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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Part of my job as Managing Partner is to be out and about in the business community, shaking hands and telling people about the great things going on at Withum. Networking is an important aspect of building our pipeline of new business opportunities. Many of us have client and referral source relationships spanning over 25 years, having started with a fortuitous meeting and handshake at a local event or business dinner. While we are in the midst of ‘marketing busy season’ when events and conferences and networking dinners are filling up our calendars, I thought I’d share a Top 10 Networking Tips list I recently received from a colleague; it’s worth a read:

    1. Get in the right state, not “in a right state.”
      Keep in mind that you want to gain some value and benefit from the time you are committing to attending the networking event. You’ll need to look friendly and relaxed – versus panicky and nervous – if you want people to be comfortable talking to you.
    2. You will be more interesting if you are more interested.
      We have two ears and one mouth so we should aim to listen for twice as long as we speak. The people you meet will be more comfortable talking about themselves than listening to you.
    3. Networking is about building relationships not about ‘getting work’.
      People buy professional services from people they know, like and trust. You’re unlikely to meet someone who just happens to need your services that day. The magic happens when you keep in touch and demonstrate a sincere interest in them both personally and professionally.
    4. “What do you do?”
      Don’t pigeon hole yourself as any ole ordinary accountant, “I’m a CPA”. Practice answering the question in such a way that ensures you are remembered specifically and distinctly from all of the rest. This is called your ‘elevator pitch.’ Instead, you can say something simple like, “I’m an accountant with WithumSmith+Brown, one of the top accounting firms in the country. Have you heard of us? I specialize in . We work with many great clients in this area.” That’s a basic good ice-breaking introduction which you can follow up by asking questions about the person with whom you are speaking.
    5. Focus on a niche, not a list.
      Even those new acquaintances who are genuinely interested in you will quickly switch off if you try to identify all of the things you do or could do for clients. Equally, they won’t remember the list so you’ll be in danger of making yourself more forgettable. In the example above, you need to focus on a key area or topic no matter how broad your expertise and experience. People want to know more go-to people who have an expertise.
    6. Flirt as you network. Ok, not in way you are thinking, but by following these simple gestures to make you appear more likable:
      F is for FUN;
      L is for LAUGHTER or at least having a smile on your face;
      I is being INTERESTED in what other people have to say;
      R is RESPONDING to what other people are saying through conversation;
      T is TALKING appropriately not extensively about yourself.
    7. You’re not alone if you feel alone.
      There will always be someone else standing alone who will be so pleased and relieved if you go over and start a conversation with them. The chances of rejection are tiny. Simply introduce yourself, ask them their name and what do they do.
    8. Listen to what people say; don’t try to sell.
      You can only solve people’s problems or help them make the most of opportunities if you know what these are. That means listening and absorbing, not talking. If you listen well, they’ll trust you and if you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover all the clues you’ll need in order to decide if you have something to offer them.
    9. Get the other person’s name and business card.
      You can politely ask for someone’s card without seeming pushy, or wait until they offer their card to you. If you didn’t catch their name when first introduced, ask again. No one objects to repeating their name to someone who evidently wants to remember them.
    10. Follow up afterwards.
      Having given up your time to attend the event, make sure it is worthwhile by keeping a promise to follow up with each of the people you meet. Even if you think they may not be the most valuable contact, remember that you don’t know who they know who could be interested in what you do. Follow up with an email or supply some valuable information in the next day or so after meeting. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Then ensure you keep in touch thereafter.

I hope these tips will help you be more successful in your networking endeavors. By being subtle and polite, you come from a position of strength to follow up with your new-found friends/colleagues/potential clients to begin a lasting and meaningful relationship. So get out there and network!

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In today’s MP Message, we will be covering the third topic from Jack & Suzy Welch’s book, The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which is: What to Make of Marketing.

In the book, the Welch’s really nail it when covering the WHY in strategic marketing. “In recent years, business-to-business marketing (or B2B) has undergone just as much change as business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, for much the same reasons. More technology. Savvier global buyers and suppliers. Increased competitiveness. Heightened transparency.” Indeed, our clients and prospects are continually doing their homework and have higher expectations with regards to client service. The book shares two guiding principles which aptly apply to our profession:

  1. Companies need to do everything in their power to keep the B2B relationship very, very personal. Like our own personal relationships, professional relationships have to be built on trust with both sides feeling like they’re a win-win situation. You have to really know them, and they have to really know you. As it pertains to our clients, it’s worth sharing these tips again, which absolutely apply to that hot prospect you are pursuing, as well:
  • Respond to client calls or emails as quickly as possible.  A timely response makes them feel they are top priority to you, and everyone likes to feel that way.
  • Take the time to actually speak with them at least once a month, if not more often.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Or arrange a time to stop by their offices just to see how things are.
  • Take clients out to breakfast or lunch (I call this a “meeting without an agenda”). Aside from getting to know our clients better, personally use this time to discuss what is keeping them up at night, and see if you can help find a solution. We have a deep well of talent of expertise at our firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we do not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  We can likely help solve any problematic issue they have. Be a problem solver for our clients and elevate yourself to a trusted professional.
  • Make it a point to let our client know you value their business, and are genuinely interested in their business. Check out their website on a regular basis to see what they are up to. Share an article you just read that pertains to their industry. Let them know you truly care.
  • Don’t be afraid to get to know our clients on a personal level. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much you have in common.  Ask about their family; ask about their interests.  Consider sending a note on their birthday or a gift when a new grandbaby has arrived. Be a friend in business.
  1. Everything you do in B2B marketing today has to be driven by a careful analysis of industry.  What that means to us is to stay on top of the industry trends and issues that are most relevant to our clients’ businesses. Roughly five years ago, we embraced a niche-focused marketing model, as has most of the profession. It encourages us to be more strategic in our marketing efforts, helping us gain a competitive edge within industry verticals by demonstrating our expertise and putting our strongest people – our Niche Practice and Team Leaders – out to the forefront of their respective industries. We also demonstrate our expertise through our powerful website and content marketing strategy, our enhanced proposals, and our presence within industry associations as exhibitors at tradeshows, presenters at conferences and authors in their publications.

With business-to-business marketing, there’s a building of relationships in order to a) minimize clients going out to bid and b) ensure new business for the future. Buttress this with strategic thinking about capabilities, expertise and our competition… and you have a winning marketing mix.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

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Happy New Year to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

As shared in previous posts, I enjoy reading books and articles on leadership and business topics as part of my own professional development. They often serve as inspiration for many ideas and initiatives which are currently established here at the firm. I recently read The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, authored by Jack & Suzy Welch. Jack Welch, as you may know, is the legendary former-CEO of General Electric who was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 2000. His wife, Suzy Welch, is a bestselling author, television commentary and noted business journalist. The book is chock full of sound business advice, with six key learning opportunities which I felt are most applicable to every professional in our firm, relating to Team Alignment, Growth, Leadership, Marketing B2B, Building a Winning Team and Getting Unstuck in Your Career.  I’d like to share a little about each through this and five additional future messages.

Let’s start with Team Alignment, which means more than simply a group of people who are in agreement. Alignment reflects an active ownership on the part of the team members, with each individual understanding and contributing to the goals, vision, and solution of top challenges. And Leadership is the driver to galvanizing the kind of alignment that takes the grind out of work.  Here are a few points the Welch’s share to get your teams successfully aligned:

  1. Getting into everyone’s skincaring passionately about your people and understanding what makes them tick. If you want to inspire even more good stuff happening within your team, you need to truly get to know and care about your people as individuals. Your people give their days (and sometimes their nights) to you. They give their hands, brains and hearts. Sure, they are paid a salary to do so. But as a leader, you need to fill their souls. As a firm, we are more than happy to reimburse expenses related to lunches or activities with your staff with the intent to build stronger relationships.
  2. Serving as the Chief Meaningful Officer – using words and deeds to give your team’s work context and purpose. Remember, your people spend more than 40 hours a week working. If you’re not helping them make meaning of that investment, you’re wasting their time and their lives. Be aspirational in your tone with your team members. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Removing blockages – clearing bureaucracy and other nonsense out of the way of your team’s path to results. A leader’s job is to sweep away those things which stand in the way of a team reaching its target. That includes people, too: the action blockers, the change resistors, the process obsessives. There’s always a way to create work-arounds for most anything so your team members can achieve their goals. And there are certainly plenty of people within our firm with a wealth of “people experience” to assist you in this area if needed.
  4. Demonstrating the generosity gene – going over-the-top in your desire and effort to reward people for great performance, using money, promotions and praise. One of my favorite things about the State of the Firm event is to recognize talented, loyal staff with our Strength Awards and Milestone Awards, also giving them a monetary gift. But remember, a simple ‘thank you’ or an announcement during a team meeting sharing praise about a job well done is free and goes a long way. And don’t forget about the Gotcha Awards!
  5. Making sure the work is fun – creating an environment of enjoyment and celebration. “Work Hard-Play Hard” is part of the Withum Way culture, and I think we do a pretty good job of having a good time while also providing the world-class service our clients expect. We embrace humor and candor; we do things outside of the office to build camaraderie; we do our best to adhere to our ‘no jerk’ policy and maintain a familial atmosphere. Every leader in our firm should help nurture this very important behavior.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

Have a great week!

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I am a big fan of Zappos, a mega-online retailer who truly understands the value of great customer service. I recently read an article referencing Zappos, “Want a Competitive Advantage? Focus on Customer Experience.”  One thought particularly resonated with me:

“Today, whether you’re selling online or off, focusing on customer experience should be as important a part of your integrated marketing strategies as anything you’re doing with regard to search engine optimization, social, content, lead gen and the like. If you do all these other things without focusing on delivering a great customer experience, chances are good it won’t matter.”

We certainly have a strong marketing culture here at our firm, with proven results of increased brand awareness and new business.  However, as pointed out in the above statement, all of our marketing efforts won’t matter if we don’t retain our clients.  Remember, they need and require the services we provide, but choose to remain our clients.  Here are a few tips to help you make a positive impression with our highly valued clients:

  • Respond to client calls or emails as quickly as possible.  A timely response makes them feel they are top priority to you, and everyone likes to feel that way.
  • Take the time to actually speak with them at least once a month, if not more often.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Or arrange a time to stop by their offices just to see how things are.
  • Take clients out to breakfast or lunch (I call this a meeting without an agenda) besides getting to know our client better personally use this time  to discuss what is keeping them up at night, and see if you can help find a solution. We have a deep well of talent of expertise at our firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we do not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  We can likely help solve any problematic issue they have. Be a problem solver for our clients and elevate yourself to a trusted professional.
  • Make it a point to let our client know you value their business, and are genuinely interested in their business. Check out their website on a regular basis to see what they are up to. Share an article you just read that pertains to their industry. Let them know you truly care.
  • Don’t be afraid to get to know our clients on a personal level. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much you have in common.  Ask about their family; ask about their interests.  Consider sending a note on their birthday, or a gift when a new grandbaby has arrived. Be a friend in business.

It’s the little things that go a long way in preserving our client relationships and solidifying your role as trusted advisor.  Frequent touches with our clients helps to ensure they are our clients for many years to come.

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I read with some amusement about the IRS’s attempt to kick off a training and leadership conference with a Star Trek themed video, and now members of Congress are criticizing them for misspending taxpayer dollars. You can see the video for yourself at CBSNews.com.

 

We had a similar issue three years ago, when we were looking for something fun and interesting to do as a kick off to our annual State of the Firm meeting. This meeting takes place just before busy season, and is designed to update and motivate our staff about our firm, with about 450 people in attendance. One of our partners, Dan Vitale, saw a lip sync video done by the Today Show to the song, “I’ve Got  Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, and forwarded the video link to me and our Director of Marketing and Practice Growth, Rhonda Maraziti, thinking it would be something fun to do to ‘boost morale’.  Rhonda came to me with the thought that doing something similar would make for a great meeting opener, and convinced me that her team could pull this off.  I must admit, I was hesitant in our ability to deliver – hey, we’re accountants! – but you can view the fantastic results of our inaugural video here.

 

Now, three videos later, WithumSmith+Brown has become known nationally in the accounting circles as “the firm with the cool videos.”  They likely accomplish everything the IRS was looking to achieve in their not-so-successful attempt, having morphed into great motivational and team-building tools for our staff.  On video filming days, the excitement is palpable, as our hard-working professionals get a half-day reprieve from the norm to reach outside of their comfort zones and do something new and different. What makes it special is that our staff don’t mind laughing at themselves, truly enjoying the experience and having a good time. The videos have helped with our recruiting efforts; increased our profile in the profession; and amongst clients, we are thought of as a progressive firm willing to think outside of the box.

 

You can view our second and most popular video to date here (52,000 hits).  Our newest video can be found on the home page at www.withum.com.

 

So, after viewing the IRS video, I can sympathize with those who made the decision to move forward on this project, understanding what they were trying to accomplish and recognizing the monumental task at hand to create something that would motivate and energize the leadership of their massive organization. Of course, since they are a government agency, they can’t help but overpay for everything, with the cost of the Star Trek video being almost double the cost of all three of our videos combined.  Then again, we didn’t need three bids to get ours done.

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