Remember when marketing was about selling stuff?

Ah, the good ol’ days …

But like all things lately, marketing has changed.

Check that. It hasn’t changed. It has been transformed.

The social movement has placed people at the center of everything we do. That includes marketing, where the new law of the land is, “Quit selling me stuff. Start solving my problems instead.”

“The key to modern marketing,” says Jay Baer, “is to stop trying to be amazing and start being useful.”

Baer, a best-selling author and marketing strategist, delivered a keynote address at the 2014 CCH User Conference that focused on this central tenet: The more you help others, the more they will help you.

It’s an idea that should ring close to home for CPAs.

“It’s exactly what the profession does in every way, shape and form, which should make this a fairly easy marketing leap,” Baer told me after his CCH keynote. “What we’re really talking about is trying to generate awareness, customer loyalty, and increased customer conversions through the provision of useful information.”

Think about every question that anyone has ever asked you about your practice or career. Now imagine answering each of those questions, free of charge, one at a time, via a blog, video blog or podcast. That’s being useful. That’s adding value. And the more you do that, the more business you stand to gain as a result.

“Every time you demonstrate what you know — through information, through helpfulness — it generates more awareness, more trust for you and your firm, which should create more customers on the back end,” Baer says. “… You have to accept the premise that you will be rewarded eventually for giving away information of value. That’s a key point — eventually.”

Getting started, says Baer, is a two-step process:

  • First, ask yourself what kinds of clients you want. This might actually involve turning down business. “Sometimes that requires saying no, that we’re not going to take every potential piece of business that comes in the door,” he said. “Instead, we’re going to sharpen the knife and try to be the best possible solution for a particular region, vertical, or type of client.”
     
  • Second, ask yourself: What kinds of information do those ideal clients desperately need? Here’s a hint: It’s not about your services. “Nobody in the history of the world has ever needed socks, but everybody has needed their feet to be warmer,” Baer says. “What do they really need from you? Then, start to provide that information one bit at a time, in multiple ways, primarily online. If you give it a year, amazing things will happen — amazing things.”

Seth Godin puts it another way: Generosity generates income. In a world of social business, it works. Stop selling stuff. Start solving problems.

Watch my interview with Jay Baer here:

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