Last week at Association for Accounting Marketing's Annual Summit in Orlando, Mike Platt moderated a panel of CEOs of companies that most small, medium or large regional CPA firms would be delighted to call clients.
CEO panelists were: Ron Kaplan of Action Products International Inc. in FL, Karen Hough of ImprovEdge in OH, Dorthea Wynn of the Orlando Heart Center, and Tony Wood of The Leadership Coalition of FL & NY. They each provided responses to Platt's questions and to a few questions from the audience. Here is a collection, by general topic, of some of their remarks:
- What I want is a professional team on my side.
- Be there when we need you. A great example is when my accountant was on vacation but was able to be reached and even came in, off the beach in his shorts, to the attorney's office to help us finalize a critical deal.
- Be proactive and help us be proactive--don't wait until the very last minute for things like year-end tax planning.
- I feel like my firm sees me as a "nobody." I just can't get good service. My firm checks in with my CFO who thinks things are fine but I'm going to fire my firm in the next few weeks because they aren't meeting MY needs. I may go back to a sole practitioner.
- I don't really have anything to say when you ask if my firm has ever done anything "above and beyond."
- I don't appreciate when a firm acts like they can be all things to all people.
- It offends me when an accountant tries to come across as a final authority--as the governing body.
- Collaborate WITH us. Talk to us and tell us what you're doing. Our accountant recodes/reclassifies things, redoes budgets, etc, and it seems duplicative. They should be teaching us how to do it better so they don't have to re-do it.
- Ultimately, know my business and me personally.
- Don't answer a question with "it depends." Instead, put yourself in my shoes and answer the question!
- I know I'm under-served because my financial advisor keeps pointing out certain needs and the services I should be getting. I may be small but I'll pay for quality.
- Continuity of staff is pretty important. We don't want different people every year.
- The devil is in the details. Remember that I don't know what you know.
- Don't nickel and dime us with a bill for $100 or so.
- Even though I know I'm being charged $100-200 for a single phone call, I don't really want to see it broken out on the bill!
- And, yes, it bugs us when our attorneys bill for phone calls, too. But one panelist piped in with: "My attorney doesn't!"
- I'd rather have a "package" price then one based on hours.
- I love to have an idea, say within 10% or so, of what my monthly bills will be.
- Don't dare say to me "our time is our inventory"! All of our time is our inventory, too. It is our only limiting factor. We are just as busy as you and our time is worth as much as yours. Sometimes you don't act like you realize this. (examples under "Consideration" below)
- When introduced to someone else in the firm who would be handling a matter, I was handed off in a poor way.
- I know a lot of people work on my account, and that's okay, but if I work with multiple people, you've got to communicate with each other. And I still want a single, primary point-person.
- I end up spending a lot of time tracking down who I'm supposed to talk to for what and people will actually tell me "I can't help you with that...that is someone else...you'll have to call them."
- Stop sending me stuff that doesn't apply to me. Be selective about what you send. Pinpoint the information to my concerns.
- Before I care to know how much my accountant knows, I need to know how much they care.
- The firm has never yet put me in front of another client with whom my business has something in common. I cannot figure out why...
- Make my life easier.
- Offer to be on my board--don't charge for the time...it's an opportunity for you!
- Know our idiosyncrasies.
- It flabbergasts me that no one has called to offer me another service -- even as my business is changing/growing so rapidly.
- I had no idea of the other services our CPA firm offers. I had to ask my CFO who used to work for the firm so that I could answer questions today about other services I might be interested in. I thought it was neat that they offer to help interview and screen financial people I would hire.
- I saw a full list of services when I interviewed the firm, but I've forgotten what they provide.
- I'd like, on a yearly basis, to be refreshed of the firm's services and which might be applicable.
- I much rather have other services presented to me, personally, rather than by mail. It's best when you talk to me in person. Maybe a yearly meeting where we talk about what's going on for the next year, touch base, share updates and tell me about additional services.
- How can you measure my satisfaction? If I'm happy, I refer a LOT of business.
- Another panelist agrees this is the best way to know if you are doing a good job.
- The occasional survey is okay, but I may be too busy to fill it out.
- An in-person survey is good.
- Come see me and ask me.
How Marketers Can Help Solidify Our Relationship With the Firm
- I really liked the packet given to me when I first met with the firm. I looked at it carefully. Hiring my accountant was a big decision for me.
- Don't market to me based on fear.
- I like to feel like I'm getting a competitive deal.
- I care about the value of the service to my business, NOT "Rate x Hours." Show me where you're adding value.
- Market inside your firm, teach younger people, make them more confident and more collaborative.
- There are givers and takers. Be a giver.
- Know your client-base and market to like clients. Tell me how you help businesses that are similar to mine.
- Trust the power of word-of-mouth marketing. I refer if I'm happy--I give good word of mouth.
- Understand the value of communication and personalized relationships. If your people cannot communicate well internally, how can you do it well outside?