The Goal of Accounting Firm Marketing Today is Growth

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IMGCAP(1)]Branding. Advertising. Sponsorships. Those three activities were once the heart of accounting marketing. While they are still important, they are not currently driving most marketing activity. Today, it’s all about growth.

Firms, and their marketers, are taking actions that drive top-line revenue. Actions that drive client and prospect engagement. Actions that add opportunities to the pipeline. Along with a significant focus on organic growth, firms are also considering mergers and acquisitions to expand their market share and market potential.

Once upon a time these strategies were determined by gut instinct. While “art” is still part of the equation, modern marketing is also being driven by “science” as firms demand a higher level of ROI. How are science and marketing tied together? Through the power of data. Still in its infancy in the accounting industry, data can tell firms where and how to drive new revenue…if they choose to use it.

Focus on Metrics
Metrics are really just a standard of measurement that allow you to track what you are doing and what is happening. They allow you to drive accountability. The usual assumption is that if you do enough of certain things, you are bound to get the results you desire. Metrics measure:

• Activity: This looks at the number of marketing tactics you employ. It could include how many events you held, newsletters you sent out, blog posts you developed or meetings you organized.

• Outcome: Marketing should encourage some sort of action or interaction, and metrics help you measure the results of things you produce. How much web traffic do you get? How many people dialed into a webinar? How many retweets did you get?

• Operations: These metrics allow you to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of what you are doing. For example, how long does it take you to respond to a website inquiry, what is your cost per lead or what is your average revenue per client?

• Results: The reason you do marketing activities is to produce results: your outcomes. You could gauge this by looking at dollars added to the pipeline, win rates, increased market share or revenue from new offerings, among other measurements.

Move to Analytics
If metrics drive accountability, then analytics help prove the value of marketing. Only a small number of firms are using analytics today, but it’s a trend that will increase with the continued focus on big data.

Data analytics involve applying math to large data sets to look for patterns that will lead to more effective marketing. The types of data you can analyze are virtually endless. The key is to pick the areas that are most important to your firm in terms of how you drive revenue and start there. Potential findings could include things like:

• Identifying a new consulting service to take to market based on both formal and informal market research.

• Considering a new geographic market based on current market share and market potential.

• Uncovering that it takes 15 interactions with your firm before a prospect is willing to meet with you in person.

• Realizing that specialty tax services are your entry services with manufacturers that have more than $15 million in revenue.

• Knowing that your average restaurant client purchases 2.3 services from you and 79 percent buy tax preparation services.

Analytics can be simple, as in the examples above, or extremely complex. If you understand client behavior and what triggers people to buy, you will be better positioned to identify and pursue opportunities proactively, giving your firm a true competitive advantage.

Find Insights
An insight, as it relates to data, is an actionable finding that drives value for your firm. Harder to come by than metrics, insights are what truly make your marketing effective. Starting with solid data, you have to interpret your findings to glean actionable insights. Chances are, you’ll see something you didn’t know before, and you definitely didn’t leverage to your benefit. These insights become the basis of your next steps.

Based on the analytics above, we can see that you have a greater opportunity to win work from medium to large manufacturers if you are first able to get in the door doing a variety of specialty tax services. Couple that with the fact that a prospect needs 15 encounters with you before a meeting, and you begin to understand what’s ahead of you in terms of new client acquisition.

How can you leverage this insight? The exact solution will vary by firm (unfortunately it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario), but you could do something like:

1. Develop a prospect list of companies; personally reach out and invite them to your upcoming seminar on R&D in the manufacturing sector.

2. Launch an email newsletter that contains articles related to tax issues faced by manufacturers and send it to only manufacturers.

3. Ask to speak at a state-wide conference for food manufacturers talking about understanding your nexus footprint.

4. Start a manufacturing CFO roundtable series to bring manufacturers together to share how they are tackling a variety of issues.

5. Work with a manufacturing association to conduct and release a survey that looks at the state of the manufacturing industry; make it downloadable from your website in exchange for an email address.

Embrace Data
When you have data, marketing strategies are easier to see. And metrics will allow you to track the outcomes of those activities so you can make informed decisions about what you should continue doing and what needs to be cut.

Strategic, data-driven marketing doesn’t come easily. Tracking, calculating and analyzing data will be an investment. Most likely your firm will have to clean up existing data and possibly change processes to allow you to collect meaningful data to begin with. However, it will be worth it in the end when you can better allocate marketing spending and know what results your marketing is producing.

Marketing is still a bit of trial and error. That’s where the art comes into it, but data is definitely increasing your odds of success. Let numbers lead the way to your desired growth goals.

Katie Tolin is the chief growth guide of CPA Growth Guides, which uses data-driven marketing strategies to help firm achieve profitable growth. She can be reached at

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