3 Ways Your Accountant Can Help You Market

Did you know that your revenue and expense records can help you market your product or service?

Due to government requirements most small businesses like yourself keep detailed records about your finances.  But these records can be used for more than filing your taxes.

Here are 3 ways you can use your financial records to benefit your marketing.

Know your true marketing costs.

If done well, your books will provide a detailed list of any marketing related expenditures including those you may forget.  Sure you might remember the upfront cost to have a booth at a tradeshow but your records will help you identify the other related costs such as parking, printing and signage costs.  With this information you know the true cost for participating in the trade show.  In the future you will be better prepared to make decisions about this and other related opportunities.

Use the past to help plan for the future.

Look through your list of marketing expenses.  Which ones would you like to continue doing because they resulted in revenue and other positive outcomes?  Was it the series of ¼ page ads in your local newspaper or the free workshop you gave on menu planning?  Schedule and budget successful activities into your coming year.  Discontinue those that were not successful.  Also look for seasonality trends in your revenue.  Consider marketing efforts to promote increase revenue at slow periods while ensuring peak periods remain supported.

Which products or services sold the most?

Analyze sales information to understand which products, services, distribution channels are contributing the most gross revenue and net revenue.  Perhaps your course “Backpack Essentials” is very popular, but doesn’t contribute very much to your net revenue.  Review pricing.  If your e-book “Camping Essentials” contributes a lot of net revenue per unit but isn’t selling well – plan to increase your marketing efforts of this book to increase sales.

Once you take a look at your numbers from a marketing perspective you will discover a gold mine of information.

Should you continue to do activities that lose money or break even at best?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes it is not.

Potential Situations…

It might be participating in a community event – you’ve done a raw food demonstration there for several years but it never results in any sales.  You hate to say no, and don’t mind helping out but…

Or it may be a couple of stores that carry your hand made jewellery.  You signed them up in the early days of your business and were so grateful for their support, but even though they don’t sell much they require you to drop by and re-stock every 2 weeks.

Perhaps you offer free tours of your herb garden.  You expect individuals to make a purchase from your on-site store, but last week you had a large group that bought very little… this after a 1 hour tour turned into a 2 hour visit and you fed them homemade cookies.

Asking Questions & Making a Decision…

Making a decision on whether to continue these activities or not can be difficult.  Here are some questions to consider.

Is the main goal of your business to generate revenue?  Would you like to rely solely on income from your business some day?  If revenue is a key goal, you need to use your time wisely to make sure the income you need is created.  (If you aren’t focused on income, know what you are trying to achieve and make sure your efforts help you reach those goals!)

Could you adapt how you handle this activity to generate more revenue or attract more customers?  For example, are you promoting your participation in the community event to generate publicity and credibility for your raw food coaching business?  Could you post pictures from the community event on your Facebook profile?

Are you reaching your target audience with the activities?  Are you meeting potential customers who are really interested in what you do and would be great customers?  Is there a way to collect information about the people you meet – either through an email sign up list (preferred) or a ballot draw?

What is the opportunity cost of these activities?  (This is a big one!)  For example, if it takes 4 hours to prepare and offer a group tour – what other activities could you achieve within those 4 hours?  If it takes 3 hours to visit the 2 stores that don’t sell very much of your jewellery, could that time be spent finding new distributors, or producing more product?

Is there a middle ground?  Instead of saying no to an activity entirely – can you find a way to make it fit better with your goals?  For example, could you charge a small fee for your garden tour and in exchange attendees get a coupon of equal value for products in your store?  Could you have a conversation with the stores carrying your products and agree to re-stock every 2 months instead?  For participating in the community event could they recognize you as a sponsor in their marketing materials?

Moving forward…

Overall, be brave!  You are making a BUSINESS decision, not a personal one.  If you have asked the above questions and considered various options you have thought through the decision carefully.  Try not to feel bad.  Think about the potential positive outcomes of your decision.

Last but not least, be sure to use this experience, this decision, as a learning experience.  If you applied this decision process to other activities could you improve them?  How will you evaluate future opportunities?

Good luck!