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By Michael Alter, President of SurePayroll

Promotions are intended to extend the level of services offered to existing customers and to attract new prospects that may bring additional accounting, bookkeeping, or other service needs to your business.

Customers may be interested in trying your payroll services as an extension to existing services if they see a benefit to making a change from what they are currently doing. Prospects may consider your payroll services if they are experiencing pain with their payroll process, or if they hear about your services from others or from marketing initiatives.

Successful promotions for small businesses follow three basic rules, they:

  1. Start and stop,
  2. Provide a temporary incentive to encourage customers and prospects to become engaged or connected with your business, and
  3. Can be handled using existing resources and staff.

Selecting a promotion that will be successful for your business often is the result of trial and error. Testing a variety of promotions throughout the year will help you to determine which is most effective.

Consider these ideas as you plan your promotion:

  • Add-on services discounts
  • Bundled services promotion
  • Free trial period
  • Referral discounts for customers who bring business to you
  • Register-to-win giveaway (e.g., an office party sub sandwich for business prospects, a flat-panel monitor for small businesses)
  • Hold a contest (e.g., sponsor a coloring contest for children in your local community; give away something children would want to win – a giant stuffed animal, event/waterpark tickets)

Review Your Existing Marketing Material 

Revisit basic marketing material, including your e-mail signature line, business cards, services brochures, letterhead, and your website, to be certain payroll services are prominent. If your firm has a presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – make certain payroll services are represented.

Incorporate the promotion wording into existing marketing material where it is easily seen and clearly worded. Because promotions start and stop, make certain it is easily added and removed when appropriate.

Payroll services are unique because prospects and clients can span a broad spectrum of industries. Payroll services marketing material should highlight generic key benefits that appeal to any industry, such as (1) reduce time spent managing payroll, (2) increase accuracy of state and federal payroll withholdings, and (3) increase efficiency of paycheck and pay stub delivery.

With marketing collateral, generally speaking, less is more. Choose your words carefully because you will only have a viewer’s attention for two to three seconds before he or she decides to dig deeper or move on. Use keywords that resonate across many industries. For example, your payroll services collateral might include:

  • Timely and reliable
  • Guaranteed calculations
  • Accurate
  • Affordable
  • Convenient
  • Professional

Try Networking, Free Online Advertising, and Social Sites

One of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is successfully connecting with local prospects. Getting the word out about a promotion can be as easy as offering a ten-minute presentation to celebrate National Payroll Week. Connect with your local Chamber of Commerce  and offer a presentation about something members could easily relate to and value, such as “Payroll Tips for Small Businesses” or “Small Businesses: How to Eliminate the Top Ten Payroll Pains.”

There are a handful of online advertising websites, such as Angie’s List and Craigslist; some are free and others require a membership fee. Social media sites work best to get the word out when your prospects use or frequent the sites. If you have a well-established following, relying on these sites will work well. If you are new to the social space, you may have better luck focusing on Angie’s List or Craigslist. Unless you try leveraging sites like these for a promotion, you will never know if these are an effective tool for your services and geographic area.

Read more articles by Michael Alter.

About the author:

Michael Alter, payroll expert with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a nationally recognized spokesperson providing thought leadership and sensible advice to help accounting and payroll professionals build deeper more profitable relationships with clients. Alter, president of SurePayroll, writes the Trade Secrets column on and is frequently published in Bloomberg TV, Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine.

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