How I found a flaw in my marketing plan
I’ve spent time recently and even posted a few prior blog posts on my struggle to realign the marketing of my 18-month-old accounting practice. I planned to have referrals as the primary source of new business so I’ve engaged myself in community groups, various board positions, networking groups, community and service groups, two professional groups and two chamber of commerce organizations. It can be exhausting with up to three meeting of some type per day just for the sake of ‘getting out there’. But it just hasn’t worked out for me. I’ve been quite candid in this admission even to the point where one peer accountant suggested that it is not in my interest to be so open and honest about what’s not working. But the reality is that I must resolve the marketing situation and this type of open crowdsourcing for business marketing advice is likely at least as good as any other method that is available to me. That’s why I do it.
I’m getting much better at tracking business relationships lately and so now I can cite dozens of specific outbound referrals and a significant amount of closed business as a direct result of my referrals to peers. In contrast, over these 18 months I’ve received only one inbound referral (a fee-splitting arrangement) and one attempted but failed referral. Of course there is plenty of room for improvement in my networking skills. But that still does not explain such a large difference in the ratio of referrals out to referrals in.
Last week I was invited to be an observer at a BNI network meeting about 25 minutes from center city Philadelphia. It was impressive organization. While I have ethics concerns about joining such a group for my own practice (a topic for another blog post), I certainly did appreciate being allowed to observe how the group works. At the meeting, a business person I already know from the community said “Tony you are my third favorite accountant. The first is the guy I’ve been with for 20 years. The second is the accountant in this group and you are definitely my third favorite.” What he is really saying is that I’ve already achieved my networking goal of establishing myself as likable, credible, available and reachable but don’t expect to get any business referrals from our business relationship. Then through follow-up conversations over the past week it became clear to me that a primary reason that BNI and LeTip members join other business networking groups is so that they can get new business leads to feed back into their primary leads group. These groups are built on accountability to generate leads, so this strategy is perfectly logical and valid. The problem is that it directly reveals the weakness in my current marketing plan.
I’m now considering an appropriate adjustment to my own marketing plans and am certain that there is more to follow.