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Here's how to profit from finding the sweet spot between things that change and things that don't.
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Fat Man. Red Suit.

He’s baaaaack . . . . !

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just sit home like Scrooge, you can’t open your eyes or ears without seeing or hearing him. Statistics show that we’re exposed to 3,000 advertising messages per day. And this time of year, it seems like all of them feature that familiar jolly fat guy in his familiar festive red suit.

You probably just think of Santa Claus as a holiday icon. But have you thought about him as a business guru?

Back in 1990, Wess Roberts wrote a bestseller called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. You probably don’t want to hold your clients’ children hostage to consolidate control over them. And you can’t pay your staff in plunder. So in a more festive spirit, I offer “Business Secrets from the North Pole.”

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Target Marketing

Our marketing philosophy boils down to this: target specific markets, then give them a unique reason for doing business with you and not your competition.

Santa offers one product: Christmas presents. Specializing lets him own that market. You don’t see Santa handing out candy at Halloween or delivering eggs at Easter.

And Santa serves one broad, enthusiastic market: children.

Marketing guru Gary Halbert was famous for telling clients to imagine they were opening a restaurant — then asking what would best guarantee success. Low prices? Great food? Special sauce?

Nope, nope, and nope. Try a starving crowd of customers! Markets don’t get more “starving” than children on Christmas morning!

But Santa doesn’t stop there. He slices and dices that market and creates distinct brands for them.

General Motors did this for years, marketing Chevys to the working man, Pontiacs to wannabe hotrodders, Cadillacs to high rollers, and Buicks to affluent but more conservative (read: slower) drivers. Santa does the same thing, appearing as himself here in the United States and Canada, Father Christmas in Great Britain, Pere Noel in France, Babbo Natale in Italy, Joulupukki in Finland, and Kaledu Senelis in Lithuania.

Santa doesn’t try to be all things to all people. Neither should you. Pick your markets and serve them well. Your clients may not be as happy as kids on Christmas morning. But target them right and take good care of them, and they won’t leave you for the Santa down the street.

Time Management

Most of us think we work too much. No, let me correct myself. Most of us do work too much. Our members tell us they typically work 40-60 hours per week — and want to cut ten or more of those hours out.

Santa Claus works one night a year. One night! This cat is leveraged. Forget about hiring associates at $40/hour and billing them out at $100. Santa lets the elves do all the work andthen hops into the sleigh to claim all the credit!

(Santa’s not the only one to figure this out. Willy Wonka does the same thing, importing Oompa-Loompa “guest workers” from the small Pacific island of Loompaland. The Oompa-Loompas make the chocolate, and Willy takes the credit.)

Creating systems and managing staff isn’t easy. But these are crucial to moving from a personal practice that depends entirely on you to a real business that flourishes without you.

Exclusivity

As we discussed, Santa targets a hungry crowd. But he doesn’t serve everyone. He brings presents to the good little boys and girls. If you’re a rotten little stinker, you get coal in your stocking! (Or, “if you talk to your mother in that tone again, I’m taking back the iPad before Rudolph’s nose stops glowing, pal!”)

We tell you to segment your clients into an “A” group (those who love you, gladly pay your fees, and refer new business), a “B” group (those who can become “A” clients with a little care and feeding), and a “C” group (those you’d just as soon do without). How liberating would it be to give your “C” clients a lump of coal this season?

Little kids are usually pretty great. But they don’t always listen to their parents. Usually, that’s a problem. But this time of year, we just have to ask them if the elves are watching to get their immediate attention. Santa’s positioning works!

Do your clients think they have to behave for you? Are you managing your relationships with them, or do you let them manage you?

I’ve had more fun than usual writing this week’s Briefs. But please don’t think I’m not as serious as ever. Santa Claus offers real lessons for you and your practice. And you don’t have to be fat or wear a silly suit to use them.

The Briefs is a weekly column on marketing and business planning for tax professionals and financial advisors looking to better serve clients and grow their business. 

Edward Lyon

Edward Lyon

Edward A. Lyon is CEO of the Tax Master Network, where he's coached tax professionals to add planning and financial services to their business since 2005. Go here to join the network. Go here to upgrade your membership or discuss opportunities in financial services.
Edward Lyon

Edward Lyon

Edward A. Lyon is CEO of the Tax Master Network, where he's coached tax professionals to add planning and financial services to their business since 2005. Go here to join the network. Go here to upgrade your membership or discuss opportunities in financial services.

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Fat Man. Red Suit.

Here’s how to profit from finding the sweet spot between things that change and things that don’t.

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Fat Man. Red Suit.

Here’s how to profit from finding the sweet spot between things that change and things that don’t.

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