We can do WHAT?!? Educating Employees on Service Offerings

In our firm, one of the challenges we hear most often is that our professionals can’t keep track of everything we can do. They are continually being reminded to look for opportunities to cross-sell, but how do you sell services when you don’t know what those services are? Or, even if you know we can provide a specific service, how do you know the right colleague to talk to?

This challenge can be further complicated by factors such as:

  • A wide variety of non-traditional service offerings
  • Multiple office locations
  • Merging with another firm

At P&N, one of the things we are most proud of is our ability to offer such a wide range of services that solve problems and add value for our clients. As the firm has continued to grow and evolve, our service offerings have also expanded, BUT our team members’ awareness of new services did not automatically expand.

Over the last few years, our firm has made a significant investment in non-technical training for our team members through the introduction and continued development of our internal Lifelong Learning Program. This is a soft skills training program with an emphasis on business development, communication, human resource management and technology.

As part of last year’s curriculum, we launched in interactive course titled “A to Z of P&N” (course description below):

Most people are surprised to learn the wide range of diverse services that P&N offers clients. From Affordable Care Act to Year End Tax Planning and the 1040 EZ, we can help clients with a range of issues from A to Z. This session provides a dictionary’s worth of P&N services along with the resources you need to further your knowledge on everything P&N does to help clients.

The course was structured as an interactive Jeopardy game, and participants walked away with a better understanding of P&N’s services and the tools that can help them cross-sell.

The purpose of this course was not for our team members to memorize the long list of services we offer, but to emphasize that we can help organizations solve most types of challenges and encourage team members to listen and look for ways we can help our clients. We also provided a dictionary of services (with everything we do from A to Z) that our team members could reference going forward.

A-to-Z-Guide - Sample_Page_1

This is just one way our firm has worked to address our team’s knowledge gap. A few other ideas include:

  • Service fairs (similar to a career fair, with representatives from each service area setting up their own “booth”)
  • Incorporating brief overviews and client case studies from various service lines into regular departmental meetings (for example, inviting your forensic accounting team to a regularly scheduled tax department meeting to share an overview of what they do)
  • Internal networking events and “speed-dating” among different departments

Conclusion

Employees can’t be expected to have intelligent, meaningful discussions with clients and identify cross-selling opportunities without the right tools and knowledge of the firm’s services.

If you have taken other approaches to educate your team members on your firm’s service offerings and resources, we would love to hear them!

 

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How Marketing Helps with Employee Retention

Our marketing director Rachael Higginbotham recently spoke with Laurie Holt, marketing director at HHM CPAs, for an episode of AAMplify!, a podcast series hosted by the Association for Accounting Marketing. In this episode, Rachael and Laurie discuss how the marketing department can play a critical role in employee engagement and retention.

Here are some highlights:

  • Product Development – As we know in professional services, our product is our people. And since product is one of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix, it is important for marketing to be involved in the team member development because it directly affects our clients. At P&N, one of the ways our marketing team helps with this is through our leadership in the design and execution of our consolidated soft skills training program.
  • Coaching – Many people think of the marketing department as the cheerleader, helping to maintain a positive attitude and encouraging people from the sidelines. While the cheerleader is an important role, marketing departments have really started to embrace the coaching role. As a coach, marketers use their understanding of individual players’ strengths and design plays that put the right people in the right positions.
  • The Right Skillset – Everybody brings a different strength to the firm. As marketers, we think differently and have different skills than our practice folks or even than other operational areas within our firm. As it relates to employee engagement and retention, communication is a critical component and marketing professionals are generally master communicators. We can help our firm determine the appropriate frequency, manner and channel of communication with employees to receive a desired outcome.

 

For more information, check out the full episode of AAMplify!

Not-So-Busy Season

By Rachael Higginbotham

Accounting firms are famous for “busy season.” Although workloads have begun to even out year-round in some practice areas, late January through the end of April is still the most demanding period of time for accounting firms. Because of the high focus on audit and tax deadlines, it’s oftentimes also the slowest period for accounting marketers.

With less access to client service professionals, how can marketers use their “not-so-busy” season most productively? In a word: prepare.

Researching, budgeting, and planning…oh my!

Every marketer has an “idea file.” If you don’t, it’s time to get one. We all have enough on our plates to keep us busy today, but being strategic means constantly thinking ahead. What’s next on the horizon for the industry? What are our clients’ biggest challenges? How can we help our professionals continue to help clients? Every innovation begins with a question, and busy season is the perfect time for marketers to ask themselves hard questions.

One idea to make sure you are asking the right questions is to seek feedback from your professionals, who are spending a significant amount of time with clients during this period. You might consider scheduling one lunch a week with a different manager or senior manager to pick their brains on client challenges. What are clients struggling with? Are there any trends? How is the new tax bill impacting them? What are the disruptors our clients are dealing with?

Common themes require further researching, and more questions. Essentially, ask how your firm can help:

  • Do you need a new service?
  • Do you need to educate clients?
  • Do you need make sure clients know you have resources who are able to help them?

The answers to these questions helps form the plan and the budget, which you will have ready to execute at the end of busy season.

Staged and Ready to Go

In addition to generating ideas for new ways to service clients, it’s important for marketers to continue to look inward, focusing on solutions for their firm operations. The expectation for doing things better, faster, and cheaper only increases as technology continues to evolve, and marketers have the key role in managing the efficiency and effectiveness of firm growth efforts.

Every year, hundreds of accounting marketers attend the AAM Summit, walking away with fresh ideas, new connections, and a bit more energy than they had before. Oftentimes, after having been away from the office for a week, marketers are challenged to find time to digest and prioritize ideas generated at AAM. Instead of simply looking forward to the next event, busy season can be a great time to explore and implement initiatives which have been on the backburner.

It can also be a great time to reach out to marketers at other firms to reconnect. Did you find particular inspiration from a presentation? Reach out to the presenter. Did you connect with a colleague in a session? Send an email inquiring as to whether they’ve made progress in the area you discussed. Did you hear about an amazing new technology which is highly cost effective and can make your team produce marketing materials and resumes better, faster, cheaper (ahem…POUNCE)? Schedule a demo! (Really. Schedule a demo.)

Whatever your highest priority is, do everything you can do to prepare during busy season.

If your firm is like ours, come May 1, planning is over and it’s go time. If your team can be staged and ready to go with things like training, events, materials, and any initiatives which require the participation of your people, then you are better positioned to maximize the effectiveness of your own busy season (aka everything except late January through April).

If you have ideas on how to spend marketers not-so-busy season, we’d love to hear them!

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Why Marketing Collateral [Still] Matters

In a modern business world where social media, mobile websites and video content are the new normal, does the traditional marketing brochure still matter?

The answer? A resounding YES! Marketing collateral still serves an essential purpose and is a key component of a well-rounded marketing strategy, especially in professional services. Sure, the modern channels for online marketing are important. But to disregard the value that traditional marketing collateral brings to your business development process is a huge mistake.

Here’s why marketing collateral still matters:

1. It establishes credibility.

Marketing collateral offers a tangible representation of your firm and often establishes the first impression a prospect has of you. A prospect may glance over your collateral and, within moments, decide whether you are a credible and qualified service provider.

You may have made significant investments in your website and online presence, but if you have sub-par marketing collateral—or have no marketing collateral—it could impair your chances of winning over the prospect.

2. It boosts your brand.

Marketing collateral is often the first opportunity you have to help shape a prospect’s perception of your firm. Your collateral should help to build and maintain your brand. Is a prospect going to read every word? Probably not. But good marketing collateral will make an impression and carve out real estate for your brand in the prospect’s mind, even if the prospect only looks at it for a few moments.

3. It explains your services.

In professional services, we sell something much more complex than, say, office supplies. Our “goods” require a high degree of education, training, knowledge and experience.

Marketing collateral helps to clearly communicate to prospects the key features and benefits of your services (i.e., the value of what you do) to an audience that may not know the ins and outs of what you offer. It helps to demonstrate how your services will solve a problem and/or make the prospect’s life easier.

4. It gives your sales team confidence.

Your doer-sellers need tools if they’re going to be effective. Marketing collateral gives your doer-sellers the resources—and comfort—they need to be effective in sales meetings or with follow-up activities. Printed or printable marketing materials are ideal for face-to-face networking or meetings.

5. It serves as another touch point.

We all know that the sales cycle in professional services can be lengthy, and it takes time to earn like and trust before winning business. This means your pursuit strategy should consider many different points of contact, of which your marketing collateral should be one.

Conclusion

While the sales process has changed drastically over the last decade, marketing collateral remains one of the best channels to communicate information about your firm and your services. Don’t overlook the value that marketing collateral brings to your marketing and business development efforts.

Need a tool to manage your marketing materials and make them accessible to your doer-sellers? Schedule a demo with us to see how POUNCE can help you keep your marketing materials organized and accessible in one central location.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

By Rachael Higginbotham

New year resolutions

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s just something about a clean slate, a blank chapter, and the prospect of taking a foundation I’ve worked to build for 40 years and making it a little bit better.

I’ve had enough New Years that I have no illusions that my resolutions are going to completely change my life. And that’s fine; life change is not necessary or appealing for me right now. But there are things I want to accomplish, and setting resolutions helps me establish goals and a path to move the needle in a few specific areas that are important to me.

I also believe strongly in the power of focus.

Making one or two important resolutions is much more impactful than making a bunch of smaller ones.

For example, one of my two resolutions this year is to make my health and fitness a priority. For me, this means upping my gym attendance by one time a week, adding a weekly flexibility class, and focusing on my nutrition. I have a foundation and the tools I need (a gym membership and a yoga mat), but I’ve had these things for a while and I’m still struggling. So what will be different this year? The tools are the exact same; the difference is the way I use them, and that’s completely on me. I can’t make more time in the day, and no one else can make better nutritional decisions for me. The delta is focus and consistency. I have to remove things that are taking my attention to make room for additional workouts. I have to consistently remove peanut M&Ms from my daily diet. Something has to go to make room for the things I want most.

I believe the concept of New Year’s resolutions can also be beneficial in the workplace. Instead of focusing on new personal resolutions, marketing departments can focus on new business solutions. What are your firm’s goals? How can your team help? How can you be more strategic with your time? These are the types of questions that make a marketer’s brain hum. Just like my fitness and nutrition goals, marketing departments must focus on their highest priorities, or the needle will get stuck in the noise and not move. What are you spending time on that doesn’t necessarily need to be done by you, or isn’t necessary to do at all?

For everything your team can (and should) take on, something has to go.

Sometimes, what has to go (up) is your payroll budget, meaning that your firm makes a strategic investment in additional marketing resources. Oftentimes, though, this is not the case. The best thing for many firms is to maintain the size of marketing departments, but to do that the team must become more efficient and effective in their roles. Some ideas for this include improving processes, training, leveraging, and of course technology.

At P&N, our marketing technology stack includes several off-the-shelf and customized tools. A core component of our process is POUNCE. With this tool, we have seen response time for marketing materials go from hours (sometimes days), to minutes, with little to no involvement from marketing resources. We have seen the accuracy and consistency of our professionals’ resumes (in both proposals and our website) improve through no additional effort of the marketing department. And we have seen increased usage of marketing materials simply by having them available 24/7 to our doer-sellers.

Why was this important to our firm? Before we could start being more strategic, we had to stop being as administrative. There is simply not time to do both.

What is your team going to focus on doing this year? And what are you going to stop doing in order to make it happen?

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa,

We’ve worked really hard this year. We launched an updated brand, developed a new website, and helped grow our sales pipeline. So if you deem us worthy of a spot on your nice list, here is what we would like:

  • A marketing team member who is highly creative, super organized, a great writer, presenter, and graphic designer, and knows all the latest technology
  • Or maybe a unicorn
  • A dress code policy change to allow sweats if the temperature drops below 60° (that’s cold to us in south Louisiana!)
  • Even more qualified opportunities in our pipeline
  • Wine (of course)
  • An office puppy named “The Boss” (“Sorry I’m late for the meeting, I needed to take The Boss for a quick walk.”)

Also, we know you have a lot on your plate right at year-end so if you need any help understanding the latest pending and enacted tax law changes and how they might affect you and Mrs. Claus, we’d be happy to help you out.

Merry Christmas,

P&N’s Marketing Team

The Power of Professional Resumes in Professional Services

A professional resume is something that every professional needs, but not everyone bothers to write. Or they write one once, and then never update it. Or they wait until it’s needed for a proposal and just jot down the first few things that come to mind without putting much thought into it.

That’s a huge missed opportunity. Your professional resume is a strategic marketing tool, and should be given the effort and attention it deserves. A professional resume should be a concise overview of your skills, experience and achievements as they relate to specific services being offered or market segments being targeted.

Consider the following when developing your professional resume:

Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes.

Focus your professional resume on how you help your clients.

Keep in mind that even though your resume is ABOUT you, it is not FOR you.

Of course, there should be a focus on your achievements and experience, but it is important to show prospects how you use that experience to help them. Explain the significance of your achievements.

Once you have drafted your resume, try the “so what?” test. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, and for each item on your resume, ask yourself “why do I care?” Does this help instill confidence in the person reading your resume that you are competent and trustworthy? If not, edit.

Use language prospects understand.

You may be an expert in state sales tax legislation, but that doesn’t mean your prospects are. Be mindful of using industry jargon and providing too much detail. It’s important to strike a balance between detailed descriptions that demonstrate your knowledge, and big picture thinking that shows you understand your clients’ overall goals and challenges.

Try to adapt to your prospects’ vocabulary. Use key words and phrases that will resonate with them. Remember, it’s about them, not you.

And while we’re at it, not everything in your resume needs an acronym. Sometimes, “project management” experience > “PM” experience.

Ensure consistency with your firm’s style and brand.

One of the most common problems with professional resumes is a lack of consistency. You want to present your professionals as a cohesive team. The style in which your resume is written should reflect your firm’s brand.

Keep it concise.

People have very short attention spans. Your professional resume is intended to be a snapshot of your knowledge, skills and experience—just enough to demonstrate how you help your clients and why you are qualified.

Your professional resume is not intended to be a complete autobiographic chronicle of your life, to be bound in leather and passed down to your great-grandchildren. That’s a different story for another time.

UPDATE IT!

Your professional resume is not—I repeat, is NOT—a “one-and-done” exercise.

You don’t want your resume to seem frozen in time. It is important to update your resume with recent experience and achievements on a regular basis, at least annually.

Spend the most resume real estate on what your focus is now, with exceptions for outstanding honors or experiences that have had a significant impact on how you got to your current position.

Conclusion

As a professional, your clients are seeking your knowledge and experience, and the best way to capture this information is in the form of a resume.

A good professional resume can help clients feel confident in hiring your firm, and can put them at ease knowing that your team is ready and capable of helping them to achieve their goals. As a marketing tool, your resume should make it clear why someone should trust and work with you.

Now that you’ve crafted an effective professional resume, contact us to learn how POUNCE can help your firm manage resumes and marketing materials for business development.

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