Marketing

How Marketers Can Take a Lead Role in New Service Development

Green Umbrella Stand Out as a Leader

By Jean Marie Caragher

Melody Marketer was invited on a Zoom call with her firm’s director of advisory services, Dave.

“Hi, Melody,” says Dave. “Great to see you. I’m excited to share with you the details of a new service we created for our technology clients. We need your help with promoting it.”

Sound familiar? Rather than using Melody’s marketing expertise to help develop the new service, she was called in after the fact for promotional purposes.

How can marketers take a lead role in new service development from the beginning? Here are three examples to learn from.

Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us both challenges and opportunities. One opportunity is developing and packaging new services to help clients. Lou Grassi, managing partner, held a firm-wide virtual meeting to rally his team. He asked for volunteers who wanted to do more. Enthusiasm, commitment to learning and providing value were required.

Sarah Cirelli, marketing practice leader, is one of those who showed up to the optional meetings and gained a seat at the table. After several Zoom overnights of brainstorming and meetings Grassi’s Crisis Response Recovery services was launched in mid-March.

Grassi conducted 100 webinars, attracting 3,000 attendees. The firm helped over 400 companies apply for emergency funding. Technology and human resources consulting projects were generated.

Grassi received lots of questions coming into the hotline from small businesses – not ideal clients for the firm. They arranged Small Business Support Saturday on May 2, which included Zoom rooms by topic. More than 350 small business owners and nonprofit leaders received support and guidance for free.

Cirelli is most proud of their SWAT Workbook. Standing for Special Weapons and Tactics, SWAT is an automated tool that holds all their Crisis Response & Recovery services marketing data, including every person who attended a webinar, called into the hotline, the questions they asked, the industry they operated in, and where they were in the lead generation process was rolled into a dashboard.

Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery services has generated thousands of leads. “I’ve seen a level of teamwork and camaraderie I’ve never seen before,” says Cirelli. “It didn’t matter the time of day or what needed to be done, everyone showed up. It was fun.”

“Our marketing team is stronger having gone through this as opposed to working day-to-day together,” Cirelli continues. “Our entire marketing team stepped up and took responsibility. We were challenged to come up with a new way of doing things. Being involved in the strategy gave marketing a chance to shine.”

“If you can’t see the path to getting a seat at the table,” says Cirelli, “most often the shortest path is to step up and prove you deserve it.”

MOD Ventures

In January 2019, BeachFleischman PC and GMLCPA PLLC, an outsourced client accounting and advisory services firm, formed a joint venture to launch a virtual firm, MOD Ventures, LLC. MOD Ventures combines GMLCPA with the client accounting services department of BeachFleischman to form a company that serves entrepreneurial and small-to-mid-sized business clients remotely all over the U.S. and internationally.

“I wanted to try a new business model,” explains Eric Majchrzak, shareholder and chief strategy officer of BeachFleischman. “MOD Ventures is all virtual, all home-based with QuickBooks Online as the hub. All services are priced in advance, using three options.”

Majchrzak wrote the business plan for MOD Ventures, presented it to the firm’s shareholders, and gained the buy-in. It took 4-6 months from conception to launch.

What are the benefits of including marketers in new service development? “Marketers are ambassadors from the client perspective,” explains Majchrzak, “anticipating the needs of prospects and customers. Marketers bring a different point of view and are not internally focused. For example, Does it make sense for the client?”

Majchrzak believes marketers need to be a part of developing the strategy and marketing plans for new services and businesses. “Marketers need to ask for the responsibility – fully or in part,” he says. “You are already in the driver’s seat to help on the front end, the execution, and growing it.”

“When you are launching something new, try to anticipate as much as you can,” says Majchrzak, “so you know how to report, how to handle situations, and how to know if it’s working or not.”

“Have your ears to the ground,” Majchrzak continues. “Marketers can be the ‘dot connectors’ between levels, departments, and offices. Be the eyes and ears and connect the dots.”

Forward/Slash

Geffen Mesher launched its Client Accounting Services (CAS) practice in Spring 2019 and it was gaining traction among clients with whom the firm already had very close relationships. When Katrina Scotto di Carlo joined the firm as marketing director in September 2019, leadership was already considering expanding the CAS practice and utilizing marketing to do so.

Scotto di Carlo started by building a Value Proposition Canvas, which you can pick up for free on this website. Once she understood the value proposition, they profiled all the potential target markets for the service and selected one as the “beachhead”, a whittled down target market with specific characteristics that (1) make it more winnable and (2) a proper stepping stone to further market saturation. With this research done, she built the brand guide and client experience map with her two assistants helping with development of both. She used both of these tools to inform the website design as well as the marketing automation backend.

Forward/Slash is the first branded division in Geffen Mesher’s history. Scotto di Carlo recommended they spin CAS off as Forward/Slash. “The brand of our 87-year-old accounting firm could not easily transition into the forward-thinking identity that we needed with this practice area,” she explains. “Forward/Slash is a new form of accounting that utilizes artificial intelligence. We needed a younger, fresh identity that easily communicated these qualities to prospective clients.”

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 was the biggest challenge in creating and launching Forward/Slash. “It was a perfect storm where Forward/Slash was built to help businesses going through the exact stress that COVID-19 was inflicting upon them,” explains Scotto di Carlo, “so we wanted to launch asap. I appreciate how much independence the firm gave me in decision-making and execution because this made the process much smoother than it could have been. Without that trust, the challenges may have been formidable.” Scotto di Carlo believes marketing today is a unique competency with an extremely sophisticated toolset for new service development. “A seasoned marketing professional builds the infrastructure for client acquisition and retention,” she explains, “giving us an understanding of the client journey that is unparalleled in the firm. I’m very grateful to be at a firm that understands that value and graciously shares insight with marketing so we can grow in our understanding of clients.”

Conclusion

It is clear that marketers need to play a lead role in new service development to achieve the greatest chance for success. If you have not yet earned this role, listen, be the ‘dot connector’, ask for the responsibility, and demonstrate what you can bring to the table.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 AAM Minute.

Marketing

Pricing in Advance: Another Step in Moving from CPA Technician to Business Advisor

Price Tag Pricing Your Accounting Services

By Jean Marie Caragher

Technology is changing how accountants do business, and progressive firms are changing how they charge for that business too. Accounting firm marketers can play an important role in this transformation.

Consider the business environment today. Artificial intelligence can complete routine tasks – the most leverageable work – that is now performed by accountants and bookkeepers. Blockchain will transform
the audit, requiring less time from auditors. Tax preparers will see similar changes. This means that CPAs can spend more time providing advisory services, which bring greater value to clients and makes the firm more future-ready.

Under these circumstances, sticking with the time-honored “hours x rate” formula is a recipe for making less money.

I asked two marketing partners to help me discuss new pricing methods at an AAM High webinar a few months ago: Eric Majchrzak from Tucson, Ariz.-based BeachFleischman and Bruce Walt from Ridgeland, Miss.-based HORNE. Both firms used Advanced Pricing Methods® created by Michelle (Golden) River.

In recent years, marketers like Majchrzak and Walt have promoted their firm professionals as experts, not just technicians. Moving past the billable hour can be viewed as another step in that journey.

Walt says that HORNE has been using APM® for about six years because leaders wanted to get off the time clock and focus on business outcomes, not the task itself and the hours it took to complete it. “We don’t believe that customers or clients care how long it takes us to do the work.”

At BeachFleischman, Majchrzak says the firm’s purpose is to make an impact. “It’s about the power of collaboration and what that can accomplish.” Pricing in advance, in which the client decides how much the service is worth, is more customer-centric than other pricing models, he said.

With APM®, firms explore an outcome’s worth with a buyer before proposing solutions. Once both you and the prospect have a clear understanding of the purpose of the work that is going to be done, and the effect the work will have, you can examine the worth from the prospect’s perspective.

The pricing method involves offering clients three options, which must resonate personally with the clients. Marketers are empathetic and can help customers put the options together.

Before implementing advanced pricing in your firm, what are some steps marketing professionals can take to prime the firm for successful adoption?

Do your homework.

Marketers need to track new business opportunities to calculate their win-loss percentage, average fees, average number of opportunities per month, and services sold. Use this information in the Fore Advantage Calculator to project the impact of Advanced Pricing Methods® on your firm’s new sales. This will help you define what success looks like.

Collaborate with colleagues.

Firms implementing a niche marketing strategy or that has a mature niche, provides a range of services, and are used to being consultative are good candidates for Advanced Pricing Methods®. Therefore, marketers need to collaborate with niche leaders and top advisors to create a pitch for a new pricing method. Identify obstacles and the resources or changes needed for
success.

Own it.

Transitioning to a new pricing model is an opportunity for marketers and business developers to play a leadership role. Influence your partners by communicating how advanced pricing can differentiate your firm, make it more profitable, and help it adapt to industry disruption.

How can firms measure success related to advanced pricing?

Success can be measured in very specific ways. To date more than 1,300 CPAs have learned the Advanced Pricing Methods® curriculum. Those who have executed APM® have seen consistent results:

  • 25%+ increase in proposal win rate when using APM ® 3-option approach
  • 60% or more of won proposals are middle or high option (or a hybrid of)
  • Won proposals average 1.5-2x the low-option price

Success can also be measured in general ways, including:

  • stronger client relationships
  • proposing on more than audit and tax
  • working as a cross-functional team to package a group of services a prospect would consider worth paying for
  • no billing surprises
  • reducing “scope creep”
  • building trust with price certainty
  • identifying the best prospects
  • differentiating your firm via niche specialties
  • applying a formal, consistent pricing process

New pricing includes a deep dive into the opportunities, challenges and concerns of a prospect. Going beyond audit and tax compliance – services impacted by technology – positions you as much more than a “number cruncher,” but as an advisor who can help businesses and their owners at every point of the business’ life cycle.

This article was originally published on the AAM blog.