We see the same pattern over and over: an accounting firm is embarrassed by their dated website, so they make a major investment in a new one. They get a fresh new logo. They ramp up their marketing. They get serious about social media.
The result? A minor bump in revenue. Maybe. (But at least they’re not embarrassed anymore.)
Five years later, they have the revelation that their website is, again, bringing horrific shame to their brand. So they hit the Repeat button.
With each round, leadership feels less and less inspired to sink big bucks into the marketing pit. Word of mouth is serving them well enough, after all.
But here’s the truth (and the real reason none of those reboots provided any real ROI): it takes a lot more than a fancy new website to boost your firm. The best website design in the world could very likely have zero impact on your bottom line, if it’s poorly executed.
Let’s look at the three biggest ways we see accounting firms drop the ball when it comes to marketing:
They Don’t Use Their Website as a True Marketing Tool
Plenty of firms are willing to pay for a website they can be proud of. But as long as it looks nice, few bother to ask the bigger question: does it work?
As in: is it attracting new visitors, on a regular basis, and actually turning them into clients? And can it do that automatically, so your team can focus on your real work?
Many firms still cling to this idea that referrals are the best way to grow a firm. That they don’t need marketing, because their caseload is in a good place right now and word seems to be spreading organically.
Don’t get me wrong: referrals are an amazing source of new business, but you should never stake your entire firm on them.
- Instead of attracting ideal clients and building your expertise in a certain niche, you’ll be forced to modify your practice to fit whoever you get. A decade or two down the road, you might look up and realize you’re not doing the kind of work you set out to do at all. Plus, since your services have become a basic commodity that look a lot like everyone else’s, you won’t be making that much money doing it.
- You have no control over word of mouth marketing. What if the flood of prospects randomly dries up? You have no Plan B.
- You are significantly limiting your lead pool, both in terms of numbers and kinds of clients you’ll attract. Every firm should have an “ideal” client they’re marketing to, which guides them toward only the most mutually beneficial, “best fit” client relationships. Without strategic marketing, you’re missing out on some great clients in order to work with some not-so-great ones.
With a healthy marketing strategy, you can expect 40-50% of your total revenue to come directly from your marketing channels, with 25% of that coming specifically from your website. In this scenario, referrals are just frosting on the cake (and it’s frosting you’ll have the luxury to turn down, should you so choose).
They Have No Marketing Strategy
Marketing consultants and web design agencies have been selling the same dream to accounting firms for years: if you have a great looking website, and you blog now and then, the leads will start pouring in automatically.
Not true. We talk to firms who are regularly investing $3-$5K/month in website marketing, with very little to show for it. What’s even worse is that, when we suggest investing a similar dollar amount in research and website strategy, they scoff at the idea. What a waste of money!
Here’s the thing: digital marketing is a long play, not a quick fix. You need to prove your expertise, build your site traffic, and collect social proof. All that take time. Realistically, it can take 9-18 months before you see any meaningful results.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, of course. It just means you should have started 18 months ago.
Every accounting firm needs a strong marketing strategy–ideally, one that’s reinforced by a 3rd party perspective. By “strategy,” we mean a specific plan that you can execute consistently over time, to ensure that you’re spending money and time in the right areas.
Without a plan, you’re just guessing. And any accountant knows the dangers of that.
They Have No Positioning
We see this in firms of all sizes: instead of actively seeking out the work they’d like to have, firms simply respond to whatever proposals come their way. They change their firm to reflect the demand, rather than the other way around.
Positioning your accounting firm allows you to create the demand you’d like to see. It sets you apart from your competitors (in ways more significant than price or location), making it easier for ideal clients to find you and allowing you to charge a premium for your services.
We get it: it’s hard to narrow your focus. The last thing you want to do is scare off potential clients, or drive away your existing ones. Plus, it’s a tricky concept to sell to leadership.
But the reality is that, in order to compete in this ever-growing, increasingly sophisticated, online-centric market, you’re going to have to get a little smarter with your marketing. You’re going to have to dig deep to figure out who you are, as a firm, and who your clients are.
Unless you do your homework, you’re just going to keep looking exactly like the next guy, so that clients are only choosing you by referral (sheer coincidence) or by coin toss (ditto).
When it comes to marketing, you have more control than you think. Take advantage of that and build the firm you want, rather than the one you end up with.
What’s Holding You Back?
Are any of these ringing true with your firm? Are you ready to make marketing a priority?
We’re currently offering a 30-minute digital marketing assessment to help you carve out the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing strategy. No strings attached, and no BS. Just honest feedback and real ideas.