According to experts, mid-sized accounting firms need to rely more on content amplification and digital marketing strategy to increase their visibility and competitiveness in a crowded market.
“The traditional pillars of accounting business development have definitely diminished,” says Nicky Purnell, director of marketing and business development at Menzies.
“So when it comes to digital marketing, you have to be at the top of your game.”
Purnell notes that while referrals have always been the primary source for winning new accounting business, the importance of a strong online presence and high-quality content is greater than ever.
The investment Menzies has made in this area has resulted in a “huge increase” in online engagement and more website inquiries as a proportion of new earnings than ever before, she adds.
“Of course, the content strategy is responsible for driving that traffic to the website.
“If you’re not there and you’re plugged in when it comes to content and online engagement, you’re going to disappear.”
Stand out in the crowd
But a solid marketing and content strategy is only one piece of the online engagement puzzle, according to Sam Coombes, digital marketing manager at Menzies.
A solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is also key to “getting more bang for your buck,” he says, adding that a lack of presence can lead to businesses being “deselected” by potential customers.
“Really, you have to make sure you’re at the top of that Google page for all those searches, just for gratification if nothing else. Because if people have heard of you somewhere else, they’ll walk away and find advice and make sure of it before making a decision.
The “saturated market” and changing landscape of the industry means that a strong online presence is more essential than ever for brand awareness, says Jo Edwards, senior director of JE Consulting, a marketing agency in full service which represents several mid-sized accountancy firms in Great Britain.
“It’s a crowded market, and the way a company differentiates itself from its competitor when it’s in the same geographic area and probably has a similar skill set, is by making more people aware of who are you.
“The landscape has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years – it’s all about awareness.”
Marketing in crisis
Edwards argues that this change requires greater investment in marketing by accounting firms – a trend that is already visible across the industry.
“The companies we work with have been through recessions before, and I think most of them would say now is the time to increase your marketing spend.”
“A well-structured business will increase its marketing spend as it heads into uncertain times.”
Contrary to expectations, according to Edwards, many companies have recognized that the pandemic presents an opportunity to offer “more support than ever” to customers.
“We haven’t really seen budgets cut. There was that initial panic, but once companies saw that their customers needed more support than ever, they realized they had to keep marketing spend down and, in some cases, increase it. their marketing spend, attributing this in part to the wealth of analytics technology now available to digital teams.
The increasing volumes of data available from Google Analytics, in addition to the consolidation and visibility enabled by HubSpot’s analytics dashboards, in particular, allow corporate marketing departments to demonstrate ROI more efficiently than ever, she says.
“Because we have all this data, our value is much more tangible than it was before – we can demonstrate the value we bring to the business.”
Similarly, Menzies’ Coombes sees the growing reliance on digital channels across industries as a key driver of increased marketing spend.
“This shift to the internet during the pandemic has made it even more important that we communicate well with our customer base and do so in a transparent and coordinated manner,” he says.
“Covid was probably the best thing that ever happened for digital because it really shone a light on it.”
“Content is everything”
A well-researched, client-focused content strategy should be at the heart of any accounting firm’s digital marketing plan, says Edwards of JE Consulting.
Understanding the company’s customer base and the guidance they need for their business is key in this regard, she says.
“The key is to understand the ideal customer that the company really wants to spend its budget trying to attract. Your customers are the people you need to deal with first because they will recommend us and we can also cross-sell to them. .
“You need to make sure the content is relevant and useful, otherwise it just creates noise and you might as well not care.”
Ultimately, “content is everything” for retention and new business, adds Menzies’ Purnell.
“We go to market by sector, so we have regular sector team meetings where we run through hot topics and customer concerns.
“So it has to come from industry experts, because they are the ones who have their finger on the pulse.”
Edwards stresses the importance for senior executives to “recognize the power of their own brand,” arguing that in some cases this has the potential to be more powerful than the overall company brand.
“When you have someone in the firm who can carve out a niche for themselves, you should try to make them a bit famous in that service industry.”