Fear-Based Accounting Firm Marketing – Don’t Fall into the Deadly Trap

by Debra Andrews | June 3, 2014

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.

~Sven Goran Eriksson

SCREAM. RUN. HIDE. PROTECT. Fear is a pre-programmed emotion that acts as an instinctual response to potential danger. While being afraid can be a healthy response in real life, it is usually a detrimental one when it comes to business growth, marketing decisions and success. 

When you see a stranger lurking around the neighborhood and feel compelled to alert your neighbors and lock the doors, fear has produced a wise response to what could be a dangerous situation. On the other hand, say a competitor opens a new office in your geographic market and your firm treats the situation nonchalantly and chooses “business as usual.” This is a fear-based decision to “hide” and a very weak-minded course of inaction.

Take a look at the following examples of fear-based marketing decisions to see if you’ve fallen into a deadly trap:


You have come up through the ranks, from first year accountant to senior auditing partner, fine-tuning your expertise in one particular area of public accounting. While you have been minding your client work and compliance deadlines like a dutiful CPA, the public accounting market has been consolidating and the Internet has become a way for savvy B2B buyers to find answers to their questions and find true experts in their segment. Reality check –> the purchasing power has all shifted to buyers. Why would any logical B2B buyer choose a generalist auditor when they can have one that is a specialist in their industry and type of business, and can also offer great business insight? Typically, they don’t! And if they do, it’s for one reason – fee concessions.

Your skillset – auditing – has become a commodity. I know – life isn’t fair! Whether this fact becomes a change agent or throws your firm into the death spiral of complacency and price-based competition is up to YOU

The Death Spiral: Choosing to keep the mindset, “I’m an auditor and I’m going to continue to throw my commoditized skillset out to businesses in all shapes and sizes and see what sticks.”

A Better Path: Asking your best clients what is most important to them and how you could be of more service as an auditor, accountant and business advisor; developing a plan to sharpen your skills to better meet the needs of these types of clients; working with marketing to showcase your expertise and pull great long-term clients towards you and your firm.


You love certainty and hate taking risks, especially when it comes to spending money! Another unfortunate reality check –> there aren’t many guarantees when it comes to marketing strategies and tactics. Accountants who fear investing in marketing have two general coping mechanisms: Dismissing and Defining.

The “Dismissers:” Some CPAs choose to dismiss marketing as a waste and believe that you just need to do a great job for clients or have lunch with a few possible referral sources and awesome new clients will consistently appear over time. Their fear of the unknown world of marketing and potentially wasting money prevents them from being open-minded and even trying to understand its value.

The “Definers:” Other accountants choose to define marketing as whatever feels most comfortable for them.

“Marketing is a brochure.”

“Marketing is a website.”

“Promotional items are marketing.”

“Marketing is advertising.”

Accountants with this mindset will “check the box” that they have done “marketing” and made the proper investment. What the “Definers” haven’t done is check out what their marketing-savvy competitors are doing to grow and even win over their clients! The fear factor prevents these professionals from taking a hard look at what’s going on around them and embracing current marketing strategies to compete. They remain dedicated to their definition of marketing even at all costs. Take a look in the mirror – are you a Dismisser or a Definer?


You didn’t enter in the CPA profession to write creative blogs, build engaged audiences on social media, speak to the media as an authority or shoot videos for your firm’s website. Another reality check –> whether you like it or not, marketing is part of your job! The fear of not being good at particular forms of marketing is often accepted as an excuse, and these professionals – including Partners – are granted passes to not participate.

But what if your competitors push their CPAs out of their comfort zones? What if they mandate participation in marketing and provide training to their professionals from day one on the job? You may not see the impact of “no marketing” immediately, but over a period of time your firm will find it very challenging to win substantial new clients. You and your firm will be left behind.

If your firm has been paralyzed in some way by a fear of marketing, don’t try to make up for lost time in an ad-hoc, random and frenzied fashion. Hire or consult with an experienced marketing specialist who will be able to relate and understand the dynamics at play and develop strategies and programs to get your accounting firm on the right track. It’s never too late to conquer your marketing fears!

New call-to-action