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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg
 

Four Marketing Tips for the Recession

How’s busy season 2009 so far? Join the survey; get the benchmarks.

March 16, 2009
by Rick Telberg/At Large

There are three kinds of marketing: lousy, tried and true and new.

Just because there's a lot of overlap doesn't mean I'm wrong. Some marketing doesn't work or doesn't work well. Then there's the marketing techniques that have always been around, some of which work well and some of which yield an unsatisfying bang-to-buck ratio.

And there's the new stuff, the new strategies that don't yet qualify as tried and true. Among these strategies we're bound to find ideas both good and bad.

But as we grapple with a faltering economy, the pool of clients is going to shrink a bit and those businesses that survive are going to get pickier about how they spend their money. Marketing will become a more important factor in determining which accounting firms thrive. At that point, poor marketing means disaster and the tried-and-true just might not be good enough.

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Interested in what's new in marketing for accounting and audit firms, we survey our most dedicated readers regularly to find out how they've been promoting their firms and developing new business. Some very interesting ideas have been coming back.

Idea 1 — Stay hungry.

One anonymous respondent sees potential in hardship. His or her attitude: "Making sure we are hungry and go after it."

You can't argue with that. Necessity is the mother of invention and hunger is the mother of motivation. It works.

But hunger (to stretch a metaphor) can also lead to excessive weight. Gobbling up every client in sight isn't necessarily smart marketing.

Idea 2 — Dump the losers.

"One major partner refuses to fire clients with low realization," wrote one partner in a small regional CPA firm, adding that the problem seems to get blamed on staff.

A senior auditor at a large firm had a similar thought. "I don't see why we don't get rid of the bad clients," she wrote, "and concentrate on the good ones."

That seems like a good idea, especially in a high-demand/limited-supply market like the one we're in now. At the same time, it creates a new market for whoever's interested: the bad-client niche.

Idea 3 — Target carefully.

Niches, in fact (though maybe not that particular one) are becoming an increasingly common market strategy, according to my surveys. Several practitioners report targeting tighter niches than they used to. One aims at start-up businesses. Another recaptures corporate and professional clients who once wandered off but now might want back in. Someone in a regional firm wants to get more of the partners and professionals to take ownership of business development. Someone suggests acquisitions. Someone else focuses on local governments. One notes that the oil-and-gas sector might be a nice sector to be in.

A few people see opportunities inside the firm rather than outside. One suggested naming certain people "strategic marketing partners." Another suggested teaching new professionals how to attract new clients.

Idea 4 — That's why we call it a service business.

One of the common reported marketing strategies was one of the most tried and true: the providing of cost-effective service.

"We receive a significant amount of repeat business," said a senior staffer with a large company. "I would venture to say we do well in client relationships and satisfaction."

There can be no doubt that good work leads to good reputation, which leads to good word-of-mouth.

That's good, old-fashioned, tried-and-true marketing. But in this economy, is it enough?

HOW ARE YOU HANDLING BUSY SEASON? Join the survey, compare results with your peers.

COMMENTS: Questions, ideas, rants or raves? Send an e-mail to  Rick Telberg. And now you can get all my daily updates: Follow me on Twitter. (What's Twitter?)

Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.