Over the last several months I’ve been using my prior experience, mostly in digital marketing and sales, to help me map out my journey at Winding River Consulting. I thought right out of the gate everyone would be ecstatic to adopt a strategy that ties marketing dollars to sales revenue in a digital environment.
Boy, was I wrong. The accounting industry really is unique and, let’s be honest, still somewhat traditional. While I generally approach every challenge with an open mind, I realized early on the need to pivot. So I started to listen to the pain points of firm leaders, particularly as they related to COVID-19. Through WRC’s Managing Partner Bootcamp and various client engagements, I started to dissect and analyze the challenges that lie ahead for leaders of accounting firms as they question, challenge, adapt, and integrate their marketing and business development efforts.
1) The priorities, KPI’s, and goals are constantly shifting
No longer is the branding goal tied to traditional marketing, like sponsorships, networking events, entertaining, or publication. Rather there is now a blend of initiatives and subsequent metrics that have scattered the team across the board resulting in a lack of priorities, benchmarks, and focus.
Even with the rapid adoption to a virtual world over the last ten months, we expect some “old-time” activities to come back, such as networking events, dinners, trade shows, and conferences. But the reality is that not only are digital opportunities not going away, but they will also continue to become more critical in day-to-day sales and marketing activities. Think search engine marketing, social media, marketing automation, CRM, email campaigns, and video. Emphasis is shifting from an outbound approach, where firms secure their logos in front of people, to an inbound approach, where clients, prospects, referrals, and employees engage with firms in a more relevant format
2) Digital adoption, expansion, and diversification
While time spent online has increased significantly during the pandemic, the tools people are using and how they are consuming content is rapidly evolving. Video has become the fastest-growing channel for content consumption. Websites remain the steadfast location for information and content, but are evolving from a “brochure” format into a dynamic, educational resource. Video is going to be a significant influencing factor in how we consume, syndicate, and share content for the rest of our lives. It’s estimated that by 2022, 82 percent of the global internet traffic will come from video streaming and downloads (Cisco, 2019). That’s an 88 percent increase in traffic share from the 72.3 percent in 2017.
Tools that once didn’t work or fit your culture, such as email platforms, may need to be re-evaluated in how they integrate with your workforce, clients, and prospects. They are key to creating a strong foundation of a digital strategy – knowing your audience, building personas to understand them, and addressing the needs you know they have.
With diversification and adoption comes increased visibility, data, and transparency. In a digital culture, the way performance is viewed, measured, and interrupted is critical to knowing how to focus and redirect to generate the best ROI possible.
3) Performance-based vs brand management
Over the last several years as CPA firms began adopting digital into their marketing and business development plans, expectations were not typically set around performance goals such as increasing your website search rankings, growing your email database or generating leads through your website.
The tools and resources in which you need to build a successful integrated plan to drive business development are different from those in a physical-only world. Managing resources will begin to realize that their marketing department can no longer be made up of one or two people with strategic and general skill sets. The conversation has moved past general communication, branding and public relations.
In today’s world, business development and marketing professionals need to be empowered to use the data and tools to drive revenue with goals and metrics that both leadership and the execution team can agree to.
The funnel is more viable than ever and it’s up to the marketing team to create that reality, establish goals, and report their progress with a consistent cadence. All while working in tandem with the business development team to convert the lead into a client.
4) Shift from physical environments to a virtual world
Innovation and disruption are part of this new normal and we, as leaders, need to accept and embrace it. This doesn’t make us comfortable by any means – virtual events, zoom happy hours, new tools and increased uncertainty. But the firms taking advantage of these platforms, simialr to how so many were able to generate signfiacnt attendance for CARES Act and PPP webinars, will not be disappearing.
Tradeshow will return, but when and in what fashion. What can be replaced with virtual envivornments? If you try to fight the fact that in order to maintain visibility in front of oyur clients and prospects, adopting virtual principles will accelerate your success rate.
Video is a very powerful – but its important to now think about it in one dimension within just Zoom or Teams. Where can it be used in the business development journey, for educational pruposes, for team building and communicating to your organization.
The more ways your firm can adapt, adopt, and integrate virtual into the new norm, the stronger you can emerge from this period of disruption.