Every firm is at a different stage on the digital growth journey. Regardless of where they are, every firm needs a strategy. You may be novice in some areas, competent in others, but the goal is to become a digital expert, AKA, a digital rainmaker. A digital strategy is what gets your team to expert levels of operating in a digital environment.
For most firms, getting the right digital strategy in place requires change management. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. However, within six months, you’ll have firm footing, and within your first year, you should see widespread adoption that gets your firm on a track toward digital transformation and success.
Winding River Consulting is not a marketing firm. We are a strategic consultant to the top growing accounting firms. We provide strategic growth initiatives that will challenge your firm at all levels. Whether your key priorities are M&A, organic growth, or developing new service lines, we evaluate, coach, and architect a winning digital strategy that’s purpose-built to get your people to the next level. Connect with us anytime, and read on to learn more about what digital strategy really is and what it will cost.
What Digital Strategy is NOT
To understand what a digital strategy is, let’s begin by establishing what it is not. Digital marketing is not, and does not equal, a digital strategy. Digital marketing is all about tactics: tons of tactics. Social media, website, email marketing, paid ads, LinkedIn, etc. A digital strategy focuses on the bigger picture: who is our audience? What platforms and tools are we using to reach them? It begins with creating a strong foundation for a conversion, clearly mapping the customer journey, then crafting defined goals against which to measure results.
We’ve seen record numbers of firms rebranding and introducing new websites in recent years. The word is out that digital is essential, and this appearance-based change is the first step most firms take. But it’s far from enough.
Firms don’t just need digital tools or digital design: They need a strategic digital plan.
What Digital Strategy IS
Digital strategy is also not replacing traditional practices or growth strategies. Digital does not replace traditional, it amplifies it. We live in an omnichannel world. Some firms today are only using organic, some use M&A, but now there are firms using ONLY digital as a way to grow into seven or eight figures. It’s disrupted our traditional methods, and firms that succeed are using digital strategy to drive growth through targeted resources, technology/tools, execution, and results.
Processes can be supported by technology to help us get smarter and become data-driven. Digital strategy can be applied in any context. For instance, the framework we create for a go to market plan targeting museums and independent schools as part of our arts and culture practice can be emulated for the real estate and construction vertical with slightly different KPIs and SMEs.
Digital strategy drives significant change that supports your overall business goals, including processes, technology, operations, revenue, client experience, and talent attraction and retention.
“Starting small” is key, because turning the proverbial ship is a lengthy and arduous, and, often, impossible task. Our own work in digital strategies for accounting firms often starts with building a model in one area of the firm, say an area targeted for growth.
In an ideal world, you only have to sell your people on this once and then provide training. As soon as they see what the restaurant vertical is achieving, for example, the nonprofit team will want “what they have.” The proof of concept builds confidence for implementation in other contexts.
How to Know You’re Not Ready for a Digital Strategy
Every firm has to be ready to do business in a digital-first world. However, some firms lack one essential component: leadership buy in.
Let us say loud and clear: if your leadership is not 100% on board to dedicate resources (time and money) to a digital strategy, you shouldn’t start.
Your practice leader, managing partner, executive committee and marketing/business development teams are all aligned in the understanding that “we have to elevate digital.”
Here’s a common example of how disjointed operations are in many firms: HR will have lofty recruiting goals, but ends up competing with or working in tandem with marketing and BD, all the while having NO strategy for who is responsible for what and how that gets prioritized.
If this sounds familiar, work toward preparation. The change has already come in the market, and your firm’s future will fade if you do not adopt digital practices.
The Real Key to Success in Digital
Just as a lack of partner and managing partner buy-in erects barriers on your road to digital, there is one key that will make or break it:
Success in digital has everything to do with culture. It starts at the top, but whether you have (or are willing to create) a culture to support digital growth is the number one differentiator between firms that thrive and those that can’t make digital work.
If you’ve tried to implement digital processes or approaches before, and failed, this is probably the root cause. A global, firm-wide digital culture will support growth as you embrace change and forge ahead with a united front.
Winding River Consulting: What Digital Strategy Costs and What You Get
At Winding River Consulting, we are master architects of understanding how CPA firms operate, the challenges in today’s marketing, and how to develop digital strategies that align with the organization, providing the tools to be successful and training your people needed to thrive. We make sure that digital is not just a line item, but effectively orchestrates a firm’s growth strategy for future generations.
Because we work exclusively with accounting firms, we have a firm grasp on precisely what you need to make in a digital-first world. But every firm is different. We have a standard protocol for our engagements, but what we focus on, where we linger, and how we create your firm’s digital strategy will vary drastically.
Our digital strategies are fueled by these certainties:
- A well defined, client-centric digital strategy will measurably advance your firm’s growth
- Data and analytics, derived from updated technology, deliver tangible insights that refine decision-making
- Digital-age metrics are superior to traditional performance KPIs
- Alignment between marketing and business development is the best way to accelerate adoption and growth
- Inbound and outbound sales are equally important, but every firm has gaps in the process that can be uncovered and fixed
Winding River Consulting engagements work in phases, but typically include the following:
Phase 1 — Discovery with audits and evaluation. We explore and investigate every aspect of your current processes, including digital, and provide in-depth reporting, analysis, and recommendations. This phase includes several workshops to get to the heart of your goals so we can create a customized, clear roadmap.
Phase 2 — We create a strategy with your team. This phase includes biweekly meetings, additional workshops, audience segmentation, content production recommendations, KPI setting, website UX (user experience) fixes, SEO fixes and strategic planning, consulting, project management, content and graphic production, and more.
Phase 3 — We facilitate execution, helping firms prioritize and implement go to market plans based on phase 1 and phase 2. The WRC team works with firms over 12-18 months to help execute and push forward. We have experts in video, project management, LinkedIn, web development, and content marketing and SEO.
We are HubSpot certified partners and an IntroHive strategic partner. Both provide vast capabilities across the scope of digital services.
Our goal is to empower and equip you to staff all digital tasks in-house as we conclude the engagement, so you can truly “own” your processes and implementation.
We work with leaders to move the needle, create change and figure out the best way for firms to evolve in an ever-changing market so that they can be self-sustaining within two years.
Digital Strategy is an Imperative
Here’s the one driving force behind many firms that engage us:
Five years from now, most firm leaders will retire. They want to be assured of deferred comp. It is clear that a digital strategy is the right investment to guarantee long-term firm stability and growth in which to reward veteran partners and incentivize younger ones.
Get in the game. Connect with us to learn more.