Real Tax Business Success: Tax Marketing Lesson 12 – Expectations

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“Pre-Selling” Price and Positioning:

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Shaping The Client’s Expectations

In too many cases I see tax business owners let their clients dictate how they run their business. I guess they have bought into that old adage, “The client is always right.”

Boy, that couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to running a successful business in the “real” world! (Sorry, Tom Peters and all you other “academic” business book writers.)

You see, the only time you let your clients dictate your business is through sales.

If they WANT “this,” and you are willing to give it to them, then great, that’s the way marketing is supposed to work. If they say, “I WANT you to give it to me faster,” then if actual SALES can be attributed to “how fast” you give them what they want and YOU are willing to do it this way (for USP reasons), then great, make even more sales that way.

In order to run an even more efficient operation (especially during tax season) you have to SHAPE CLIENT EXPECTATIONS AHEAD OF TIME IN YOUR MARKETING MESSAGE.

If you advertise “Fast Tax Refunds from the IRS” for those that qualify and on one particular day you happened to be understaffed and the line in your office is increasing faster by the hour, how do you shape your clients’ expectations in your marketing message?

By answering the phone, “If you qualify for our Faster Tax Refund Services, please come into our office before 8 tonight. After that we will not be able to take any more tax returns to electronically file because of our high volume of clients today.”

Another way to shape your clients’ expectations in your marketing message could be in a sales letter to one of your target markets. Some of your sales copy could read:

Are You Still Not Sure?

Well, I guess that’s possible. You may have other questions or concerns I have not addressed yet. Maybe price or the cost of our tax services is an issue. It’s a fair question. So let me explain how we charge for the work that we provide for our clients.  


If you are a person who usually looks for the “cheapest option” in town, let me just say right out of the gate,please do not contact our office. We are NOT going to be the lowest price. You can go find other accountants, CPA’s or professional tax preparers in our area who will give you a “low-ball” price. Some are cheap, not offering much value. Other tax professionals quote you a low price now to get your business, and then sock it to you later on, once you’ve forked over all your tax related documents. We don’t play that game. We also are NOT like some other bookkeepers here locally who will quote you a lower monthly rate for minimal work, but as that wise old saying goes, “you truly do get what you pay for.” 


Does that mean our accounting fees and other tax related services are priced too high? No, that is not the case. From what we know in our industry and from being active in the marketplace — our tax firm is somewhere in the middle as far as price goes (not the highest and not the lowest). So when it comes to paying for professional tax services for your small business, you will NOT spend “an arm and a leg” working with us! 


But honestly, as a business owner, you should already know VALUE means much more than PRICE any day of the week! What you get from us, and how our services help you where you need it most, is MUCH more important (and valuable) than “price.” If the value is not there, the price is irrelevant. [You’d want to find a new accountant immediately.] And by the same token, if you ARE experiencing tremendous value (MEANING: you clearly see the benefit of the money you are spending on professional accounting and tax services) then price is also not much of an issue.


You see, we believe, our tax business, by far, offers MORE VALUE to our clients than the “cost” our services would ever be! And immodestly, we believe we’ll do a much better job at ensuring you receive GREATER VALUEcompared to any other tax professional around!


“Hidden Costs” vs. Price

I’ve found out the hard way it is a big mistake to try and “blind quote” and give a new client an estimate for work we think we are going to do. Many times once we look at everything, we find out later your tax situation is more involved than anticipated. Since we won’t have a good idea of how much tax work will be required until we meet, let’s cross that fee bridge when we get there. Again, we are not some ridiculously high priced tax firm. We are in the middle of the road somewhere when it comes to price, but we’re “HIGH” on the Best Accounting & Tax Firm’s List when it comes to providing Top Level Peace Of Mind Value for our clients!


Finally, I’d like to make one last comment on this topic of price before we move on.There are HIDDEN COSTS involved in hiring a cheap and not-so-qualified tax practitioner to help you deal with the IRS and all of your tax related obligations. These costs are ugly when they occur, too. BIG Penalties & Cash-Sucking Interest … and many times Multiple Years of BACK TAXES you had no idea you owed … plus your time and energy involved in dealing with this kind of IRS crisis – from Day 1, until months and years later on when (if) it ends. I’ve seen this type of business ending catastrophe happen. It is awful.


BOTTOM LINE: It’s just not worth it.  

You lose your life to this tax burden … a constant distraction, and in the end 

(when the IRS agents leave or stop calling and your cash is wiped out) 

Most Businesses Do NOT Recover!

Now can you see how I painted a picture in my sales copy. I’m shaping expectations in the marketing message and “weeding” out the kinds of people that aren’t going to use the accounting services anyway.

By writing your sales copy this way, it actually makes your target client feel even more compelled to use you compared to someone else because the copy talks directly to where “he’s living!”

Positioning Your Marketing Message

The positioning of your client’s mind is where the battle is won or lost. If your client has it in their mind that you only do high priced tax returns and they are not looking for high priced tax returns, you’re going to have a hard time getting that business.

By the same token, if your client sees you as only a “get your money back fast, assembly line” tax business and they want somebody that’ll spend an hour with them going over some extra tax advice for the coming year, then that client is not going to come in and do business with you.

The positioning in the client’s mind is critical — especially after you have established a reputation and what you do. You may offer a certain kind of service to one group from January to February 15th and then you might start advertising a different way from February 15th all the way to the end of April.


That’s how my business was built. We targeted specific groups and advertised to small niches instead of doing mass “image” advertising. Since we targeted “individual” smaller markets, only a selected group of people saw what we do. This way we POSITIONED each group to think about and hopefully respond to the marketing message we put in their heads. (Not some other ad they saw where we are offering totally different benefits to a totally different market!)

I see many tax business owners trying to “be everything to everybody.” They will list a variety of tax services all through their ads. The problem is the client doesn’t feel like you are talking to him. (In his mind, you just “do everything.”)

If he sees an ad talking about just “quick tax” services and how fast he can get his money back, AND THAT’S WHAT HE WANTS, he’ll feel you are talking directly to him. (You have positioned yourself in his mind to be the tax firm that can DO what he’s looking to do.)

This mistake the tax business owner makes by not positioning himself properly can be traced back to NOT FOCUSING IN ON WHAT HE DOES WELL IN THE FIRST PLACE AND NOT KNOWING WHO HIS TARGET MARKET REALLY IS!

But once this first priority is taken care of, you must start thinking about the “congruency” and “consistency” of your message.

Think about it. If you are “positioning” yourself as a $500/hour tax attorney, you better not have a “cheesy” rug in your lobby. (The message is not congruent.)

By the same token, your message better be consistent! If in one sales letter you are “pitching” how much time you spend with each individual client and how much more ongoing help you offer year-round, but in another sales letter going to the same market you are “pitching” FAST REFUNDS and GET YOUR MONEY BACK QUICK WITH NO FEES PAID UP FRONT!…well.

I hope you can see that there is a consistency problem here.

And, finally, if you want to win the “battle of positioning” in your client’s mind, you must keep hammering home YOUR advantage you have over your competition! (USPs!)

Again, if you don’t have any good reasons for your target market to choose you compared to your competition, I question whether or not you should be in the tax business altogether!

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Chauncey Hutter Jr.

Tax Marketing Expert

Chauncey Hutter, Jr, is a best-selling author and leading marketing consultant and success coach to the tax industry. Mr. Hutter grew his father’s $50,000 per year tax preparation business to a multi-million dollar empire with 24 locations, 400+ employees and over 27,000 tax clients all coming from his marketing campaigns.

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