What Is Marketing for CPA and Accounting Firms?

What Is Marketing for CPA and Accounting Firms?

Accounting Practice Marketing

If you go to Google and conduct a search on marketing, the results are truly endless. After Google does their magic, over 1,580,000,000 web pages come up for this search. After surfing through a couple hundred, you're overloaded and confused.

So then you decide to narrow your search by typing in terms like accounting marketing. Yikes, 205 million matches.

What Is Marketing?

When most people think of marketing, they immediately think of tactics like advertising, promotion, and sales. Marketing is much more than tactics like advertising, promotion and selling. Marketing is analysis, sound marketing strategy, increasing awareness, and a systematic approach for lead generation, conversion and client retention.

Marketing is an ongoing process that organizations use as a roadmap to achieve their business goals. It starts with an analysis of the marketplace needs and sorting them into segments, evaluating where needs are oversupplied/undersupplied, analyzing the competition and choosing marketplace strategies to achieve competitive advantage. From this analysis, a solid business strategy can be formulated and marketing programs can be tested in the marketplace to validate (or invalidate) the marketing strategy and plans. Periodically, all organizations must re-evaluate their marketing plans and make adjustments accordingly.

The initial analysis starts with your customer. Having a solid understanding of your customers business needs, their pain points, their perceptions, and their motivations. From this insight, you can evaluate the existing market segments as well as identify new potential segments.

The next part of this process is a competitive analysis, and an analysis of your own firm (SWOT analysis). From this, you can quickly understand your own company strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and select marketing strategies that differentiate your firm and drive your execution.

What Are Some Examples of Winning Marketing Strategies?

Below are a few examples of marketing strategies that well known companies have deployed to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

  • Higher Quality - Higher quality has many meanings and has worked for many prominent companies. Clearly, higher quality automobile manufacturing has worked effectively for Japanese manufacturers and this has been supported by JD Powers & Associates. However, higher quality can also mean the elimination of unpleasant surprises (Holiday Inn, McDonalds, IBM) and provide confidence in knowing exactly what you are getting for your purchase. When families are traveling and pull over for a rest stop, many will pull into McDonalds to avoid an unpleasant surprise (e.g., the safe choice, not necessarily the best option).
Higher Quality Service - Higher levels of service has worked effectively for Nordstrom, Federal Express, and Amazon. In the case of Nordstrom's, they clearly differentiated themselves from other high-end department stores by delivering on their promise of unsurpassed service to customers and going well beyond customers expectations. Lower Prices - Using price as a means to achieve competitive advantage has worked for Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Walmart, Dell, Costco and IKEA. In each case, these companies have totally reengineered their complex business processes to enable them to consistently deliver lower prices and achieve competitive advantage. In the airline industry, Southwest is using second tier airports, non-unionized labor, altered the reservation and boarding process, and avoided hub-and-spoke logistics to operate more efficiently. This strategy has turned the airline industry upside down. Larger competitors like United, American, Northwest and US Air find it impossible to compete on Southwest's terms. The same is true for Walmart's efficient distribution system and their impact on Kmart, Caldor, Bradlees and others. Right now, Walmart is using its' efficient distribution system to become the leading grocery food retailer and steal business from inefficient regional grocery store chains. In the computer industry, Dell has pushed IBM out of the PC computer business. High Market Share - The technology industry beats this drum very effectively to drive competitors out of the market, increase barriers to entry and increase profit margins. Examples include Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco. Microsoft is probably the best at developing marketing strategies which capitalize on their strengths. Product/Category Innovation - Creating a new category of products or services is like sailing on unchartered waters. The upside potential is huge until competitors eventually follow the leader. It also involves more risk and advance planning. To be successful with this approach requires more market research (or insight) to help them identify unmet needs in the marketplace, develop and test new products, and then launch those products commercially.

New product innovation is used effectively by Apple, Pfizer, Cirque du Soleil, and Proctor & Gamble to create new solutions for unmet (or undermet) needs in the marketplace. Well known examples are Apple's iPod, Pfizer's Viagara, and Proctor & Gamble's Swiffer, Febreze and Crest Whitestrips. In the entertainment industry, Cirque du Soleil is a perfect example of turning an industry sideways with innovative approaches.

In today's marketplace with increased competition and more sophisticated buyers/clients, it pays to rethink your marketing strategy and truly differentiate your firm. And yes, you can differentiate your practice from other local practitioners.


By Hugh Duffy

Hugh Duffy is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Build Your Firm, a practice development and marketing company for accounting firms. With more than 30 years of marketing experience, he has been coaching accountants on how to improve their marketing and make more money from their accounting practice since 2003. Hugh takes great pride in the impact his coaching has on the practices and lives of his clients.

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What Is Marketing for CPA and Accounting Firms?
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