[IMGCAP(1)]I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I suppose it is because I feel as if my plate is already rather full and any new items or “resolutions” are almost guaranteed to fail because I will be unable to execute.  So, I would like to turn the table on the resolution tradition and offer you some marketing anti-resolutions.  That is, suggestions for the top four things you shouldn’t do in 2012.

Repeat after me “In 2012 I won’t:”

1.    Fail to understand my clients’ expectations before embarking on a new project.

This is one of the easiest things to do to increase client satisfaction and boost retention, yet the inner “expert” in us often feels too confident that we know our clients’ needs better than they do.  It only takes a few minutes to clarify and fully understand our clients’ expectations, and it is as simple as saying “to confirm, what you want is ‘X’ by January 31st.”

2.    Fail to be proactive with each client at least four times per year.

I’ve never heard a client remark that their accounting firm was in touch too often.  That’s probably because in most cases we are not proactive enough with our clients.  Whether it is a quick email with a link to an interesting article, a phone call to remind of a key date, or a lunch visit to talk about long-term business goals, these are the types of activities that clients cherish.  Not to mention, your competitors are proactively pursuing your best clients every week.

3.    Fail to be upfront and clear regarding fees on evolving, open-ended, or special projects.

Surprise invoices are one of the most hated experiences for your clients – and they should be avoided at all costs.  If you have been hired for an “a la carte,” open-ended or “time and materials” project that is hard, if not impossible, to quote, make sure you have open lines of communication with the client at all times regarding progress, time/fees incurred, and status of deliverables so you aren’t in a position to send an invoice to a client they weren’t expecting.

4.    Fail to address issues with a client when your gut tells you something is wrong.

Is your client throwing a vibe in your direction that you just can’t ignore?  While you may fear the worst (such as they are talking to a competitor), it could as simple as they didn’t like the new staff you put on their account.  Show your concern and investment in the relationship by getting in front of anything your gut tells you is going on with a client.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?  I feel so pleased to have taken four things off your plate for 2012!  So, make it a better year all-around by staying true to your marketing anti-resolutions.  Not only will you have less to do, what you will be doing will result in greater client retention and stronger relationships, which should result in drive greater profitability.  Happy New Year!

Art Kuesel, director of practice growth and marketing consulting services for Koltin Consulting Group, helps CPA firms across the country hone and maximize their growth plans, build effective marketing and sales efforts, coach partners and managers to greater success and add revenue to the top line. Koltin Consulting serves CPA, law and financial advisory firms with strategic growth, M&A services, executive recruiting and management consulting services. Art can be reached at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.