Art of Accounting: Overdeliver

Register now

Last month, I posted reviews of two practice management books and highly recommended them. Today, I want to review a marketing book that mentions nothing about accounting practice management.

You might wonder why I am reading such a book. Well, I have a few reasons: I know the author and wanted to do him the honor of reading the book. I also read a lot of business skills books, and marketing is among the top of those skills. After all, aren’t we all marketers? We try to get business and present our firms in the best light. We need to excite clients, potential clients and staff. For this, we need marketing skills. We also need marketing skills when we quote fees, deliver a bill, and possibly when we explain to our spouses why we have to work late so often.

My involvement with clients is as a trusted advisor. Being “trusted” has been earned through many interactions, including some on a personal basis, in addition to business. However, the “advisor” part has also been earned, and it could not have been without my being able to offer suggestions, ideas and advice when necessary, whether or not the advice was solicited.

Advice comes from my experiences of what I have seen that worked for other clients. However, if I relied only on my experiences, though they are broad and grow daily, they would still be limited, so I need ways to expand my knowledge of what I could share. Reading provides that. So does attending lectures, conferences, webinars, podcasts and other activities. However, reading a book is easy in that I do not need to travel. I can pick up a book at odd moments and spend even just a short time reading it. By the way, those books can be on an iPad or smartphone and not just on paper. Also, if you start a book and do not like it, you can stop and go on to another one. It’s hard to walk out of a speech or presentation without calling some attention to yourself.

One book that’s a winner is "Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing," by Brian Kurtz (2019, Hay House Inc.). Brian was in charge of marketing for Martin Edelson, the founder of the Bottom Line publishing empire. I met Brian as soon as he started working for Marty in 1981 as someone who was hired to try to market the company’s huge mailing lists. Well, he more than tried and grew to lead the marketing for the organization, selling millions of books a year.

Bottom Line was one of the largest mass mailers in the country, mailing hundreds of millions of pieces of all sorts each year. Many called what Brian sent out “junk mail.” I never did, and I always appreciated what I received because if I received a second offer for a product, I then knew what was selling, i.e., what customers bought. And that is the essence of what Brian explains, crystal clear, in his book. Measuring responses and detecting small differences that would elicit large responses, and always trying to beat the most successful mailing packages. This book is about marketing, for sure, but it’s also about customer relationships, extending customer life cycles, selling added products to customers, and engaging customers in a business relationship.

Now, re-read the previous paragraph and relate it to what you are trying to do with your practice and clients. The terminology is a little different, the milieu is different, the form of solicitation is different, the physical qualities are different, but this is what we are all trying to do: Get new business from new and existing clients, keep our clients happy, keep our presentations and offers fresh, keep track of clients’ tastes and what they express interest in. And numbers. While direct marketing is a numbers game, so is trying to get new business from your current tax return clients. I have a method called my 1/20th rule, whose purpose is to get added assignments from 5 percent of tax return clients a year. This might require three or four calls to get one new job. Keeping track of what you do, how you do it, how clients respond, and whether someone who does not use you instead refers you to someone who engages you. I’ve been doing this for years and I picked up a few tips on this from Brian. Also, Brian stresses the importance of follow up and follow through. Poor follow up is typical of many accountants when marketing, but not the most successful ones I know.

This is a how-to book. Brian Kurtz’s methods were direct response marketing, i.e., direct mail, infomercials and email. He evolved along with the techniques and growing media opportunities. However, the underlying customer relationship principles have not changed and are not significantly different from one business or profession to another. In "Overdeliver," Brian tells us how and, in doing so, he certainly overdelivers. This is a book that I recommend to every business person and particularly to accountants.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions or about engagements you might not be able to perform.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People list. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Marketing Client strategies Practice management Ed Mendlowitz Business development