It’s busy season again: a time when you can barely breathe as you hurry to complete returns for clients who often wait until the very last minute to submit tax preparation documents.
Conventional wisdom would lead any sane tax professional to the conclusion that this is the worst time to do marketing for accounting firms.
And that’s why busy season is a great time to start a marketing campaign.
Wait, what? Adding marketing to your already overflowing bucket of things to do is the last thing you need right now, right? Wrong. Tax time is the perfect time for you to be marketing because that’s exactly what other tax professionals are not doing. While they’re busy scrambling to complete returns, you could be busy gaining more market share and more clients.
Proper planning is the key to launching an effective marketing campaign in the middle of busy season. By developing a plan early and preparing its various elements ahead of time, you’ll be ready to launch a pre-programmed campaign and have it run on auto-pilot while you’re busy with tax returns. But there are also opportunities for some last-minute tactics.
Here are six tips for deploying highly effective marketing during busy season:
1. Plan a series of articles in publications relevant to potential clients. These articles should address topics that will be of interest to prospects both during and after tax season. Figure on preparing one or two articles per month so you’ll have regular exposure over a period of time to establish your visibility in the marketplace.
2. Use social media more heavily during this time of year. It’s hard to get out to networking events during busy season, but spending even just a few minutes each day posting something relevant on social media will keep you in front of prospects. You can make this easier on yourself by preparing a series of LinkedIn posts and tweets in advance.
3. Provide guest blog posts. Creating and publishing valuable content on a regular basis takes time, effort and a lot of writing. That’s why so many industry blogs actively seek out guest authors. By preparing thoughtful, relevant and valuable content early on and offering it to appropriate blogs, you can do them and yourself a favor. In most cases, industry blogs like to receive guest content several weeks in advance of posting, so prepare your pieces well before busy season.
4. Schedule a webinar. Unlike seminars that can take up an entire day of your time, webinars are fast and convenient, often running just 30 minutes to an hour. You can even produce and record one in advance so that it’s ready to run at a time of your choosing—including when your competition is busy and can’t react.
5. Use tax time to cross-sell. April 15 tends to focus clients on financial challenges and tax issues that can affect their returns and their wallets. Use this time of year to identify potential short-term and long-term problems for which you can offer timely or money-saving solutions. Set up appointments after tax season to discuss additional services and ways you might be able to reduce clients’ tax burden next year.
6. Use paid advertising. Paid ads are easy, reliable ways to get your message in front of potential clients. By scheduling paid advertising in relevant on- and off-line publications, you guarantee your message will run at the most appropriate time and place. To supercharge your advertising, offer a free piece of valuable content (for example, “The Executive’s Guide to Reducing Your Taxes”). That will help you gain more visibility and build a list of prospects you can contact when you have more time after busy season.
It’s easy during tax time to say, “I’m too busy right now. I can’t even think about marketing until things calm down.” But that’s what every other accounting firm is saying. It’s all the more reason to step into that marketing gap and attract the attention of potential clients at the precise moment when they’re thinking about taxes and accountants.
Truly effective marketing for accounting firms just takes a little foresight, planning, and preparation. But if you’re willing to invest some time and effort before busy season, you’ll position your firm to reap major benefits when it’s over.
Lee Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner of Hinge, a branding and marketing firm specializing in research on the professional services market.