In previous generations, only the largest firms could afford to use market research to help them asses their situation and get a snapshot of their competitive landscape. Today, however, small and mid-size accounting firms also have access to much the same information as their colleagues in larger, regional and national firms via the Internet.
Google searches can provide some insight into what competiting firms are doing, while social media tools can also help gain valuable information.
LinkedIn, especially, is great for market research. When you are preparing a proposal, or are following up on a referral, go to Linked In and see if anyone in your network is familiar with the CEO or CFO you are about to meet. A few minutes of investigation can turn a cold call into a warm and friendly event. Don't ignore the power of having common connections. Be sure to check out who they know and who you know before the visit.
In addition, LinkedIn can prove helpful when your firm is making a decision about launching a new niche, developing a new practice area, or even incorporating a new marketing tool because you can raise questions to peers across the country by joining groups with interests similar to yours. Find out what others are doing and perhaps some ideas can be adapted to your situation.
There are many ways that social media is adding value for accounting firms, but market research is one avenuel that really gives you a breadth of information at little or not cost.
These ideas may not sound very cutting-edge, but all too few firms are making the time to take advantage of the data that is at thier fingertips! Let us know how you are faring with social media.