The rapidly increasing pace of change in the accounting profession is both a warning and an opportunity, especially for marketers.
These days you can choose to ignore it at your own peril or embrace it as a chance to steal a march on the competition and take advantage of new technologies to boost visibility and market share. Point being, how buyers research and choose accounting services has evolved along with technology.
Today, business professionals are much more likely to use online tools such as search engines and social media to find company information and client reviews about accounting firms. In fact, research has shown that high-growth accounting practices generate a much higher percentage of leads online than average-growth firms.
At last year’s AICPA ENGAGE conference, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon challenged attendees, saying that the accounting profession must adapt to this rapid technological development if it is to succeed and grow. In part, that means evolving marketing strategies to effectively utilize the growing number of social channels and other Internet opportunities.
Here are five tips to help future-proof your marketing efforts against the changes occurring in technology and the accounting industry:
1. Promote expertise. Nothing succeeds like expertise. In fact, 75 percent of accounting services buyers indicate that expertise was the deciding factor in choosing one accounting firm over another.
However, expertise has no size, shape, or color. It’s invisible. The only way to make it visible is to reveal it to your target audience through a coordinated effort involving content development, graphic design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and public engagement.
Central to this effort is a secret weapon – your firm’s experts. Encourage them to raise their public profile through speaking engagements at professional conferences, business association meetings, and other public opportunities. Help them produce blog posts, articles, and other thought leadership pieces that can be promoted through your website, email campaigns, and blogs.
Create some short videos and produce webinars that discuss topics of interest to your target audience. Share your firm’s expertise through objective, non-promotional educational tools that will help create credibility and visibility for your experts and your firm. Over time, your experts will attract loyal followers who will generate new business when they are ready to buy.
2. Balance traditional and digital outreach. It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket and that’s certainly true for marketing. Research has demonstrated that the best approach is a combination of online and offline marketing techniques.
Take advantage of networking and public speaking opportunities but also host online events. Set up a blogging schedule and create and promote strategic executive guides that provide insightful information of interest to potential clients.
These valuable digital assets can also be used as a leave behind after a face-to-face meeting. The key is substantive educational content that you can use to create thought leadership and boost visibility for your firm in all marketing channels. Wherever the potential client looks they find you.
3. Leverage digital content to acquire top talent. It’s no surprise that the Web has fundamentally changed how firms attract prospective employees and how prospects go about researching career opportunities. Staffing continues to be a challenge for many accounting firms.
Today, prospective employees are just as interested in company growth, culture and advancement opportunities as they are in salaries and benefits. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your employer brand and ensure that you’re positioning your firm as positively as possible to the outside world.
Differentiating your firm from competitors and bolstering your reputation is a great way to attract the right top talent. Make sure that you have compelling digital recruiting materials and a robust Careers section on your website.
Make it as easy as possible for prospects to get a clear picture of what it would be like to work at your firm and the opportunities they will find there for career support and advancement.
4. Utilize available data. So many tools are available to monitor, manage, and analyze data there’s no longer any excuse to not use data to optimize your marketing campaigns.
From keywords to email marketing to web traffic analysis, you should be using data to wring every ounce of optimization from your marketing activities. That goes for monitoring and analyzing your target audience psychographics, too.
Studies show that firms that thoroughly research their target audiences achieve higher growth than those that don’t.
5. Foster flexibility. If there is one absolutely critical tool for future-proofing any marketing strategy it’s flexibility. With technological changes occurring at head-snapping speeds, today’s marketers need to be highly flexible, ready to adopt and adapt new skills and solutions that will help them meet – and overcome – future marketing challenges.
There is no question that the accounting profession is experiencing a profound transformation from an “analog” industry promoted through face-to-face interactions to a “digital” one powered by the Internet and social media. Forward-thinking accounting marketers are retooling their skills and strategies to anticipate and accommodate how and where modern service buyers and prospective employees prefer to engage.
If you want to increase your firm’s visibility, value, and market share tomorrow, it’s vital you future-proof your marketing today.