You may have heard those wise words. It’s a conundrum for accounting firms wishing to grow. We all know we need to do some marketing, but what should we do, which channels should we use and how do we know if it’s effective?
Most accounting firms around the world tend to float around in a sea of sameness. They grow slowly, often incrementally. There is rarely any discernible difference between a firm on one side of the street and its competitor over the road. The problem here is that the only thing clients have to choose between the two firms is price. If you’re in this sea of sameness, don’t be surprised if you encounter lots of price shoppers.
The good news is that because most firms do very little in the way of marketing, it is relatively easy to stand out in the crowd – just do something! But successful firms do more than just something. They are smart in that they analyze data to inform their decisions.
This might sound counterintuitive to you. Data? Isn’t marketing creative? Well, there’s more good news for you. Effective marketing is at least as much reliant on data analysis than it is on creative genius. Clearly this is very good news for accountants, being strong with numbers and analytics.
SHOOTING IN THE DARK WITHOUT A DATA-DRIVEN PLAN
With that in mind, let’s consider an example. John and Mary run an accounting firm where 85-90% of their revenue is derived from what’s typically known as compliance services. They knew they could offer more to their clients. In fact, they were excited about the opportunity to become more involved in advisory work. Trouble is, they didn’t really have a grasp on what ‘advisory’ meant in their firm.
Working with a Panalitix facilitator, John and Mary set some time aside to plan how they could most effectively launch advisory services that made sense to their clients and prospects. This was the process used in the project:
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET CLIENTS
Why do clients even buy these services? What is it that they ‘need’? These ‘needs’ are often referred to as ‘drivers’ and strongly influence how clients choose between different accounting firms. Clients will choose the firm which can best satisfy their needs. So, a list of ‘drivers’ was identified and the firm compared against a range of competitors. This was very important in determining how to position the firm’s new product offering. Panalitix Market Understanding tool was used to facilitate this discussion.
2. LIST OUT ALL SERVICES PROVIDED OVER AND ABOVE COMPLIANCE WORK
The services didn’t need to be ‘productized’ at this stage. Even if work had only been done with one client, it was considered that the firm possessed expertise to offer that service.
3. FOCUS ON A FEW KEY PRODUCTS
Rather than trying to do 100 things poorly, the next step was to focus on five potential products and investigate. After discussion the following five were identified:
- Cash flow forecasting
- Succession Planning
- Key performance indicator monitoring
- Virtual management accounting
- Estate planning.
These products were then evaluated against a separate set of drivers. For example, how profitable are they likely to be, what is the growth potential, can they be delivered at least in part by people other than partners etc. using Panalitix Product Evaluator.
4. PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR CLIENT’S SHOES
Go through the client list and identify which clients are MOST LIKELY to need each of the products. It is important to note here that assumptions should not be made, but this is a useful exercise to determine the viability of a product development exercise.
5. ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Feedback was then sought from a subset of the identified clients on each of the potential new product offerings. Using data derived from Panalitix ClientBuilder, John and Mary were able to hone in on two of the five potential products as the ones most likely to be of interest. These turned out to be the Succession Planning and Estate Planning products. Given the resources available, a decision was made to build out these two products as a priority and to leave the other three for potential future investigation.
6. TEST THE WATERS
Using intelligently crafted questionnaires deployed via Panalitix ClientInsights, John and Mary discovered the reasons why some clients perceived a need for help in these areas. This data was critically important as it directed the marketing around he new products and ensured it hit the mark.
7. PRIORITIZE YOUR PROSPECTS
ClientInsights also provided a prioritized list of clients with whom John and Mary should be having discussions about their new products immediately. They scheduled those meetings and started to find opportunities for new revenue very quickly.
8. KNOW WHAT CONTENT YOUR CLIENTS ARE INTERESTED IN
Then, using Panalitix MarketingHub, they determined which content made sense, given the analysis of data received from their client interactions. Content was distributed via a monthly newsletter and published on a blog and they are now planning a series of webinars to clients and prospects on the same topics. Using MarketingHub’s analytics engine, John and Mary were able to identify which clients had opened or clicked through to which articles, providing invaluable information as they prepared for meetings with those clients.
THE KEY HERE IS DATA
You give yourself a fighting chance of reducing the 50% of marketing that is wasted if you analyze the situation upfront and then deliver relevant content through a variety of channels.
If you are interested in any of the processes described in this article, feel free to contact us for more information. We can help by providing you with access to our technology, or on a project basis, or a combination of the two (as evidenced by the above case study), depending on your preference and the resources you have available.