Marketing for Accountants? What's That?

Article, New AccountantOctober 2017

Insurance / Legal / Corporate

It wasn't until Tom Garvey landed his first accounting job that he realized how different the industry was from what he had learned in school, as he explains in New Accountant.

As appeared in New Accountant, October 2017.

By: Thomas Garvey

Wait, wait, wait. Marketing for accountants? And educating people about different kinds of accountants? Who would have thought this was something that needed to be done? Certainly not me, not when I was studying accounting in school. Math and numbers have always been my strength and passion. Marketing? Not so much.

After graduating college, I studied for the CPA exam. It was not until I landed my first accounting job that I realized how different it was from what you see on TV and hear in school. I would not be sitting in a cubicle, crunching numbers and staring at an Excel screen all day (although, don’t get me wrong, that is still a big part of my job).

Before I knew it, I was thrown into the world of “consulting” and providing “forensic” accounting services that are not always well-understood. Most people hear “accountant” and think taxes but there are many different fields of accounting. Working as a forensic accountant requires some explaining at family gatherings and cocktail parties. In my profession, I am responsible for investigative accounting work in cases involving insurance claims and fraud, but also communicating that work to potential clients.

This was a different world than the one I studied in school, where marketing, client development and business development were just concepts. I took the few required courses to meet the minimum requirements but then didn’t give them another thought. “I’m going to be an accountant; I don’t need to learn sales and marketing techniques,” I thought. Now these topics are things I think about every day but there’s a twist I hadn’t anticipated. The product I’m selling is myself.

Applying marketing and business development concepts can be a struggle for accountants. Every day is a balancing act of working on the company while also working in the company. Every interaction has to show our clients we were the right choice. At the same time, we also have to seek out new business, convincing potential clients that we will be the right choice for them.

There seems to be four parts to this ever-elusive formula: marketing, business development, client service and client development.

Marketing, in basic terms, is the big picture. It’s what you put out publicly about your company or yourself. Yes, there is more to it, but for here, I’ll call it the public face: advertising and sponsorships, article writing and giveaways. Marketing is about building a general awareness of who you are.

Business Development is where the selling begins. First, take the time to identify who will buy your services and where best to meet them. Selling yourself is not as easy as it may seem. It requires confidence in your abilities and a genuineness or authenticity that clients can see and trust. To me, being genuine means being honest with both clients and yourself. If you are not the best fit for a project, let the client know. Be confident in your abilities but don’t oversell.

Client Service is doing the actual work. So, you’ve found and won the client – what next? This is what being an accountant is about – crunching the numbers and providing an accurate, independent analysis. But the authenticity cannot stop once you have the job. Be honest about what you see, what you’ve been doing and how it’s going. Provide regular updates to your clients, so they in turn can update their bosses. That is the best thing we can do as consultants – make our clients look good to their boss. Ultimately, that is why they hired you.

Client Development is a constant effort that runs concurrent with client service. It is easier to retain a client than find a new one. How do I develop additional business from this client? If you can consistently make your clients’ lives easier, they will keep hiring you.

So how do you sell yourself and your professional services? Better yet, how do you sell yourself and not come across as if you think you’re better than everyone else? Find the balance of working in and on the business and you may just find the magic formula that works best for you.

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Tom Garvey is a forensic accountant at RGL Forensics. He works with both insurers and lawyers to quantify losses in business interruption, loss of profits, personal injury and property damage claims. Tom has worked on several investigations to confirm and quantify fraudulent activities and appreciates the complexity and uniqueness of each business and claim. Garvey can be reached at tgarvey@rgl.com.

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