Tax season, busy season or is it really opportunity season?

By Dawn Wagenaar, Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC

After working with CPA firms for more than 20 years, they call me the crazy one. Crazy because I still believe that marketing can -- and needs to -- be done during the busiest time of year. January through Tax Day is the infamous "tax season" for accountants, but we all have times that are busier than others. During those times, it's important to remember that we still need to do some marketing.

I have heard so many people complain and fret through their busy season and then burn out. I have also seen many very successful people keep a positive attitude, plan well and weather the tough times year after year with a smile and a bigger book of business.

Here are some tips to get through your busy time of the year:

  1. First and foremost: Do not look or talk "busy." If you look and seem too busy to clients, prospects and referral sources, then they won't refer business to you. Plus, they don't want to hear about how busy you are; they want to hear about how everything is going.
  2. Cross-sell other firm services. Yes, I know you can barely finish that brief, review the tax return or just call your mom, but clients are the most important part of your business. They pay the bills. By suggesting other services, they may need -- yes, I said may need -- you to build the current relationship you already have. They will see that you really do care about them and/or their business. To help you during the busy time of year, develop checklists or cards to remind you of services or just spend an extra 10 minutes reviewing the client file before you get down to work. Even if you can't go into detail at the time, write yourself a note to get back to the client when things are simpler.
  3. Get your reception area in order. Do you have magazines and papers strewn all over, or coffee rings on the tables? Do you have materials your clients can look at about other services? Does your receptionist know who to call if someone is looking for a cost-segregation expert or needs a business attorney? Set up your director of first impressions to succeed. I would suggest doing a mini "audit" and determine what is working and what isn't, what looks good and what could be improved. An outsider with fresh eyes may be better at doing this.
  4. Network. Now you're thinking that I am really crazy. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this is the time you need to see people. Be selective. Go to events that benefit you and that you enjoy. See your very best referral sources. Schedule a coffee break with a banker you work with a lot.
  5. Pursue public relations. If a reporter calls, take the call. You will love getting your name in lights and you will be seen as an expert. Then take it one step further and have your marketing department send out a reprint to your clients, prospects and referral sources. At the very least, get it posted on your website and social media.
  6. Write an article. Agree to be interviewed and have a ghostwriter write the article. What's hot? What's happening in a particular industry? Consider these questions when thinking of an idea. Put the articles in your firm newsletter -- the marketing department is always looking for articles.
  7. Ask for referrals. If you are busy, you are probably seeing a lot of clients or working on a big project. This is the time to ask your clients for referrals. Tell them that you are looking for more great clients like them.
  8. Ask your clients why they continue to use you and your firm. "Joe, I want to make sure we continue providing you what you want. What is it you like best about doing business with us?" And, "What else would you like to see?" Not only will this help build your relationship, it's information that can help you with other clients. The clients will feel special because you cared enough to ask. And, you will be energized about the value you bring just when you need energy the most!
  9. Create a program that really benefits you. For example, if you are a tax accountant, offer a drawing for a $100 gift card if they get all their information in by March 1. Work with your clients in advance to avoid the worst of the season.
  10. HAVE FUN! Put a contest on your website or in your lobby so when clients visit they have some fun as well.

Dawn Wagenaar is the principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group. You may reach her at 651-690-3358 or dawn@ingenuitymarketing.com