Tracy Crevar

Build Your Book of Business With a Personal Marketing Plan

Four key strategies revealed for savvy CPAs.

June 16, 2008
by Tracy Crevar Warren

Today’s successful CPAs have realized that one of their most valued privileges is the ability to take control over their careers by filling their days with the type of work they enjoy. This allows you a greater sense of accomplishment, increased job satisfaction and the opportunity to make more money. And all it takes is a little focus, dedication and commitment toward common goals. By developing and executing a personal marketing plan, you can determine exactly where you want your practice to go and how you will get there.

Laying a Solid Foundation and Building the Framework

Your personal marketing plan is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to add more enjoyment to your professional life by identifying the kind of practice you want to have and the types of clients wish to serve. Effective marketing plans contain four primary elements including:

  1. Overall vision of success, supported by clearly-defined goals and action plans
  2. Clearly-defined target market and competitive advantages
  3. Strengthened practice growth core competencies
  4. Client management and development

Conduct Personal Due Diligence

Before putting together a personal marketing plan, it’s important to take stock of where you are currently. If you are like most professionals, you are already engaging in a number of successful practice-growth initiatives without being aware of it.

First you need to apply the same due diligence principles that you use with your clients to your own practice-development efforts. Start with a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis. Identify your SWOT to growing your book of business. Significant questions to answer in this due diligence phase include: Do you have a clear focus for your practice? What does success look like? What do you want to be known for in the industry? and What gaps can you fill in the industry?

  1. Overall vision of success, supported by clearly-defined goals and action plans.

    Once a strategic assessment is in place, turn your attention toward defining where you want to go. Your vision represents what you want to become. This focus will form the foundation of your personal marketing plan and will drive your actions in a common direction. Once your vision is clearly in sight, it will be much easier to build a plan and develop strategies that will help you reach your desired destination.

    Goals should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Define actions necessary to achieve each goal. Focus on areas you enjoy and to which you can commit. Determine how much time you have to devote to practice growth and plan accordingly. Develop routines. Set a regular time that is best for business development (for example, Friday mornings may be best because you are generally in the office).

  2. Clearly-defined target market and competitive advantages.

    A central component of your personal marketing plan is defining your target market. Key elements of this step become clear as you answer such questions as: What does your “ideal” client look like? How much demand is there for the services that you offer to this market? What additional market share are you looking to retain and more?

    During this phase, it will be helpful to develop a marketing tool commonly known as a unique value proposition (UVP) that you can communicate clearly to your clients and prospects. A value proposition is a straightforward statement of the tangible results your client receives from using your service. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your competitive advantages. It allows the client or prospect to become a part of the situation and understand the solutions that you can bring to them and their organization.

  3. Strengthened practice growth core competencies.

    Let’s face it, most of you went into the accounting profession so you would not have to spend your time being a salesperson. The rules changed somewhere along the way. Unfortunately sales and business development skills are not part of most accounting curriculums. Although some firms add sales skills to their continuing education rosters, it is not the norm.

    If you expect success in building the practice of your dreams, selling is a skill you need to learn ASAP. Selling includes prospecting, closing, communication, client service, networking and presentations, to name a few. You can get started by simply reading. There are numerous books specifically written for CPAs looking to strengthen their sales skills. There are also a number of organizations that provide excellent training programs, such as American Management Association, SkillPath Seminars, etc. Consider bringing some of these professional trainers into your firm for regular training, or attend one of many sessions that are open to the accounting profession. With a little training, you will find that you are more confident in sales situations. Over time, your results will increase significantly.

  4. Client management and development.

    Today’s business leaders are looking for more from their advisors. If you are unable to meet their changing demands, you run the risk of eroding profits. This includes losing your current clients to competitors. When this occurs, you not only give up hard-earned profits from existing clients, but you cut off opportunities to reap additional revenues by expanding the scope of the services provided to them based on new needs. Alternatively, you chance falling victim to the commoditization trap, and will have to compete on price. An essential component of your personal marketing plan is one that outlines your strategy for providing outstanding client service — and how you will utilize it as a springboard to develop additional new business for existing clients. Deliberate, proactive approaches are the hallmarks of disciplined marketing.

Live Your Plan

A personal marketing plan is the blueprint that outlines where you want to take your practice and how you want to go about getting there. Your plan is simply words on paper if you do not believe in it and live it each day. Take a lesson from the industry’s most successful professionals and have the courage to turn your dreams into reality. The rewards will be great if you have the discipline to stay on course. As Walt Disney said, "The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.”

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Tracy Crevar Warren, president and founder of The Crevar Group, advises professional services firms striving to grow and maximize performance. Warren was named by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the accounting industry. She is an author and frequent speaker on various growth, business development, and marketing topics for local, regional, national and international audiences. Warren can be reached at (336) 889-GROW (4769).