All the Tools In the Toolbox: Everything I Know About Marketing A Tax Firm

Marketing legend Dan Kennedy has said on numerous occasions that he only really knows a few dozen things about marketing. He’s said this in his newsletters, at seminars, and in interviews. As a marketing nerd and a Dan Kennedy fanboy, this is a list that I have long wanted to actually see. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find an enumerated list, and I don’t think it actually exists.

But as I was listening to a particular Kennedy seminar recording for the twentieth time recently, and heard him say this again, it made wonder: How many things do I actually know about marketing?

Even more importantly: How many ways do I know to market a tax practice that actually work?

I’ve never enumerated a list, either, and the reality is that it’s probably not a very long list. So, challenge accepted!

The difficulty in making a list like this really comes down to an issue of granularity. For example, is direct mail one “thing”, or do I separate out each specific direct mail strategy that I’ve tested and had success with?

In order to make this list actually useful to you, the reader, I’ve decided to go with the latter format. Hopefully the specificity in the marketing tactic will give you a bit more to chew on. Obviously, every market tactic has nuance, and maybe those will foster ideas for future posts on this blog.

So here we go. Please bear in mind that this list is an unstructured brain dump, so there probably won’t be any kind of order to it. Use this as a starting point for laying out your own marketing plan to grow your business, but never get hung up on one particular strategy. Also, bear in mind that I may not hit every marketing tactic I know works on the first run through, so if I think of more I’ll edit this post to add them, so you may want to bookmark this page and come back occasionally.

Alrighty, here we go: Every marketing tactic I know of that actually works for growing a tax firm…

  • Inviting referrals from professional colleagues
  • Incentivizing referrals from satisfied clients
  • Smile and dial (cold call telemarketing to specific target lists)
  • Voice broadcast to specific target lists (robo-calls, now mostly illegal)
  • Fax broadcast to specific target lists (now mostly illegal)
  • Lunch & learns/financial dinner seminars to specific target audiences
  • Tax talks in front of specific target audiences
  • New homebuyer direct mail letters
  • New mover direct mail letters
  • Income-range direct mail letters
  • Interest/activity targeted direct mail letters
  • 8-postcard sequences to tax liens
  • 3-letter sequences to tax liens in sync with the IRS notice cycle (still the most successful thing I’ve ever done)
  • Facebook ads targeting highly specific demographic criteria
  • Facebook ads directed at custom audiences
  • Facebook retargeting (pixeling)
  • Google AdWords
  • AdRoll retargeting
  • Email autoresponders
  • Direct mail newsletters to warm list
  • Regularly writing on your tax firm blog
  • Writing articles for newspaper websites
  • Guest blogging on personal finance websites
  • Writing and distributing press releases via paid press release sites
  • Create YouTube videos and optimize them for SEO
  • Participating in personal finance discussion forums
  • Participating in niche industry discussion groups
  • Exhibiting at niche industry trade shows
  • Speaking at niche industry seminars/conferences
  • Teach industry-specific CPE (doctors, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, K-12 teachers, figure skating coaches, hair stylists, massage therapists, etc — ALL are required to complete CPE)
  • Attend leads groups (BNI, Chamber of Commerce, etc)
  • Network within interest groups (Toastmasters, Rotary, Kiwanis, political parties, church, etc)
  • Email and direct mail joint venture endorsed mailings with other businesses
  • Coupons in ValPak/MoneyMailer
  • Display ads in local Tidbits/Coffee News
  • Advertorials in local business journal
  • Classified ads in financial services section of local paper, Thrifty Nickel, etc.
  • Craigslist posts in financial and legal services sections (to date, still the source of my largest up-front fee from a client)
  • Write a book (the second most successful marketing tactic I’ve ever used)

In creating the above list, two things became apparent:

  1. This is actually a list of lead generation media more than anything else. As such…
  2. It doesn’t incorporate any of the art or science of marketing, which is actually more important.

So here’s another list of things I know about the art and science of marketing, which I believe that all tax professionals responsible for generating revenue should know.

  1. The importance of targeting (you can’t be all things to all people, and trying to be is a waste of time and marketing dollars)
  2. The principles of gaining pleasure vs avoiding pain
  3. The concept of properly aligning your messaging with your target market
  4. The three-legged stool of message, market, and media
  5. The importance of a good headline
  6. Basic headline formulas, such as numbered lists and curiosity questions
  7. Single hit vs multi-hit marketing
  8. One-step vs two-step marketing
  9. What constitutes a compelling lead generation offer
  10. Understanding the concept, purpose, and construction of marketing and sales funnels
  11. Focusing on the fundamentals of SEO, rather than paying any attention to the latest gimmicks or being reactionary to Google algorithm updates (Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, etc. have always helped me, never hurt me).
  12. How to set up lead capture pages.
  13. What to put on a tax firm website to actually generate leads.
  14. The importance of scripts for both outbound and inbound telephone calls.
  15. The importance of checklists/systems for all things marketing (everything in your entire firm, actually)
  16. How to test and measure marketing response (A/B testing, the why and how)
  17. The value of automation and outsourcing, and what to or not to automate/outsource
  18. The concept of never-ending prospect follow up — stay in communication until they “buy or die”
  19. The Internet in general (and social media in particular) are not special, different, or unique — it’s just another medium
  20. How to structure a sales consultation to lead to the close
  21. How to maintain Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) to your target market

I know for a fact that there is more to add to both of these lists, but this is everything that is currently top of mind. Oops, have to add TOMA to the list.

Even with just what you see here, there’s obviously a lot of ground that can be covered, and it can look overwhelming. The key to successfully marketing your practice is to focus on just a few specific marketing strategies – literally just 2 or 3. You don’t want just one source of business, obviously, but focusing on 2 or 3 marketing tactics that you can enjoy and stick with are the best way to get started.

Then, you simply invest the time, effort, and yes, money, into learning all of the marketing theory, art, and science that go into making those 2 or 3 marketing tactics work.

Comments on All the Tools In the Toolbox: Everything I Know About Marketing A Tax Firm

  1. FBN says:

    What would be the cost breakdown for each of these marketing methods?

  2. Jassen says:

    Fred,

    I would argue that you’re asking the wrong question.

    There are 40 or so marketing tactics mentioned in this post. The cost ranges from whatever the value of your time time is, all the way up to millions of dollars.

    In other words, there are simply too many variables to give a cost breakdown. It depends on the volume you’re trying to achieve, the interplay between time and money, etc. I could give a cost breakdown for very strictly defined desired outcomes and strictly defined inputs, but doing it for all 40 methods would take me all week, and my assumptions, inputs, and outputs probably wouldn’t match YOUR desired outcomes and the inputs that YOU can bring to the table.

    There are much better questions for you to ask before embarking on a marketing journey:

    1). What exactly are you trying to achieve?
    2). Who is your target market?
    3). What exact service are you trying to sell?
    4). What resources, including time, talent, staff, and money, do you have available to you?
    5). Based on answers to the above, what are the best 2 or 3 marketing tactics to deploy in order to deliver your desired output from your available inputs?

    Merely looking at raw cost is nothing but a recipe for failure. For example, if you’re comparing a $600 business journal ad versus a $600 ValPak insert, and those are the only two factors under consideration, then you’re doing it wrong. Those two media have very different readership, very different reach, and are effective for selling very different services, at very different price points, with very different offers and ad copy. There is absolutely, positively no way to compare those to two advertising media without considering all these other aspects.

    I hope this helps!

    -Jassen

  3. FBN says:

    To be more specific if I was just starting out as a new EA wanting to specialize in the tax resolution niche. What marketing method would yield 2-4 clients per month at the lowest cost possible?

  4. Jassen says:

    Fred,

    I realize you’re looking for the easy answer, and I realize that most bloggers, coaches, publishers, “gurus” etc. are out there promising you the easy answer.

    I’m not one of those people. Because the answer isn’t that easy. Refer back to my previous reply.

    Again… What are you trying to achieve? In other words… What KIND of tax resolution clients do you want? What industry do you want to build a specialization in? What tax type do you want to focus on? What is your location, and how does your location impact all these other factors?

    You asked about lowest possible cost… Well, how much TIME are you willing and able to put in? You’re going to invest some combination time and money, there’s no way around that. You can absolutely grow a solo tax resolution practice with $0, but you’d better be prepared to work some long days. When I first went into private practice, I spent no less than six hours per day on the phone, telemarketing to a specific type of tax lien. This was on top of the all the other work I had to do during the day to ramp up a new business. I did this because I didn’t HAVE much money to spend on the level of direct mail and paid advertising that I wanted to. I was working 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week.

    So again, there is no easy answer. If there was, we’d all be rich, right? I provide a ton of resources, including many free resources right here on this website, that can help you jump start the process. I even provide complete marketing plans (see the “Start” section) — but even then, they may not be directly applicable to YOUR situation and objectives. But use what I provide as a starting point to help put you 5 to 10 years ahead of most other practitioners, and create your own plan from that.

    Best wishes,

    -Jassen

  5. FBN says:

    I do appreciate your honesty in light of one marketeer who shall remain nameless that will tell all in his over hyped course. I am sure he is getting rich from those that are drinking the Kool aid he is hawking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *