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CPE IS A GREAT MARKETING TOOL By Troy A. Waugh, Current Issue!    Navigation Tips!
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By Troy A. Waugh, CPA, Waugh & Co.

In many CPA firms, "CPE selling" is a frequently neglected marketing tool. Many accountants view their CPE requirement with disdain. Some CPAs even cram their 40 hours into the last month of the year and try to do as little as possible to maintain their license. I've even heard some accountants complain to their clients about their CPE requirements.

Yet, every businessperson competing in today's economy knows that to stay ahead and on top of changes, their professional advisors must continuously upgrade and retrain their skills. Why then do some CPAs neglect their training and forego the tremendous marketing advantage it gives us?

Some CPAs are taking another approach to their training and will obtain nearly 100 hours this year alone. They value training, seek out the best to sharpen their skills and are attentive during the courses. Many of the current and future leaders in accounting firms will attend training courses that are not reimbursed by their firms. They have a personal commitment to investing in their own training.

Why not make a strong commitment to your 1996 training program and then use your efforts to market your practice? Whenever you plan to attend a training course of any type, consider how you might use the training to your marketing advantage. Here are a few ideas.

Obtain Skills that Will Attract Clients

If your area of concentration is construction businesses, why take a course in accounting for credit unions? Clients of accounting firms are screaming for their accountants to add more value to the relationship by acquiring a deeper understanding of the clients' business. Don't be content just understanding the numbers and how they fit into the tax code and the FASBs. Become a financial decision influencer by learning how the numbers can help your clients grow and prosper.

Let Your Clients Know About Your Commitment to Training

Recently, I read a great article in American Way Magazine, written by Robert Crandall, chairman of American Airlines. The article was titled "Where School Is Never Out" and covered American Airlines' commitment to training. Just reading the article made me feel safer about flying on American. But, it occurred to me that CPAs with whom I work have and obtain as much training every year as commercial aircraft pilots. My CPA firm clients have prepared a similar letter and are sending it to their clients. We think the communication will emphasize the value of our commitment to CPE and will strengthen our clients' loyalty.

Prepare a Marketing Prospect List When Attending CPE

Every time you attend a CPE program of any type, prepare a list of clients and prospects whom you think might benefit from the new skills you are learning. During a break, call one or two prospects and tell them, "I am attending a training course and have discovered something that might benefit your business. Let's get together next week and discuss it." When you make this call from the CPE program, your clients will rate you as proactive with new ideas and concerned about their business and personal welfare. Who would ever leave a CPA like that? And what prospect wouldn't be attracted to a proactive accountant that calls with a new idea?

For those prospects and clients
you are not able to call, write them a
letter and suggest a visit to discuss your ideas. Ask your assistant to set up
the appointments.

Prepare a Press Release

When you are upgrading your skills, sometimes the press will pick up your press release. They won't run your release every time, but it will get you some "free ink" if you send it to several publications and do it frequently. Send your press release to about 20 newspapers, tabloids, magazines, or industry newsletters in your market. You will be pleasantly surprised how many will run your release, thereby creating credible public relations for you. *

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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