The knee-jerk reaction to the significant downturn in the economy isto cut, cut, cut - each and every expense line on your incomestatement.
One of the easiest targets for these cuts is the firm'smarketing budget. After all, marketing is an overhead cost with areturn on investment that is difficult to track. I have witnessed thisreaction in drastic and deep cuts to personnel, sponsorships,newsletters, advertising and more.
The economic downturn is real, is significant and ischanging the way we do business, and I recognize that your firm will berevenue-challenged in the foreseeable future. Clients will be leaving,moving downstream and having trouble paying their bills. Perhaps forthe first time ever, your firm will be losing clients and revenuethrough no fault of your own.
So knowing that you will be losing revenue and business,aren't you justified in reducing your marketing efforts? On thecontrary - this is the time to "turn up the volume" and increase allaspects of your marketing. Think about it this way: If you are going tolose 10 percent of your business because of the economy, why not bringin 10 percent more new business to cut or even offset your losses? Andhow are you going to do that if you reduce, mitigate or abandon yourmarketing efforts?
Arguably, there are more new business opportunities in adown economic market than in a healthy environment. Why? Because apredictable amount of clients are always seeking new relationships. Theeconomic downturn exacerbates this amount, as many clients are lookingdownstream for less expensive firms. And as we all know, the downstreamopportunities usually result in the best new clients.
For the Top 100 Firms, I am concluding that there will besignificant opportunity with clients of Big Four and other national CPAfirms moving down-market. Consequently, the Top 100 will be sheddingsignificant opportunities to smaller regional firms, and so forth.
NOW FOR THE NEW
The time is now to increase your marketing. Whether youhave a dedicated in-house marketing team or outsource to a consultingfirm, be sure to have enough staff to take on these new efforts. Meetwith your partners and marketing advisors to form a plan of attack. Becreative with your options. Start with your current marketing plan andbranch out to new mediums, markets and methods. Don't be afraid to trysomething new.
Traditional advertising might seem like an easy solution,but it can be expensive and not always as effective as other methods.See what you can do in terms of grassroots marketing. Empower yourentire staff to get your firm's name out. Networking events, mixers,community organizations and civic groups are all opportunities to findnew clients.
If you decide to increase advertising, try to mix thingsup a little. You might want to try new markets or go online. Maybe tryto implement a new advertising campaign to emphasize a different aspectof your firm. Be sure to distinguish your firm from your competitors.
Accept each and every opportunity to demonstrate yourfirm's knowledge and expertise in the industry. Partners and seniorstaff members should be writing articles and accepting speakingengagements. Your marketing staff should have an establishedrelationship with members of the press in the area. A quote from apartner about a new tax law in a local business publication can beinvaluable free publicity.
While you are working on your new marketing push, don'tforget to stay true to the clients you already have. Continue toprovide top-notch service and offer any extras that you can. Technologycan provide many options for your current clients, from your firm's Website to e-mail alerts and even Twitter.
If you are the firm in your region to up the marketingante, and your competition is hiding in a cave or under a rock, whatcould be better? Your firm is turning up the volume, and yourcompetition is turning off the radio.
This is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity forconfident and focused firms to take a leap forward, instead of a leapback. Firms that are bold and willing to take a risk may realize hugerewards in this down economy.
Gary S. Shamis, CPA, is managing director of Cleveland-based SS&G Financial Services and a member of The Advisory Board.
(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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