Date posted: 25/01/2017 5 min read

Public speaking as a marketing strategy

Meet Martz Witty, a CA who is employing a novel approach to marketing to grow his firm and his clients’ businesses

In brief

  • Public speaking can be a practice’s most effective marketing tool and can open new avenues for networking
  • Martz Witty CA chose to focus on business development after getting bored with compliance
  • Consider hiring staff who have strong skills in specific areas

Martz Witty CA attributes part of his public speaking success to being the son of a preacher man – a “fire and brimstone Anglican priest”.

He gleaned a lot of tips from his father and now uses his communication talents – soft skills not traditionally associated with accountants – to grow his business. Witty is passionate about public speaking, and he’s passionate about business development. By combining these two passions he’s making business better – both for himself, and for his clients.

Witty is the founder of Martz Accounting Limited, a Christchurch-based firm which focuses on business development and professional speaking engagements. He spends roughly 80% of his time on speaking work and business development, and the other 20% on compliance accounting.

The company itself directs about 75% of its energies to business development and 25% to compliance.  

There are lots of business coaches out there and business developers who mistake activity for profitability.
Martz Witty CA

Witty is the only staff member of seven currently doing speaking engagements which include speaking at conferences and running business development seminars. He focuses primarily on how to grow a business, but is also a motivational speaker who works on changing negative attitudes.

This speaking work is the practice’s most effective marketing tool. Witty says people hear him speak, then he networks, and from there gets most of his new clients.

He loves the speaking work, finding it rewarding and proactive as it allows him to “share some good news” with a wide range, and large number, of people.

“My main motivation for doing it is I can take some advice, or an opinion, or a perspective and, while with a client you’re doing it one on one, in this environment I can be one to fifty or one to two hundred, or 2,500.”

He honed his speech craft through the National Speakers Association of New Zealand, which he says assumes people know how to speak and teaches them how to make a business out of speaking.

Every speech is tailored to the audience.

“Its core messages will be fundamentally the same, but if someone came and heard me once, then heard me again, it’ll be sufficiently different.”

The speeches take a lot of preparation – roughly six to eight hours for every hour on stage.

Witty decided to focus on business development after getting bored with compliance.

“That whole recording history – I know it’s got to be done… and while I like nothing more on a Friday afternoon than to do a simple compliance set of books – I don’t have to think too hard – it’s great, but it’s not creating history.”

Creating history

Business development is creating history, he says.

“I get my jollies – and my staff get their jollies – because we’re actually creating the businesses people thought they were going to have when they went into business.”

Back before they got swamped with compliance and GST and payroll and dealing with banks and the everyday of running a business, he says.

“They lose their goal and their spark and their enthusiasm and so we can bring that back to them.”

Witty’s team develops businesses by becoming a pseudo business partner, and “getting inside a client’s head, then holding their hand through good and bad”.

“We’re not just a sounding board.”

His team makes a plan to achieve the client’s goal, then “goes on the ride with them”.

Part of his enthusiasm for business development is because it is proactive, not reactive. He believes business development is about giving people what they want, so it’s a positive environment, whereas compliance work involves giving clients what they have to have.

And as a chartered accountant Witty can stay very focused on the bottom line profit, as opposed to getting caught up in activity.

“There are lots of business coaches out there and business developers who mistake activity for profitability. Sometimes we actually go in and downsize a client and they’ll make more money. Sometimes they’ve got too big for their infrastructure so we can clip the wings of the business and shape it a bit better.”

He believes in making a business work, and making the business fund the lifestyle the client wants.

The practice has a small number of clients – just 250 tax returns – but Witty makes it his business to know every client personally. High levels of service don’t come cheaply. Witty says last year one client spent NZ$263,000 with the firm.

He has a custom-written plan for every client because no two have the same needs. However there has been a recurring problem in Christchurch recently – a city which is still being rebuilt following a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in February 2011 which killed 185 people. That problem is out-of-control growth.

 “That’s businesses that are in runaway growth mode – too big too fast. Unplanned, unmonitored growth is what I’ve been called in to help with.”

He says when companies don’t work to a plan and they grow “topsy turvy” and that uncontrolled growth actually sucks cash out of a business.

He is a great believer in client fit and has on occasion turned away potential clients, mainly due to attitude.

 “If people come in and their sole focus is to pay less tax, that’s not going to work for us.”

Once clients come on board, they tend to stay, though he admits some do leave finding the firm, which has photos of rubber ducks instead of staff photos on its website, just too “out there”.

The firm’s high fees also prompt some clients to terminate the relationship he admits, but adds the most common reason for attrition is because clients sell their business.

“We do a disproportionately large number of business sales as a practice. I think it’s because we grow the client, we grow the business, they get all excited and make all the money they want and think they’re ready to retire or try something new.”

But a number of them return as clients, bored by early retirement and ready to buy another business, he says.

Targeting aggressive growth

Between Witty’s marketing through speaking engagements, and other proactive marketing tactics such as direct mail, in addition to referrals, Martz group is “aggressively growing”, after taking on new staff.

“I take the staff on before I have the clients – I don’t do it the other way around as I believe service levels can falter.”

To date he has only hired seniors, saying because he’s away a lot on speaking engagements he needs staff who wouldn’t need to stall a job to ask the boss a question.

“I want people who can make calculated, educated, qualified decisions and document these decisions.”

In the next three years Witty plans to hire another ten accountants.

His staffing philosophy is to hire people brighter than himself, or more talented in their own specialist area. For example he has an expert on compliance, an employee who is an expert on the cloud and a business development specialist.

Witty has been in the profession for about 30 years, being self-employed for much of the time. He has owned 28 businesses – some partially owned, some in full – and the 49-year-old says this means he really does understand a lot of his clients’ problems and has experienced many of the situations they experience.

“It’s about that practical application – I got my hands dirty at some point in the past in that same way, and I can make things better for the client right now.”

A skin cancer scare that he says “should have left me dead” a number of years ago was the catalyst for his own enduring positivity, and he works hard to walk the talk.

He does charity work on Wednesday mornings and takes that afternoon off as personal time.

With clients, he focuses on their welfare first and foremost.

His philosophy is life balance, rather than work/life balance.

“Last time I looked, work was a sub-set of living.”