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Tax pros debate the value of mid-season marketing

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Tax preparers inundated with filing this time of year have differing opinions about whether promoting themselves during tax season is worth doing – some value it for improving cash flow into the summer and the rest of 2017, and for building a solid base for next tax season, while others rely on word of mouth.

As in-season hours available for networking in person evaporate, many preparers turn to social media to keep in front of prospects, with about one in five practitioners routinely use social media for marketing, according to a recent survey by the National Society of Accountants, with most opting for Facebook or LinkedIn.

“You can make this easier on yourself by preparing a series of LinkedIn posts and Tweets in advance,” advised marketing consultant Lee Frederiksen (see “Tips for staying visible during busy season.”).

Theodore Prioleau, an EA at Parkton, Md.-based Teddy The Tax Man, takes what he terms “a soft approach via social media. I post job announcements, current events and other goings-on that might interest those who are on those media. My name stays out there, and people are informed all at the same time.”

Prioleau also gives retirement and tax advice on the local morning news. “I don’t do a ‘come-one, come-all’ type of presentation but offering advice to a large group of viewers somehow automatically invokes trust. People always call after the show.”

Combination approaches

Joel Grandon, an EA in Marion, Iowa, doesn’t market directly during the season but does maintain “a Web page presence, and we seem to get a large volume of word-of-mouth referrals,” he said. “I do run one ad in a local newspaper that seems to net a few clients each year, and we do promptly respond to e-mails requesting more information or appointment requests during the season.”

More than four out of five preparers find referrals “very useful,” according to the NSA survey. Busy season is the best time to ask for referrals, often because a preparer just saved a client either money or a deeper tax headache.

Old-fashioned print figures in, too. “I run my ads just to let the clients know we are here. They like to see them,” said Helen O’Planick, an EA at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pa. “[The ads] are cartoons and leave a laugh for the clients. We also ask for referrals, but for the following tax season. Our current clients are the best for referrals – but this year may not be the year to come to us, as we’re at capacity.”

Still others eschew promotion entirely.

“I don’t market during tax season, or really at all,” said Trish Evenstad, an EA at Evenstad Tax Service in Westby, Wis. “I’ve built my business on word of mouth and referrals. I live in a small town of 2,200 people and usually get at least 50 new clients a year. (Granted, we all lose clients every year, too.) I also get referrals from other preparers in the area who aren’t accepting new clients.”

“I do very little,” said Enrolled Agent Jennifer Brown of Implex Tax & Accounting, in Clearfield, Utah. “By January, most people have decided how they’re going to do their taxes: DIY, tax pro or box store. The little bit of marketing I do is through social media and asking my current clients for referrals as they’re in my office.”

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