Most of the marketing strategies I talk about are “home run” strategies, meaning that they’re intended to be big, ongoing marketing campaigns with a fairly significant time and financial investment. These marketing campaigns will bring in the majority of your new leads, and are intended to result in the sale of high-dollar tax services (typically taxpayer representation).
But what if you’re just starting out, don’t have a big marketing budget, or have a limited scope practice? For example, there are plenty of tax professionals that work from home doing limited bookkeeping, manage small payrolls, and do a limited number of tax returns seasonally. This part-time business model is quite common, due to a variety of personal circumstances, such as being semi-retired, health issues, being the second-income house spouse, or simply not needing the higher income and choosing to work fewer hours.
Here are some simple, inexpensive, low key ideas to help you get more clients. These methods function at a slower pace and lower lead volume than other methods I normally write about, but they’re still effective. These methods work for big and small firms alike, but are probably of more interest to solo practitioners with either limited budgets or limited new client needs.
1. Claim your Google Places listing. Google Places is Google’s program for matching business names to their address. On top of that, it’s also their rating/review system for businesses. Even in small towns, a large number of people hop online to search for local businesses. This growing trend, called local search, makes it all the more important for your business to found locally on Google. Your business will show up on both Google Maps and in the regular search results. You won’t get a flood of phone calls from this, but you’ll get some, and it’s so simple to sign up. It takes just a few minutes and is well worth the time.
2. Welcome new residents. When new residents move into your area, you can obtain a mailing list of these folks and send them something in the mail. People that move to a new city need to fine a whole range of new service providers, including a local tax professional. Called new movers lists, you can obtain this mailing list from almost any list broker, such as InfoUSA or MelissaData. Sending a letter to these new movers to welcome them to the neighborhood and inform them of your services, and also sending a follow up letter closer to tax season or to invite them to an event you are hosting, is an ideal way to get to know these folks.
3. Create group tax return plans. Most of us have groups that we belong to in our community. Perhaps it’s your local Elks lodge, VFW post, Chamber of Commerce, church, Toastmasters, credit union, etc. This common affinity to a group can be the basis for offering a group pricing plan on tax work to members of the group. The great thing is that the leadership of the group will help you organize and offer this to the membership, if you approach them the right way. Just think of the power of having your flyer sitting at the teller window of your credit union during tax season.
4. Write for local publications. I’m not talking about your big, daily newspaper (although that’s possible, too). What I’m talking about are those small weekly and monthly publications that exist everywhere. Those little papers are usually thirsty for well written articles on topics of interest to their readers. For example, many communities have a small publication oriented at seniors, and this is an excellent place to write a regular tax advice column.
5. Join local leads groups. I’ve had mixed feelings about leads groups over the course of my career. Some such groups are actually all about business, others are just an excuse to get together for drinks. As long as you go into a group with the intention of just getting to know people and expand your sphere of influence, you won’t be disappointed. Check with BNI or other such companies, or your Chamber of Commerce, to find leads groups. Don’t expect everybody in the group to become a client, but as they get to know you and become friends with you, you will start to see referrals from those relationships over time.
6. Start speaking at small local events. There are far more speaking opportunities in our local communities than most people realize. If you have good information to share about a topic of interest to any group of people, you can find opportunities to speak in front of groups. Chamber of Commerce functions, real estate sales meetings, leads groups, senior centers, and other places are generally welcoming of speakers that have information relevant to their audience. Fortunately for you, taxes are relevant to just about everybody. If nothing else, contact local real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, financial planners, and attorneys and get a group together to present a local seminar event where multiple professionals speak. Speaking opportunities are instant gateways to meeting potential clients and getting referrals.
7. ValPak/MoneyMailer inserts. During tax season in particular, including a coupon insert in your local ValPak or MoneyMailer can be incredibly worthwhile. This is the highest cost item on this entire list, but doing a mailing to 10,000 households is still very affordable (figure about $350-$750, depending on what part of the country you’re in). For a one-person tax prep office, a single well planned ValPak insert can basically make your entire tax season.
These seven techniques for getting yourself in front of more people locally are fairly simple and either free or inexpensive. None of these ideas require much in the way of setup or forethought: You can make a few phone calls, print off some letters and address some envelopes, do a few things online, etc., and tackle all seven of these inside of a single afternoon, and still make it to happy hour.