5 Marketing Mistakes Firms Make and Can Avoid
Marketing is not easy, particularly with more channels than ever, making the right choices for marketing you firm has become increasingly challenging. What is easy is making mistakes.
If you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re wasting time and marketing money, chances are you are. To help you make smarter decisions about your marketing efforts, let’s take a look at the five most common marketing mistakes made by accounting firms.
1. No Real Strategy
Many accounting firms don’t have the luxury of a dedicated marketing department staffed with experienced marketing professionals. Instead, a firm principal or perhaps a committee of partners makes marketing decisions based on gut instincts and bad advice.
As a result, the so-called “marketing plan” ends up being a random collection of ideas stitched together from well-intentioned suggestions:
- "you should do webinars"
- "direct mail worked at my old firm"
- "online advertising is the way to go"
What’s needed is a bona fide strategic marketing strategy designed to generate growth and profitability. This involves doing some background research on possible markets and competitors.
Next, you need to select your target audiences. While your services may be applicable to “all businesses” trying to reach everyone means you will impress no one.
You should then determine what sets you apart from your competitors and makes your firm unique, then establish goals for your firm. Now you have the foundation for an effective strategy to successfully grow your firm.
2. Incomplete Pipeline
It’s called “the sales funnel,” “the marketing pipeline” and other names, but the methodology is the same: your marketing guides prospects through a process that starts with attracting leads, engaging them to become sales opportunities and ultimately turning them into clients. Change to: “Unfortunately, for various reasons, many marketers fall short at different phases of the pipeline.”
For example, they may create awareness and attract prospects, but they lack the tools to nurture them and turn them into clients. Or they may be able to successfully nurture prospects, converting them into opportunities, but lack the means to effectively close the deal and turn them into clients.
A complete, effective pipeline is critical to successful marketing in the digital age. It requires creating marketing tools that align with the three stages of client development awareness, engagement, and conversion. With these tools in place, you’re ready to grow a relationship with prospects at each stage of the pipeline, nurturing them to the point where they’re ready to commit and become a client.
3. No Clear Differentiator or Target
The cornerstone of any successful marketing effort is a strong differentiator – something unique about your firm that clearly sets you apart from the competition and enables you to build value for your firm in the minds of your prospects. Let me emphasize that this must be clearly different if not completely unique. It cannot be something generic and fuzzy, such as “we have great people,” or “we care about our clients.”
Likewise, it’s vital to have a clear target audience defined for your marketing strategy. It is unrealistic and futile to say that everyone or every business is a potential client.
Remember, your target audience and differentiator work together to make you an easy choice for the right prospect. Trying to be everything to everyone means you will be nothing special to anyone.
4. Marketing Strategy is Not Fully Funded or Implemented
Having a solid, well-thought-out marketing strategy is only half the battle – you’ve got to fund and fully implement it for it to work. The best plan in the world is useless if it doesn’t effectively reach prospects and “touch” them enough times to convert them from prospects to opportunities to clients.
For a marketing strategy to be successful, it’s important that it continually “touches” prospects at every stage of their journey through the marketing pipeline. In other words, you need to be reaching prospects with a new message and a new offer at just the right moments.
For example, when a CFO decides he or she needs to find a new accounting firm for their growing business to work with, you need to reach them with an awareness message that introduces your firm and establishes its unique ability to address their specific needs. Once they’re aware of your presence and decide to investigate you further, you must be ready to engage them in a way that demonstrates your value and establishes your firm as a clear choice to be their accounting partner.
Finally, you must have an offer ready that will make the decision to hire you easy. Fully implementing this entire process requires planning, preparation, and funding.
It is not enough to do a little bit of marketing here and there. Periodic, haphazard marketing efforts cannot build enough momentum or visibility to produce a good return-on-investment.
5. Your Firm Lacks the Right Talent or Training
Marketing is not for amateurs. Today’s marketing environment is complex and sophisticated. Traditional networking has been augmented with online networking and social media.
Webinars have become powerful marketing tools, supported by digital video. If your firm lacks the skills to effectively utilize these kinds of marketing opportunities, it’s important to get the training or hire the skilled talent needed so you can take advantage of those opportunities.
A solid marketing strategy enables you to better define and utilize your firm’s unique competitive advantage and achieve your business goals while avoiding marketing mistakes. By taking the time to evaluate your business and lay out a solid marketing strategy, you’re setting your firm up for success.
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Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to...