[IMGCAP(1)]By taking the time to plan for next year’s tax season during the off-season, you will be more prepared, more capable, and less frantic.

My experience with tax professionals and understanding of the industry helped me find creative marketing approaches that are both engaging and enjoyable. Here are three ways that will promote your business effectively in the off-season and develop the necessary habits for future growth.

The Element of Surprise: Increase Retention and Referrals
One of the biggest things most businesses miss is proper follow-up. Remember, part of your business is maintaining relationships with existing customers, and the other is bringing in new ones. Fortunately for tax preparers, the off-season presents the unique element of surprise.

Imagine this. You’re at work, having one of those so-so days and you’re counting the minutes to lunch. You look around the office and everyone seems to have the same thought. But then suddenly something unexpected happens. You receive a handwritten letter and it reads, “I really appreciate your business and your help this year with some referrals you sent my way. I know it may not be much, but I just wanted to say thanks.” You smile but also look confused. The confused look on your face will still be there when you find out it's from your tax preparer. This does two things. It gives you customer loyalty, and it helps everyone in that office see your appreciation for your client.

I’m not saying you do this for every client because, of course, it costs money. But maybe you can do it to those who have sent you the most referrals. Remember, the important thing is showing that you’re appreciative and you care. You know...the little things.

Be a Leader in Your Community
It’s important to utilize the resources around you to build your client base and create more support. For example, participating in your local Chamber of Commerce or local school PTAs will have a significant influence on the perception of your business. These groups serve as a platform for education and an opportunity to build trust within your community.

It’s important to be transparent and honest. When that happens, more people will be willing to hear about your service and be an ambassador for your product.

The Art of Listening
Perfecting your service requires listening to your customers. I’m sure I’m not reinventing the wheel when I explain how listening to your customers will help you improve and even expand parts of your business. Here the importance lies more in the approach.

Assuming you have emails for customers, creating a simple online survey will give you the information you need to improve. The online survey does two things. First, it provides anonymity. This means more people will be willing to provide genuine feedback. And second, you can customize it. The simpler you make the survey, the more responses you’ll receive. If you’ve already gained the trust and respect of your community, I can assure you that people will take the time to help improve your business.

These are some ways that can help you become more efficient for next year. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and challenge yourself to think creatively. It’s an ever-changing industry, so make the best of it.

Jesse Arroyave is market manager at Refundo, a bank product provider for tax professionals.

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