If you want to excel in niche marketing, listen up. Three notable accounting marketers stand united when it comes to revealing the most important component to niche marketing success – don’t dabble.
“If you don’t jump into the industry with both feet you’re never going to be able to service the client in the way that they really expect,” said Mitzi Keating, partner at Citrin Cooperman in Providence, R.I., and founder of the firm’s cannabis practice.
While cannabis is unlike any other niche, the marketing challenges associated with niche marketing as a whole – and approaches to overcoming them – are similar.
Keating, together with fellow AAM members Gabe Tevrizian, director of marketing at REDW, and Abbey Kanellakis, senior manager of practice growth at Rea & Associates, recently presented an hour-long AAM High webinar and panel discussion, “Uncommon Niches and What We Can Learn from Them.” Tevrizian leads his firm’s marketing efforts for its national tribal practice and Kanellakis helps her firm better target Mennonite and Amish business owners in Ohio. Together, the trio shared their unique experiences and set aside time to address real-world niche marketing questions from attendees.
How To Achieve Niche Marketing Success
While mastery of the subject is an absolute necessity, don’t rely on technical expertise alone, they said. Success also requires patience, a high-level champion within the firm, full understanding of cultural factors, and a commitment to improving the industry or community over the long haul.
“This isn’t all about revenues,” said Tevrizian. “It is about advancing Native Americans, and helping their governments create the services they need to support the growth of those communities.”
Building Trust With Patience
Tribes are naturally skeptical of the federal government and outside entities, he explained. Trust in REDW has been earned over three decades, not only through its tailored services but in the numerous ways the firm gives back to tribal communities.
Trust is also the cornerstone to successfully serving Amish and Mennonite businesses operating within Rea’s service area. Collectively referred to as the Plain community, these clients and prospects need to know that their traditional values – family, hard work, simplicity – sync with Rea’s, Kanellakis said. “What we’ve learned when it comes to doing business in the Plain community is that trusted relationships truly do matter more than anything else.”
Engaging in Outreach and Advocacy
All three panelists said outreach and advocacy is critical.
At Rea, Kanellakis focuses on simplistic marketing. Members of the Plain community typically have limited access to the internet and email. Once a year, the firm’s manufacturing team offers half-day educational seminars. One-on-one meetings with craftsmen and artisans build relationships and provide real-time information. A stripped-down, hard-copy newsletter of business advice, “Plain and Simple,” generates roughly one new client per issue. The firm uses pre-paid postcards to survey business owners on their issues and concerns.
Keating brings to the industry the perspective of being a CPA, a Certified Fraud Examiner, and of having been an elected local official in Massachusetts. Knowledgeable about federal, state and local regulations, complex and onerous tax issues, and business and firm risk, she attends cannabis conferences, educates bank officials and is a prolific public speaker. Citrin Cooperman also recognizes and appreciates the industry’s approach to social equity. Within certain states, application preferences are given to populations who were disproportionately affected by punitive drug laws in the past.
Pairing Advocacy With Action
REDW considers itself an “all-in” firm, with its advocacy for tribes backed by action. Boasting the country’s largest practice serving Native American tribal governments, tribal casinos and other enterprises, REDW offers extensive resources to empower tribal leaders and their communities, including financial literacy education, scholarships, internships, art commissions, charitable fundraising, workshops, tribal compensation surveys and more.
The pandemic brought the value of those close relationships to the fore. “The one thing I noticed is that everybody suddenly became much more proactive and empathetic, and from a BD perspective it was less about meeting revenue targets and really responding to what they were feeling and perceiving,” Tevrizian said. “The change in how we interact with clients was already in the works pre-pandemic, but I think it accelerated. That was the silver lining, a good reminder than in good or bad times, being responsive and able to truly address the real concerns should be a top priority.”
Forming a Deep Understanding of the Niche
Keating said her firm helps cannabis businesses when not many firms will. The lack of clear guidance for tax and accounting issues in the industry requires a dedication to innovation and common sense, while still understanding that cannabis is federally illegal. “That’s going to be remembered and celebrated within that industry that we were there with them, because if we have legalization in a year or two and everyone jumps into this, it may be a little too late. It’s going to be a lot harder to establish that trust and that connection if you’re not in there now, when it’s hard.”
AAM High webinars, and the recordings if you miss them, are free for members. Check out “Uncommon Niches and What We Can Learn from Them.”
About Christina Camara
Christina Camara is the managing editor of INSIDE Public Accounting, which publishes two award-winning publications: the IPA newsletter and the annual IPA National Benchmarking Report, along with in-depth reports focused on IT, HR, and firm administration.