Returns on Both Fronts
I was engaging in a rather interesting conversation with one of my planning cohorts the other day about filing our taxes. I made the comment that when I became a planner the discipline helped me to be better prepared for filing every mid-April. He challenged me on this notion (how like a planner) but because I have been engaging in the practice of planning-based tax preparation for over a decade, I have a wealth of experience of how to apply the rigor of smart research and the tenants of the account planning discipline to lead to healthy tax returns.
Not a believer, too? Well here’s what I have learned…
- Research. Research. Research.
Every year there appears to be as many changes to the US tax code as there are changes in the business landscapes of our pharmaceutical brands. I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to take advantage of a revision to a code, or have safeguarded my refund because of what I found during my annual research about the tax code changes. At AbelsonTaylor, we push our clients every year to perform competitive landscape assessments and market dynamics reviews to see the ebbs and flows in the category, and then suggest how to take full advantage of them. The planning team has leveraged transactional journeys, emotive maps, and war-gaming workshops to find the “what’s new” every year. We more often than not unearth a characteristic, pattern, or insight that becomes a game-changer strategic objective in a brand plan. It takes discipline and investment belief to pull it off, but like the excitement one might expect to find in reading tax code [I’m an attorney], if you apply diligence and an open mind, these yearly research initiatives can pay big dividends.
- Know Thy Audience
This is perhaps the most cardinal rule in the planning discipline and one of the most useful for me in tax preparation. I use an accountant for tax filing and I know he is under a great deal of stress this time of year. I do everything I can to make it easy on him to file my return. I itemize and detail my tax preparation documents (W2s, donations forms, work expenses) making it a breeze for him to review my materials. Because I also study human behavior, I know that sometimes breaking the monotony of the steps of a task can not only make you enjoy it more but can also make you perform better at that task. I infuse a small “mental break” for my accountant to help ease the tension. I slip an “easter egg” in the form of a tasteful joke with my tax paperwork, which I hear derives a chuckle and makes him enjoy working on my case.
Planners at AT do a host of new and interesting insight-based activities to help our brands truly understand their audiences. From co-creation labs that pull audiences together to solve brand-based challenges, to technology-based tools, like leveraging GoPros, for a more authentic in-situation behavioral observation, we find ways to foster a better understanding of the needs of targets and perhaps even find a nugget that can lead to a better brand interaction and experience. Would regulatory ever allow us to infuse something humorous in the PI to reduce tension during administration?
So what do you think? Is there anything relatable between tax filing and the art of account planning? And could I have a future with H&R Block? Would love to hear your feedback.