Peter Carr 29 Jan 2019 01:04pm

Accounting firms realise the cost of catching up

Accountancy has historically been a referrals-based business, with the need for a firm to market its brand seen as unimportant or superfluous

Caption: Advise for accountancy firms on utilising digital marketing methods

These days, however, accountancy firms are well aware of the need to utilise digital marketing methods. A report conducted by Propero Partners in 2018 (State of Digital Marketing in the Professional Services Industry) found that only 9% of firms do not do anything in the way of marketing, with 84% of respondents stating they feel the need to embrace proactive digital strategies.

That said, while accountancy firms are finally onboard with digital marketing and innovative strategising, only 6% think their marketing is especially effective. So while they are trying to embrace forward-thinking and innovative strategies, because they are playing catch up, accountancy firms are putting money into marketing before testing the water. This often results in dissatisfaction.

Some firms are regularly buying into strategies that they don’t need or are using platforms they simply don’t have any knowledge of, which then prove fruitless when attempting to grow the firm. The findings show that their marketing isn’t effective or executed well, meaning a lot of money is being wasted. Especially when realising that those firms with larger dedicated budgets (£20k+) are still unhappy with the results.

There are several reasons why some firms are not reaping the benefits of digital marketing:

Lack of knowledge

Some accountancy firms are unclear as to which marketing channels are effective for advertising accounting services, which is due to accountancy firms being in the ‘trial and error’ phase of developing strategy. Most other industries have already completed this cycle, and are now yielding results, but due to the ‘slow’ uptake of digital marketing, accountancy firms are still finding their feet.

Lack of expertise and aligned key messages

Due to this delay and lack of understanding, accountancy firms may give the job of marketing management to the wrong agency. Or equally, they’ll try to use current staff who have little knowledge of its processes or best practice. During a recent roundtable dinner hosted by proper Partners, it was revealed that 2one of the biggest struggles for firms is that marketers are often siloed away from the decision-makers, meaning they are not aligned with the business as a whole.

‘Spray and pray’ marketing methods

Often, there is a lack of focus throughout a firm’s marketing strategy, with firms choosing to use ‘spray and pray’ methods. For example, larger firms that are unhappy with the results of their efforts, even though they have a big budget, typically leverage an average of six different marketing channels. This rarely works, because you are just going through the motions after seeing other firms implementing marketing.

Take the use of paid social media, for example. It is a great tool for generating awareness around your brand but, without a proper spend to target the correct people, it will not yield new enquiries for your firm. Nonetheless, many firms feel like they must post a certain number of times a day when, in fact, if you’re posting for the sake of it or not carefully considering what you’re putting out, it becomes a waste of time and resource that could be spent on channels that do yield results.

Utilising digital marketing to benefit your firm

Unfocused use of paid social marketing, email marketing, and online advertising can cut through a budget quickly. Vague and disparate marketing, because a firm stretches its budget too far, is just as bad as having no budget at all.

Top tips

• Start a blog, make infographics, educational videos, or even a podcast. Content is the key your audience’s heart, so make them want to work with you by being a thought leader and an expert in your field.

• Speak at an industry event. This is a sure-fire way of meeting new clients and networking with colleagues - promote that you are on social media to get the audience involved.

• Actively seek out industry influencers on LinkedIn or via email campaigns. These word-of-mouth methods are now digital, so offer to write a blog using your industry knowhow and expertise.

• When in doubt, get an expert to do it for you. Content writers and digital marketers are specialists in getting your firm to the front of people’s minds, don’t hesitate to get in touch with agencies better placed to do it for you.

Peter Carr is content leader at Propero Partners