Fear is a preprogrammed emotion that acts as an instinctual response to potential danger. while fear can be a healthy response in real life, it is usually a detrimental one when it comes to an accounting firm's marketing decisions, business growth and overall success.

Case in point: A competitor opens a new office in your geographic market and your accounting firm treats the situation nonchalantly, continuing business as usual. This is a fear-based decision to hide, and it's also a very weak-minded course of inaction.

Let's investigate some common fear-based marketing decisions to determine whether you and your firm have already fallen into this vicious cycle.

 

FEAR OF CHANGE

The public accounting market has been consolidating and the Internet has become a way for savvy business-to-business buyers to find answers to their questions and identify true experts in their industry sector.

The purchasing power has shifted to buyers, and no logical B2B buyer would choose a generalist auditor, for instance, when they can find someone who is a specialist in their particular industry and type of business, and who can also offer great business insight. Your auditing skillset has become a commodity. It is up to you whether this fact becomes a change agent or throws your firm into complacency and price-based competition.

If you are afraid of change, you're likely to keep the mindset that using your commoditized skillset to try to obtain business from companies of all shapes and sizes will still work for you. Don't become complacent. Instead, ask your best clients what is most important to them and how you could be of more service as an accountant and business advisor. Then develop a plan to sharpen your skills to better meet the needs of these types of clients. Work with your firm's marketing department to showcase your expertise and pull in great long-term clients.

 

FEAR OF INVESTMENT

If you love certainty and hate taking risks, especially when it comes to spending money, then you likely have a fear of investment. There aren't many guarantees when it comes to marketing strategies and tactics, so accountants who fear investing in marketing have two general coping mechanisms: dismissing and defining.

Some CPAs choose to dismiss marketing as a waste of time and believe that they just need to do great work for clients or have lunch with a few referral sources. Unfortunately, their fear of the unknown world of marketing and potentially wasting money prevents them from even trying to understand the value.

Other accountants choose to define marketing as whatever feels most comfortable for them. Accountants with this mindset will likely have the "check-the-box" mentality - crossing items off a list, thinking that they are done with marketing and have made a proper investment. What they haven't done is researched what their marketing-savvy competitors are doing to grow and win over their clients. This fear factor prevents these professionals from taking a hard look at what's going on around them and embracing current marketing strategies in order to compete.

 

FEAR OF FAILURE

Most CPAs don't enter the profession so they can write creative blogs, build engaged audiences on social media, speak to the media as an authority or shoot videos for their firm's Web site. But the reality is, whether they like it or not, marketing is now part of their job description. The fear of not excelling at particular forms of marketing is often accepted as an excuse, and these professionals -- including firm partners -- are sometimes granted passes on participation.

But what if your competitors push their CPAs out of their comfort zones? What if they mandate participation in marketing and provide training to their professionals from day one on the job? You may not see the impact of no marketing and training immediately, but over a period of time, a CPA firm will find it very challenging to win substantial new clients, and they will be left behind.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE: TAKE ACTION

If your firm has been paralyzed in some way by a fear of marketing, don't try to make up for lost time in a frenzied fashion. Hire or consult with an experienced marketing specialist who will be able to develop strategies and programs to get your accounting firm back on the right track. It's never too late to conquer your marketing fears.

Debra Andrews is president and owner of Marketri, a Doylestown, Pa.-based full-service professional services marketing firm specializing in inbound marketing solutions that focus on lead generation through integrating content marketing with social media and search engine optimization.

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