How do you market personal tax services?Posted on: December 21, 2005
This is a question that is asked by many lawyers and accountants. The majority of marketing in the professions is concerned with B2B (Business to business) marketing whereas personal tax marketing is more closely aligned to B2C (Business to consumer) marketing. However, most firms are targeting HNW (High Net Worth) individuals and the typical mass consumer marketing models are no longer appropriate.
The most valuable discussions that I have with people posing this question goes back to real marketing basics. Ask yourself some of the following questions:
Who specifically are you trying to reach?
The need for careful market analysis is paramount. Close inspection of your existing clients – or those clients you are keen to reach – should yield valuable insights into how you segment your market. Use your internal data systems to profile your “ideal private tax client”. Consider the source of your existing good personal tax clients – who recommended them? A good segmentation strategy will help you identify their specific needs and the best channels to reach them.
What value or benefits are you providing?
Most firms will focus on what they do (provide tax advice) whereas most clients are focused on a particular problem or opportunity (how do I pay less tax, how do I pass on most money to my children, who will take over the hassle of my compliance with the tax regulations, who do I trust to advise me on financial matters?). You need to start seeing things from the client’s point of view. What issues and words will have the most interest to them? What problems are they trying to solve? What could they gain by coming to your practice? Furthermore, most lawyers and accountants will be focused on the technical issues (we are experts in x and y) whereas most clients will assume a level of competency in this area and/or be unable to make an informed judgement of whether the technical advice is good, bad or indifferent. What most clients will be able to assess is the way in which the service is delivered – and this is an integrated element of the nature of the relationship you have with those clients.
Why and how is your firm/personal tax service different?
There are many providers of personal tax advice – and many substitutes (clients can now obtain much free information on the Internet, increasingly there are banks and financial institutions providing this type of advice etc). Why should a client choose your firm? A deep understanding of what different clients want (some will be concerned only with price, others with location, others with the nature of the relationship or the way in which a firm is perceived by their colleagues etc) may help you understand this better. But until you have a clear proposition with valued benefits then it will be hard for clients to choose your view above all the others.
Having said this, there are numerous ways to promote private client tax services and here are some of the main approaches:
Talk to the other departments in your firm and develop campaigns to, for example, provide private tax services to the owners and senior employees at your commercial clients.
Identify those intermediary organisations who refer most clients to you and develop a joint programme of activities with them. Often, there will be an expectation of reciprocal opportunities so you will need to be focused on those few organisations where there is a likelihood of reciprocity and concentrate efforts on this basis.
The quality of the content will be vital. Are your fee-earners committed enough to provide regular, short articles that will appeal to your audience? Most firms will have the facility for clients to subscribe to alerts and newsletters on particular topics – however, most firms are not very good at delivering regular, short material that is specific. Some firms have developed on-line tax calculators into which clients can enter their details and have an ‘instant’ answer to their question. Other have had success with private areas where their clients can obtain information that is not generally available or provided extranets where information that is specific to each client is available. It may be that you need to invest in search engine optimisation strategies to drive the ideal clients to your site. Other strategies might be to provide legal or accounting content to a popular site provided by another organisation.
Whilst some clients value newsletters, there is so much information available for free from the media and the web that it will be hard to differentiate your newsletter. Furthermore, newsletters are usually addressing the broad needs of many different individuals and the most effective marketing will be that which really focuses on the specific needs, challenges or opportunities of a particular individual. Furthermore, you need a really good database through which you can mail or email the material to the right people – so check your targeting strategy.
This is a popular and successful tool for marketing professional services to organisations, but less successful for private clients. Sometimes this is because private clients will find it difficult to get to an office or central location, sometimes because they cannot justify a couple of hours to spend at a seminar and sometimes because they consider the matters to be too personal to discuss in an open forum. However, offering a range of different speakers (for example, legal, banking, property etc) will increase the attractiveness of a seminar. Seminars may be a good approach for reaching intermediaries – but then there must be care to ensure that you are not inviting competing organisations to the same event.
Less formal and more social than a seminar, a reception may be a better approach for private clients – particularly if there is some other attraction than the prospect of lawyers and accountants! Examples include book launches (assuming that one of your fee-earners has written a sufficiently appealing title), celebrity or guest hosts or speakers, art exhibitions, visits/tours around interesting venues, wine and whiskey tastings.
If integrated properly into corporate hospitality programmes, sponsorship of sports, arts or local community events can position the firm positively amongst a segment of the private client market and provide opportunities for face-to-face contact. Particularly successful examples include theatres and local sports clubs.
Good relationships with the appropriate personal finance or other journalists combined with the ability to identify good story angles might make it possible for your firm to achieve good media coverage around personal tax issues. A concerted and ongoing effort will be required to get your fee-earners known as ‘experts’ but this is often a good source of referral work.
Whilst it is difficult to find a good quality, well targeted medium to reach the right private client audience, developing a tasteful and meaningful advert is a real challenge. There are few advertising campaigns that would claim success at generating significant private client tax work but no doubt there are some. Careful targeting and clever advertising messages and execution are bigger contributors than sheer spend.
By far and away the most successful approach in this marketing is the personal networking approach adopted by your fee-earners. Having them attend the appropriate events on a regular basis and develop good relationships with intermediaries and key referrers will both maintain a high profile and generate new opportunities.
Great client care
One of the main sources of new private client leads is recommendations from existing private clients. So treat them well and they should have no problem in recommending your firm!
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As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to address in the future, please let me know. You will also find a source of more and up to date information on a broad range of management and marketing issues in the professions by checking out the blog where I also post regular reviews of books that might be helpful.