The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) restricts Chartered Accountants to use logos and advertise in the competitive market.
This limits the scope for acquiring clients for Chartered Accountants and hence grow their consulting business. They have to depend mainly on reference and contacts to promote their services.
So, let’s understand the Code of Ethics for Accountants with regards to Advertising their services in India. Following this, we will discuss the strategies that can be adopted by accountants in India pertaining to marketing for accountants.
Code of Conduct For Accountants
As per Clause (6), Part-I of the First Schedule to the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, a practicing Chartered Accountant shall be considered guilty of professional misconduct if he:
- solicits clients or professional work either directly or indirectly by circular, advertisement, personal communication or interview or by any other means
- secures any professional business either through his employee or a person who is not his partner or or by means which are not open to a chartered accountant
- advertises his professional services, or
- uses any designation or expressions other than chartered accountant on professional documents, visiting cards, letter heads or sign boards. Unless the:
- underlying document is a degree of a University established by law in India or recognized by the Central Government or
- title indicates membership of ICAI or of any other institution that has been recognized by the Central Government or may be recognized by the Council
However, there are certain exceptions to the above rules. Following are the activities that Chartered Accountants can undertake.
- A member can respond to tenders or inquiries issued by various users of professional services or organizations from time to time. This can help him in securing professional work.
- He can advertise:
- changes in partnerships or dissolution of a firm
- any change in the address of practice and telephone numbers
Provided the advertisement is limited to bare statement of facts. Furthermore, the Chartered Accountant must give such an advertisement in a newspaper or a magazine of an appropriate area. And applicable amount of insertions need to be given.
- A member is further allowed to issue a classified advertisement in the Journal/Newspaper of the Institute. Provided such an advertisement gives information for:
- sharing professional work on assignment basis or
- seeking professional work on partnership basis or
- salaried employment in the field of accounting profession
Also, such an advertisement should contain only the name, address, telephone, fax number and email address of the accountant.
Marketing Strategies To Get Clients For Accountants
Though, ICAI restricts or prohibits Chartered Accountants to solicit clients through advertisement, there are certain marketing strategies with the help of which they can promote their work in ethical ways.
1. Create Your Own Website
The Chartered Accountants are free to create their own Website. However, it is subject to certain guidelines issued by the Act.
- Chartered Accountants are permitted to have a website in their trade name or individual name.
- Such a website should necessarily run on “pull” model and not a “push” model.
- The Chartered Accountants should not circulate any information contained on the website on their own or through email or through any other mode or technique. However, if a prospect asks for such an information (that is if it’s a pull request), then the accountants can do so.
- Further, Chartered Accountants cannot issue any circular or any other advertisement or any other material of any kind that solicits people to visit their website.
- Also, they cannot use logo on Website. They can also use Passport size photograph.
- The Chartered Accountants can publish articles, professional information, professional updation and other matters of professional interest.
- Furthermore, CAs can provide online advice to their clients who specifically request for such an advice. The advice can be given free of charge or on payment.
- Listing on suitable search engine is permitted to CAs
- Also, listings offered to Chartered Accountants by a number of Chartered Accountants Societies or other bodies is permitted. Furthermore, listings offered by a professional body or association or Chamber of Commerce to its member Chartered Accountants is also permitted.
- Advertisement in the form of banner or any other form on the Website is not permitted.
To know the complete set of guidelines for operating a website for Chartered Accountants, you can refer to the Code of Ethics for CAs document here.
Thus, Chartered Accountants can promote their services either by creating their own website or registering for certain listings offered by professional bodies. They can help clients by advising them online and hence make a reputation for their professional talent.
2. Get Your Name Published In A Directory
A Chartered Accountant is not permitted to get his name or firm name published in a Telephone Directory either by:
- making a special request or
- means of an additional payment.
Furthermore, the Council has even challenged publication of such entries in telephone/trade directories brought out by Government and non-Government agencies. However, it has decided to Chartered Accountant to have his name or firm name in the Telephone or other Directories published by Telephone Authorities or Private Bodies subject to certain guidelines.
- Entry should appear in the section or category of “Chartered Accountants“.
- Accountant or firm should belong to the town or city in respect of which the directory is being published.
- Entry made should be in the normal type of letters. Thus, entry in bold type or abnormal type of letters or in a box is not allowed.
- Order of the entries should be alphabetical and logical.
- Entry should give the impression of publicity or advertising. Further, the entry should not be prominent as compared to other entries.
- Payment for the entry should not be unreasonable.
- Entries should not be restricted to specific Chartered Accountants. In fact, these should be open to all CAs or firms of CAs in the particular city or town in respect of which the directory is published.
- CAs can also include their names in trade directories published or otherwise available.
3. Ask For A Referral From Another CAs in Practice
As per proviso (ii) of Clause (6), Part-I of the First Schedule to the Act, a Chartered Accountant can secure professional work from another Chartered Accountants in practice.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, a Chartered Accountant is prohibited to solicit clients through advertisement, circular, personal communication or interview or by any other means.
However, you as a Chartered Accountant, can give a classified advertisement in the Journal/Newsletter of the Institute. Such an advertisement must give information regarding:
- sharing professional work on assignment basis or
- seeking professional work on partnership basis
- salaried employment in the field of accounting profession
Furthermore, such an advertisement should contain only the accountant’s name, address, telephone, fax number and email address.
4. Set Up Your Own Blog or Contribute Blog Posts On Various CA Platforms
There are a host of people who have been searching for queries on search engines pertaining to topics such as accounting, tax, law and order etc.
These people either are small business owners, professionals, interns or accounting students who have been facing challenges with regards to filing tax returns, formulating financial statements, dealing with tax regulations and the like.
Chartered Accountants have a great opportunity to help such people in resolving their issues by creating and sharing valuable content.
They can either start their own blog or can contribute content on various online platforms or forums that are specifically developed for chartered accountants. A well-produced content helps in engaging the target audience and grabbing the reader’s attention.
Moreover, generating valuable content on a consistent basis helps to build trust. Such a valuable content goes a long way in helping the target audience find solutions to the problems faced by them in business and profession.
Besides this, such readers may become potential customers as a result of receiving regular advise through the blog posts contributed by you as a Chartered Accountant.
5. Seek Conferences and Public Speaking Opportunities
Conferences and public speaking events are a great opportunity for Chartered Accountants to initiate an interactive dialogue amongst local accounting fraternity and other stakeholders.
Such events see participation of renowned experts in the area of accounting and auditing from national and international bodies. Hence, such platforms are apt for Chartered Accountants for exchanging ideas as well as showcasing their professional skill and talent.
But accountants delivering lectures or sharing specialized knowledge on such platforms should not make any reference of the name and address or services of their accounting firm. Whatever they may say or write must not be promotional of them or their firm. Rather it must be an objective professional view of the topic under consideration.
ICAI organizes seminars and conferences all year round where accounting experts can exchange knowledge and ideas with other set of experts and professionals. To know about the latest events, you can refer icai.org.
6. Become An Affiliate of Network of Chartered Accountants
Chartered Accountants or accounting firms can become an affiliate of the Networks of Accounting Firms approved by ICAI. These networks are formulated by accounting firms to enhance their ability to provide professional services.
Also, the object of formulating such networks is to use collective resources such as manpower, infrastructure etc of the affiliates for rendering professional services. Although the individual identity of the accounting firms remains intact.
The benefits of being an affiliate of a Network of Chartered Accountants include:
- Access to other affiliates of the Formal Network, both national and international
- Capability to service clients in multiple locations across the country through a single firm
- Access to shared knowledge and expertise across the network
- Standard operating procedures for all areas of work including client management, client servicing, communication and overall accounting firm management
- Capability to offer clients specialist advice from local experts across the country as well as across industries
Examples of local networks include Bagtach, ASA & Associates LLP, Chartered Accountant India etc. You can even become an associate of International Network of Accountants. Nexia International, MGI Worldwide, SGA World etc.
7. Create Profiles On Social Media
Social media is an effective medium to communicate with the target audience. It encourages discussion, networking and sharing of valuable information and updates with the community thus promoting new ideas and building trust relationships.
Chartered Accountants too can take leverage of these platforms by creating engaging content and hence engaging target customers. For this, they need to create well defined profiles on social platforms like LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a professional network where Chartered Accountants can connect with tax experts and other CAs in order to increase their network. Also, they can post updates and articles pertaining to accounting, tax and other related areas on a consistent basis.
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Furthermore, they can even comment on and share the posts updated by their connections in order to engage with them. Such a consistent effort would help CAs in showcasing their knowledge as well as making people aware about their presence.
Also, such an engagement with the community can create professional opportunities for them in the near future.
8. Join Groups On Various Social Media Platforms
Social networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook have a variety of groups for Chartered Accountants. These are open as well as closed groups. For open groups, there is no need to send a request. However, for closed groups, you need to send a request in order to be a part of such groups.
These groups are communities of Chartered Accountants and students pursuing Chartered Accountancy course. Such communities share information pertaining to laws with regards to tax and accounting as well as tips for students pursuing CA Course.
This is a great opportunity for Chartered Accountants to showcase their knowledge and professional talent. The members can help other group members in resolving their queries as well as being a part of the discussion taking around topics pertaining to auditing, accounting, tax and law.
Though, member CAs cannot promote their accounting services in such groups, they can certainly be in the eyes of other members by sharing regular updates and knowledge. Such an activity would help CAs in getting referral work in the near future from other CAs who are a part of the group.
Though Chartered Accountants in India are restricted to advertise their services, there are still certain marketing strategies with the help of which they can attract new clients. Having social media profiles, developing a website and contributing content for CA forums and platforms would really go a long way in building trust and creating professional opportunities.
Hence, CAs should work on these strategies and should also keep in mind the guidelines issued by ICAI in order to promote their services in an ethical way.