list of wished tasks.

Your lack of market research or planning may also make you aware of opportunities at the last minute. “Oh, that event is NEXT WEEK? We ought to have a table there!” Or, “Umm, sure we can put together a foursome for your golf outing next month.” These shouldn’t throw you or your budget off kilter. But they could be part of your marketing plan next year.

Tactical projects and tasks are often represented by checklists or simply done out of habit. Most tactical projects are repetitive: daily or weekly. Some are periodic: once a quarter or monthly. It is the occasional tactical projects that we often give the most importance. But if all your marketing tactics are not listed, they are easily forgotten. These are the basics to which your firm must return!

I will offer samples of daily, weekly, monthly and occasional checklists in another column. For now, you can brainstorm yourself: Do you have a system of thank-you cards for new referrals? When do you send out your newsletters? Shouldn’t everybody have matching headshots on the website? Who’s going to order the new business cards?

By first listing your SWOT projects and then outlining its tasks, you can charge other people for getting it done. Marketing consultants or even a marketing committee can handle task outlining. Don’t let this crucial pretax season go by without your pro-active marketing. Much of your marketing can and should be done in the background. You need only do what you can only do.

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Vikram Rajan is the founder of phoneBlogger.net, which does blogging, newsletters and LinkedIn networking on behalf of CPAs, by turning phone interviews into marketing articles. His own PracticeMarketingBLOG.com receives over 100 visits a day.

© 2011