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CPA Firm Sets New Course
of Trust

At the time Ingenuity started working with the leadership team at Rudler, PSC, this mid-sized CPA firm’s managing shareholder already anticipated a longer tenure before he could exit. However, talent retention and client loyalty were strong due to a dedication to flexible schedules and community involvement.

The firm really needed a consistent focus on marketing and business development to remain independent — avoiding the merger trend among CPA firms in their city.

Working with leadership and niche team members, Ingenuity has assisted with the following:

  • Competitive research and differentiation
  • Brand messaging and visual brand refresh with new tagline
  • Training on distinct brand messages and leadership types
  • Website updates to emphasize niches, improve SEO, build out careers pages and improve bios
  • Leadership coaching
  • A process for client highlighter meetings to expand cross-servicing
  • Public relations support, including award copy review
  • Eblast copywriting and content strategy
  • Social media support to showcase culture and talent brand

Internally, Rudler revived its coop program to introduce interns to the firm culture and services — resulting in an 85% retention rate for interns offered a full-time position. The firm leadership developed a three-year strategic plan and positioned emerging leaders for the partnership track. Involvement in an international accounting alliance, BKR International, opened opportunities for new business through referrals from other independent public accounting firms across the country. Technology investments now allow remote employee opportunities to support recruitment. ING provided employee case studies to promote flexible career options on the firm’s website. A new president is also positioned to lead the next generation of professionals.

Today, Rudler has a solid foundation to remain independent: talent, marketing savvy, technology investment and client loyalty.

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By Christine Nelson

Customers don’t buy with logic alone. They will first test their interest in your product or service with feelings. Do they “like” you, have a sense of safety and view you as an ally?

When their emotional vibes are satisfied, customers will then move on to phase two: logical decision-making. If you set off their negative emotional alarm bells for any reason, they won’t move to phase two, and you’ve lost the sale.

To appeal to the emotional side of any buyer, try these positive strategies to tip the scales in your favor.

Say it with color. You can get many different reactions from the same color.

“I don’t like blue.”

“I LOVE blue! Use more blue!”

“Blue is so boring. Can you jazz it up a bit?”

“That blue is so exciting!”


When you’re developing or refreshing your brand, use color the way your customers may already perceive it. You can also pair up colors for a broader emotional response. If you pair blue with a bright green or orange, you develop a more contemporary palette of energy, excitement and youthfulness. Join blue with brown or gray to create feelings of calmness, power and reliability. Design several different combinations to test reactions with focus groups and key decision makers.

A picture tells a better story. Imagine two print ads. In one ad, a group photo shows smiling accountants standing outside of their building. In another ad, an accountant is wearing fishing gear. Which ad is more memorable?

Companies miss an opportunity when they go with the same tired visuals because people process visual information up to seven times faster than words. Design creates a layer of story. Great design combined with the professional style and presence of your people is a winning combination.

Design includes your fonts, colors, logo glyph, photos, paper and the other visual elements on your business cards, sales kits, video and website. It should be welcoming, easy to navigate and help customers find you and want to interact with you.

Most people also know good style when they see it. Shoes, fabrics and impeccable grooming create a distinct first impression. But it’s also the body posture, facial expression and tone of voice that attracts notice.

Perception is reality. Good design and superb style quietly build trust without saying a word.

Words still count. Take a cue from the emoji culture. Use fewer words. Increase meaning. When you hear fat words like “quality,” “service,” “trust” and “unique,” it’s like the trombone sound in a Peanuts movie.

Take more time to explain the experience of your company. Is it like violins, or like a chain saw? After choosing your company, do people feel taller? Richer? Do they want to adopt a dog? Run a marathon?

Companies that succeed know how to create messages that engage emotion with logic. Invest in quality writing for your brand messages, your website and your publicity. Invest in people who win awards for the right words.

Show customers you ‘get’ them. We want to hang out with people who are like us. Tribes of people tend to dress alike, have similar vocal inflections and share the same interests. When you find the right demographic or type of customer, think about how to attract more of them.

Develop descriptions of your ideal customer. Age ranges, gender, culture, professional titles, salaries, locations … add as many details as you can to paint a full picture of your customer. You will understand how to market and sell by knowing how customers think and where they gather information to make buying decisions.

When potential buyers feel like you cater just to them, they will buy. They may even spend a little more or be willing to wait longer. Don’t underestimate the power of emotion in your branding. Emotional appeal is the true reason people choose your product or service over that of a competitor.

Christine Nelson is a lead communications consultant for Ingenuity, a brand strategy firm that focuses on marketing, websites, sales messaging, social media and public relations to boost your competitive edge. Contact her at Christine@ingenuitymarketing.com or (651) 690-3358, www.ingenuitymarketing.com.

Credit: Leading Edge Magazine

Firms Share Their Biggest Recruitment Strategy Mistakes

What is the biggest brand mistake in your firm’s recruitment strategy? We asked this question in a recent AAM (Association for Accounting Marketing) High webinar and received the following responses:
57% said “Recruitment is an afterthought in the marketing strategy.”
14% said “Partners aren’t involved in the interview or onboarding process.”
17% said “No career pages online or minimal content.”
11% said “Specific charity or community involvement isn’t promoted publicly.”

The sentiment was very similar at an SMPS Twin Cities education program, “Talent Management: How to Attract, Train and Retain Top Talent.” A panel of HR and talent experts representing architecture, engineering and construction stressed the importance of integrating marketing and HR, involving leadership and promoting the firm’s positive qualities.

Here’s why you need to adjust your recruitment strategy if these mistakes are happening at your firm.

Recruitment is an afterthought in the marketing strategy.
Your firm is seeking qualified candidates so it looks to HR to fill the positions. But think about how qualified candidates learn about your firm. It’s not just an HR issue; it’s a marketing issue first that flows into the HR process. The two should work hand-in-hand. At Ingenuity, we forecast that in the coming years, a marketer will be dedicated to the talent brand of the firm. We’ve seen it done in some firms already because it is critical to building the next generation of leaders and onboarding the right people.

Partners aren’t involved in the interview or onboarding process.
In an emerging leaders panel at Winning Is Everything 2015, new hires were asked why they chose their firm. Respondents said that at some point in their interview process, they were told exactly what they needed to do to get to partner. They could see a well-outlined path for their future and felt they could get there at that firm. Candidates also want to meet the partners, or at least know they exist outside of their website bios. After all, the partners are often the face of the firm. Make sure they’re part of the interview or onboarding process so candidates feel connected to the firm right away.

No career pages online or minimal content.
Filling your careers page with generic copy is a waste of valuable real estate. Make candidates dig for information and you risk having them bounce off of your website. How can you tell if this is happening? Check your analytics and look for trends in your careers pages. Also, don’t just talk about benefits such as health and dental insurance. Candidates assume you have them and can ask in the interview once they decide to consider you. Your careers page is an opportunity to show what sets your firm apart.

Specific charity or community involvement isn’t promoted publicly.
If your firm is involved in a specific charity or community project, it needs to be publicized in at least two places: your website and social media pages. While candidates will check out both options, cover all necessary channels by including photos and information on why your firm chose the cause. Bonus tip: share charity and community involvement (including photos) with trade publications. They’re often happy to share your efforts on their websites or social media pages, putting your firm in front of qualified candidates.

Need help spicing up your careers page, or using search engines like Google effectively to help recruit candidates? Contact me today to chat.

4 Surprising Recruiting Tips from Recent Hires

Top 10 Uses for the Leftover Marketing Budget

We are counting down to the end of 2015. Marketers and partners are busy planning for 2016, but may have a few marketing dollars left to spend this year. Don’t miss a great opportunity. Here are some suggestions for useful and powerful ways to get that last bit of value.

1. SEO Update.

Generic search engine optimization (SEO) advice is nearly worthless. The expert you hire must understand how your buyers select your services. Ingenuity can examine your keywords and those of your closest competitors so you can see how your website stacks up when people search specifically for professional services. The goal is to select new keywords and weave them into your website and other online content to show up better on Google and other search engines…to get qualified leads.

2. Competitive Analysis.

Surprise your partners — and competition — with your astute knowledge of the market to show up in the places they haven’t even considered. Ingenuity frequently does competitive analysis for professional service firms (and even secret shopping).

3. Social Media Strategy.

Social posting is easy. What’s hard is being relevant and actually getting people to follow you and rely on you regularly for information. Ingenuity researches articles that fit your audience, then we help you schedule it out for the entire month with our easy tools.  Make social media easy and actually useful for nurturing leads.

4. Personal LinkedIn Tutors.

Have you tried and tried to get partners on LinkedIn? If you know it is time for you to use this valuable business tool, or you are trying to convince others to use it consistently, our social media coaches can help you set up profiles with one-on-one tutoring, understand privacy settings and use LinkedIn to generate new business.

5. Photos.

Bios of partners are one of the most searched parts of your website. Trash any “IT guy put you up against a wall and snapped a picture” photos and replace them with great portraits. By the time someone is on your website, there is interest in buying. Make sure your photos convey a sense of trust that satisfies the emotional piece of buying a service.

6. Bio Updates.

Website bios can be a powerful tool for both search engines and people, or a bulleted list that helps neither. Have a professional writer retool your bio so that it not only conveys your credentials and experience, but also helps your personality and commitments shine through. People do want to like the people they buy from. A great bio makes you likeable and credible.

7. Fresh Projects or Case Studies.

It is easy to forget these important parts of your website and market position. If people are looking at projects or case studies, they are in a buying mood. Update yours with excellent photos and compelling descriptions. Our writers add the sizzle with the right SEO keywords.

8. Tailored Blogging.

Excellent, custom-written content says, “we are smart and we are good.” It also tells search engines you are relevant. Make it easy on your professionals by hiring our ghostwriters to interview you and write pithy, brilliant prose on what you know. Have a stockpile of evergreen posts customized for your firm, ready to use for PR, business development or web SEO.

9. Marketing Plan Review.

Many firms update this year’s plan from last year’s plan; it’s a good idea if you want the same results. Why not let some of the marketing directors or CMOs at Ingenuity review your plan and make some suggestions? For a small fee, you can get award-winning advice and help with creating and pitching a persuasive and useful marketing plan.

10. Talent Brand.

Recruiting is one of the biggest pains in the industries we serve. Take what you have as a firm brand, but focus on key messages, images and ideas to appeal to professionals who might like to work with you. Then launch it internally and externally at your firm. We have optimized talent brands in 2015, and know it is also a hot item for 2016.

Call Ingenuity at (651) 690-3358 to be wildly effective in 2016.

What Your Competitors Know That You Don’t

Illustration of runners crossing a finish lineAccounting firms and engineering firms often call us when they see a competitor suddenly showing up in their market space and winning bids seemingly “out of the blue.”

A closer look at the competition reveals that those firms have set up a strategy to target a certain buyer, market or industry and are now reaping the rewards of months of focused effort. They didn’t just show up. They’ve been there for a while.
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