The hardest part of the 2015 tax season is over. Certainly, there are Form 990s to be filed for non-profits that took an extension back in May. There are still quarterly filings for small businesses, and corporate filings that will come due.
But August is a time for the summer season of marketing, in which a tax practice must consider what strategies to pursue in this season if it is to be successful next January. In formal marketing terms, these fall within a success grid that evaluates the potential of success for each of four strategies:
In this grid, the highest chances of marketing success lie in selling existing products to existing clients, selling new products to existing clients, and selling existing products to new clients. The strategy with the lowest potential for success is selling new products to new clients, because it would be necessary to overcome the unfamiliarity of the company and its products. In terms of tax services, this means:
- Tax services have an opportunity to leverage their success in the past tax season to begin building a continuing relationship with existing clients. This is best done via the tax service web site, through newsletter mailings, and through presentations about prospective tax law changes to community groups that serve their client base. A source of consistent and accurate information for these communications is Drake Software through the Taxing Subjects blog and the Drake sites on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Tax services have an opportunity to leverage the client database from the tax season past to sell new tax planning services to existing clients. Direct mail newsletters are the best means to accomplish this, though some limited local newspaper ads and telephone reminders to the “A-list” customers should yield results as well.
- Finally, and of relatively strong potential, is the opportunity to leverage success in the past year to reach out to prospective new clients with existing products. In particular, this is an opportunity to reach out to market segments that have a high need for tax services but are currently underserved. This is not easily done with standard communication methods such as web sites and newsletters, instead requiring personal interactions and presentations to the targeted market segment.
This concept is not new – tax preparers have long recognized the needs of recent immigrants in trying to understand and file taxes under the state and federal laws. The same goes for a related market segment that includes both individuals and companies whose principals do not have English as their first language. The Center for Immigration Studies noted in 2014 that one in five residents of the United States do not speak English at home.
Likewise, many preparers have found success in serving the middle-class clients whose lives have been ravaged by the decline in the housing markets, loss of employment, and escalating costs for the basics of food, clothing and shelter.
But there are other underserved populations that need assistance with tax planning and preparation, and have the money to pay for these services. These include:
- The estimated 73 million US residents who are disabled. In terms of economic power, the most recent data from the US Census Bureau indicates that this population – which the Census Bureau refers to as the largest minority group in the nation – has a combined income of more than $1 trillion and disposable income after paying bills is more than $220 billion annually. And this major minority does have overwhelming needs, in sorting out the complexities of the IRS tax rules for income, and comparing/contrasting these with the even more byzantine regulations of the Social Security Administration. Fortunately, there are any number of resources only to help the tax professional get up to speed on these laws and regulations.
- The 46.6 million Americans that, according to the US Census Bureau estimate in 2015, were over the age of 65. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) calculates that this number is growing by 10,000 persons per day. These are individuals that must cope with tax planning for wealth management in their later years, business succession management, estate planning, and the complexities of Medicare and Social Security, on top of tax laws related to investments and distributions. The New York Times notes that this group on average has an annual income of more than $46,000.
- Caregivers and assistants. Both of the above groups are likely to have caregivers, not only for health matters but for finances as well. While in the high-wealth categories attorneys or financial advisors may handle tax matters, the typical financial caregiver may not understand all of the nuances of the tax laws and might welcome assistance.
With all three of these groups, the approach must be personal and indirect. Trust is a major issue for those who are often the targets of financial fraud. The best approach may be to work with retirement homes, senior centers, and disabled workshops to discuss the law and potential tax exemptions for which these groups may qualify. Avoid a direct pitch for services, opting rather to build on the status of your firm and its professionals as trusted advisors in tax matters.
Rather than leaving a stack of business cards, consider creating a simple tri-fold brochure that addresses the specific tax planning and filing needs of each audience. There are online resources that can provide source materials for the brochures.
The basic mantra of marketing is to “Find a need and fill it.” Nowhere is this more true than in the markets for individuals with special circumstances, either through disabilities or through their status as senior citizens.