Trends in digital marketing could mean that it’s time for a new game plan and maybe a player change as well.
“Is it too late for older CPA (and other professional service firm) partners to hop on the digital marketing bandwagon?”
That’s an interesting question that a Marketing Director asked me last week.
Her premise was that an investment indigital marketing wouldn’t work because the firm’s older partners wouldn’t commit share of mind and their time and firm resources to put a new marketing game plan into place. “All I hear,” she said, “Is that the only way to build our business is by referrals and word of mouth!”
“But the real zinger,” she continued, “Is that these older partners have built their book of business and don’t really seem interested in marketing. They’re content to let new business come to them rather than finding new opportunities.”
My response: they’ve earned the right to dial back on marketing efforts because they’re still bringing in new business based on 20, 30, or even 40 years of building a referral network and delivering great services.
But what about younger partners and rising stars in the firm? Should they be using older partners as a model for marketing?
My response: NO!
Lest you are an older partner and your blood is boiling over my response, let me clarify: I’m talking about marketing – the art and science of positioning and promoting the firm – not business development or sales. In regard to the latter, I am thoroughly convinced that younger partners should be sitting at the feet of the rainmaking older partners to learn as much as they can about how to do sales and build relationships and referrals.
But when it comes to marketing the firm...
Today, marketing a professional service like accounting, consulting or law means complimenting 1:1 marketing with an aggressive digital marketing program. That’s because the way that prospects seek advice and solutions to their problems starts with an online search, and that means that strategies and tactics for getting found online andconverting site visitors into leads needs to be a paramount part of marketing efforts.
Also, consider the fact that there may be dozens or hundreds of additional prospects that have the same issues and pains that brought you a referral. There’s a pretty good chance that they’re searching online for a solution, and without a digital a marketing program, you’ll be invisible.
Think about your referral sources also. It’s likely that in order to maintain their relationships, they’re referring the same business opportunity to you and your competitors. They can’t afford to put all of their eggs into one basket.
It may be too late and too little for many older partners to do aggressive digital marketing. But younger partners and rising stars should be requesting that firm resources be devoted to helping them get more visibility, leads and new business from the firm’s investment in marketing.
Digital Marketing Resources for Younger Firm Partners and Rising Stars
Before I give you a list of tools, resources and tactics, let’s start out with the key strategy underpinning that should drive a younger partner or rising star’s digital marketing strategy:
“Producing, publishing and promoting thought leadership is fundamental for getting online visibility and new opportunities.”
As a younger partner or rising star, it’s your thought leadership about an issue, a change to regulation or code, etc. that will give you differentiation and separation from competitors. Once thought leadership is “packaged”: (i.e. in a blog or a video, etc), it’s also the basis for getting that all important online visibility and lead gen opportunities. So here are 8 tactics that a younger partner or rising star will want to consider for building and leveraging your digital presence:
- Educate yourself on the scope, tools and technologies of inbound marketing so you can be an active participant in developing a comprehensive digital marketing action plan.
- Get the firm to purchase and install the right infrastructure – from people to software – to handle the digital marketing program.
- Sign up for social media accounts, in particular LinkedIn and Google+. I would also give strong consideration to Twitter.
- Make sure your online bio and digital profile in social media like LinkedIn is current and complete.
- If you join LinkedIn groups, participate in the conversation rather than just being a lurker, but make sure your comments are intellectual, not advertorial
- Start blogging – at least once per month and ideally, more. There is no more important way to grow your online visibility that with a consistent blogging effort. To make sure your effort is focused on thought leadership more so than the mechanics of publishing, work with your marketing team or outsource the writing.
- Put together a whitepaper or eBook and use it for lead generation. Of course, you’ll need to have the right software with lead acquisition and monitoring tools in place in order to make this happen.
- Get involved with the metrics related to your online presence, from visits to your bio page and blog posts, to the success of conversions on the offers you present.
Older Partners Faced Challenges from Marketing Innovation, Too.
If you’re a younger partner or rising star that’s facing an uphill battle to convince your firm to put more resources and infrastructure into digital marketing, it’s important to remember – and maybe even remind – that your older partners (especially the Baby Boomers) have experienced and integrated some pretty dramatic changes to firm marketing strategies, tactics and technologies.
They may have been there back at the dawn of time when advertising was “legalized”, when email communications started to take off, or when the first fledgling brochure-style websites were published. They’ve gone to paperless audits and sophisticated time and billing systems, and have even tried (and failed) to install CRM, so they do have some experience with digital infrastructure. And they’ve certainly been exposed to the explosion of social media which has left them and a lot of other people scratching their head and wondering how things like Facebook could possibly apply to CPA firm marketing.
Slowly and surely, they’ve worked their way to adapting new marketing approaches and technologies, and that’s likely going to happen with committing to the digital marketing strategies and tactics I’ve discussed above. Slowly. Surely.
However, there’s a key difference between what older partners have experienced and what’s happening today. The change in digital marketing technologies is happening at a breakneck speed, and may be too unfamiliar or too uncomfortable for older partners.
So just as it may be time for a shift to a new game plan, is it also the time for a shift in the composition of the firm’s marketing team/committee?