First, Do No Harm

January 30, 2018

Scott Dine

Scott Dine

Partner + Technical Director

3 min read

First, Do No Harm

First, Do No Harm

by

Principal + Technical Director
Primum non nocere is Latin for “First, do no harm.” I’m sure most people are familiar with the age-old phrase. It’s one of the foundations of medical ethics. But how does it apply to accounting marketing professionals?

You don’t have to be in marketing services very long to realize that it’s vitally important for accounting professionals in our industry to apply this idea from our friends in the medical profession to their marketing efforts and goals. Unfortunately, too many CPA firms ignore their marketing strategies for so long, that an honest evaluation of their efforts (or lack of) would fail to satisfy the mandate ofprimum non nocere.

Marketing strategy has long been a foreign subject to most CPAs. True, in recent years, the largest CPA firms have increased their investment in marketing and have prioritized promoting their services. The Big Four have led the way with marketing and advertising. Regional firms have quickly adapted this approach in order to compete with the “big boys” and distance themselves from their local competitors.

But other local firms seem to be stuck in neutral. They might occasionally rev their engine (often manifested in a rapid concentration of internal meetings, committees, and short-term objectives), but all-too-often, they don’t have the car in gear – all that engine revving gets them nowhere. Too many firms don’t know where to start, so they over-analyze before, during, and after as they attempt to put initiatives in place. This over-analysis ends up slowing momentum, and may leave the car stuck on the side of the road.

At Catalyst Group, we are consistent in how we define the role of marketing at a CPA firm. Marketing should create and support opportunities for business development. But at many firms, before marketing efforts can achieve these goals, firms need to stop hurting business development. At too many firms, their marketing efforts actually makes business development more difficult.

Marketing should create and support opportunities for business development.
How bad can it be? I’ve been a part of many conversations where professionals tell me that they never direct clients or prospects to their website. Why? Because they know their company’s site is so inaccurate or so out-of-date, that if clients see the site, it will hinder their efforts. The same goes for collateral materials. If your brochures and handouts are so bad that your sales force won’t even use them, the marketing effort has “done harm.”

During our first marketing strategy consultations,  partners at firms ask me what they should do first. In many instances, they think they should invest in sales training, hire a marketing director, or bring in a business development director. In some cases, that’s exactly what the firm needs to do to facilitate growth. But, of equal importance, accounting firms need to take a look at their existing marketing efforts and make sure they aren’t holding back or “doing harm” to the business development process. A website developed in 2012 that hasn’t been updated since is probably harming your business prospects. Outdated materials actually hurt your ability to convince clients and prospects that you are the best choice to serve them.

Everything in the public arena says something about your firm. Are the foundations of your marketing causing harm? If they are, don’t fret. You aren’t alone. And the solution isn’t difficult. Don’t over-analyze the situation. Don’t get hung up on the return on investment when bringing your image into the 21st century. If you recognize the problem, take quick, decisive action to fix it. Common sense and bold action should win the day. Fix the basics first, and everything else will be easier, less expensive, and much more effective.

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