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7 Keys to Less Stressful Thought Leadership for CPA Firms


Be a content marketing quarterback for your partners and subject matter experts.

thought leadership for CPA firmsA few years ago I worked with a partner that specialized in audit, accounting and advisory services for his firm’s healthcare niche. He’s now getting close to retirement, but nearly 30 years ago he realized that the way to grow his practice was to be a thought leader, and that the way to become a thought leader was to – now get this – write, speak, publish and promote his thoughts.

Over the years he executed that strategy almost flawlessly.

It resulted in a monthly column in 3 business journals, more requests for speaking than he could possibly handle, and with a tip o’ the hat to current accounting marketing convention, blog posts and podcasts.

Better yet: the upside of all of this investment of time and intellectual capital? Opportunities came to him, rather than the need to always be a hunter and he built a statewide practice into one of the top revenue producing niches for the firm.

What’s Old in Accounting Marketing is New Again

Content marketing is not a new concept for CPA firms. It’s always been around in the form of seminars, workshops, presentation, newsletters and the like. What’s changed is that content marketing has now become a part of strategic marketing with goals like lead generation that can be measured. It’s no longer just a set of unconnected or uncorrelated tactics, as digital marketing is driving new opportunities for promoting content though dozens of channels ranging from email to social media.

The other thing that has changed is a huge ramp up in terms of the amount of content that needs to be produced and published in order to raise firm visibility, generate leads, nurture prospects through to sales and ultimately, add top line revenue. In order to maximize the value and ROI of content marketing, it can’t be a casual effort.

And that’s the rub for most accounting and other professional services firms: they’re falling further and further behind the curve because the commitment and dedication to consistent and persistent content development and publication often takes a second (or third or fifth) seat to other demands.

How to Build Thought Leaders in an Accounting or Other Professional Service Firm

If you want to build thought leaderships and a culture of thought leadership in your firm, it all starts with getting buy in from firm management. If they’re not willing to take the time and effort to learn about the value, processes, tools and working pieces of thought leadership then it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to structure and maintain an effective content marketing strategy and program.

Next comes commitment. This can take the form of getting budget for the resources and marketing technology you’ll need to execute an effective program, to getting approval of a production schedule. Here’s bold idea: make content development and publication a mandatory requirement as part of everyone compensation package. No blog??? NO BONUS FOR YOU!!

(Hey. It could happen!)

The Recipe for Making a Thought Leader

One of the key roles of your firm’s marketing team and marketing management is going to be serving as the quarterback for the firm’s content marketing program. You’ll be doing the heavy lifting because you’ll want your authors to focus on delivering insights, observations, tips and guidance – not on the mechanics of getting something published and distributed.

Here’s 7 ways that you can help your firm develop and implement a thought leadership program that will get you more visibility, leads and new business:

  1. Only work with those who want to be a thought leader– that’s less stress for you and more motivated contributors for the firm.
  1. Identify the hot issues– do some brainstorming to identify the key issues or pains that prospects have and use those as seeds for topics.
  1. Train – you may have to teach your authors how to write good content that is readable and appropriate for the target audience. Today, it’s more about talking human than it is about showcasing technical wizardry.
  1. Inventory the opportunities to publish thought leadership and the type of content that would be required –from the company’s blog to trade association events, there will generally be a significant amount of opportunities to get published. Each may require a different type of content, from a written piece to a slide show.
  1. Identify the opportunities where thought leadership can be promoted – part of your job as the quarterback is to get eyeballs on content. Your planning must include the ways that you intend to reach target audiences, from PPC to social media tactics.
  1. Create a publication and production schedule - have plan where authors know when their content is due and how it will be promoted. Without deadlines, most content marketing programs quickly lose steam.
  1. Measure results and provide feedback – your marketing technology and infrastructure should have the ability to measure results of content marketing initiatives. Check into HubSpot software to get an idea of what – and how – content marketing initiatives can be measured.

It Takes Patience to See Touchdowns form a New Game Plan

For many firms, a comprehensive integrated content marketing strategy represents a new game plan. So beyond commitment, resources and dedication lies patience.

Now truth be told, I’m writing this blog post as NFL training camps are just getting started, including the camp for my beloved Buffalo Bills who will (finally) make the playoffs this year. It’s 10 years since their last playoff appearance, and they’ve tried a number of new game plans without success. I’m pretty sure that this is the year where my patience will be rewarded ... I hope!

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