How Accountants Can Become Marketing Expertsby
These days, everyone has a website and social media channels to market their accounting firm. As a result, it's no longer enough to simply know you're an expert: You need to make sure current and prospective clients are aware of this as well. Lee Frederiksen of Hinge Marketing offers some insights into what works and what doesn't to help you on your journey to becoming a Visible Expert®.
CPA firms have long understood that prominent experts help win and keep business. However, these experts must also be visible to their target audiences. What CPA firms are uncertain of is what it takes—or what techniques are required--to transform experts into Visible Expert®, especially in today’s largely digital business environment.
What Makes a Visible Expert® Different – and Better?
A Visible Expert® (VE) is an individual well-versed in a specific area of expertise who is clearly recognized for that expertise and highly visible in the marketplace. That expertise is demonstrable and provable, not an empty claim. As a result, VEs frequently appear as keynote speakers at industry events where their ideas and insights are widely seen as valuable and their opinions worth seeking out. Because their input is highly valued, they are often significant rainmakers for their firms, even if they’re not traditional founders or partners of the firm.
The hard part about becoming a VE is breaking through all the noise and achieving the visibility you need to attract attention and prospects.
The Hinge Research Institute recently conducted a Visible Expert Study which revealed some interesting facts about the marketing channels accounting firms and other professional service providers use to reach their target audiences. The typical VE employs an average of half a dozen marketing techniques to achieve “reach and frequency” – the ability to reach the greatest number of appropriate prospects as often as possible. However, it turns out that some of the most popular tools used to gain visibility are actually the least effective.
For example, almost 78 percent of VEs use some form of social media to attract and engage prospective clients. Interestingly, though, social media is not necessarily the most effective tool for that. Our study noted an effectiveness rating for social media of only 36 percent for achieving visibility.
This interesting dichotomy works the other way as well. For example, speaking engagements rank third in popularity as a means for reaching potential clients, but it actually ranked first in effectiveness. And while writing a business book was at the bottom of the list of techniques VEs prefer, it ranked second for creating visibility. In short, our research demonstrated that widely used techniques are not necessarily the most effective. That, or such techniques are being used for the wrong reasons.
So, What Are the Best Marketing Tools for Reaching Prospects?
Our study determined that the best methods for reaching potential clients is a mix of traditional and current tools. Here are the top three, according to our survey:
- Speaking engagements: Seventy-five percent of top professional services VEs take advantage of speaking opportunities because they provide the highest impact. All experts should be speaking at engagements—virtual events, such as webinars and livestreams, and, once sizable gatherings are safe once more, conferences and other face-to-face events.
- Business book writing: Despite being #2 for highest impact, only 30 percent of VEs produce books highlighting their expertise. Publishing is the ideal method for developing industry thought leadership and making it highly visible.
- Search engine optimization: While SEO scores low on frequency and impact, online search is the second most popular tool buyers use to find the experts they need. In the minds of many buyers, if you’re not easily found online you’re not a viable candidate. Optimize your web pages, blog posts, and other online content using keywords and phrases central to your area of expertise.
Tools frequently used but rated low for impact include:
- Social media: used by 77 percent of VEs, but with an effectiveness rating of only 36 percent. Social media is useful for expanding your network, but not so great for boosting your VE profile. That they aren’t achieving the desired impact suggests they might be using social media for the wrong reasons. In the past year, many people who jumped on to social media forgot that the basic tenets of networking in person also apply online. They make connections on LinkedIn and immediately pitch their services. This is tantamount to shaking someone’s hand saying, “Hey, know someone who needs an auditor?”
- Networking events: used by 69.7 percent but with an even worse effectiveness rating of only 19.3 percent. Event attendance may be a useful channel for making contacts and expanding your network, but unless you’re one of the speakers, it’s a poor way to try to build thought leadership.
- Trade associations: used by 52.1 percent, but rated only 16.7 percent for impact.
A high level of marketplace visibility rarely happens by accident. It takes planning, discipline and consistent effort. To make yourself a Visible Expert, choose your marketing channels based on where your best prospects prefer to look for information to address the challenges they face. In short, go to where you have the best chances of being found. The key to creating maximum visibility is to be where your audiences are. Developing a well-thought-out strategy and a plan to implement it that uses diverse tools can help you avoid wasting time, effort and money.
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...