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Jan 1991

How to create an effective advertisement. (Management of an Accounting Practice.)

by Granat, Jay P.

    Abstract- Accounting firms are increasingly turning to print advertisement as a marketing tool. For an ad campaign to be effective, it must be created and implemented in accordance with basic marketing, advertising, and communications rules. The campaign should seek to get readers' attention, interest them, make them desire to learn more about the firm, and make them act on their desire by contacting the firm. A print campaign will generate leads which partners and other employees will have to follow up on. The headline is the most important part of a print ad, and the body copy of the ad should explain the main idea the headline presents. Visual images reinforce the effectiveness of an ad, and the tone of the ad should reflect both the clientele desired and that of the firm itself.

While it is difficult to accurately predict the impact that a printed message is going to have on its target audience, there is a simple formula that can help CPAs determine if their advertisements are likely to be effective.

One of the oldest models that advertising experts rely on to assess the general appropriateness of a print advertisement is known as A-I-D- A. This acronym, which may remind you of Verdi's opera, stands for Attention-Interest-Desire-Action. If your message can grab the reader's attention, create an interest in your firm, produce a desire to learn more about your services, and compel people to "act" by attending a seminar, asking to be placed on your mailing list, or by calling one of your partners, you have probably created an effective and persuasive message.

Advertising Objectives

While some practitioners hope that their advertisements will generate an abundance of new clients in a short time, it is unrealistic to think that executives, professionals, and individuals with substantial net worth will move their business to your firm solely on the basis of your print advertisements.

However, your advertisement can inform potential clients about a number of important facts, including your firm's areas of expertise, the quality of your staff, your affordable fees, the seminars you offer, your monthly newsletter, your firm's victory in an important tax case, your international capabilities, or your new computer technology that expedites audits, income tax preparation, and financial planning.

Your advertising campaign can also highlight your relationships and collaborative efforts with prominent business leaders, politicians, law firms, insurance companies, investment bankers, and actuarial firms.

A Two-Step Approach

While your firm may develop some business directly from print advertisements, it is more likely that a print campaign will generate leads and contacts, which senior partners, rainmakers, and marketing directors will have to follow up on with personalized marketing efforts.

The Headline

The headline is the most important component of any print advertisement. Eighty percent of the people who see your ad will only read the headline. If your first line does not stand out from all the other pieces of communication on a printed page, and "stop the reader in his or her tracks," your advertising dollars will have gone to waste.

Headlines that show people how to make money and save money are naturals for accounting firms. Headlines that refer to a new tax law or a monumental tax decision also should be very effective. Similarly, headlines that refer to a solution to ?n auditing or pension issue should catch interest of the key financial decision makers you are trying to persuade to switch over to your firm.

Headlines that describe concrete advantages and compelling reasons to select your firm are apt to be very powerful. In addition, headlines that show people the kinds of problems they are likely to encounter if they don't choose the right firm can also be very, effective communication tools.

The Body Counts, Too

The body copy should expand on the main idea presented in the headline. You might include facts, case histories, examples and detailed descriptions of the actual accounting and consulting services that you provide to your clients.

Photographs and Illustrations

Visual images significantly increase the number of people who read your advertisement, remember its content and your firm's name.

While many firms tend to use the traditional photographs of the partners in the firm's headquarters, pictures that show accountants working with clients in interesting industries or at interesting locations are apt to be more appealing and more effective. These active photographs and illustrations convey a story to the reader.

What's Your Tone?

The tone of your advertisement should reflect the nature of your target audience as well as your firm's personality and orientation.

For example, if you are trying to attract physicians, your message should be written the way doctors think and speak. If your are trying to attract clients in a particular industry, use phrases, images, and language that is germane to the businesses comprising that field. Try to let your advertisements speak from your clients' perspective. After all, they are the people to whom you are trying to promote your services. In brief, you want potential clients to know that you speak and understand their language.

Since CPAs deal with serious financial and business matters, many advertisements tend to have a straightforward, often stiff, tone. However, accountants can develop print advertisements that sell accounting services by incorporating a bit of levity into the message's content.

You must realize that recall scores tend to be quite high for commercials and advertisements that the reader finds entertaining. Moreover, an entertaining but dignified advertisement that is carefully planned and well-executed may help to set your firm apart from your competition.

Slogans, Logos, Type and Layout

A unique and memorable slogan that summarizes and highlights your firm's special capabilities can strengthen the impact of your message, increase your firm's name recognition and enhance your firm's image. An effective slogan can also act as a powerful closer or summary statement for your advertisement.

Likewise, a distinctive and attractive logo can help to increase your firm's name recognition and communicate something about the personality of your firm and the nature of your corporate environment. Some firms like to portray a traditional, highly formal image; others like to convey the idea that their firm's culture is rather informal and somewhat more casual.

Like your slogan and logo, the type and layout that is selected for your advertisement should reflect your firm's personality and the image you want to project to existing clients, potential clients, your employees, and the general public. In most instances, you will want to utilize a simple layout that is direct and to the point. A busy and chaotic layout can make people feel that your firm is poorly organized and inefficient.

An Advertisement That Works

When advertising account executives, copywriters, or art directors see a powerful advertisement, they often say "It works!" What they are really referring to is a communications tool that is unified, in which all of the elements work together to convey an informative and complete message.

If your firm's advertising campaign is to be successful, you must strive to create advertisements which form an accurate and full picture, conveying a powerful and persuasive message about your professional services to your target audience.

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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