Marketing your firm in 2014

In most firms, only one or two people bring in clients. A stronger emphasis on marketing and customer service can help firms expand their client base and boost their revenue.

When Micheal Burch became managing partner at Welch LLP a few years ago, he realized the company was not as well known in Ottawa as it could have been, even though it was one of the largest accounting firms in the city. "We had to show people who we are and what we're capable of," says Burch.

His experience is a common one for professional accounting firms. "Part of the problem is that as accountants we are not necessarily hardwired to sell," says Kelly Lohn, founder of Lohn Caulder LLP in Vancouver. "That's why in any firm one or two people are bringing in new clients. That has to change. Marketing is a direct line to business development and we all have to get more comfortable with it."

To help his people, Lohn provided marketing and sales training and started recognizing those who brought in new clients. The result: Lohn Caulder has grown its client base and business development comes from a broader range of people.

In Welch's case, it underwent a complete rebranding and repositioned itself with a focus on customer service. "We wanted clients to know we have the breadth of services comparable to other large firms in the region and strive to maintain a higher level of personal service," says Burch. The firm also acquired a full-time business-development director and hired marketing firm My Lead Agency. In the past five years, Welch has doubled revenues and grow to 150 employees from 85.

Darryl Praill, CEO of My Lead Agency, offers these suggestions for building an effective marketing strategy.

  • Understand the buyer's journey: people will do their research online to come up with a shortlist. Then they will visit your website and either make the call or leave.
  • Your website's content should address consumers' top questions.
  • Create relevant content that includes thought leadership, videos, case studies, success stories and testimonials.
  • Share the content you create for your website on social media channels such as LinkedIn.
  • Build the profiles of a few key experts within the firm.
  • Grow and maintain your list of prospective clients. Host a webinar and partner with a complementary vendor that has a strong brand.
  • Advertise in niche publications and include a call to action that will allow you to measure the ad's impact.
  • Practitioners in smaller or rural communities especially need to engage with the community. Join a local association and present a seminar on the latest tax issues.

Burch and Lohn add the importance of strategic networking to this list. "It's about being top of mind and relationship-building. This can include taking a client or prospective client to a hockey game," says Lohn. "You're not just entertaining one individual, you are gaining access to [his or her] network."

QUICK MARKETING TIPS

  1. Think about your target clients and the social media channels they will use to learn about you. Create a website that is dynamic, clearly articulates who you are and builds trust.
  2. Market your people the same way you market the firm. They are your brand ambassadors.
  3. There is still a place for traditional media; just be sure to manage your expectations and know why you are using it. For example, is it to keep your brand visible or to generate revenue?
  4. Network, network, network.

About the Author

Andree Lavigne


Andrée Lavigne, CPA, CA, is a principal at CPA Canada leading the organization’s programs for practitioner support.

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