Nobody likes another list of “to do’s.” With all that’s going on in the profession, we all have enough, well, to do. If it makes a difference, the list presented in this month’s Marketing In Practice is a must do and was developed as a step-by-step guide to create a successful marketing program. Hopefully, that does make a difference, because this column is packed with great tips to help you plan your marketing for positive results.
For this issue, I teamed up with Jennifer Katrulya, CPA.CITP, CGMA and owner of BMRG, an accounting advisory and mentoring firm. Combined, we have worked with hundreds of firms and have years of expertise coaching accounting professionals on marketing strategy. With so much exposure to the profession, we’ve identified a very clear and very common denominator—an aversion to marketing, which is often based on fear of the unknown. And that’s understandable.
Marketing doesn’t tend to fall within a firm’s core competencies, and it’s still a fairly new concept to a predominately referral-based profession. The fact is that no firm should expect to create a comprehensive annual marketing program in one sitting. Marketing is a “slow grower.” It takes time, attention, and lots of tweaking over several months before you get to a place where you feel your marketing groove. Marketing should be taken in small, guided steps.
The following 7 Must Do’s were designed to offer a roadmap for firms just starting out with marketing efforts. Hit each item on the list and you will be well on your way to establishing a solid marketing program for your firm. With that said, throw on your most comfortable shoes because we are hittin’ the ground runnin’.
1. Determine Your Vision—Can you clearly articulate your firm’s vision? If you can’t, than you are not ready to begin marketing. Marketing is all about telling your story and relaying a defined message to your target audience. What story is there to tell if you haven’t defined who you are and what you offer? These are two key elements of your firm’s vision.
“There are many factors that firms have to consider: what services they offer, do they operate in the Cloud, and are they targeting certain niches,” explained Katrulya. “Once you have a clear vision for your firm, then you can begin to craft your marketing initiatives. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t articulate it properly, and that means you can’t expect prospects to understand what you are all about either.”
2. Plan Your Strategy—Before you invest in marketing, do some thoughtful planning to ensure a reasonable return. The quickest way to get frustrated is to spend a lot of time and money on an elaborate campaign that offers very little ROI. Ask yourself, “What are the specific results I want to achieve from my marketing efforts?” Katrulya explained further.
“For example, if you’re trying to land clients for a one-time training engagement, you’ll want to plan an economically sound marketing initiative. Save the bigger events, like an open house or advanced print campaigns, for leads that promise ongoing, higher-rate revenue.”
3. Name a Marketing Champion—Don’t expect your marketing program to be successful if you don’t assign a gatekeeper. Your marketing champion is your central point of contact for all marketing activity and the person accountable for ensuring your program prospers. If you are a sole proprietor, then this role most likely falls to you.
“It’s highly recommended that firm leaders assign this role to someone with the capacity to handle marketing throughout the year—that excludes professional preparers. We all know how busy preparers are, especially during busy season. Whether it’s an intern, an outsourced marketing professional, or an administrative employee, your champion should have the bandwidth to follow-through with marketing efforts all year,” explained Katrulya.