03 Jun June ’20
It’s a whole new world out there. The pandemic has created “new normals” everywhere you look—including how we shop for groceries, how we dine out, how we travel and, of course, how we do business with our clients. The current environment has pushed us past simply working digitally with clients. Today, to some degree, it’s important that we also offer a contactless experience.
Just a few months ago, all you would read about is the need to transition to a fully digital environment. It’s the way of the world—on-demand access to data, 24/7. And while this is still true, right now, we must also take clients’ feelings into account—the fears, concerns and stress that come with the current pandemic. This requires us to set up processes based on the needs of our most vulnerable clients. Clients over 60 years of age who are higher risk for COVID-19 are a good place to start. Also, consider that you will have clients (probably more than you think) who are currently idling at “high alert” and will appreciate a contactless experience.
This is an opportunity to show clients that you are mindful of the current situation and are being proactive in providing alternative solutions to serve them. It’s another opportunity to shine…to stand out from your competitors. Moving more toward contactless service can benefit firms beyond the COVID-19 crisis to create a better client experience overall.
Social awareness as a competitive advantage
People are more socially aware than ever. There is a level of vigilance now inherent in most—in relation to limiting physical contact while in public venues. And trust me…even after we are looking at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, it’s likely that people will hang on to social distancing practices.
Firms need to be aware of this and take the necessary steps (now and into the future) to ensure that every client feels secure and safe. This could mean several changes to common firm practices, including:
- All but eliminating onsite meetings by moving to video conferencing.
- Offering fully digital processes that further replace the need for onsite visits. For example, uploading and downloading documents and paying invoices via your firm’s website.
- If office visits are necessary, implementing guidelines to ensure a contactless experience.
- Providing clear and regular communications to clients about your firm’s social distancing and awareness policies—along with guidelines on how to use your website for online actions.
Being socially aware is the big new competitive advantage in 2020—requiring firms to show a clear understanding of and share clients’ concerns around social distancing and safety. Consider a quick example…
My wife and I were recently in Florida, about the same time the state began reopening restaurants. We dined at two venues. The first offered a nearly contactless experience. From ordering food to paying the bill, menus and my credit card were never passed between myself and our server. We were able to order and pay via an app. The attention to social distancing policy was palpable and appreciated. In the second restaurant, the only social distancing effort was represented in tables being pushed six feet apart. Other than that, no other effort was made. It appeared to be business as usual. This showed a lack of social awareness and a lack of understanding and concern for customers’ health and safety. As a result, we have no plans to return to restaurant #2.
The fact is that every one of your clients feels the pressure of the pandemic to some degree. As such, firms need to take a proactive stance on social distancing policy. Be the business (like restaurant #1) that acknowledges clients’ concerns and feelings. You just never know how deeply these concerns run, so play it safe by doing everything you can to make your clients feel safe and secure. This could very well be the competitive advantage that further fuels your firm ahead of the competition.
Last month, we passed on some tips, tricks and best practices for setting and celebrating long-term goals. This month, we’re focused on short-term goals. Specifically, things to do in the month of June. There has been a lot going on in 2020 so far (You’re shocked, right? You weren’t aware, were you?), and there are a few things that will culminate in the next two months. So, let’s do what we can in June to front load and prepare now for a busy July so we can still enjoy our summer holidays and alleviate the stress just a bit.
- Prepare in advance for the July 15 tax deadline.
- Communicate now with clients a cut-off date for receiving tax documents no later than June 22. Any client documents received after this date will not be guaranteed completion by the July 15 deadline…and may be extended.
- Reach out to business clients that originally contacted you for help navigating the various COVID-19 relief options.
- In ClientView™, track those clients who contacted you, and use the tools to manage opportunities for advisory services as well as those who will need help with forgiveness.
- Upsell those who have been annual-only tax clients, stating that up-to-date records would have made navigating this situation much easier.
- Strategize a fixed or hourly fee to help those clients who received funds manage them to their best advantage.
- Organize for those clients who have PPP forgiveness coming up in July.
- Create a list or use your project management system to track which clients you are working with and what the status is for each.
- Use Rootworks resources like the “Maximizing Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness email” and the “Paycheck protection program loan forgiveness tracking calculator” to help your clients.
- Keep an eye on what our Federal House and Senate are doing regarding COVID-19. As of the writing of this article, there is a vote scheduled that will possibly extend the spending period and allow borrowers to use funds for additional purposes, among other things.
Preparing now will ensure that firm owners and staff will have time to relax and decompress around the July holiday and have the capacity and resources to help the clients that very much need guidance through these crazy times. Happy planning!
SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two DNS (Domain Name System) entries that can be setup on your domain to reduce the potential for email spoofing, phishing and security risks.
SPF records tell the Internet what IP addresses and locations emails from your domain should be coming from. When email systems check incoming email, they will do an SPF lookup to make sure the source IP address is on the SPF record’s list. Here’s an example of an SPF record:
v=spf1 mx a ip4:220.127.116.11 include:spf.mandrillapp.com ~all
The SPF record includes the IP address of the sending server. It also includes an email service, mandrillapp.com (which is owned by MailChimp), where marketing messages may originate from.
The second DNS method for reducing spoofing is DKIM. DKIM is a system by which a sending email system creates a digital signature in an outgoing email and places it in the email header. A receiving mail system can then check the signature through DNS with the DKIM entry. If the DKIM signature matches, the receiving email system accepts the message. If it doesn’t match, it will reject the message.
Here’s an example of of a DKIM DNS entry:
DKIM is more complicated to set up, but it is also more effective. Ask your IT provider to look into these options to configure for your domain.
A: That’s a question that is adequately answered only with a lot of qualifying “ifs,” most of which are centered around your goals.
When we think of traditional print advertising, we usually think of media like newspapers and magazines. Either of these can be a valid inclusion in your communication mix if the audience they deliver supports your goal. Here are some generalizations regarding print audiences:
- Newspapers: The newspaper audience is a broad cross-section of the paper’s coverage area, more recently skewing older, as younger audiences opt for digital media. From a content standpoint, you’ll be more effective in a news medium if your message has a news slant. For example, ads with announcements about tax filing deadlines and tax code changes would perform better than, say, a general ad offering monthly services for business clients.
However, keep in mind that, owing to the broad cross-section of the audience, the aforementioned tax ads would likely produce an abundance of lower-value prospects. If your goal is to gain higher-value clients, a better choice might be to target more affluent ZIP codes with direct mail.Bottom line: Newsworthy content for a broad audience is a good match for newspaper advertising.
- Magazines: The first consideration here is that not every community has a good local magazine. If yours does, it’s probably in a metro area with a larger circulation and higher costs. If you do happen to have an affordable local magazine, it can be a good advertising choice if your goal is to enhance overall awareness and share of voice for your firm in the marketplace. Magazines tend to be more leisure- and lifestyle-oriented, so content specific to accounting and financial issues is best presented in a lighter style that matches the overall mind frame of the audience when they peruse the publication.Another consideration when building awareness and share of voice is that you should be willing to commit to longer-term advertising. Dropping an ad into a magazine twice a year won’t move the needle much on awareness; it takes a continuous schedule. If general awareness and brand image-building are your goals, then look into discounted rates for a longer-term advertising agreement (i.e. a 12-month contract).Bottom line: Magazines can be good choices for awareness and brand-building, but keep the content light and image-focused and commit to a longer-term campaign.
- Other Considerations: If you have highly targeted print publications available to you, those are almost always better choices. These include publications such as a local business magazine or Chamber of Commerce newspaper, for example. If your firm has a regional or national operational scope and is focused on a particular niche specialization (e.g. medical specialties, veterinary clients, construction, etc.), you could consider trade journals as part of your media mix. Owing to the larger circulations and distribution, the advertising rates will often be higher, but your ability to target your message is greatly enhanced.
Ask me anything! Have a marketing question? Email it to email@example.com. I’ll select a question to tackle in each of our upcoming editions.
The Onvio Webinar Series continues
Our Onvio Webinar Series continues with six more trainings in June. The previous webinars in the series have been recorded and included in the appropriate modules in the Onvio Implementation: Conversion, Setup and Use Lesson here: https://rootworks.com/online-learning/17586cf4-0755-4f53-a12f-5053c9043924
Virtual Firm Retreats kick off the first week in June
We have nine events lined up between now and August, and each one can accommodate up to 250 attendees, so get your staff involved! All seats are free, and attendees are eligible for four hours of CPE. Register in Rootworks.com under Resources > Events > Virtual Firm Retreats.
Here’s what’s on our agenda:
Day 1: (Noon-2:00pm EDT)
- Opening—John Mitchell shares a welcome message.
- What the hell just happened?—Darren Root explores the new normal as an opportunity to lead the way to a Modern Firm. There is now a new sense of urgency around getting client and firm tools into the cloud.
- What has to be done this year?—Sean Hanthorn examines what you should be doing to ensure you can operate as digitally, virtually or remotely as possible.
- Closing—John Mitchell shares recommendations for meeting as a firm after the close of the day’s session to discuss the retreat topics and what plans and goals the firm can set in the coming months.
Day 2: (Noon-2:00pm EDT)
- Opening—John Mitchell starts us off on the day’s order of business.
- What have we learned about client communication?—Ben Gabriel looks at how client communication has evolved as firms navigate the new normal.
- Working remotely or remotely working?—John Mitchell explores how you can be more intentional about staying connected with staff and customers.
- Closing—John Mitchell wraps up the retreat with recommendations for meeting as a firm after the close of the day’s session to discuss the retreat topics and what plans and goals the firm can set in the coming months.
We are encouraging firms to set aside one hour after each webinar to meet as a group to discuss the retreat topics and what plans the firm may make.
- June 3 – Staff Training: A Deeper Dive into Advisory Services Part 2 – Reporting. Providing advisory services to clients can mean different things to different firms, but a consistent thread throughout it all is listening to clients, hearing them voice their ups and downs, and taking that information and turning it into something meaningful. Join us in class as we develop custom reports for a business that qualified for a PPP loan and is in the process of trying to learn what that means for their business.
- June 9 – Onvio Series: Client Center – Roll Out and Use. Is it time to roll out a Client Center within your firm and for your clients? If so, join us for a 30-minute instruction and 30-minute Q&A session, where we will help you craft an efficient and effective Client Center roll out strategy, and walk you through the steps of using your Client Center with clients.
- June 12 – Onvio Series: Using Time Entry. This class covers the various ways to enter time into Onvio. If your firm is licensed to use the Time feature, this class is for you. We will review using timers, manually entering time and using the Time Monitor feature. The first 30 minutes of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
- June 16 – Onvio Series: Using Billing & A/R. This class will walk through the process of billing clients in Onvio. This includes options for billing recurring fees, billing non-recurring fees, invoice and statement options, and reviewing reports available to analyze production and revenue. The first 30 minutes of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
- June 17 – Staff Training: Preparing and Managing a Remote Workforce. 2020 has brought some surprises and challenges. One key challenge has been the ability to leverage a remote workforce. In this class, we will cover key items to ensure you can take your workplace remote and do so in an efficient way, so the firm and staff remain productive.
- June 19 – Onvio Series: Using Project Management. This class covers how to manage projects within your firm, including how to manage what is on your own plate, the entire firm and a specific client. We will walk through receiving projects, updating statuses and using the projects screen. The first 30 minutes of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
- June 25 – Summer Planning Webinar. Planning webinars are time spent working on your business. Use each session as a checkpoint throughout the year to take time away from day-to-day work to celebrate accomplishments and then think through projects and issues. Use the next Planning Webinar as your deadline to create a sense of accountability.
- June 26 – Onvio Series: Using Reporting Features. During this webinar, we will review how to use the reporting section of Onvio, including the recommended reports that pertain to time entry, billing, A/R & project management. Please have data available for viewing reports within Onvio prior to joining the webinar. The first 30 minutes of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
Register in Rootworks.com under Resources > Events > Virtual Events.