Recession-Proof Your Marketing Plan

By: Sharon Berman,

Published: California CPA

In times of uncertainty or when facing a potential economic downturn, CPA firms comb their financials looking for areas to prune. Unfortunately, many CPAs believe that marketing is one of the first “discretionary” areas that can be cut without adverse consequences. But nothing could be further from the truth for those CPAs and accounting firms that want to be successful.

CONTINUE TO INVEST

In fact, it is these uncertain or slow times that offer the most potential for growth. Wise firms let others curtail their spending while they continue to invest in marketing. Why? Because in times like these, wise investments in marketing will propel you further than in good times.

In a “hot” economy, when everyone is spending, it takes more money just to keep up, let alone make your message stand out from the clutter. When the economy cools, many firms drastically pull back on their marketing programs. That’s when savvy firms continue to invest in marketing because they know they have an opportunity to be heard in the marketplace.

There are several key aspects to making this work for you. The first is building a marketing foundation during good times that will support you in flat or down markets.

NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT

Of course, during hectic times you might think you’re too busy to market. It’s vital to overcome the idea that you can only focus on marketing when you have large blocks of time available because you never will. No matter how busy you are, do what you can. It only takes 15 minutes a day to make several phone calls that can keep your marketing momentum going. The last thing you want to do is put off marketing until business has slowed because then you’ll panic. Panic repels prospective clients who are looking for someone in whom to place their confidence.

Regardless of the state of the economy, it’s critical to view marketing as an investment, not an expense. You are spending money and time with the goal of getting a worthwhile return on investment. Sometimes, the return is harder to measure than at other times, and some time frames are longer than others, but there will always be a return. It’s much easier to make the initial investment when times are good. Then, when things cool off, it’s critical to keep investing, knowing it will pay off in the future.

Busy times are also the best time to examine the efficiency of your investment. We tend to trim the fat when things cool down, but it makes more sense to examine efficiencies while business is good. Making sure that your marketing machine is running costeffectively in good times puts you on solid ground when things slow down. You’ll have conserved resources that can keep you going if revenue decreases.

CREATIVE SPENDING

Continuing your marketing during slower economic times does not mean spending indiscriminately. It means examining the details carefully to find low-cost ways of enhancing your marketing. For example, does your reception area present the image you want to show to the world? Instead of old copies of publications that have nothing to do with business and finance, display reprints of recent articles you’ve authored.

Have you looked at your virtual reception area lately? If your Web site was put up years ago, now is the time to update it and make clients and potential clients aware of it.

INCLUDE EVERYONE

And make sure everyone in your firm knows they are part of the marketing team. Jettison any attitudes that “Joe is the one who does the marketing.” Everyone, from those in the file room to the top rainmaker, must know what your firm’s goals are and know their role on the marketing team.

Speaking of goals, do you know what your objectives are? Investing your money more efficiently in marketing and increasing the potential for a higher return requires a marketing plan. Even if you know where you want to go, write it down to help crystallize it.

Along with your investment in marketing, it’s also critical to invest in business development training. Get the staff on the front lines trained so they know how to sell. I’m not talking about turning them into hard-core, fast-talking salespeople. I mean they should be able to have a conversation with a client or prospective client that probes for their needs so that you can service them.

It will take determination and a long-range view to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity slower times present. While your competition is cutting their marketing budgets, your impact will be louder, go farther and give you greater returns.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consultancy that specializes in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.

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