10 Strategies that Will Drive Firm Growth in 2016

A revolution is occurring in marketing today. Marketing strategies of the past are not as effective as they once were. And there are new tactics today that didn’t exist just a few years ago. This requires firms take a deep look at what they are doing and open their eyes to new things. Growth does not occur from marketing alone. There are many factors that contribute to firm growth and here’s a look at 10 strategies that will grow in importance in 2016.

1. Increased Marketing Spending

Marketing spending by CPA firms increased in 2015; a trend that will continue this year. According to the Association for Accounting Marketing 2015 Budget Survey, spending increased by more than 1 percent of revenue. Spending last year was 3.94 percent of revenue including marketing staff compensation and 2.26 percent excluding compensation. Even more notable, the firms experiencing the most organic growth are spending even more of their revenue on marketing – 3.2 percent. Many of the items discussed below are contributing to this increase.

2. A Shift in Marketing Spending

Not only are firms spending more, but high-growth firms are spending it differently. All respondents to the AAM Budget Survey have one marketer for every 54 employees while the high-growth firms have one for every 34. This is, in part, a result of firms adding people with specialized skill sets (like marketing technology or content marketing) to the team along with the increased number of business developers in the industry.

Besides staff, high-growth firms are spending more on content creation, websites and search engine optimization, tradeshows and conferences, consultants, internal education and training and marketing technology like marketing automation, client relationship management software and data. This varies greatly from low-growth firms who spent the bulk of their marketing dollars on sponsorships, advertising, memberships and dues and internal events. The price point, and ROI, for things like marketing and data technologies are high and are expanding budgets as firms haven’t cut other spending to offset these investments.

3. Big Data’s Impact on Strategy

The shift in spending is being driven by big data. It’s revolutionizing marketing since data is everywhere and it’s being collected as a astronomical rate. Savvy marketers are embracing metrics and analytics. They are gathering insights from this data to better direct future marketing efforts that will capture new buyers. This requires that data in your firm be updated and then compiled from various platforms to get a better picture of your buyer and what they need at various stages of the buying process.

4. The Marketing Technology Explosion

Marketing is becoming a technology-powered discipline as marketing and technology collide. Marketing is moving away from communications, artwork and rigid plans. Rather, it’s about using software to interact with clients in a digital world. And marketing is more agile thanks to thousands of marketing technology solutions out there; you can readjust strategy at any time to improve the results you are getting.

5. Increased Emphasis on ROI

Firms always want to know what sort of return they are getting on their marketing. Digital marketing like websites, email, social media, etc. are making it easier to prove. The digital platforms used in marketing today track activity to a level that doesn’t exist elsewhere. By setting goals and tracking KPIs, you can now track your success to see how your marketing efforts are driving top-line revenue. And when you can prove ROI, you’re going to want to measure and improve it.

6. Elevated Content Formats

Content marketing is the backbone of digital marketing and instrumental in other marketing tactics, too. With increased popularity in content, there is a ton of it. This is driving an increase in original research and sophisticated content to drive prospects through the sales funnel. Visual content like video is also increasing as it becomes more cost effective and easier to produce in-house. And you’ll see a lot more live-streaming of seminars, speaking engagements and other educational events as this platform catches on.

7. Focus on the Client Experience

Have you heard of a director of client experience? Well, a few firms now have this position. Typically, these are marketers who are evolving their roles to manage the entire client life cycle from relationship to revenue to profit. The focus is on creating a unique brand experience for clients that will drive customer loyalty. Service is no longer left to chance. Rather, processes are developed to drive client value and firm effectiveness.

8. Untapped Global Potential

Technology today is making it easier to work in a global marketplace. Focus on a global strategy is expanding beyond the typical international CPA firm association. Firms are determining where in the global marketplace they will focus their efforts whether that be Japanese companies with U.S. operations or U.S. companies looking to expand into France. It’s a big world with lots of ways to increase revenue.

9. Innovative Consulting Services

Probably more popular than a global strategy is the number of firms looking to add higher-margin consulting services to their offerings. You can see this is the acquisitions firms are making, but you can also see it in new services offerings they are bringing to market. Innovation drives change and technology is providing new opportunities from both a service offering and how you service perspective.

10. More M&A Activity

The first nine items focused primarily on organic growth, but mergers and acquisitions will continue to drive overall growth. For some firms this is a succession strategy. For others it’s a positioning strategy to make sure their clients and employees, as well as the firm as a whole, are positioned for success. Either way, we’ll see more consolidations this year.