Gale Crosley on The Business Discipline of Practice Growth
Market Intelligence: Trading in a Valuable Commodity
Our yard was inundated with bird food-eating squirrels and
we were desperate. So we did what desperate people do.
We fell for a shiny advertisement promoting a highly specialized
(read "expensive") squirrel-defying bird feeder.
The squirrel spies the contraption, thinking he's
discovered a birdfeeder lazy Susan, which is pretty much what it
looks like. But in fact, climbing on it sends the
unsuspecting pest on a vertigo inducing merry-go-round ride.
We were promised that this does not harm the squirrel.
What it does do is send the dizzy rodent straight back to
the forest with a powerful message for its fellow squirrels:
"Dudes. DO NOT go foraging in the Crosley's yard.
Nothing good will come of it and you'll likely come away with a
It struck me that this sylvan communication is a perfect
example of shared market intelligence. Market intelligence is
the aggregate of information about a particular market, and the
strategic use of that information to grow the firm. It takes
you beyond the tactical to the strategic, leading to faster
Picture a fishing pond. Stand at the edge and throw
a line in and you'll probably catch a fish now and again.
Compare that tactical approach with a more strategic method -
jumping into the center of the pond and closely studying the
dynamics of the ecosystem. Surrounded by so many organisms
and so much activity you're certain to figure out where in the pond
most fish reside, what they're hungry for, etc. And as a
result you're sure to reel more of them in.
Random Acts of Networking
When it comes to business building in CPA firms,
however, most partners have resisted that soggy jump into the
center of the pond. They're more comfortable with "random
acts of networking" like the traditional banker breakfasts, lawyer
lunches and chamber cocktails. This might have been good enough
when the economy was soaring, but not anymore.
So here's the deal. Master rainmakers have never
been content with that kind of unfocused networking. Super
successful partners are by nature strategic thinkers who have
figured out how to discover market intelligence by getting up close
and personal with that pond. Once discovered, they connect the
dots, leading them to a great quantity of potential buyers and
growing their understanding of buyers' interests.
Market intelligence is a result of the relentless pursuit
of information, especially through focused research calls on
prospects, competitors and others in your niche. You
supplement this knowledge by reading everything you can about that
industry - trade journals, magazines, electronic publications. Add
the new social media tools at your disposal. If you haven't begun
to tweet, Facebook, blog or Link In, you're missing the opportunity
of a lifetime to get in on the (nearly) ground floor of incredible
tools to learn your market from the outside in. From what's
on the minds of buyers to what they're reading, thinking, buying
and responding to.
Consider these hypothetical examples of how CPAs can
leverage market intelligence:
- Through contacts in the manufacturing sector you
hear about a new conference on Lean/Six Sigma strategies. You
realize this would be the perfect presentation forum for a
manufacturing consultant you know who specializes in Lean/Six
Sigma, and is trying to grow her base. Your knowledge of this
opportunity is a valuable piece of market intelligence that you
share with her. (PS - Someday she gives you a juicy nugget of
- You learn through a lawyer, of growing
European interest in purchasing U.S. real estate
companies. After researching the situation, you use this
market intelligence to restructure several of your services into
international offerings. You start identifying areas of
thought leadership to help these global players and, eventually
become the go-to firm in this space.
- You discover that a publication is launching a new
benchmark in the construction industry. You convince them to
jointly sponsor it with your firm, and the firm becomes positioned
as the go-to place for benchmarking on this issue.
Listen for the Theme
The closer you get to the epicenter of your market
and the more high value market intelligence you uncover, the more
the dots start to connect. Rather than looking for a lead here or a
referral there, you're looking for the big picture to emerge.
It's not the individual notes of music, but the large themes they
produce that matter. The results include a better strategic
direction, a bigger pipeline and faster revenue growth.
That's when you know you're trading in the currency of
market intelligence, the strategic method to growing your
Copyright ® 2011 by Crosley+Company
Gale Crosley, CPA, was selected one
of the Most Recommended Consultants in the Inside Public Accounting
BEST OF THE BEST Annual Survey of Firms for eight consecutive
years, and one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting
by AccountingToday for six consecutive years. She is an
honors accounting graduate from the University of Akron, Ohio,
winner of the Simonetti Distinguished Business Alumni Award, and an
Editorial Advisor for the Journal of Accountancy. Gale is
founder and principal of Crosley+Company, providing revenue growth
consulting and coaching to CPA firms. She brings more than 30 years
of experience, featuring a unique combination as a practicing CPA
in two national accounting firms, along with significant experience
in business development in the cutting edge technology environment
with such firms as IBM and MCI. For more information, visit the
website at www.crosleycompany.com
or contact her at email@example.com.
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