Marketing lessons from a 310-million-year-old fossil.
If you’re like many TMN members, you follow several Facebook and LinkedIn groups for accountants, tax pros, and financial services. Those groups can be valuable sources of information when you need to reach out to your peers for fast answers and quick, informal surveys. We sponsor a members-only group ourselves, on Facebook, and it’s a terrific place for quick discussions and sharing information and ideas.
But there’s a reverse side to this coin. As we sometimes see in politics and other areas, social media makes it way too easy to segregate yourself into a little bubble of like-minded people (which Facebook then monetizes by stoking your rage for their profit, and harvesting your data that leaves you with the online equivalent of waking up in a hotel bathtub full of ice). If you spend too much time with your fellow tax pros, your businesses – and your results – all start to look alike.
Have you ever seen an English bulldog? Scientists report that the entire breed is descended from just 68 individual dogs who lived back in the 1800s. They’re so poorly engineered they can barely walk without falling flat on their faces; they have an average lifespan of just 6 years; and there’s a real chance there isn’t enough genetic diversification for the breed to survive.
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Inbreeding is real, and you don’t want to have the English bulldog of tax practices.
The solution is to find inspiration from outside our own industry. What ideas, developments, and inspirations can you find from other industries and professionals that you can incorporate into your own marketing, pricing, and practice management? I’m a big fan of concierge medicine and see all sorts of inspiration there. And I’m always keeping my eyes open for new ideas and new twists on old ideas that I can incorporate into TMN.
We’re all familiar with loyalty cards. The idea started with airline frequent flyer miles and quickly expanded to hotel chains. But they’ve exploded since, and now even my favorite ice cream parlor has a rewards program – buy 10 scoops, get one free, or something equally irresistible.
And we’re all familiar with tiered service offerings: the familiar “bronze,” “silver,” and “gold” packages, loaded with more and more perks as you move up. Here at TMN, we offer Basic, Advanced, and Elite, clearly targeted for different members with different businesses and goals. (If you’re a member and you’re interested in learning more, Ashley Winters will be happy to walk you through the opportunities. (Click here to schedule an appointment with her.)
So . . . Saturday, I was flipping through the latest issue of Robb Report, the magazine that bills itself as “Luxury Without Compromise.” It’s best-known for articles about flashy cars and expensive watches and comically ridiculous yachts with two helicopter decks (because only peasants settle for just one). I read it because it’s fun, in a James Bond wannabe way, and also because it’s a great source of information and ideas about the affluent clients you want anchoring your business. (I have no idea if their mailing list is available to rent. But if it is, you could do a lot worse than to merge their subscribers with your other direct mail criteria.)
I came across a sidebar article about a vendor combining a loyalty card and tiered membership levels for luxury travelers. Here’s the twist: it’s not an airline, or hotel, or restaurant chain. It’s an entire country. The Maldives are a chain of islands lying southwest of Sri Lanka, roughly where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea. They’re best known for their coastal resorts with those gorgeous, private overwater bungalows. The program will include three levels: Alda, Antara, and Abaarana (which roughly translate to Bronze, Silver, and Gold). Within the system, different hotels offer different ranks and rewards, with bonuses for special occasions like honeymoons or anniversaries. Given that the Maldives are nearly as inaccessible as the moon, visitors are already spending enough just to get there that a dollars-off-for-dinner coupon won’t impress them – so the program offers payoffs like a free seaplane to a more-distant island.
Now, you may think a loyalty program for a chain of islands with no hope of surviving rising sea levels has nothing valuable for your business. If that’s so, then maybe it’s time to step back from your tax-world bubble. Here’s a business that’s already generating 2/3 of the country’s GDP, focusing its marketing effort on a specific group of high-value visitors and doing even more to retain them. There ARE lessons for you and your business. There are even lessons for you to share with your business-owner clients which, in turn, will make YOU more valuable to them (even if your post-pandemic office doesn’t offer the same glamour as a bungalow with jacuzzi overlooking the sparkling Indian Ocean).
I know, I know, tax season is about to start, you’re busy, we’re all busy. I’m not telling you to take hours out of your day to find new influences to bring into your business. I’m just asking you to keep your eyes open for whatever stands out from the crowd. Chances are, if it strikes you as noteworthy, it’ll do the same for your clients. Pay enough attention, and soon you’ll have enough money for a Maldives trip yourself!
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.
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