Years ago, our founder developed and copyrighted “Brown’s Hierarchy of Methods to Obtain Business.” This structure helps The Specialists in CPA MarketingTM to work effectively with any of our clients to clearly identify methods that we can use to help them grow.
The Hierarchy identifies five key methods, based on two essential criteria: (1) the qualify of clients (e.g., high annual revenues, timely payment, appreciate and value your services, etc.), and (2) the probability of success in obtaining work (e.g., your closure rate “batting average”).
This ranking approach helps your firm to focus its primary efforts on new clients that are high quality and can be obtained easier vs. low quality and difficult to close clients. Sounds like a dynamic, yet simple approach, right?
Let’s look at some details of the five steps of the Hierarchy:
- Expand services to existing clients
The best method to obtain business is from existing clients. It is important to note that with current clients you have (a) known realization rates and payment history, and (b) typically a high probability of success in obtaining more work.
Interestingly, when asked “Are you confident that your firm is doing everything possible to get more work from your current clients?” most CPA firms will say “Yes, we got that covered.” But when we start to look at specifically what they are doing to ensure this step is covered, they realize they are leaving a lot of business on the table.
A few key factors to consider:
- Are you force-ranking your clients? On what basis?
- For those clients with less billings, have you met with them to discuss other ways you can help?
- Do your clients use other CPA firms? Specifically, what can your firm do or change in order to earn more work?
- Has anyone joined your client’s company that may select a different CPA firm to handle their needs? Are you vulnerable to losing any or all of their business?
This list could go on and on, especially on a per-client basis, but the point is clear: “Don’t leave any rock unturned” when looking for more work from your clients.
- Obtain referrals from clients
Why is this step ranked so high out of five options? Because quality clients typically refer quality colleagues, and their first-person experience is highly credible, making your closure rate higher.
How frequently do you ask clients for referrals? If the answer is “not too often,” you’re not alone. This is a method in which many firms get frustrated because they don’t know what to do that isn’t offensive or too aggressive. It is clear that one approach doesn’t work for all firms and all clients. Instead, a seasoned marketing professional can help you to craft a program to tactfully reach your clients and nurture referrals. A focused program can not only help to yield referrals but also improve client relationships, a definite win-win situation.
- Obtain referrals from business contacts
If you were asked “What method works best for you in obtaining clients?” before knowing of this Hierarchy, you might have said “referrals from my business contacts.” This is because so many firms ignore the above steps. Nonetheless, this can be a very effective method — or a disastrous consumer of time and money.
While this step works well for many, others find if very frustrating. Why? See if these scenarios describe you … “My referral sources rarely refer work – but I know they have it!” or “The quality of referrals that I get are all over the map. I often waste time chasing down leads that are worthless. What can I do to get better referrals?” or “Don’t referral sources always want work back? I rarely have any to give back to them.”
A number of steps can be taken to answer these and other scenarios. Your marketing consultant can help you to build criteria to qualify referral sources, identify potential contacts, and develop programs to reach them.
- Targeted marketing programs
A key element of a successful marketing plan is to “target your market”. This means that instead of chasing every prospect in town, you selectively choose who you want as a client.
Targeted marketing is a systematic process of defining and selecting certain market segments, choosing specific techniques to reach the market, and selecting methods to sell your services.
You should target your market (existing and potential clients) by identifying parameters or characteristics. You can then apply a diversity of marketing approaches that are designed for that target market, instead of using a generic approach that is the same for all markets.
It is worth noting that a key mistake of those who are not sophisticated in their marketing is the “me, too” approach, in which the same marketing technique is used for all market segments. This usually yields poor results and often a disillusionment in marketing, such as “We tried that technique but it didn’t work.” Instead, hire an experienced marketing professional to design and manage a program that will yield better results.
- Mass marketing
In general, mass marketing is a “shotgun approach to marketing” in which you use a lot of ammunition to hit a small target. It often lacks strategy, is wasteful and costs a lot of money.
A key notation: Mass marketing is the method of choice for marketing vendors who either (a) don’t really understand your practice, (b) only sell one product and force it on you, or (c) make a lot of money by convincing your firm to invest in long-term contracts. Be careful to avoid these vendors.
Having said the above, there are situations in which mass marketing can make sense for your firm. This will depend specifically on your services, your firm’s “unique selling points,” and your target market. It should be obvious that your marketing professional needs to be highly experienced to help decide whether this approach makes sense for your firm – especially before you spend a lot of money in it.
Your next step?
If you’re like most of our clients, you’ve realized that this Hierarchy simplifies the process of growing your firm. Now, the point is to do something about it! Contact The Specialists in CPA MarketingTM to get help with designing and implementing a marketing program to grow your firm.
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