A relatively inexperienced marketer, new to the firm, wrote recently with the following situation.
Q. I recently interviewed my partners with a few key questions to begin developing a marketing plan for 2009. However, I'm not sure how to utilize this information and form a working plan. Can you point me in the right direction?
[marketer's questions in bold, partners' answers follow, only some of the questions are listed below]
What do you think are the firm's strengths? experienced tax department, consulting services, capable and friendly staff
Weaknesses? auditing, not enough work for the qualifications our staff has
Where do you believe the challenges and opportunities lie? getting quality clients, developing a niche market
What are the firm's short-term goals? more QuickBooks clients, more payroll clients long-term? have work that provides year-round recurring revenue, loyal client base
How do you believe that marketing can facilitate a process that helps us reach these goals? obtain leads, offer bundled services, advertise for more work.
What are the top three services we want to focus on this year? Payroll, QuickBooks, tax
What are the top three services we sell? taxes, QuickBooks, audits
A. There's more info to be gleaned before assuring your plan will have the "right" initiatives and but here are two things to delve into as a starting point:
ONE - regarding number 6, above, ask a LOT of questions about the stated desires to sell lots more “Payroll, Quickbooks and Tax services.” Particularly tax.
Payroll and Quickbooks aren’t usually big fee generators so they are lots of work to market for lower ROI. The only investment I’d make in marketing those services would be to significantly court referral sources so they can do the selling for you. Couple dozen good solid relationships can generate a LOT more new biz than a calling directly on three times that many prospects.
For tax, my concern is that I don’t know too many firms that actually have capacity in the tax department between Feb and April. Most firms are already wearing people down pretty well in these months and adding work in this time-frame is not a good strategy for keeping the team members you value. Maybe your firm is different and you have capacity….
So, in looking at their answer to number 2, it would seem you have the qualifications for more audit work but not enough of this work to justify maintaining those qualifications. What about increasing audit work (maybe there is another concern precluding your partners from suggesting this??) or collaborating with another local firm to let your folks supplement their audit teams or let you audit some of their clients if they don't provide these services.
Just some thoughts to consider. I'd have to know more to give a deeper suggestion about what products would be most profitable and practical to build on.
TWO - Your question number 3, above, "Where do you believe the challenges and opportunities lie?" is great and their answer "getting quality clients, developing a niche market" is a good and a rich place for you to start. But the answers provided need two critical follow-on questions:
A) What is your firm’s definition of “quality clients”? Does everyone agree to the same definition? (probably not) – find out whom your firm would clone (as clients) and then, go deep, and find out why!?
B) What niche, specifically? In your interviews, only services were surfaced. A niche should not be inwardly (product) focused, it should be externally (market segment) focused.
You don’t have to only serve “one” but for the sake of marketing effectively and efficiently, you should target one at a time and make your messaging EXTREMELY focused to that segment. The segment might be a demographic group or it might be an industry.
Some exploratory work should help you and your partners determine what groups make sense, in total, and then to prioritize them, starting with the top one or two in 2009. Add the subsequent ones later as your resources allow.
Some other posts that may help you as you proceed are: