Remember the last really great play you saw? Whether it was on Broadway or just a neighborhood production, it had certain memorable elements. Like a strong story-line, well-cast actors and a valuable message.
Growing firm revenue is similar to executing a great play. Assigning the right roles to the right players, and keeping only those on stage who have a reason for being there at any given time, is critical.
Which brings me to marketing. In my experience, many CPA firms intent on growing revenue turn to marketing, which they perceive as a stand-alone star. But putting traditional marketing – advertising, public relations and image-building – front and center is like having lights, costumes and makeup, but no director or actors to actually deliver a performance. Your primary purpose, to grow revenue, gets lost among the distractions.
The need for balance. We’re all familiar with the analogy of the three-legged stool. With any fewer than three legs to stand on, that stool is doomed! Too many firms “get religion” about pursuing marketing, without balancing the efforts with initiatives in sales opportunities and service offering management. These three components make up the three-legged stool of revenue generation for CPA firms. To return to the stage analogy, they are critical to your production. If your firm is spending marketing dollars to position itself and create awareness, but is not investing equally in developing and landing opportunities, as well as keeping your offerings fresh and market-relevant, you’re likely to fail in your pursuit of optimal revenue growth. As you structure your revenue growth initiative, commit to making a three-part investment:
Create a consistent prospect experience. In professional services, the experience is the essence of what the client is paying for. Both the buying experience, as well as the service delivery experience, needs to consistently reflect your firm’s unique personality. Don’t get caught up in marketing-mania, working too hard (and spending too much) to create a super-star image that dwarfs your investment in the other two areas. Remember that marketing should not be an end in itself, but should enable business growth.
Improve your ability to land business. Sure, you’re going to depend on your traditional rainmakers, the folks you’ve always counted on to attract business. But train them to identify and close larger and more complex opportunities. And don’t stop there. Identify and develop other skills in your rainmakers-in-training and non-rainmakers who contribute to the revenue growth objective. Typically, non-rainmakers are good at support activities that are revenue growth related. Examples are determining and presenting what changes are needed in your services; executing client phone surveys; and many other activities that indirectly but significantly contribute to revenue growth. Keep everyone apprised of your successes, sharing market intelligence to help them learn from one other and from the process.
Manage – and massage – your offerings. Like other providers, CPA firms must assess the strength of their offerings and balance them against proven and emerging market trends. Managing your offerings like a well-balanced stock portfolio gives the best odds of the highest returns.
These three initiatives must be pursued together, with the goal of institutionalizing growth in your firm. They provide a complementary firm-wide synergy necessary to gain and maintain momentum in the pursuit of additional opportunities.