[IMGCAP(1)]You have to keep advertising and marketing in even the toughest of tax seasons. Several preparers offer good tips for advertising now and after tax season.

• Theodore Prioleau, EA, of Parkton, Md.-based Teddy The Tax Man, suggests jumping all over the Internet via LinkedIn, Facebook and your own site; volunteering for speaking engagements, and making sure that when you speak you don't keep harping on what your company can do for the attendees. He also recommends giving webinars!

• EA Edward Laurenzo, tax consultant in West Warwick, R.I., suggest writing articles for local papers and chambers of commerce, as well as just talking to people about what you do. “I was at the post office a few years ago and I overheard someone ask the clerk for tax forms. I took my time walking out and I approached him to introduce myself and told him what I do. He became a client. Another example: I was at the bank talking to the assistant manager, and she told me about her experience with her brother-in-law who prepared their tax return. They were concerned about the privacy issue and whether they can be doing better. They are coming to me for the first time this year.”

• “Most of our clients find us either from a Google search or from a referral,” said Diane Offutt, EA, of Accounting Connections in Woodstock, Ga., member of the National Association of Tax Professionals. “We utilize LinkedIn and Facebook, and the most traffic is from our company Web site. We upload tax and accounting tips each month in our newsletters, and by updating our Web site links, we are high on a Google search.”

“I don’t do much advertising, per se,” said Tracey Hennessey, EA, of Tracey’s Team: Immigration, Accounting & Taxes in Elkhorn, Wis. “I’m a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, and NATP, NSTP, NAEA, NSA and the Hispanic Chamber of Wisconsin, along with the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance and a women’s entrepreneur’s group.  The member directories of these have driven some traffic to me.”

“Advertising is tough,” said Hennessey, “because when you first start out you need it so badly and can’t afford it. Then when you can afford it, you don’t need it so much.”

Tips for advertising depend on your practice, said EA Andrew Stadler of Terre Haute, Ind., owner of five tax practice offices in Indiana and member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, “how many new clients you can handle and type of cliental you want. If you want to grow your practice rapidly you need to focus much of your advertising to a younger-age audience: 18- to-30-year-old females. If you want slower growth but complicated tax returns, higher fees per return, then you focus on 40-to-60-year-old male and female.” Among his other tips:

• How you market depends on your geographic area. “If you’re in a rural area, running a tax story in the local newspaper is great. If you’re in a midsized market, get very involved in chambers of commerce and other business associations, and radio and TV ads work very well. If you’re in a large market, advertising in your neighborhood works best.”

• “No matter what your market size is,” said Stadler, your No. 1 marketing strategy should be referrals, getting your clients to refer their family, friends, and neighbors to come and see you. Offer incentives to create this outstanding marketing opportunity.    

“I always found that referrals were the best way to grow my type of practice (selective and not dependent on street traffic),” said EA Mele Perrego of Clayton, N.C. “One thing I did to promote referrals was to send a thank-you with a small box of chocolates from a quality chocolatier (not the commercial chocolates you buy off the shelf). That got them talking about me with their friends, family or at work.”

(Part II of this article will cover additional marketing and advertising tips during tax season.)