Marketing Your Firm From the Inside Out

By: Sharon Berman,

Published: California CPA

Additional vacation time or flex time may help your firm recruit and retain employees, but that’s usually an insufficient incentive. In reality, making your firm more attractive to current and prospective employees is as much a marketing job as is obtaining new clients and keeping existing ones.

Here are some marketing tactics that are often overlooked when it comes to selling your firm as a place to work to the kinds of employees you want.

In marketing to employees, your three main objectives are identical to those used to market your firm to clients:

  • Name recognition
  • Positioning; and
  • Differentiation.

NAME RECOGNITION

One of the key jobs of marketing is to make your prospective clients or, in this case, employees, comfortable. The truth is that people feel most comfortable with a firm that is a known quantity, a name they’ve heard of and seen mentioned in a positive context.

When you or someone from your human relations team calls to schedule an interview, you do not want the candidate to say, “Which firm are you? I’ve never heard of you.” You want to hear, “Oh, yes. I’ve heard about your firm,” or, “I remember reading about you.” Preferably they will have read about you in a positive context.

Name recognition makes public relations a key to recruiting both employees and clients. People want to work for a firm their friends and family have heard of and think well of. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a large firm or spend a lot of money on a public relations campaign. It simply means that you need to strategically position your firm— occupy a place in your target’s mind—as one that’s moving, growing and innovative.

You can begin with something as simple as announcing new hires in trade publications or in community publications. Building on that, your next step might be to position your CPAs and consultants as expert resources for the media so they are interviewed and quoted. You can do this by having your professionals write articles to distribute and post on your website.

POSITIONING

Another public relations tool to make your firm attractive is pro bono work. Contributing time and effort to the community creates a positive feeling with employees and enhances your reputation in the community.

For example, some firms have developed policies to support employees who volunteer, such as compensating them for a certain number of volunteer hours as if it were billable work. In addition, leveraging your pro bono activities to make it work for you requires a strategy, such as selecting a key project and putting the firm’s commitment behind it.

Whatever you do, remember that positioning your firm requires a sustained campaign. It takes time and multiple impressions to make a dent in someone’s consciousness. You can’t create or reinforce your positioning in one shot.

DIFFERENTIATION

How do you differentiate your firm from others? Start with the same place that most recruits start: your website. Is your firm’s site a marketing tool or just an online brochure? Does it effectively market and differentiate your firm, or can you replace your name with that of another firm without making any difference?

To prompt return visits to your site, keep it fresh. For example, post press releases—even if they’ve never run in a paper. They tell the story of your firm’s latest accomplishments, growth and community involvement.

Also, showcase your people on your site. Are you announcing promotions, letting the world know that someone is speaking at a conference or has authored an article? Is it clear that this is happening at all levels and that it’s not just the same partner’s name appearing over and over again?

Since you can’t market to everyone at once, you will get more bang for your buck with leverage and focus. Your dollars will go farther if you are selective in your markets, and focus on those who can spread the word for you. Begin by identifying business leaders, accounting and business professors, career placement managers and alumni associations that can help spread the word about you. They can become your salespeople.

Your marketing strategy and message has to be founded on who you are as a firm. The key is that the image you create has to be more than just an image. It has to be truthful, consistent and sustainable.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consultancy specializing in working with professional services firms. You can reach her at berman@berbay.com

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