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Tax Season Marketing 101: Motivating Factors of First Time Filers and Switchers

December 30, 2015

Each New Year millions of Americans put together their list of annual resolutions. For tax professionals, their resolution starts with understanding what motivates consumers in choosing whom to work with for tax and personal finance needs.

A 2015 Google consumer survey on tax preparation gives us some great insight into consumers’ motivating factors. There are some great takeaways from the data that every tax professional could use in 2016 and beyond.

First Time Tax Filers

The majority of first time filers are millennials, ages 18-24. The Google consumer survey indicated that taxpayers choose the DIY model based on price, while they selected a tax professional based on a recommendation. With that insight, what are you doing to identify current clients whose children are diving into the work force for the first time? Many of them might be freelancing or part of the on demand economy. Developing marketing content around the pitfalls of the independent contractor will establish you as a trusted advisor and make you more likely to be recommended. Since price is a determining factor, put together a first time filer discount offer that can easily be shared online via email and social media.

Life Events and Taxes

If you analyze your own practice you know client life events are a big factor in the comings and goings of clients. Job changes, moves, business startups, children, marriage and divorce are milestone events that will influence who taxpayers choose to work with. Your brand visibility and clout will factor into how well you retain or gain new clients who hit these milestones.  Are you developing articles and content about these life events? Are you active online year round? Are you available regardless of distance? Life events don’t happen just during tax season.

Outstanding Client Service

The Google survey confirmed what we already know, that a good amount of leads come from recommendations. In today’s digital age, recommendations come in various forms, including testimonials on your websites, reviews on TaxBuzz or interaction on social media sites like Facebook. What is eye opening is that 26% of users had the tendency to try DIY tax preparation software because of a bad experience, while 23% are motivated to work with a tax professional based on a recommendation. The two work hand in hand. The more responsive you are the more good experiences clients will have and the more likely they will be to refer you to others. Working on establishing a great group of influencers and attracting five star reviews should be your primary motivation in 2016.

Switchers Favor DIY Methods

12% of taxpayers switched their filing method in 2014. 63% went the DIY or the IRS direct file method. That is a troubling trend for tax professionals. We all know the horror stories of the missed deduction or tax filing errors that DIY users commonly make. So what can you do to tell your story and turn the tide?

The good news is that 12% is a big number and it gives you the ability to gain new clients. Putting your best foot forward means spending time working on your brand. Proactively get five star reviews. Change the story line from a tax return being a commodity item to it helping clients save on their taxes. Keeping clients on course should be part of your mission. Communicating with clients year round and providing more than a tax return should be on display in every client contact. Successful tax professionals today are more tax planners than tax preparers. So start acting like one.


Being responsive to clients, communicating year round and developing a rock solid online reputation pay huge dividends for the health of your practice. Battling the Tax Mills and DIY tax software companies’ national budgets can be nearly impossible. But it is also where the opportunity exists. Establish a loyal following of clients and let them do the work for you. Make it easy for them to leave five star reviews and recommend you online. That means taking time to develop your professional profile and social media accounts. Develop articles and content that speaks to the deciding factors taxpayers use when deciding to switch tax-filing methods. Number one, remember that developing a rock solid reputation is a long-term game. It takes many months and years of consistent results to dominate your market.

Pro advice, ideas, and information to help your practice get going and grow.

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Lee Reams II

I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.

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