The Challenge: Sustaining growth and profitability in the mature markets for tax preparation services.
The Solution: The right marketing mix of product, pricing, place, promotion and platform.
You don’t build the largest independent network of tax preparation offices in the state by doing what you’ve always done.
“You have to innovate, to constantly re-invent yourself,” says John Striewe, president and founder of Indianapolis-based Fiscal Tax Company. The company started by doing returns at the client’s home, and within a few years had built the practice enough to move into a small office. The move brought a few more individual clients and its first business clients.
“We discovered early on that people like to have their taxes done in an environment that does not add to their work, and where they are comfortable. If you can find those places, and provide satisfaction in the products you deliver, they will remain loyal customers,” says Striewe. “We found those locations at Kroger and Marsh Supermarket chains. Partnering with these chains, our business increased to 23 locations in central Indiana.”
Part of the Fiscal Tax strategy is to pay attention to what marketers call “the five Ps”:
- Products – the right mix
- Place (where the products are sold)
“We could franchise our service, but that is costly and time-consuming for them and for me. Instead, we make each location a partner. They share in the success of their locations, without the complexity and cost.”
Fiscal Tax guarantees the accuracy of every tax return they prepare, and if there are errors, will pay any resulting penalties and interest. If a customer is audited, they will explain the IRS tax audit notice to the customer as well as the documentation that needs to be provided to the auditor. They also guarantee that the preparation fees will be at least $50 less than those of national chains.
But the area of greatest impact is how the firm and its services are promoted.
“No two markets are the same, and cannot be promoted in the same way,” says Striewe. “Indianapolis has lost most of its industrial base in the past decade. RALs were very popular, but no longer are available. We experimented with doing taxes at check-cashing stores, but that was not effective for us. Neither was print advertising.”
“Recently, we found that offering an online, do-it-yourself option was not as great a new business driver as we had expected. The customer liked the fact that we checked the return before it us filed, and that it can be filed electronically, but we did not see the expected return on our investment.”
For Striewe, the 5th P may be the most critical – the tax preparation platform.
“We use Drake Software,” he states. “Tax law is complex, for both federal and state taxes, and you have to use software that keeps pace with the changes. Our average return runs 25 pages, and takes four hours of additional work for every hour spent with the client. If we are going to guarantee our work, we want software we can rely on. Fiscal Tax Company relies on Drake.
“We are also involved in the industry and events. We watch our competitors closely,” notes Striewe. “What they offer, how they price, and how they promote their services. And their locations. Ten years ago, Marsh began cutting stores and we lost some business. But H&R Block held the contract for Kroger supermarkets, and we were successful in taking that business from them.”
That’s the business side alone. But as an added bonus,
Striewe offers a 6th P….PERSONAL.
It all boils down to having healthy relationships and taking personal time to “de-stress.” That’s what keeps this business monster sane. His wife is also involved in Fiscal Tax, but does not work directly for John. She does administrative work two days a week for 12 weeks, and manages the firm’s commitments to the community, including their support of the Symphony on the Prairie.
Striewe is an avid golfer who plays 50-60 times a year, even in the heat of tax season. He also travels to reduce the stress of managing a successful practice. Last year his travels took him to the Great Wall of China, and more recently, he returned from Rome.
“Our family stays involved and very active throughout the year,” Striewe observes. “I’m married with two children and four grandchildren. Each year, in the final weeks of tax season, I join my granddaughters near Sarasota, Florida for a vacation. I’m able to do that because I hire very competent people who enjoy the environment and working for us. That attitude carries over to enhance the client relationship as well.”
Fiscal Tax: 317.897.9964
For a full list of locations click here.