Voices

7 steps to successful marketing automation for accounting firms

The marketing world is all abuzz about marketing automation. But, like the cloud in which many of its functions reside, marketing automation is a relatively fuzzy concept that can be confusing.

At its simplest, marketing automation (MA) is the use of sophisticated software platforms to replace tedious, repetitive manual tasks with automated processes, freeing up your marketing team for more strategic, value-added tasks and projects. MA essentially automates, streamlines and measures marketing tasks to increase efficiency and achieve faster, better results.

One thing that’s crucial to remember is that no matter how simple or sophisticated your marketing automation is, it will not improve your marketing. Bad marketing, automated or not, is still bad marketing. It’s important to first have a solid, informed, carefully thought-out marketing strategy before launching any MA initiative. The last thing you want to be doing is automatically sending out poorly conceived, ineffective messages that, at best, produce no positive results and, at worst, create a negative image of your firm with your target audience.

Successful marketing automation for accounting firms involves seven key steps that will enable you to deliver valuable, personalized messages to targeted prospects and nurture them from leads to clients throughout the entire sales journey.

Step 1: It starts with defining and researching your target audience so that your MA efforts are focused on high-value prospects to deliver faster, more cost-effective results. Many accounting firms make the mistake of not taking the time to analyze and understand their target audiences (if they even bother to define them). Structured, systematic target audience research can reveal critical information about them, such as what accounting services they’re really looking for, where they seek information about service providers, what motivates their decision-making, and what messages will resonate with them. This kind of critical, factual analysis will save time and money, and produce far more significant results compared to going with your gut instincts.

Step 2: Once your target audience is determined, it’s time to define your strategic marketing goals. This important step will enable you to benchmark your marketing program and determine how successful it is in helping you achieve your goals.

Start by identifying challenges that are inhibiting your firm’s growth, such as:

  • Are you attracting enough qualified leads?
  • Are you effectively engaging with those leads?
  • Are you converting them into prospects?
  • Are you providing the right information and incentives to turn them into clients?

Questions like these will help you determine what you need to accomplish to grow your revenue and business.

Step 3: Your earlier target audience research should have revealed how they prefer to receive their information. This will help you identify appropriate marketing tools to effectively engage with them. There may be several different channels that will help you optimize your outreach, including a combination of traditional and digital marketing techniques such as professional conferences, trade publications, webinars, social media, email or seminars.

Step 4: Regardless of the channels you choose, they all require content. That means you’ll need to develop a content strategy to ensure that you’re providing useful, valuable information desired by your target audience. Even the most efficient and effective marketing automation will fail to yield results if it doesn’t connect with and motivate your target audience.

Step 5: All the work you’ve done so far following these steps has produced valuable information and resources that now need to be put to effective use. This is where marketing automation comes in. MA enables you to efficiently organize your marketing workflow and automate tasks to quickly and reliably engage with prospects as they move through the sales funnel, systematically converting them from leads to prospects to clients. Once your marketing automation processes are set up, you’re ready to engage potential clients at the appropriate times with personalized messages and the relevant content they need to accurately assess your firm and select it.

Step 6: Of course, any marketing automation program needs the appropriate software to implement it. Now’s the time to choose your marketing automation platform based on your program’s specific needs. We waited until now to initiate this step because it’s crucial to know what you need to do and how you need to do it to be able to choose a platform that provides the appropriate functionality.

Step 7: You’re finally ready to launch your marketing automation initiative. But wait, there’s one more step before you pull the trigger: Once your platform is programmed to perform all its automated tasks, it’s critical that you first test and assess its ability to do what needs to be done. It’s important to test, track and adjust your platform’s performance regularly against baseline performance levels and a few key metrics that you’ve developed based on your strategic goals.

When done right, marketing automation is an excellent tool for optimizing your marketing program. It can save you time, money and resources if you’ve made the effort to research your target audience, develop a sound marketing strategy, and create the content necessary to attract, convert and retain clients.

With the right marketing automation platform and training, you’ll be well on your way to growing your client base, revenue and business.