Does your inability to discern the value of your website make you less likely to invest in it? Is it yielding the revenue for your firm that it should?
What?! You didn’t know your website was a vehicle for revenue production? What are you using it for? As a placeholder for an online presence?
You’ve got it all wrong.
In 2020, we worked with accounting firms that have figured out how to use their websites, and this technology, to drive revenues. This is through building virtual relationships and digital marketing programs. A website is an interactive and informative place for clients and prospects to engage with you, and if your site is not generating the leads and subsequent revenue, ask yourself why.
Consider what your firm is producing, annually. Where do you need to invest to grow? There are three areas critical to invest in today to be relevant and measurable in five years:
Utilizing thought leadership and digital assets to drive your firm’s growth
Understanding your marketing tools and business development technology
Having visibility into revenue-generating activity
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that every purchasing decision now has some sort of virtual or digital component. We’ve evolved from the “new normal” to the “next normal,” where we are all likely to reside for a while. This is the place of the hybrid-work and amalgam-life models. And the place where our worlds collide and morph with technology more than ever before.
Two months into the pandemic, McKinsey reported that “we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”
Several months later, it still rings true. Firms need to meet clients where they are today – online. Digital experiences also need to be elevated to a more interactive and experiential quality, in order to retain and grow relationships and revenue. In the same way that the cloud saved so many firms from business interruption, firms of the future will be reliant on digital exchanges to bridge the pandemic-era client experience gap.
Right now, managing partners across the country are asking key questions as they relate to growing an accounting firm or niche practice. How do we know if we have the right tools and how do we discern the ROI of those tools? How can we drive qualified opportunities for multiple businesses and verticals online, given the tools we have between our marketing and business development teams?”
For firms that understand the urgency to drive online relationships, it is imperative that they become a leading source, and an authoritative resource, on the internet. To do so, they need to start by investing in these three areas. The ultimate goal is to develop processes and strategies that reflect a long-term approach to utilizing inbound marketing and virtual relationships to create a consistent revenue stream.
Utilizing Thought Leadership and Digital Assets to Drive Your Firm’s Growth
Thought leadership can expand beyond the historical context of speaking at tradeshows, attending networking events, and driving referral opportunities in various settings. Thought leadership is also about content production and placement on the internet. The internet is a large place, so when we talk about how to drive firm growth, it’s critical to be focused and strategic. Every minute spent needs to equate to a tangible result.
In many cases, thought leadership equates to content marketing when it comes to embracing a digital marketing approach with business development. When we talk about content marketing, it’s important to know that we are approaching this with the intent to drive qualified leads that convert into the clients you are looking to acquire. Your strategy must be built with intent and started with clearly understanding your audience.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Most people spend 2-3 minutes on a website when they look at companies to buy from or partner with. They may also look on social media to seek consistency in what defines and differentiates them. But wouldn’t it be great to get a prospect to spend 20 minutes on your website, really learn about your services, engage with your content, and feel confident in your team? They might even find hope that your firm can remedy pain points, even before picking up the phone.
Content marketing isn’t just about writing blog articles and posting videos with the occasional supporting email blast to a list of 15,000. It’s about producing intentional nuggets of information, content, and resources to a specific audience. By addressing pain points in a consistent, repeatable cadence that clearly answers the questions your visitor is searching for, you’ll become the one place that clients, referrals, and prospects look to when seeking an authoritative voice on a subject.
With a focused plan, your firm will show up in the right place, at the right time, and begin to build a relationship that has tangible results with a visible journey using the right data. Being able to measure across both marketing and business development will ultimately increase your growth opportunities in a pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Content production with purpose requires a defined process that meets your firm’s culture and work environment. It requires clearly specified goals and the ability to communicate those goals to the entire organization in an easily digestible and comprehensible format. Tools like GatherContent.com can help your organization support the management of and workflow for content production throughout the entire process. Creating a dashboard tool by leveraging data accessible in one place will provide more clarity among teams and leadership.
With the right content marketing strategy, your firm will not only position itself to use its web presence as a business development powerhouse, but also rank in search engines in specific verticals for long-term benefit.
Understanding Your Marketing Software and Business Development Technology
When evaluating your annual budget for technology as it relates to marketing and business development, the question about whether there is enough ROI is a constant debate and battle within accounting firms across the country. Most firms don’t make the investment because proving the ROI requires proper implementation and execution through accountability. This is where we see the majority of accounting firms fail. Typical reasons for the failure:
Resources are lacking to successfully onboard – this is a team project and everybody needs to be trained to use it appropriately and effectively
Internal buy-in across all teams and channels is not aligned – the old adage, “You get out of it what you put into it” rings true here as many firm members don’t think that they need to participate
Financial allocations aren’t in place to support the ongoing expense – while the initial investment and migration are budgeted, the on-going maintenance and investment in learning and adoption firm-wide are lackingy
The reality is that in order to be a firm that is leading the way in the next decade, the time to seriously consider a strategic approach to this investment becomes more critical every day.
There are a couple of commonly used technologies that your marketing and/or business development team(s) are probably already utilizing
- Email marketing
- Social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)
- Virtual events (webinars)
Now consider those measurable and impactful technologies that they are not employing, but should be:
- Marketing Automation
- Dashboard / Data / Analysis
- Firmwide CRM
- Client management system
- BD pipeline (not Excel-based)
The intersection between marketing and business development within your organization is also driving a new challenge that was not as prominent prior to the pandemic. Understanding that your website is an effective, efficient, front-line sales tool is the first step. Assessing how you’re using complementary tools is next, followed by understanding how to be measuring, benchmarking, and, if necessary, redefining your goals.
Accountability is the single biggest reason for failure in anything pertaining to systems and processes. Programs and protocols need to be driven by and accountable to the top level of the organization. Department or project heads need to be empowered to deliver results. As integration becomes more of a strategic initiative, the ability to gain more visibility into KPIs, metrics, and goals will allow for better management and greater visibility and transparency at the tactical level.
In order to be successful with a plan that is going to drive a significant ROI of any sort, it is strongly encouraged to budget, at some point in the near future, for an FTE or third-party consulting agency with the expertise to spearhead this initiative. This person or team must have a proven understanding of how to implement inbound marketing and content development processes to drive revenue online in a scalable and repeatable format.
Keep an open mind. Have confidence in your people and trust the process. The software or technology you employ should return on the investment and help guide you to client acquisition.
Having Visibility into Revenue-Generating Activity
There are many paths to generate immediate revenue through digital channels: email campaigns, invitation-only webinars, and paid media across social media and search platforms like Google. In order to determine where best to allocate dollars for the type of business you are looking to acquire, consider both short-term and long-term goals.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards use metrics established by firms to track against reportable statistics on a daily and/or weekly basis. As your goals and KPIs become more apparent, look at what data and analytics you are collecting as they relate to your digital presence.
This data isn’t just specific to the context of your marketing team, but also exists within your business development team. By the end of this process, KPIs and other metrics should be seamless between both departments. The goal now is to look at marketing acquisition dollars and how they relate to client acquisition and firm growth.
There are tools available that can aggregate data from multiple sources and display the information in a visual format that is easy to interpret and act on. For example, this is a real-life, real-time firm dashboard (it entails multiple pages) that provides the decision makers and stakeholders with visibility into performance for firm growth.
With added visibility and data, comes the ability to share and be more transparent with those individuals who have an impact on the process of presenting the firm’s brand and culture in a digital world.
Why do marketers love the internet? Because in it, everything has data and a footprint. Results can be measured, performance is tangible, and success is repeatable. Many industries were built on the face-to-face interaction. But the pandemic has taught us that just about every transaction, touchpoint, and experience can happen virtually, if needed. And that each and every one of us relies on the internet more than ever before – whether personally or professionally. If you haven’t seen the full impact or capability the internet can have on your business, it’s time to start taking it seriously. A good first step is building dashboards and gaining visibility into your marketing and business development efforts in 2021 and beyond.