The $3,000 McGuffin

In Hollywood, a “McGuffin” is “an object or device in a book or a film that serves merely as a trigger for the plot.” Think of Humphrey Bogart’s noir classic, The Maltese Falcon. Bogart’s hard-boiled detective, Sam Spade, calls the statue itself “the stuff that dreams are made of.” But really, it’s just a device to send Spade on a series of adventures.Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” is another McGuffin. It doesn’t matter what the name refers to; it’s just a device for examining the life of the great Charles Foster Kane.

When you sit down to sell your first few tax plans, you might reasonably think that the plan itself is the whole point of the exercise. But you might be surprised to find how many times the written plan is just a McGuffin for establishing a high-value relationship with a client. Here’s an email we received Monday from a new member in a state that’s renowned for cheese who’s coming to that realization.

“Hello Tax Coach

I’m a few days into my free trial and have a question and a big compliment.

My initial impression of my free trial is that TaxCoach is a community. A community of tax preparers who want to be or are now tax advisors. There are also tools provided in improving and delivering a better message. All tools appear to be do-it-yourself with no accountability.

Is it correct to interpret TaxCoach in this way?

As far as the specific Tax Planning software, it seems to be a tool to communicate your message. Not a tool that creates tax planning ideas. Not a tool that actually calculates any tax savings (this is required by an outside software). In fact, if one were to “master the art” of communicating the TaxCoach way, the actual deliverable of the software may not be necessary. To actually quantify the tax savings prior to engagement would rely heavily on your expertise.

Maybe the deliverable is an ideal post engagement tool to show “advisor alpha?”

No matter the case, the message you’re sharing is exactly what I have been “preaching” at my firm. The robots are coming for compliance work and we need to differentiate. TaxCoach University does a great job at creating this way of thinking and messaging it in the few videos I watched. Bravo! This alone has made me a very interested consumer.

Thank you”

Here’s the bottom line. Don’t get hung up on the plan itself, especially if you sense it’s as much a McGuffin to your client as anything else. As we say in our TCU 101 “Orientation” class, we don’t want the client to perceive the value as comingfrom the plan itself; we want the client to perceive the value as coming from your delivery of the planning.

Today is September 21, and there are just 101 days left until the official end of tax-planning season. (Don’t you hate it when department stores roll out tax-planning trees early in the summer?) So get out there and start delivering some plansand some value!