Every industry goes through slow periods, but few suffer as much as “full service” CPA firms who get to watch their client-well dry up and the tumbleweeds roll in every time tax season ends. Droughts like this can be tough on a firm’s positive cash flow, and we all know that the seasonality is one of the biggest challenges facing firms.
But what if I told you that there’s a better way? You don’t need to wait for the “busy season” to stay afloat, and that it’s possible to stay busy all year round—and the best part is that it’s not even that difficult.
The secret to year round success isn’t some needle lost in a haystack; it’s a good positioning strategy backed by solid marketing. Here are some strategies you can use to boost your firm’s business:
1. Specialize in a Counter-Cyclical Service
When I talk about positioning, I usually talk about building your business around one of your core offerings or a niche that you know better than any of your competitors. But what do you do when your core offering is seasonal or your niche vertical experiences slow periods?
The best strategy for handling these situations is to position your firm as a leader in a second, counter-cyclical service that complements your core offering.
For example, if your firm specializes in tax preparation, during the off-season you can specialize in business consulting services, data integration and management, and budget strategy and planning. You can even host seminars and create content to keep your clients coming back for more
Alternatively, you could expand into a whole new industry if you have a knack for business valuation, fraud accounting, IT specialization, or some other specialization.
2. Run an Email Campaign
A good email campaign is hard to beat. It’s cost-effective compared to most marketing campaigns, and it reaches more people than practically every other marketing campaign combined. According to Adobe’s Director of Email Solutions Kristin Naragon, “On average, survey respondents report using email six hours a day, or 30+ hours a week.”
Of course, a good email campaign is also hard to find. Most read robotically and will never make it past your potential clients’ spam filter.
The key to a great email campaign is to lose the sales pitch. Speak personally to your clients and deepen your relationship, by drawing on what you know about them. Try sharing content they’ll enjoy, highlighting new blog posts and resources on your website that make their lives easier, and delivering promotional offers whenever they’ve expressed an interest.
If you don’t have a large enough email list we highly recommend purchasing a list. There is a right and highly effective way to do this that will dramatically boost how many prospects you can email to.
If you have a well defined niche and create high quality content purchasing an email list can be gang busters for your firm. We’ve worked with well positioned firms and when done properly open rates often exceed the open rates of their opt in list and unsubscribe rates are well below 1%. Purchasing an email list isn’t for everyone but if you only have a few hundred names in your database verses a few thousand it’s necessary to ever make a dent.
3. Network Like Mad
CPA firms are increasingly turning to social media to reach their audience. More and more of your clients are turning to websites like Twitter and Facebook BEFORE your home page to find solutions, so you’re missing out if you’re not already well-established.
Once you’re on social media, figure out where your audience tends to gather. Do they belong to certain groups on LinkedIn? Do they follow certain people on Twitter? Are there other people they seem to respect? If you can find these common threads, reach out to these industry leaders for possible collaborations or guest post opportunities—it will help increase your brand’s exposure.
Facebook and LinkedIn Ads are one of the best opportunities to reach your target prospects. The advanced filtering options within Facebook and LinkedIn enable you to filter down by industry, title, income, interests, etc. And the costs per lead are typically way below what you would pay for other digital marketing avenues such as Google Adwords.
4. Revamp Your Website
Your website is the heart of your business and your best shot at appealing to a national audience. There are a lot more potential prospects looking for your services outside your city and with the right strategy you can reach them. Not only that, but studies show that businesses with strong web presences grow 40% faster than those without.
Whether or not your firm will appeal to more than a local market depends entirely on your website, and how well you communicate your positioning. You’ll need to research keywords, hire an SEO specialist, and increase your domain authority if you want to stay relevant.
How do you know if you need a new website? If your website isn’t currently pulling in at least 20% of your firms yearly revenue you’re under performing those firms with an effective web presence.
For more information, take a look at how high performing accounting firms are finding 100+ new clients a year from their website.
5. Keep Marketing, Even When Business is Booming
A lot of firms turn off the faucet during busy season, enjoy an influx of new business, and then wonder why things slow down the remainder of the year.
Marketing isn’t a strategy that instantly pays out. You’re going to have to invest time and money into your marketing campaign if you want to see returns, and when it does start working that’s a surefire sign that you’re on the right path—it’s not an excuse to stop.
When your marketing dollars begin landing you new customers, it’s the perfect opportunity to hone your message. Now is the time to find more qualified leads and to narrow down your niche. In fact, the best thing you can do with a bustling marketing campaign is to have a strategy prepared in advance so that you can swing right into a new ad campaign without losing any of your momentum.
A good practice to get into is to create content in advance and post on a schedule. That way, you don’t have to scramble to write a new article or post to Facebook when you’re already swamped with work.
How to Survive If You’re a “Full Service” Firm
Traditional accounting firms are going the way of the dinosaurs. If you offer a “full service” accounting experience, you can expect to see your business trickle away after tax season—and even those busy periods may not be as lucrative as you might have hoped.
Today, people who once have frequented “full service” firms instead turn to DIY accounting software like QuickBooks for their basic needs. The only CPA firms that survive without competing for bottom dollar are those positioned with unique offerings that their clients come looking for all year round.
In other words, for a firm to survives, it needs to be well-positioned.
Wondering if your firm measures up? Our free CPA & Accounting Firm Differentiation Survey will help you find out.