You Might Be Surprised What You Can Accomplish Without Involving Partners or Staff
When I first got into accounting firm marketing, I was warned by more than a couple of partners about “not bothering them during busy season."
Not too many other industries shutter their marketing functions for four or five months of the year because their partners, Subject Matter Experts, and staff are working 80-hour weeks. For a lot of marketers, it sure is frustrating because they’re bursting with good intentions and creativity. But as marketers get more seasoned, they learn that it’s better to stay off the radar screen than to incur the wrath of a professional who is, in effect, working hard to get tax returns out the door, which in turn pays his or her salary!
But that doesn’t mean that the firm’s marketing department should be hiding under desks or sharpening their Solitaire skills. There’s a lot of work that the firm’s marketing department can and should be doing that doesn’t require partner or staff involvement that can have a huge impact on business development results, post busy season.
Here are a few ideas that can be of significant help to the firm, and keep marketers productive and contributing to firm new business goals:
Discovery Questionnaire: Prepare a simple survey for your clients that will help you uncover trends, issues, and pain points you can use in your marketing and new business efforts on both macro and micro perspectives. Here’s a simple example: a survey can be used to identify business owners who are thinking about exiting their businesses; these people may be in need of estate planning or exit planning assistance.
Marketing Database: This is perhaps the single most important initiative you can undertake in busy season and, unfortunately, one of the least desirable (but incredibly important) chores. If you don’t have an infrastructure for your contact records, prepare one. If you have an infrastructure, but your records are incomplete or outdated, fix them. At the end of the day, you should be able to put together a list, for example, of the names, titles, contact info, opt-in status, and basic company information of CEOs of manufacturing companies in your market to use in a lead generation campaign.
Niche Market Research: Busy season is a great time to do research for those niche practices that deserve firm marketing resources. You’ll want to look for trends and issues, as well as do a competitive analysis to see what firms are doing (or better yet, not doing) to get visibility and leads for their niche practice.
Sales Enablement: While things are slower, it’s a great time to put together strategies, tactics, tools, and technologies that will help your business developers – whether a partner or a sales team – close more sales faster. The world of sales enablement includes things like CRM, contextual marketing strategies, an inventory of sales letters, collateral, premium content for different stages of the prospect journey, sales processes …… and a lot more! Next to fixing the database, I would rank this as the second most important priority for marketing departments to undertake during busy season
Content Preparation: While partners and Subject Matter Experts are busy doing tax returns, you can set the stage, do the groundwork, and prepare drafts of premium content pieces (i.e. whitepapers and eBooks) and blog posts for when tax season is over. Hopefully, you sat down with niche practice leaders before the season began to build an inventory of content ideas that you can put into motion.
Focus on Specialty Consulting Practices: Your firm may have consulting practices, like IT or staffing or payroll, that aren’t involved in preparing taxes. Since most of these will be heavily dependent on a constant flow of leads, busy season is a great time to give them the time, attention, and resources they deserve to get them more visibility, leads, and new business.
Get Your Marketing Education and Training Done: In accounting firm marketing, there’s never been more that needs to be learned, and given the pace of marketing technology innovation, it’s not going to stop. Inbound marketing. Content marketing. Social media. Social advertising. Marketing automation. Sales enablement. Metrics and analysis. The list goes on, and while it’s going to be relatively more quiet in the coming months, a good use of time is to get smarter and current, because the less you know, the less value you bring to your firm.
Refresh and Update Your Website and Inventory of Content: It’s a good time to take a critical look at all of the marketing pieces – including your website – and get them clean and current. While some brave souls may tackle a website redesign, yours may only need a cleanup that you can most likely do without input from partners. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than a website that has outdated material.
These are just a few ideas, and I welcome any other ideas that you’re doing or have done in the past that worked to keep the marketing team occupied and happy, and the firm pleased with the department’s effort post busy season.