Why is Marketing Important to My Firm?
With the rate of client turnover at an all-time high it is more important than ever that firms figure out how fuel their business development efforts. So let's have a conversation about why traditional marketing methods are challenged and, more specifically, why so many accounting firms are now focused on marketing in order to keep or gain market share.
In case you missed the first article in this series, we discussed how our buying patterns and business decisions have evolved based on societal changes and growth of the Internet, which has placed incredible amounts of information at our fingertips. Now, I'd like us to at the mentality of the marketing methods that built many of today's firms and why marketing can and will enhance how you find clients.
The Old Ways
In the world of accounting is the fact that expertise, and the individuals that help acquire business for your firm, often need to convince a client that your firm is the right partner to take their business to the next level.
Even before networking was a buzzword, partners quickly learned that referral business in tandem with other complimentary professions like insurance, banking and law firms was a great way to find clients. And, in using these networks, many firms also found that getting meetings was the key to generating proposals and ultimately more business.
Another benefit of this model is that there was little need to spend significant amounts of time or resources on messaging and marketing. There was also more emphasis placed on the quality of the proposals and the follow up to reinforce the expertise and justify the numbers.
Make no mistake that this is still how many firms run and little importance is placed on marketing programs and investing in websites. So know this: What got you to today is not necessarily what will get you to tomorrow.
Now we can enter into the discussion of why marketing is important to an accounting firm and the different components of marketing and why you need them. The easiest place to start is human capital. When you are done reading this article and you decide to take some action there needs to be someone responsible for managing and executing a marketing strategy. As is often said when it's everyone's job it's no one's job.
In addition to having at least one marketing resource, that person needs to be empowered and funded to help define and execute those strategies. Today's failures in marketing for firms is not only structural, but in many cases is the lack of financial commitment. The new realities in reaching your target market require that you provide information in a way that today's decision maker wants to help them decide to take that first meeting or agree to let you make that pitch for their business.
Assuming you have put in place the right human assets what else will you need and why do you need it? While a web site will be very important there needs to be strategy and discipline. Unfortunately in this hypercompetitive world there is little room for generalists and in a world that is getting smaller every day there is also not much room for firms pitching their local flavor or standing in the community as a competitive advantage.
Be an Expert
Next, we get into that expertise that we were talking about earlier and why that website and marketing platform are very important. When you have a marketing plan, then everything that you message, as well as your web presence, will give you an opportunity to sell that expertise when you aren't even in the room.
Marketing your expertise also presents the opportunity to drive cross selling among different areas of expertise to people you are already doing business with.
The Right Messaging
While on a recent webinar focused on issues in the accounting world it was explained that over 76 percent of clients felt like they didn't have the right amount of attention from their accounting firm. This doesn't mean that you aren't calling or servicing your clients enough, but in many instances these same clients are telling firms that the messaging they are getting (or lack thereof) doesn't speak directly to their needs. Moreover, when trying to look for a solution to a problem, many clients don't necessarily feel that when they start their research that everything needs to be a conversation and a meeting.
What the marketing engine in your firm âwhether that's an individual or tool or both -- can do is segment the right messaging and provide the right assets that you need to attract and sell more services to existing clients, as well as find new ones.
In the next article we will spend time talking about the tools available to make you successful. Specifically, we will discuss Client Relationship Management (CRM) and its place within the accounting profession.
About the author:
Danny Estrada has been working as a thought leader in CRM for the past 20 years, with the last 10 as a CRM practice leader for New York based technology consultants [email protected]. His team has been involved with over 500 implementation cycles and most recently created a CRM vertical focused on the accounting profession. He is author of the Practical CRM blog (http://blog.practicalcrm.net), a columnist for CRM Magazine and a blogger for Search CRM. In addition to being a Microsoft Dynamics Ambassador he is a member of AAM (Association for Accounting Marketing).