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941 Marketing Challenge Day 19

Remember our whale hunting expedition last week?

Well, we’re not quite done with that. Today, we’re taking the next step in that “Dream 100” style marketing campaign.

Last week, you mailed them a cover letter with some news articles, and made a follow up phone call.

Today, we’re taking the whale hunt to LinkedIn.

Working with the same list that you generated last week, initiate connections with the leaders of those companies on LinkedIn. Once they are connected, send them a message about being able to help them with their financial issues — your message is basically your elevator pitch.

I’d suggest aiming for at least two connections per company. The CFO/controller type person for sure, and then either the president, CEO, or founder. Look for other C-level executives and try connecting with them as well. This is much easier to do at these regional mid-sized companies that it is at Fortune 500 size companies.

Will many of these people decline your connection request? Yes, absolutely.

Will some of them accept, then unconnect after receiving your message? Yes, absolutely.

It is what it is. This is the grind. It’s part of doing account based marketing (the fancy modern term for old fashioned sales prospecting).

Enjoy the whale hunt!

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 18

Yesterday, you went about creating your first marketing video to be added to your new YouTube channel.

When you save your YouTube video, you’re going to be presented with several different settings that can be optimized to help you get traffic and leads. Today, you’re going to optimize yesterday’s video listing.

First, the title of your video should be relevant to the topic, obviously, but also include keywords that people will search for. For example, yesterday’s video script could have a bunch of different title options, but “FTD Penalties” would be a bad title. Most people aren’t searching using our acronyms and jargon. “What You Need to Know About IRS Payroll Tax Penalties” is a better title.

Second, the description box on YouTube is your opportunity to shine. I suggest putting your full website or landing page URL that you want people to visit as the first item in the description. Then, insert a keyword-dense description of the video, and perhaps even your script if you’re using one. YouTube will transcribe your video for you, but it’s not necessarily accurate.

Third are the video tags. These are a “word cloud” of keywords that help people find your video. Here you might want to include the industry jargon, such as “federal tax deposit” for this example, but you also want to include keywords people use.

After these basic text settings, your next task is to select the thumbnail to use in your video. YouTube will give you a couple options, but you can also drag and drop a file on to the page and YouTube will use that. I recommend using a thumbnail that shows you mid-word, looking engaging.

Lastly, toggle the “Transcriptions” item and enable the automatic transcription feature if it’s not already on by default.

These are the basic steps to optimizing a YouTube video for maximum effect. Do these things for the video you posted yesterday, and tomorrow we’ll continue with more digital marketing.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 17

Yesterday, you were tasked with setting up your YouTube channel for your 941 marketing.

Over the course of the weekend, we’re going to put that channel to use.

Yep, that means you’re going on camera today.

But don’t stress. We’re going to make it easy and painless.

First, what’s our script? Let’s make it easy. Hop on over to page 30 of Pub 15. We’re going to make a super short video about FTD penalties. Let’s take the first and third paragraphs of the FTD penalty section, and add a brief intro and simple call to action:

Hello, [your name], [license] here from [company name],
and today we’re going to discuss payroll tax penalties.

Penalties may apply if you don’t make required deposits
on time or if you make deposits for less than the required
amount. The penalties don’t apply if any failure to make a
proper and timely deposit was due to reasonable cause
and not to willful neglect. If you receive a penalty notice,
you can provide an explanation of why you believe reasonable
cause exists.

For amounts not properly or timely deposited, the penalty
rates are as follows.

2% – Deposits made 1 to 5 days late.
5% – Deposits made 6 to 15 days late.
10% – Deposits made 16 or more days late, but before 10 days
from the date of the first notice the IRS sent asking for the
tax due.
10% – Amounts that should have been deposited, but instead
were paid directly to the IRS, or paid with your tax return.
15% – Amounts still unpaid more than 10 days after the date of
the first notice the IRS sent asking for the tax due or the
day on which you received notice and demand for
immediate payment, whichever is earlier.

Late deposit penalty amounts are determined using
calendar days, starting from the due date of the liability.

WE can help you avoid these IRS penalties. Call my office
at xxx-xxx-xxxx to schedule a payroll tax review today.

Bust out your smart phone, open the YouTube app, login to your new channel, and record yourself speaking this script. Rehearse it a couple times before filming, but then just do a single take and post it.

Bam. Done. One take, five minutes or less. All done.

Tomorrow, we’ll spruce up your video and channel with other details necessary to help you get results.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 16

Now here’s something we hope you’ll really like.” -Rocky (or was it Bullwinkle?)

Do you own a smart phone?

What about a laptop or monitor with a built-in webcam?

If so, then you have absolutely all the hardware you need to be doing YouTube marketing.

Fact: YouTube is the #2 search engine on the planet, processing over 3 billion searches a month. That makes it bigger than Yahoo, Ask, Bing, and AOL combined in terms of search volume.

Fact: YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds per day than any broadcast or cable TV network.

Fact: Less than 10% of all US small businesses utilize YouTube marketing in any way (either paid advertising or video uploading).

Opinion: Nearly all the tax resolution videos on YouTube are weak, weak sauce.

Today, you’re going to spice things up and become the next YouTube superstar.

OK, maybe not. I mean, let’s be real, nobody goes to YouTube to watch videos about taxes, right?


People search for all kinds of stuff on YouTube, including quite a bit of “help” and “how to” content. Bazillions of people treat YouTube just like they treat Google, and use it to look for solutions to their problems and challenges. On top of that, relevant YouTube videos naturally rank higher in Google searches because Google owns YouTube and they incorporate video into search results.

I definitely consider video to be sort of a second tier marketing tactic for professional services, but it is an important consideration these days. Not only is video marketing a direct search and SEO play, but it’s also a way for prospects and clients to get to know YOU. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see tax professionals “hiding” online, without even a photo or their NAME listed on their own web site (seriously, that’s major marketing mishap, go fix it if that’s you).

Today, I want you to go claim your turf on YouTube. Go to YouTube, create a Google account if you don’t already have one, and create a channel.

Give your channel a service-specific name, maybe even a geographical name, too. For example, “Hampton Roads Tax Resolution” or “Northern California Small Business Tax Help”.

Today, that’s all you’re doing. So, no stress, no worry. You’re just creating a channel.

Tomorrow, we’ll make your palms sweat.

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Using Audit Protection Plans & POA Monitoring to Boost Bottom Line Profits

Chances are you’ve already heard of this offering, but perhaps never given much thought to it. It goes by various names, such as “Audit Defense Service”, “Audit Protection Plan”, and probably the worst possible name, “Audit Insurance”.

Quick tip: Do NOT call it insurance. State insurance regulators will have a field day with you.

Pricing for this service can range all the map, from as little as $30 through services that Block and TurboTax offer, to $200 and up from bigger audit protection plan companies and bigger CPA firms.

What exactly are we talking about? Audit Protection Plans.

Firms have been offering some variation of audit defense, either packaged and sold directly with tax return preparation or as an add-on, since at least the early 90’s. Typically, an audit protection service offered along with return preparation applies to that return only, and provides a certain amount of work that will be done on the client’s behalf in the event they are chosen for an IRS or state examination of the return. Plans typically impose one or more limitations, such as to the number of hours of representation that are included, or excluding certain credits such as EITC.

By offering audit protection plans to all or most of your tax preparation clients, you are essentially spreading the cost of audit representation for whomever needs it across a large number of people, akin to an insurance program (but again, never call it insurance!). Since the IRS audits less than 0.5% of all tax returns, the overall odds of being selected for examination are about 1 in 200. Additionally, over 70% of examinations are correspondence audits, meaning that the representation work is actually done asynchronously (not in real time with an IRS employee), making it far easier to schedule such work around the rest of your day.

If you have 200 tax prep clients that each paid $99 for an audit protection plan, just as an example, that’s an extra $19,800 coming in to your practice from your existing clients. If only 1 in 200 requires audit representation, on average, then you can easily see that just offering the protection plan becomes ones of the most profitable services within your practice. In addition, you can charge different prices based actual audit risk. For example, since Schedule C filers get audited at a higher rate, your audit protection plan rate for that kind of return can be higher, just as your prep fee is.

For your clients that opt-in to the service, they simply need to notify you when they receive a notice from the IRS that challenges any item on the return, and you handle it like any other audit. In such situations, I definitely recommend doing your normal time and billing, and then presenting the client with an invoice showing the value of the service you provided, even though you’ve zeroed out the invoice with a credit for being an audit defense member. If you’re imposing a limit on service, such as 5 or 10 hours of representation before a discounted hourly rate kicks in, this also allows you to show the complimentary hours covered by the plan.

How Negative Option Selling Works

There are typically two ways to sell this particular service to your existing clients:

  1. By offering it separately to your clients after filing their return, on an opt-in basis.
  2. By including it with all returns by default, and clients have to opt-out of getting it.

Most practitioners are more comfortable with the first, but the second yields much higher revenues. This latter technique is called negative option selling.

Let me give you an example of the success rate of the two different approaches.

Diamond member Dan Henn, CPA uses the first method, offering the service as an upsell after the fact. He tells me that about 30% of his clients take him up on it.

Ernie Neve, CPA, also a Diamond member, uses the second method. He puts the audit protection plan fee on his invoice, and goes over it with the client when the invoice is presented. If they want to opt-out, they have to sign a form ackowledging that they are opting out and explaining the fees they will pay if they are selected for audit. He has 70% of his clients just take it, drastically increasing his per-client revenue.

Audit Protection’s Distant Third Cousin: POA Monitoring Service

In the tax resolution world, best practices dictate that we revoke our 2848 after the conclusion of an engagement. If we don’t, both the IRS and the client may erroneously believe that we are still actively representing the client, when in fact we are not being paid to provide any additional services. If something negative happens, the client can (and has) sued the practitioner that didn’t revoke their POA, and your E&O provider probably won’t pay out on the claim.

So, if you’re going to be “on the hook” with an active Power of Attorney, be sure that you’re getting paid for it.

That’s why I created the POA Monitoring service in my own practice. This is a service that, depending upon the volume of tax resolution work you’re doing, could quite easily add $20,000 to $100,000 per year to your practice, and it’s extremely profitable.

In some ways, it works similar to audit protection. Basically, after a tax resolution engagement, you will keep your POA active. Occasionally … Continue reading

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 15

Our theme for the past couple days has been where you should be seen.

Yesterday, we discussed where you should be seen physically. The day before that we discussed where you should be seen digitally.

Today, we’re going to discuss where you should be seen in the media.

You may not think of yourself as a media darling, and you certainly don’t need to be. What we’re really talking about is being visible in some way, shape, or form in the media that your target market reads, watches, and listens to.

So that’s the first piece of today’s task. You need to sit down and figure out what stations your target market listens to locally. What local TV station do they watch? What publications do they read?

Since we’re primarily targeting business owners in this challenge, take into consideration the industry that they are in. Are their trade publications that they read? Perhaps you’ll be the only tax professional that ever writes articles for and whose ads appear in Architectural Digest, making you the go-to 941 resolution practitioner for architecture firms.

Whether local, regional, or national, do a hard analysis of your chosen niche market and catalog the print publications, podcasts, radio and TV, and other media that your target market pays attention to.

Then, call a few of them. Can you get to an editor and ask to write a monthly column? Do they need a tax professional to come on to the 30-minute drive-time business radio talk show in your local area? Can you get cheap local ad rates in the Home Builders Association newsletter?

This is what you’re doing today. Find media outlets that your target market pays attention to, and get into those media outlets by contributing time and content or paying for advertising.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 14

In yesterday’s challenge task, we discussed the two most important places that you need to be “showing up” digitally in order for your 941 tax resolution services to be found.

Today, we’re going to talk about the one place you need to show up physically.

If you’re already a subscriber to The Profitable Accountant, you saw me write heavily about this in the November issue.

Where do you need to physically appear?

Ready for it?

On your feet, standing in front of your target market.

Nooooooooooooooooo!” I hear you scream.

Yep, I’m talking about public speaking.

You already know that you need to be niched. I’d like to think that I’ve sledgehammered that point home enough around here.

And now I’m telling you that you really, really need to be the person standing in front of groups of people in that niche, lovingly talking to them about payroll taxes.

Today’s challenge is, therefore, pretty straightforward: Call ONE business or organization in your niche than you know does events, meetings, or seminars, and ask to be on the program.

It doesn’t matter if they can give you 5 minutes or 5 hours.

It doesn’t matter if you have a presentation prepared.

It doesn’t matter if you’re scared to death of public speaking.

That can all be sussed out later.

Today, just make the call. Go speak at a seminar, trade show, or other industry event. Go speak in front of the only four people that show up for the Western Valley Independent Gift Shop Association annual meeting. Whatever your niche B2B industry is, find a thing, any one thing, and call somebody to arrange to speak at it.

Don’t think. Don’t fret. Just call.

Note: Diamond members have access to our deep dive on Public Speaking For Pain & Profit. Be sure to check that out for in-depth training on getting started with public speaking. If you’re not yet a Diamond member, click here for info.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 13

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. -Desiderius Erasmus (1500)

Translated into marketing-speak: She who bothers to be even slightly better than average wins the business.

Since we now live in a world where average equals mediocrity, it doesn’t take much effort to be better and do better than your peers. A lot of people are very uncomfortable with this assessment, but I stand by it.

Another way of looking at it, through the lens of another common expression, is that “80% of success is showing up” as Woody Allen put it.

So that’s what we’re looking at for the next few days. Take an inventory sometime:

  1. Where do you show up now?
  2. Where should you be showing up?
  3. What are some things that YOU do in your practice that makes you better than average?
  4. What else can you do in your practice move beyond being seen as “mediocre”, e.g., just another practitioner?

For the next few challenge tasks, I really want to focus on that second one: Where should you be showing up?

Even better, let’s break it up into a few more pieces:

  • Where should you be seen digitally?
  • Where should you be seen physically?
  • Where should you be seen in media?

Let’s start with your digital footprint. Again, if you’re not showing up in the right places, then the right people won’t be able to find you. Since we’re talking about 941 work, there are certain places online that you should be.

First among them is probably LinkedIn. Have you looked over your LinkedIn profile lately? Is it complete? Do you have a photo? Do you have a bio describing the kind of client you’re looking for, and an offer for a lead magnet? Are you posting occasionally? Do you write articles on the LinkedIn “blogging” platform?

Take a few minutes to spruce up your LinkedIn profile today. Don’t end the day without at least a photo and a link back to your website in your bio. While you’re on there, post a single status update offering a lead magnet to your B2B connections that might have 941 problems. For what it’s worth, your elevator pitch makes a great bio or status update item.

The other place that you absolutely, positively need to be seen online is Google Maps. I guess more appropriately it would be Google My Business. At this moment, there is no more important online listing for you to grab. Without it, you’re probably not showing up on Google Maps, which is an incredibly common place for people to look for local service providers such as yourself. In addition, if you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, you’re missing out on the #1 SEO “hack” that exists.

So go do those TWO things today. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile, with appropriate 941 tax resolution verbiage and an offer. Then go claim your Google My Business listing if not already done. These two things should take less than 30 minutes, so are good to combine into one day.

If you’d like more guidance on the Google My Business portion, watch this training in the Gold/Diamond Video Vault. If you’re not yet a member, start your 14-day trial of Gold membership.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 12

In yesterday’s challenge, you did some research in an effort to find bigger companies to do special marketing initiatives to.

Over the rest of the month, we will revisit this super-short “hit list” a couple times, but today, we start in a meaningful way.

First, do a little bit more research on Google, perhaps even LinkedIn. The goal: Find out who is in charge overall, and who is in charge of the accounting, finance, and legal functions. Yes, that means up to four people. If not people, find out who their accounting firm is, what local law firm they utilize, etc. You may need to pick up the phone for this leg work.

Once you know the names and addresses of the folks in charge, here’s what you’re going to do:

  1. Print out copies of any “financial turmoil” media articles you found yesterday.
  2. Type up a cover letter on your letterhead saying you came across the attached news items, and provide 2-3 specific suggestions for how you could help based on what was publicly reported.
  3. FedEx or courier this entire stack to the people you found in your research. Not email. Not fax. Not USPS. FedEx or courier. Don’t be a cheapskate on this, it’s worth the extra few dollars.
  4. Add to your calendar a to do to follow up via telephone in 48 hours.

In this day and age, showing even the tiniest demonstration of competency and tenacity goes a LONG way. Frankly, it’s frightening how low the bar has become for impressing people. This makes it easier to get a meeting with some local corporate mid-wig than you think it is. By taking the time to research a company, try to understand their problems, even with incomplete external knowledge, and offer possible solutions, you’re probably being more proactive than their controller or CFO.

That’s how you land whales.

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941 Marketing Challenge Day 11

Today, we’re going whale hunting.

Or, at least the research required to go whale hunting.

First off, what’s a whale?

One of the nice things about 941 work over 1040 work is that the cases are much more diverse and interesting. Over 90% of 1040 tax resolution cases are just the same thing over and over and over. Most of them are Streamline or, as they are now called, “Expanded” Installment Agreements. Same thing, over and over…

Not so with 941 cases. 941 case work is much more varied, making it inherently more interesting, at least to a nerd like me.

One little factor that makes it more interesting? You’re much more likely to land the occasional mid-sized business as a client.

Depending upon whom you ask, a mid-sized business is defined as one with more than 100 employees, but less than 1,000 employees, or that has revenue in excess of $10 million per year but less than a $1 billion. The US SBA definition is much more complex, based on industry.

Medium-sized businesses are excellent clients for a number of reasons that are really beyond the scope of the challenge. From a strictly tax resolution perspective, they’re great because they can afford to pay you higher fees, and also because the root cause of their payroll tax problem is usually a short-term problem. Lastly, they can cash flow their way out of the federal and state tax debt. Oh, and for-reals lastly, they generally don’t have unfiled returns or mountains of accounting work to be done.

In other words, they’re pure representation clients. For somebody like me that doesn’t like doing tax prep, and isn’t an accountant, I love cases where all I’m doing is the representation!

Identifying potential whale clients is fairly simple, but marketing to them can be a different story. Today, we’ll talk about identifying them, and over the next few days we’ll talk about marketing to them.

Finding whales starts with having the right boat. For our purposes, the main boat you need is Google.

  1. Start by Googling phrases such as “your-city business in trouble” and “your-city company financial issues” and “your-city business faces losses”, etc.
  2. Find your local business journal, and start scouring for news articles and reports of businesses in trouble.
  3. Look online for your local “Book of Lists”, usually put out by a business journal publisher. Scour that list for year-over-year declines in staffing.
  4. If you have access to a prior year and current Chamber of Commerce directory, compare the two. Knowing who the larger companies are in your area, look for those businesses that dropped their Chamber membership.
  5. Since many mid-sized companies in local areas are in the construction and real estate industries, look for commercial construction projects and real estate developments that are behind schedule, over budget, or otherwise receiving negative press coverage locally.
  6. If you completed some of the earlier challenges this month, you’re now more connected to your local business community than you used to be. Let’s leverage that! Select two or three recent business connections who are themselves well connected or have the pulse on the business community, and send them a quick email asking if anything is coming through the grapevine about possible layoffs or other negative financial indicators at local companies.
  7. If you belong to a local niche industry association (which you should), such as your local Home Builders Association or Board of Realtors (as an associate member), ask around for the same thing.

Get the idea? You’re looking for local, larger businesses that might be facing some financial difficulties.

This challenge task is a bit more difficult for me to give you exact instructions on, since your local resources, news sources, connections, etc. can vary so widely from location to location and reader to reader. But hopefully I’ve given you enough here to start your sleuthing, and you’ll be able to find at least one or two companies that have been mentioned in the local media or through the grapevine.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss what to do with this information.

While we’re talking about marketing to businesses, it’s worth mentioning that most of this marketing also applies to growing the 1120S/1065 side of your tax prep practice, also. In the members portal, I have a 2-hour training plus a complete marketing plan that can help you accomplish this. If you’re not yet a Tax Marketing HQ member, then what are you waiting for? Click here to get on it!

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