Marketers Should Focus on the Big Picture

As a marketer, if you truly want to make an impact on your firm, you need to think strategically. It is too easy to get caught up in daily marketing tactics and checking items off your to-do list, but if you don’t take time to step back and take in the big picture, you’re shortchanging your firm – and yourself.

What does it mean to think strategically? How does someone actually do it? Start by reading about strategic thinking and planning. Read more about what’s happening in the accounting industry. Talk to seasoned accounting marketers to find out what they do, where they have had success and how they guide the growth of their firms. It’s amazing how much knowledge can be gathered, and this is great foundational information on which to take action.

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Packaging Your Services

If I say Big Mac, what comes to mind? You probably have an image in your head of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. It’s easy to picture since the Big Mac is a tangible item that you can touch, feel, see and even taste.

Now, if I say tax return, what do you think of? Is it a corporate return or a personal return? How long is it? How many schedules are attached? It’s a little more challenging to picture. And you sure don’t want to taste it.

However, clients and prospective clients need to picture the “product” they get from you. They want to be able to walk into your store, pick a service off a shelf and take it to the checkout. That’s how purchases happen in our minds. So how do you take a service and make it appear as if it’s a product? Well, Progressive Insurance made a series of commercials doing just that.

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How Numbers Guide Market Strategy

Marketers are known as the creative, personable types. They are the people who put together ads, brochures and other catchy creative pieces. They plan events and have a supply of branded giveaways. However, most people don’t realize that marketers are also numbers people. Numbers and data are the foundation of solid market strategy. From analyzing your client base to digging into your pipeline of opportunities to understanding your market share, these figures hold opportunities for growth. Numbers make great baseline data from which you can measure success, but they also illuminate future strategy.

Market Share

Does it make more sense to focus your efforts on City A or City B? Should you push Industry Y or Industry Z? While there are a lot of factors to consider, marketers want to know the potential for revenue. Let’s assume that City A and City B have a similarly sized market. If you have 50 percent of all business in City A and only 4 percent of the potential business in City B, where should you spend your time? The numbers tell you that you have the most potential in City B. Now, things are not always that simple, but strategic decisions are easier when you take the time to calculate market share. Once you have the overall big picture, take your calculations a bit deeper. Break it down by industry within geographies or within sub-segments of an industry or by any numerous data combination. Use this data to then develop a list of prospects to target.

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Building Niches to Drive Revenue

If obtaining new clients is a top area of focus for your firm, you’re not alone.

According to the 2015 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, bringing in new clients is an issue for firms of all sizes. As firms look for sources of new revenue, many consider strategies successfully implemented by other firms. And the formation of niches – industry or service line specialties – is a tactic at the top of the list.

Implementing a niche strategy is one way firms can differentiate themselves from their competition. While it’s difficult for one firm to claim it does better work than the CPA firm down the street, it can say it has an area of expertise the competition doesn’t. Firms with niches bring something extra to the businesses they serve. They can translate sound experience into better advice; hence, specialization demands a higher fee than compliance work.

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Make Your Website a 24/7 Business Development Tool

Is your website generating revenue for your firm? If not, you are missing a huge opportunity.

Consumer behavior has changed. In the past, when someone was looking to hire a CPA, they would talk to people they trust for suggestions. And while that is still true, you should realize that more people now turn to the Internet for referrals or to research the names received from a human.

There are over three billion Web users worldwide and 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. Very few searchers look beyond the first page of search results. When they do not find something quickly, they move on and tweak their search. Those sites that come up in the first page of results get more traffic and more leads.

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Act on the Data from Your Client Survey

A few years ago I wrote a blog post for Intuit, “Using Client Surveys to Improve Client Service.” I had just wrapped up a client survey for the CPA firm I worked for and was armed with a wealth of information. But this information (a.k.a. data metrics) doesn’t mean anything unless you do something with it.

Whenever you are dealing with data, there are a few steps you have to take. You begin with the measurement, the metrics. You then have to analyze what the information is telling you and garner insights from it. The insights lead to the actions you are going to take to improve your current state.

How does this apply to the client survey process? You have data to look at it from both an overall and an individual basis.

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How Much Does a Firm Spend on Marketing?

Accounting firms across the country want to know what other firms spend on marketing activities as a percent of firm revenue. This common marketing management question was once difficult to answer because there wasn’t reliable industry peer data. Thanks to the Association for Accounting Marketing, this data is now available. The 2015 Marketing Budget Benchmark Study is an apples-to-apples comparison of spending within firms by firm size, market size and growth rate.

Inside Marketing Budgets

The average firm spends 2.2 percent of firm revenue on marketing, including staff compensation. Firms without marketing staff only spend 1.9 percent of revenue.

And when it comes to staff, firms have one marketer (FTE) per every 65 employees. Personnel costs account for more than one-fourth of dollars spent. Additionally, all but the smallest firms are investing in the use of outside consultants to supplement their marketing.

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