Research reveals that CPA firms will more aggressively identify and obtain new business over the next five years.

Is your firm prepared to handle this increased competition?

Analyze the top 20 percent of your client base -- the most profitable segment.  What do these clients have in common?  Industry?  Sales volume?  Geographic location?  Privately held or family owned?  Describe your ideal client in one or two sentences.  Then, target prospects that fit this description.

Be proactive in targeting prospects. Tell your referral sources specifically the type of prospects you are interested in.  Build a list of prospects using a combination of your firm database as well as outside sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, iMarket, American Business Information, Hugo Dunhill, Lists America, trade association membership directories, and your Chamber of Commerce.  Assign four or five companies you think would be great clients for your firm to each partner and manager.  Have them conduct further research on these targeted prospects and develop relationships with their bankers and attorneys.

I am still amazed at the number of CPA firms without marketing plans!

Your marketing plan is your roadmap to marketing success.  It should include specific action items, deadlines, responsible persons, and a budget.  It should also include an overall timetable so everyone is aware of the timing of each marketing activity or campaign.

Determine how to get in front of your ideal prospects. To which organizations or trade associations do they belong?  Ask your referral sources for introductions.  Poll your staff to determine any relationships that may exist.  Also, sending newsletters or other direct mail pieces can be effective door openers.

A more proactive approach is to call your targeted prospects to offer them fresh ideas that will add revenue to their bottom line and demonstrate your industry experience.

It is important for you to know which marketing activities and campaigns are providing the biggest return on investment.  Track all costs, contacts made, leads generated, proposals presented, and sales closed.  Also, track who is generating the activity and closing the sales to ensure that you have the right combination of people working together.

Your people are your sales force.  Equip them with resources and training to ensure their success.  This includes soft skills training, e.g., questioning, listening, communication, networking, business etiquette, and closing the sale.  Mentoring from your firm's rainmakers is particularly effective.

Marketing and sales resources include brochures and a Web site that accurately tell your firm's story, client and prospect databases, contact management system, proposal process, and, most importantly, the commitment of time to the marketing and sales process.

In order to compete for clients you must define and identify your targeted prospects, focus your marketing efforts, track your return on investment, and provide resources and training.  Then, your firm will be prepared to handle the increased competition of this decade.

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Jean Marie Caragher is president of Capstone Marketing, providing marketing consulting services to accounting firms including Brand SurgerySM, marketing and strategic planning, retreat facilitation, and training.  For more information contact her at 678.560.8777 or

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