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MichaelG

Advertising Your Business

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Hello Everyone

I am just wondering what you all do for advertising, to get clients in the door? I have some clients over the 10 years i have been preparing taxes, but my job at ATX has limited me because of tax season ;-) .

Now I plan on doing this for a living, and was wondering what I should do for advertising, Radio, local paper, TV.

Not sure which one will give me the biggest bang for my buck.

Your input will greatly appreciated.

Michael Green

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I have advertised only once in my 40+ years of preparing taxes, and found that the local newspaper gave me the most new clients. TV din -0- clients, word of mouth from clients got me the most over the years.

Good luck!

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My advertising dollars consist of my free add in the phone book for having a business phone, then I pay 11.00 per month to add a category, I handed out flyers for the first several years, but I agree word of mouth is the best and cheapest advertising you can get. Do a good job and you won't have to look for clients they will be looking for you! I went from about 50 clients my first year and now I'm almost at the 250 range, and I do this all myself. My clients like the fact that I am the one that answers the calls, I'm the one conducting the interview, I'm the one that goes over the returns, and they love the fact that they call me throughout the year with questions or concerns. I'm one of the few independent tax preparers in my town that are not just seasonal.

Offer a good service and you should have no problem. But keep in mind it takes time to build trust. If your looking for alot through the door the first year, make sure your rates are lower than your competators (however if you start this way you will have a very hard time raising your rates as you go).

Just my two cents worth!

Deb!

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I have found over the years that a large sign in front of your business is the best advertising next to word of mouth, depending of course on where your business is. I have moved my office back to my home (I built a small office next to my house) in a rural area and have my sign next to the road which is still effective even in the rural area. Of course word of mouth is the best source of new clients, but takes time to get established. For me, yellow page advertising is a waste of money. The only result I have gotten from yellow page advertising is people calling for free advice.

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I completely agree that word of mouth is the best advertising. If you think about it -- say you are looking for a tax preparer (or lawyer or doctor). Are you going to pick the person whose ad you saw or pick the person your friend recommended? You can help encourage your clients to send you referrals with some type of incentive.

OK, that may not help much for the first year. I just never had much luck with the little advertising I did (flyer on neighborhood mailbox).

Good luck!

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My best advertising when I got started was other tax preparers in town, believe it or not. They were turning new clients to me because they were already too busy. Shortly after that, H&R came to town:( However, I have had much luck as well with other professionals in town, including attorneys, bankers, and real estate profs. Don't waste money on phone book advertising, people use google to find you. I run a weekly ad in our local weekly Moneysaver now. I used to run in the daily paper, but didn't feel that that was beneficial. The moneysaver gets more readers than the daily paper. I still run on the radio only because I am friends with the station manager. Not sure if it is worth being on the local radio or not. I know I never listen to local radio.

My 2 cents too.

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Word of mouth. Touch base with your current clients to tell them you have time to take more clients this year. Offer them an incentive to send you clients. Tell everyone you know that you're expanding your business and have time for new clients. Hand out business cards when you talk to people. Contact your lawyer and your broker and your realtor and.... Include tax info in every conversation you have, did you know CT raised their highest tax rate to 6.7% or something you think will touch a lot of people or that specific person. Good luck!

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Do NOT compete on price. As has been mentioned, it's really hard to raise prices. (You can always discount for well-organized clients, that Schedule D with only one trade, the long-time repeat client, the client who sent you a referral, etc.) Decide what you're worth and stick to it, showing your full price on invoices with a discount shown if applicable.

Compete on the time you have to offer or your expertise or relationships or being available year-round or..., but not on price.

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Do NOT compete on price. As has been mentioned, it's really hard to raise prices. (You can always discount for well-organized clients, that Schedule D with only one trade, the long-time repeat client, the client who sent you a referral, etc.) Decide what you're worth and stick to it, showing your full price on invoices with a discount shown if applicable.

Compete on the time you have to offer or your expertise or relationships or being available year-round or..., but not on price.

Well put! For years I was afraid of raising my price, however, I have found that every time I did I would lose some clients but gain more. Price is something I will not negotiate with, however I have discounted for clients whom I know are having it rough. They always remember that and will always recommend others to me.

Deb!

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Sorry to be chiming in on this late - hope my comments are still useful.

Word of mouth definitely -- but that works best once your practice has built up a bit.

For tax work, the only "outside" advertising I've done that has worked has been a small ad in the local community paper. Every year they have a small section that runs once a month for tax prep. That garnered me 4 - 5 clients a year (who then started sending their friends and relatives to me). I stopped it last year because I had a full calendar. They run the ads Jan-Apr but I always skipped the April edition as I do not _want_ clients who don't think of taxes until April 10th!

For good clients, I offer a "new client referral" discount of a whopping $25 (applied the subsequent year if they've already come and gone this year) for each new referral; limit three per year (more than that - which has happened once or twice - gets carried over as well).

For accounting clients (and also some tax clients!) I have had excellent results from bookkeepinghelp.com, run by Jim & Cheryl Berry. They optimize the search engine stuff, you get to say what you do, where you work, specialties -- everything. Almost everyone who finds me by internet search finds me through them. Cheap (about $200/year - less than I was paying for three ads in the local paper), great personal service, nice folks. You can see my ad by going to their home page and putting in zip code 02421; limit to 10 miles radius. I show up as one of the top on the list.

Don't disregard other professional referrals as well. There are plenty of CPA firms that do _not_ do taxes, and plenty of CPA firms that will do taxes but don't want to do day-to-day accounting/bookkeeping for their clients. A local CPA found me through bookkeepinghelp.com and sent me several really terrific accounting/bookkeeping clients.

Financial advisers will sometimes send clients your way, too, as long as you are willing to send them back. I give folks who inquire a list of 4 or 6 advisers and tell them to talk to them all. A couple of those advisers have also sent tax (and tax planning) clients my way.

Good luck!

Catherine

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Do you already have clients who are a 'magnet' for others?

My practice blossomed quickly due to referrals from a charismatic musical-instrument repairer -- musicians, agents, aspiring folks who founded music labels; an ever-ambitious attorney -- biz startups & those in trouble; an ever-hustling architect -- subcontractors & those needing compiled financial statements (OT? I'm also a CPA); and a gregarious professor of interior design at a local college -- I'm invited each school year-end to 'warn' her Seniors what awaits them as taxpayers, whether employees or independent-contractors or partners, etc.

I salt every meeting with my business card. I also bring my cards to every family gathering -- also a rich source of referrals, as long as you don't make the mistake of failing to charge for such 'blood' engagements. It simply wouldn't be fair to the rest of your clients to not charge family/relatives your going rate -- and any of those with a brain understand this.

The few attempts I made at 'broadcasting,' via handouts, posters, a weekly free-sheet, didn't work. Outside referrals, it helps most to 'let slip' how much expertise you've acquired/how *good* you are at what you do -- i.e., low-key but sly, too.

Hope this helps, TaxCPANY

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The yellow pages are a waste of money, but I found my niche by taking out an ad in the local Rainbow Pages (the GLBT 'yellow' pages). It was expensive, but many in the GLBT community use it to find businesses that are GLBT-friendly and support the community. Coupled with a change in laws that have made same-sex couple taxes horrendously complicated, this has grown my biz faster than any other; I get referrals, have been called on to teach classes, and now have a specialty.

You don't need to find a specific niche, but finding a specific community helps. Are you active in your church? Advertise in the bulletin. And don't forget to carry biz cards everywhere you go, and mention you do taxes. You'd be surprised how well you learn to work that into a conversation!

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I honestly can say that in over 35 years I have never gotten a client by advertising. Word of mouth is definitely the key. In the past couple of years, when I send out my engagement letter, I let my clients know whether or not I am accepting any new clients for the current year. They take it from there.

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In Louisiana, we have what I am sure other states have as well but ours is called the "Start" program....where you start saving for your childrens' or grandchildrens' college education. One of my newer clients works for the Louisiana State Start Program and she told me of a CPA who opens up a "Start" account for her new clients' kids with a $10.00 deposit to each child's account. The CPA told her the parents really appreciate her doing that and has referred her many, many clients because of it. In fact, she's gained so many clients because of it, she has to now turn away new clients. As I'm not really looking for new clients (actually not accepting new clients this year), I didn't do it, but see that it can be a very powerful way to attract new and long lasting clients.

Cathy

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That idea ROCKS, Cathy; I'm gonna copy for it all my clients with kids who're on-extension -- and every child-bearer next tax year. (Too bad one can't create an IRA account with only $10, as I'm inspired to do for all my adult clients.)

I love the idea of giving-back to everyone I'm glad I'm alive to know.

In Louisiana, we have what I am sure other states have as well but ours is called the "Start" program....where you start saving for your childrens' or grandchildrens' college education. One of my newer clients works for the Louisiana State Start Program and she told me of a CPA who opens up a "Start" account for her new clients' kids with a $10.00 deposit to each child's account. The CPA told her the parents really appreciate her doing that and has referred her many, many clients because of it. In fact, she's gained so many clients because of it, she has to now turn away new clients. As I'm not really looking for new clients (actually not accepting new clients this year), I didn't do it, but see that it can be a very powerful way to attract new and long lasting clients.

Cathy

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Ive been at this officially for about 18 years (30+ if you count family, friends all they way back to my first return at age 14) and Ive tried newspaper, television, radio, direct mail and handing out flyers. Out of those I got the best response thorugh handing out flyers door to door. For a few years in the beginning I had a flyer designed and had a few thousand printed. I hired a few college kids and placed them in peoples doors and on car windshields. This gave me about a 4+% return rate, which is about in line with direct mail but cheaper. I did that the first 5 years to build a base. Word of mouth continued to bring in clients at about the same rate.

A few years ago I decided to try something different. I told my clients that if they refered a new client I would refund 10% of their current year tax fee for every new client they refered to me. Additionally the new client would also receive a 10% discount on their first year tax prep fee. This worked so well I have continued it to this day. After the regular filing deadline (4/15) I send out the referal refund checks with a letter thanking them for their support. I send out another round after returns on extension have been filed. Additionally I send out a monthly tax update email in which I mention the referal rebates to keep it in their mind. People love to get money back andit shows that they are satisfied with your work.

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