Marketing: Cheap vs Done For You

One of the more interesting preliminary results coming from the summer survey is that a lot of practitioners indicate that they want marketing solutions to grow their tax firms that don’t cost much money, but also want direct mail and digital marketing done for them.

There’s a serious disconnect there, and I thought it was worth addressing really quick.

You know the old joke…

Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.

That’s what we’re really talking about here. “Fast” and “cheap” in particular don’t live well together when it comes to marketing, so you must set realistic expectations. If you want it all done for you, it’s not going to be cheap.

For example, if you want to hire me to create a 100% custom, self-contained, turnkey, multi-media, multi-channel tax resolution sales and marketing funnel for your firm, you’re going to pay me between $75,000 and $100,000 to build it all, and it’s going to take 3 to 6 months. On top of that, I won’t even entertain the idea of doing it unless you’re willing to commit no less than $5,000 per month for two solid years in order to implement the system. (Just for the record, I no longer offer this service).

Contrast that with the “poor marketing” model, where you have more time on your hands than money to invest into growing your tax firm.

Under that model, you can, just as an example, invest just $67 into my detailed, step-by-step ebook for Creating Online Tax Client Lead Funnels and start with at least the digital marketing component yourself. It’s going to take you a lot longer. You’re going to spend a lot more time testing different headlines and offers to find what works for your firm and your target clients. You’re going to have periods of frustration. You’re going to end up with lots of questions along the way, and have to spend time seeking answers.

BUT…

You can get it done within the confines of a tight budget.

I know this might sound a bit discouraging. But I think it’s important for all tax firm partners and owners to run their practices from a solid foundation of reality in order to properly managed limited resources.

Managing limited resources appears to be a topic of interest, so expect to see more of that on the blog going forward.… Continue reading

How To Stop Working For Free

Are you working for free?

Do you ever work for free?

No? Are you sure about that?

Most tax professionals I know do, at various points in time, work for free. Most of the time, they call this free work “good customer service”. But what they don’t understand is that working for free erodes the value that your client perceives from working with you, and can spawn some very unhealthy client behavior.

Let’s take a look at a typical 1040 client. Let’s call her Janet.

Janet calls you out of the blue about 4 times per year to ask that “…one quick question, it should only take two minutes.” Unfortunately, Janet’s single quick questions always turn into 30 minute conversations. Also, the human brain requires time to re-engage to a productive task. So, if you were intently focused on putting together your new marketing campaign, but you chose to accept Janet’s call, then you actually just lost about an hour of productive time.

So that’s four hours per year right there, for one client.

Let’s not forget that Janet is buying a house, and needs you to fax copies of her last two 1040’s to a mortgage broker. And let’s not forget that CP-2000 that showed up in the mail because she forgot to give you that K-1 with $20 of income on it. So we’re now at about six hours of extra time on Janet’s behalf.

Six hours that you provided at no charge because you thought it was “good customer service”.

How many Janet’s do you have in your business?

And here’s the thing about people in general: It’s human nature to take a kilometer when given a centimeter.

(Yes, cliches work in metric, also.)

We all do it. I do it. You do it. Children do it. Poor people do it. Wealthy people do it. Americans, Russians, Chileans, Martians… We all do it, even though it’s mostly subconscious.

Here’s the problem: When you give clients too much rope, it’s YOU they’re hanging with it.

Yes, you need to provide good customer service. But good customer service does NOT equal free work. If you think it does, go try it with your doctor and see how far you get (“Hi, could I speak to Dr. Smith for two minutes, I just have one quick question…”).

I don’t know what your hourly rate is. I use $175 per hour as a nationwide, average billable rate … Continue reading

21 Things You Should Start Working On NOW In Order To Have Your Best Tax Season Ever In 2016

A quick question for self-employed tax professionals and firm owners: Did you have a crappy tax season in 2015?

If you answered, “Yes”, then I have a disturbing piece of news for you: It’s 100% your own fault.

“The nerve!” I hear you saying.

But think about it. If you got stiffed by any tax prep clients this year, that’s on you for not getting paid prior to filing. If you failed to hit revenue targets, that’s on you for not raising fees, engaging in client retention efforts, or attracting new clients. If you had too many returns that you hated doing, that’s on you for not being selective in your clientele. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

As small business owners, we are 100% responsible for the types of clients we work with, when we work, how we work, and even how much revenue we generate.

If you’d like to reduce stress, improve profit margins, and just have an overall better personal experience for yourself, your staff, and your clients in 2016, here are 21 things you can start working on right now in order make it all happen. You don’t have to do all 21, of course, but even if you just do a few, I guarantee you’ll have a better tax season.

1. Go paperless. You’ll save time, money, and headache. Before you say it’s not possible, understand that tens of thousands of us already do it, and have been as paperless as legally possible for years. Technology is your friend. Scan and return paper client documents if you can’t import digital copies. Charge a premium for paper copies of returns; $35 is not uncommon. Deliver client copies on USB flash drives or via secure client portals. Yes, people will resist change, but they’ll get over it.

2. Pick a niche, and OWN it. Are you actively engaged in a particular hobby? Are you active in a fraternal organization? Do you have two dozen existing clients all at the same employer? Then you have an affinity within a niche group. Every single person in that niche group in your local area should know who you are and what you do. Proactively engage with fellow group members right now. Make special offers to them for your services during each of the various tax seasons: Tax prep season, tax planning season, representation season, etc. No other tax professional should … Continue reading