What Makes a Successful Accounting Firm Marketer?
There is a common misconception among many accounting and other professional services firms’ leadership teams that marketing develops a series of standalone campaigns such as planning a client event, ordering branded items, and distributing press releases. To be successful, it’s important that the marketer has a diverse skill set and that the firm’s leadership team understands the proactive, strategic role of the integrated marketing plan.
Drawing upon Marketri’s own “outsourced marketer” perspective, coupled with the expertise of in-house marketer Kati Tolin, Director of Practice Growth at Rea & Associates CPAs and Business Consultants, we have compiled the following essential attributes of a successful professional services marketer:
Knows the Industry Dynamics.
The first important attribute of a marketing professional in the accounting industry is to understand the industry. For the marketing professional just starting out, be curious, ask questions, and research the industry lingo. Talk to the professional staff to better understand the firm’s service offerings and strengths.
In addition to knowing basic marketing principles, the marketing professional should also have a clear understanding of how the business operates, what makes it profitable, and what the financial goals are. Accounting and other professional services firms often struggle with strategy. They know they want to make a certain level of revenue. An effective marketer can help lead the firm on how to get there strategically. Rather than a series of standalone campaigns, each should tie to a goal and integrate many different touches. For instance, a marketer may create a content matrix based on topics aimed at a particular audience. A single blog post may have a call to action to download a webinar. When this person (now a business lead) fills out the form to download, it signals the business development professional to follow up, and he or she sets a meeting with the intention of closing new business. The plan is built around integrated campaigns that target a specific ideal client.
Understands the Audience.
It’s crucial to understand who makes a good client for the firm and what that client’s or prospect’s needs are. It’s also important to understand what the firm’s areas of strength are and how they can be applied to effectively meet these needs. Once the marketer understands who makes for a good client for the firm, he or she will dig deeper to develop individual personas, identifying specific needs and pain areas. This way, the campaigns can be developed around topics that matter to the target audience. An ideal client is likely going to be different for the firm’s different service offerings. The marketer may conduct interviews of current clients, and speak to partners and business development professionals to gain more insight.
Accounting firms often go to market with a laundry list of services (e.g. assurance, tax, business advisory). The problem is, internally these services may be defined differently. Ask five different CPAs to describe business advisory services and you’ll likely get five different answers. And on the client/prospect side, many don’t know what they need. The marketer needs to consult with the firm on “solutions,” bundling services in a way that they solve a common challenge. The marketer then needs to help the audience understand the value of the service and educate the firm’s professional staff on how to convey this message to clients and prospects.
Helps the Firm’s Professionals Get Involved.
A firm’s marketer can add real value by identifying the firm’s “rising stars” and helping them create a personal marketing and business development plan, which in turn will help them develop their career and grow the firm. Often, less experienced accounting professionals need one-on-one guidance to discover what type of activities they can/should get involved in, and to help them overcome challenges.
Keeps the Firm on the Forefront of New Tools and Technology.
Accountants are typically not “early adopters.” In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that many firms resisted any form of social media engagement. Fast forward to today, and firms without a social media presence are behind the times, missing out on an audience full of potential relationships. The effective marketer will test out new tools, identify the worthwhile ones, and foster the firm’s adoption of new technologies — helping it stay ahead of curve.
When developing the firm’s marketing plan, results should be measurable. This ranges from tracking completed tasks to campaign results to revenue, and then matching how these interrelate. Some measurements or key performance indicators (KPIs) involve: web stats (e.g., visits to individual campaign landing pages, referral traffic from social media, or syndicated blog sites), email blast open rates, social media engagement and followers, and number of leads.
When a qualified lead comes in, the best marketing professionals will trace the chain of events leading to that opportunity. This helps the marketer and firm understand what’s working and what’s not, so the plan can be tweaked as necessary, ensuring a return on marketing investment.
No matter what your firm’s marketing strategy or message is, it’s essential that marketing is embraced and championed by the leadership team and communicated firm wide. Marketing plans and campaigns are not meant to be a secret. In fact, everyone in the firm should be aware of the messaging and campaigns.