Jen Gerrard tells Richard Sergeant how third-party experts helped her firm’s marketing presence lift off, and why what you say should match how you say it.
Jen Gerrard outlines the story of how Gerrard Financial Consulting came to its current areas of expertise:
“I missed working in the not-for-profit sector and identified that small-to-medium-sized charities need short-term strategic guidance. So, the consultancy business was born. We then identified that nearly every accounting and finance course will help you learn about small businesses and sole traders, but not charities.”
“We had consultancy and training,” she continues, “and then some of our clients were asking us to do their accounts work. So we started an accountancy practice too. The three very different facets developed by serving the very specific needs of my niche client base.”
Bringing in expertise to get things moving
This particular concentration of clientele needed to be reflected in the firm’s approach to marketing. “Because we are so niche, the events and marketing style and where we spent our money also had to be niche. I had to be analytical upfront.”
Rather than tackle everything in-house, Gerrard decided to work with expert providers to kickstart her marketing and build an authentic brand message. “We were introduced to The Profitable Firm and they helped create a 12-month marketing plan, and then went onto a retainer. They helped design the website and how we presented ourselves.”
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“Once our website was up,” she continues, “it was about developing content. We engaged Skyline Social, a social media agency who started Twitter lead generation campaigns. We supplied lists of charities and key people, and they helped nurture our visibility to the kinds of potential clients and influencers that we were after.”
“We didn’t have time to do the non-chargeable stuff, and the speed and quality of using an agency has been worth it. It’s clearly demonstrated itself to be value for money, and if you want to grow and don’t have the time or skills then it’s the ideal way to get things moving.”
Adapting marketing to a changing business
As the company has become more established, it has undergone a transformation in organisational structure, with the accounting practice becoming a partnership. Along with that the marketing and sales process has also adapted.
“The change of our business model will see us change our marketing again. We can see that where we get the most leads from has changed, and people are now following us across a variety of channels. The networks we have established on and off line are starting to blend and influence each other. Not just potential clients but some of our key suppliers, publishers, and others in the industry who have a significant presence.”
“We use social and email to help generate enquiries and then use Practice Ignition to help funnel them. We track and understand what is happening with our enquiries through the sales process and how they become clients.”
By listening to feedback from digital channels, Gerrard is able to remain agile: “If we are not getting leads from Twitter, then we’ll do something else. We use analysis to do some trial and error, and find it’s a continual reassessment process.”
“It’s a structured approach, but very flexible. Or fluid.”
Making the best use of third-party experts
Gerrard has the experience, insight and confidence to reevaluate the marketing budget, priorities, and what resources are now required internally – and keep third-party suppliers for their high-value, strategic input.
“All the content is internally generated now. Someone in-house was dealing with engagement until recently, on a contract. But we are now looking to recruit a more permanent role that will probably be more of a business development assistant. We can start to bring more and more in-house. If something comes up that needs a quick reaction, we can jump on it and not wait for our agency to schedule it in.”
“It’s actually a real reflection on how we work as a firm,” she says, “how we have developed. We invested heavily in marketing and getting expert help early on, and it now means we have a better idea of what is strategic and what is day-to-day. We can revisit our staffing and budget with a bit more clarity and we can deploy the third-party expertise in the right way. I place value in the strategic guidance that our agencies now bring us and want to continue with them at this level.”
Matching marketing with method
Digital marketing encapsulates the firm’s approach as technologically-engaged experts. “I would say it is critical because we are a virtual practice. Being a tech-savvy business is a USP – and to not do any digital marketing would seem at odds with this, so it does create consistency.”
”The medium and the message reflect the way that we work.”
About Richard Sergeant
Specialist insight and business development support for accountants and their vendors. Cloud advocate with a pragmatist eye.