How to market your accountancy firm part 2: Planby
In this second article in our 'How to market your accountancy firm' series, we look at planning. Once you’ve defined a strategy, vision and goals, you need a plan that sets out how you’re going to make it real.
Once you’ve defined a strategy, vision and goals, you need to set some objectives so you’ll be able to measure your success. Then, devise a plan that sets out how you’re going to make it all happen.
In my last piece for AccountingWEB, I covered the strategy process. You might think that planning sounds like more of the same but it’s much more practical.
As a rule of thumb, strategy probably involves senior managers and perhaps even external stakeholders, while planning is usually looked after by teams nearer the frontline. This might be your marketing manager, if you have one, or a partner who has taken on the responsibility of leading on marketing.
If you’re a sole practitioner, of course, it’s all you from beginning to end, with different hats on. But you’ll be used to that.
The benefit of planning is that it gets you from the abstract and long-term into the world of the specific and immediate. There’s a joke in an episode of South Park that’s become a business meme. It has a bunch of gnomes setting out their plan:
- Phase one: Collect underpants.
- Phase two: ???
- Phase three: Profit!!!
Marketing planning is about filling in that obvious gap.
In part one, I talked about the vision (long-term target) and goals (specific, measurable milestones). Objectives are more granular again.
What deliverables do you need in each month or quarter of the coming year to stay on track? And which are most important?
When I’m setting objectives with my team, I find it useful to get a lot of ideas down on paper – my colleagues will tell you I’ve got a serious passion for Post-It notes.
With reference to your vision and goals, you might end up with things like:
- Weekly blog posts.
- Monthly email newsletter.
- Four targeted campaigns.
- Bi-monthly webinars.
- Launch an Instagram account.
- At least five new client testimonials around R&D tax credits.
- Average 200 visits a month to the website through organic search.
What I usually do next is get everyone in the room to prioritise. If we can only do, say, six of the 50 things on the board, which are the most important or urgent?
Another useful way to think about it is to go through each item and decide if it has to happen:
- At some point.
If it’s ‘at some point’, it might not need to be in this year’s plan at all.
Next, you need to take all those important/urgent items and attach deadlines to each.
You also need to make sure there is an owner for every objective and, ideally, make sure this is reflected in the performance management process. The fact is, if you rely on goodwill and warm feelings, marketing is often the first thing to get dropped when things get hectic.
Build a marketing plan
A marketing plan, like a business plan, is a living, breathing document that you can share with investors and colleagues.
It should include a distillation of everything you’ve done up to this point and include things like:
- A SWOT analysis.
- A PESTLE analysis.
- A vision statement.
- Marketing goals.
- Objectives, with dates.
- Notes on messaging.
- An outline of campaigns.
Finally, you’ll want to put together a delivery calendar. What specific things need to be produced, by whom, and by which dates? Remember to build in time for internal review and amends (whatever your instinct is for how much time you need, double it.)
If your marketing plan is ambitious and complex, you might want to break it down into sub-plans.
A content plan, for example, could set out exactly what you’ll be writing on the firm’s blog or posting on social media at each point during the year. It will take into account things like International Women’s Day, important dates for your ideal clients, industry events and your marketing campaigns. There’s no point in having a blog full of posts about VAT when the topic of your Q3 campaign is self-assessment, for example.
Before you kick off the implementation of your plan, you need to take some time to put systems in place for measuring progress.
At PracticeWeb, we’re more analytical than most marketing agencies in the sector. That’s a good instinct because, unfortunately, I’ve noticed that a lot of marketing decisions seem to be made based on whim or instinct.
Perhaps that’s because marketing is seen as a branch of the creative industry when, in fact, it’s driven by commerciality.
The good news is that it’s never been easier to monitor and report on the return on investment for marketing activity – especially when we’re talking about digital marketing, which is very much built on data.
It’s a good idea to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing. Traditionally, people have grumbled that this is difficult to do – how do you put a number on art, man? But you can, and should, look at things like:
- Marketing qualified leads (MQL).
- Sales qualified leads (SQL).
- Cost per customer or per acquisition.
- Social media reach.
- Website traffic.
- Website conversions.
- Content downloads.
A good marketing metric should be easy to compare from month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year – are you getting somewhere? And are the things you’re doing actually working?
One specific tool that’s useful for measuring success is Google Analytics. Anyone that’s attended one of my webinars or listened to the podcast I produced with the ACCA will be rolling their eyes a bit, I expect, and I admit that I do bang on about this a bit.
But that’s because Analytics is both incredibly powerful and totally free and still people don’t have it up and running on their website. So, please, if you only do one thing before launching your marketing plan, make it this.
The final piece in this series will cover the endpoint of all the work you’ve done so far – executing your marketing plan.
Mike Crook is managing director of PracticeWeb, a specialist marketing agency for accountants. In this series, he sets out how your firm can market itself more effectively, from strategy to execution. You can read more of Mike’s advice in his new book, The Digital Marketing Manual for Accountants, you can get a free copy by attending one of Mike's talks at AccountingWEB Live Expo.
Mike will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December 2021 alongside such guests as Rebecca Benneyworth, Peter Rayney, Paul Aplin, Anita Monteith, Carl Reader, Steve Collings, Reza Hooda plus representatives from HMRC. PracticeWeb will also be exhibiting at stand G15.
AccountingWEB Live Expo takes place on 1-2 December 2021 at Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry. Registration is now open. The full content programme is now available enabling you to register for specific sessions. Please visit the AccountingWEB Live Expo website for full details and to sign up for our newsletter.
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Mike Crook lives and breathes digital marketing for accountants.
He's the Managing Director of the award-winning marketing agency PracticeWeb, which has worked exclusively with accounting firms for more than 20 years. Under Mike's leadership, PracticeWeb has repositioned itself in the market and gone from strength to strength, entering...