30-Day Tax Firm Marketing Challenge: Day 11

Online Marketing
Update your email signature.
Estimated time: 10 minutes

Most email signatures I see from tax professionals fall into one of two buckets, both of which are equally bad.

They’re completely barren OR…
They’re excessively cluttered with useless information.
First off, are you still including that lengthy Circular 230 disclaimer in your emails?

REMOVE IT. Seriously. Take it out. It’s never been necessary to include it in your email signature. Literally. Never. I have no idea where the misconception even started that you needed to include it on your emails. The fact of the matter is that the disclaimer language was only ever intended to be used on covered opinions, not every communication that leaves your office. The covered opinion rules under Circular 230 no longer even exist.

Don’t believe me? Take it straight from Karen Hawkins in this pronouncement from 2014 when she was still head of OPR at IRS.

Next, what about the rest of your email signature? I see too many graphics, too much clutter, and too much stuff that doesn’t matter.

What should be in your email signature? Name, telephone number, website, and a Call to Action. That’s it.

Yes, a Call To Action (CTA). Your daily email communications are a marketing opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Include a CTA with an offer. Probably the best offer to make is to request referrals. If you have a tax season Refer-A-Friend cash program, use that. If you’re a non-attorney and can pay referral fees for tax resolution clients, say so. Have you written a book? Offer free copies of your book to any of the email recipients friends and colleagues that want one.

Simplify your email signature. Remove extraneous information, especially the unnecessary IRS disclaimer language, and add a Call To Action asking for referrals.

Offline Marketing

Start a MeetUp group.
Estimated time: 30-60 minutes

Are you frozen out of your local BNI group because they already have a CPA?

Do you find that your local Chamber of Commerce leads groups are nothing but social hours?

Then start your own.

Most big cities have small business MeetUp groups. This is where people get together in a mastermind format to discuss business issues, such as marketing, customer retention, pricing, etc.

But what about the suburbs, or smaller cities? You’d be surprised how few small business groups exist outside of downtown areas. Look on MeetUp and see if there is a potential hole in the marketplace that you can fill.

MeetUp costs a little bit of money to administer a group for 6 months, but it’s worth it if you’re proactive about building the group. Invite every business owner you know, which is probably already several since you’re in the tax world. Do a 2-minute Tax Talk at every meeting yourself to help establish your own authority positioning (which drives referrals), and invite group members to speak about their businesses. Invite guest speakers, such as lawyers, local economic development zone reps, etc.

You’d be surprised at how effective this strategy can be to grow your business. So much so that you should expect to hear more about this tactic from me in the near future.

Practice Management
Determine staff satisfaction with you as an employer.
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Happy staff, happy clients.

Never forget that the impression your staff leaves upon your clients is a direct reflection of you. If your staff are grumpy, it’s going to show, and it’s going to impact prospect conversion and client retention.

Even if you only have one part-time staff person or seasonal staff, this is still important. Do you actually know whether your staff like working for you? Heck, do your staff like you personally? Do you know about any interpersonal conflict impacting the office environment?

It’s time to find out. Start asking. Hold a team meeting. Let it be known that you care and are open to suggestions for improvement. Let people moan, groan, gripe, and complain a little bit if they need to vent.

Basically, the take the pulse of your staff. Their happiness is important to your success, and their suggestions can actually be very valuable.

30-Day Tax Firm Marketing Challenge: Day 10

Wow, we’ve hit the double digits!

You’ll notice that today’s challenges will take a bit more time than most of the previous ones. We’re starting to get down into some nitty-gritty stuff, so it will require more time to complete.


Online Marketing

Perform basic local keyword research.
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Head on over to Google and type in “tax preparation [your city]” or “accountant [your city]” or something along those lines. Then, scroll to the very bottom of the page.

What you’ll see is a list of other suggested search terms. Copy and paste all of those search phrases into a spreadsheet.

Click on each of the suggested search phrases just to see the results. Make note of how much competition there is in your area for each search term, and how many overall results there are.

Congratulations, you just completed the most basic type of keyword research that exists.

This data helps you make future decisions regarding what to title blog posts, name your social media channels, etc.

There are more sophisticated means of doing this, including software tools that help give you powerful insights into keywords. But this right is often the entire extent of what I’ll do when putting together a new online marketing campaign or lead generation website.


Offline Marketing

Acquire phone numbers of old competitors.
Estimated time: 30-90 minutes

This one is going to sound a bit sneaky. Because it is.

Businesses go under all the time. It’s a fact of life in our free market economy. This includes both large and small tax and accounting firms. People also retire, move, or pass away, closing businesses in the process.

Do you have a local competitor that recently closed up shop? Not sure?

Go back to your Google searches from up above and check in on the businesses listed. Are they still around?

Also check Yelp, YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, and the physical yellow pages for your area. Check all the tax and accounting listings. Are any of them out of business?

If so, call your telephone company and tell them you want to rent a vanity phone number that will forward to your regular number. Then, ask for the phone numbers of your out of business former competitors. All of them.

This will cost you some money to rent those numbers, but it’s not a lot, and worth every dime. Some may have already been snapped up, or not released yet. If they’re not released yet, ask when they will be, and call back then.

You’ll now be getting phone calls from these old numbers. Old advertising, phone book listings, Internet listings, etc. will carry these old numbers for a long time, sometimes years. Plus, old clients that never got the memo will be calling to schedule appointments, especially in the next few months.

Capture these inquiries, explain that the prior business closed up shop, but that you’re there to assist with their tax and accounting needs.


Practice Management

Create a written payment policy for your firm and implement it immediately.
Estimated time: 10 minutes

Since I come from the tax debtor representation side of our profession, I probably have a bit more jaded perspective on the matter of getting paid than many readers might. But even with that, I think it’s important for all tax and accounting offices to have strictly defined payment guidelines for all services.

My suggested payment guidelines for tax resolution take up an entire page of my tax resolution checklist manual, but most firms don’t need guidelines that detailed.

At a minimum, make sure that you have signage and engagement letter language that specific what types of payment you accept, including specific credit card brands. Clearly indicate whether you offer discounts for up front payment, or simply require up front payment for all services. If you do monthly billing for your services, make sure that the billing date and amounts are clearly communicated to clients.

Define how and when you’re willing to break up fees for certain services. Have a no-start policy without a certain percentage of fees for a project paid up front. Define the consequences for failure to meet payment arrangements, including stoppage of work, revocation of your 2848, even entire loss of the privilege of being your client (yes, being your client is a privilege, not a right).

Write this out, and make sure you have a staff training session on it if you have employees.

Enforcing this written payment policy will avoid a lot of aggravation down the road.

30-Day Tax Firm Marketing Challenge: Day 9

Today we’ve got another day of quick and easy challenges for you. Within the next couple days, however, expect them to start getting a bit more complicated, since now is the ideal time of year to be embarking on new marketing initiatives.
Online Marketing
Update your online profile photo.
Estimated time: 2-3 minutes
How old is the professional photo you utilize on social media and other sites? If you’re like most people, it’s significantly outdated.
Your profile photo really should reflect what you currently look like. This helps avoid any confusion or misperception when prospects and colleagues meet you.
I’m probably one of the most egregious offenders out there in this department. My LinkedIn photo, for example, is a full decade old.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to keep this photo up to date these days, no professional photographer needed. The fact of the matter is that the camera on most smartphones takes better photos than the camera used to take my professional photo all those years ago.
So clean up your desk or pick a decent spot in the office, and have somebody snap that new headshot and get it online. Click, tap, done.
Offline Marketing
Cold call ONE long lost client.
Estimated time: 5 to 10 minutes
We’ve all had clients that dropped off the face of the Earth, and we know not why.
Think about the past year or two. Have you had a good client that just stopped using your services?
Pick up the phone and give them a call. Just have an honest conversation. Try to find out if there was something you did or didn’t do that caused them to leave. Who did the switch to?
These kinds of calls can be a bit anxiety inducing, for sure. But the information we gain from them is not only helpful to us as practitioners, but an opportunity to recapture lost clients.
Practice Management
Determine the available data entry automation options for your tax software.
Estimated time: 10-15 minutes
When I set up shop to do tax returns back in 2015, one of the most important deciding factors in my choice of software had to do with data entry. Having spent so long running a virtual, paperless practice, the last thing I wanted to do was drown myself in paper and spend countless hours doing data entry.
That’s why I went with the combination of Drake and GruntWorx. Yes, there is a per-return cost associated with using GruntWorx, but I just passed it on to the client.
Regardless of what tax prep software you use, there’s most likely a data entry automation solution for it. Spend some time on your vendor’s website or searching on Google and find out what your options are. No need to make a decision at this point, simply acquire some information regarding workflow and costs, and then let it simmer in your brain for a week or two.