Before the rush: Tax pros discuss early-season marketing

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New clients might be the last thing harried tax preparers want to see a couple months from now, but conventional wisdom says that season’s opening marks a good time for last-minute marketing.

Is this wisdom true, and what do preparers do to get the word out this early in the filing season?

“We work on referrals but I do advertise with a local Facebook weather group and that has brought in a lot of new clients,” said Helen O’Planick, an Enrolled Agent at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pennsylvania.

Tax season marketing at Drucker & Scaccetti in Philadelphia focuses on delivering information via the firm’s blog “Tax Warrior Chronicles,” according to Eric Elmore, D&S’s director of marketing. “We average about six posts per month, but in the months leading up to April 15, we increase it to eight to 10 per month. We have thousands of subscribers and thousands more who follow us on social media who use our information,” he said. “It’s worked well for us for almost 10 years.”

“The only marketing we do is by doing speaking engagements year-round, doing volunteer work and being involved in the community and by making our desire for referrals known,” said Debra James, an EA at Genesis Accounting & Mgmt. Services in Lorain, Ohio.

‘How to win’

The Income Tax School suggests that a good marketing plan is best done “before the rush of clients begin coming through the door.” Among their early-season marketing suggestions:

  • Segment your email list into categories based on client behaviors or interests;
  • Try new content like YouTube Live, videos, animated GIFs, new blog topics or quizzes;
  • Maintain blogging but also guest-post on other sites;
  • Update your website for mobile use, load speeds and good copy “to the taxpayer in search of a preparer;” and,
  • Sharpen search engine optimization by writing about the latest tax developments and effective use of keywords.

In Ohio, Genesis also offers clients an opportunity to participate in an annual prize drawing every tax season for each referral. “Throughout the office we have signs saying, ‘Ask me how to win... Refer us to your friends, coworkers and family,’” James said.

“We market every day. Our plans include networking with other professionals [who] are a significant resource in our world,” said Daniel Morris, a CPA and senior partner at Morris + D’Angelo CPAs, in San Jose, California. The firm dispatches speakers, sponsors international-business events and is considering some drive-time radio spots targeting entrepreneurs and wealthy prospects who are poorly served by their current team. “This is really a 2021 prospect but timing requires a year or more,” Morris added.

Still at it?

Sometimes marketing takes a back seat to serving existing clients – and, when it doesn’t, it can spread beyond the season.

“I stopped marketing when my daughter was born in 1999,” said Lawrence Pon, a CPA in Redwood City, California. “I still get many referrals throughout the year. I prefer to see new clients outside of tax season so I can have a chance to do some tax planning.”

New York EA Phyllis Jo Kubey also isn’t “actively marketing, but I get a lot of client inquiries from my website and the National Association of Enrolled Agents’ ‘Find a Tax Expert,’” she said. “I’ve never solicited reviews, but a few people have reviewed me favorably on Yelp, and I get a lot of inquiries from people who have seen those posts. I also find that my social media presence, particularly on Twitter, raises my profile significantly.”

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