What Is Your Accounting Firm’s Marketing Maturity?

by Mar 28, 2024

If you want our hot take on marketing for CPAs, we believe too many firms try to run before they walk—in other words, they don’t take the time to build a strong marketing foundation before moving on to more advanced tactics.

When it comes to marketing, it’s important to build your foundation step by step and not haphazardly. So, what is your level of marketing maturity?

In this article, we’ll help you identify your current position on the marketing maturity curve and share our ideas on how to evolve your marketing further.

What Is Marketing Maturity?

Your marketing maturity gauges how advanced and effective your marketing strategy and efforts are.

We’ve found that most accounting firms fall into one of the following five progressions:

1

Reactive
& Ad-hoc

2

Attractive
 

3

Proactive
 

4

Strategic
 

5

Continuous
Improvement

We’ll delve into each of these phases below, but before we begin, it’s important to address why you should even care about marketing for your firm.

Marketing is the face of your firm. You may have the greatest people, processes, technology, and services, but if your greatness is not clear and convincing to the external world, you have a problem.

Marketing drives revenue by educating prospects and clients. Thought leadership can help prospects learn about your expertise and how you might be able to solve their problem before ever speaking to anyone at your firm. Thought leadership can also be used to educate clients on strategies, tactics, and opportunities to improve their financial position, which often leads to new engagements for your firm.

Prospective employees will visit your website before ever submitting a resume or contacting a recruiter. They’ll make judgments and draw perceptions. As they investigate your website, social media, and other online material, they’ll decide whether or not to even contact your firm.

The bottom line is that marketing is important. High-performing firms take marketing seriously; management supports the effort, allocates the appropriate people and resources, and continuously recasts the vision and strategy.

Now for the stages…

Stage 1: Reactive & Ad-hoc

2

3

4

5

You have a website, but it may need a refresher. The messaging is nice but does not clearly communicate who you serve, how you are different, and why you are so great. You could probably replace the logo on your website with a competitor and it would work – that’s a problem.

Your brand styles are not used consistently.

You don’t have a marketing team or champion. Marketing responsibilities have been delegated to an office admin or a partner who may or may not have knowledge about marketing.

Your marketing activities tend to be ad-hoc and reactive, with nothing aligning to a larger strategy.

In terms of tactics, you may occasionally create brochures for networking events or advertise in the local business journal, but these efforts are siloed and difficult to link to any business outcomes.

Your contact list is in your practice management system. Each partner maintains their own list of prospects and clients in Outlook.

At this stage, your external marketing doesn’t do your firm justice. The external reality of what prospects and clients see doesn’t match the internal reality of how great your firm is.

1

Stage 2: Attractive

3

4

5

Management understands that marketing is important. An internal champion is assigned to marketing. Your website design is current and showcases your people, services, career opportunities, etc. You have developed messaging that clearly communicates who you serve, what you do, and how you are different. Someone visiting your website understands how you are different from your competitors. You have a basic brand guideline that includes your logo, fonts, colors, email signature templates, proposal templates, etc. All employees are aware of and follow the guidelines. You have a blog or an insights gallery for thought leadership and are posting at least two articles a month. You have secured social media accounts on main channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram at minimum) in order to own your business’s name on these platforms, even if you don’t plan on using social media marketing right away.

At this stage, your website and brand represent you well. External perceptions match the internal reality of how great your firm and people are. The only problem—you’re all dressed up, but you have nowhere to go.

1

2

Stage 3: Proactive

4

5

Once your core foundation has been built, your efforts turn to outbound marketing that includes email and social media. At this stage, you may not have a marketing strategy in place beyond wanting to send a couple of emails a month and post to social media at least once a week. Your firm has built and maintains a centralized list of prospects and clients. Your contact list is stored in a sales and marketing CRM such as BenchmarkONE, Hubspot, or Salesforce. Smaller firms may use email newsletter software such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, or Active Campaign. You have designed an email template for all outbound communication, whether for a tax alert, a thought leadership article, or a multi-article newsletter. You email clients and prospects educational thought leadership at least twice a month. Your social media properties adhere to your brand standards and messaging. For social media posting, you use software such as Marketing by Numbers Social Media Manager, Hootsuite, or Buffer to assist in creating and scheduling posts across all social media properties. You post at least once or twice a week to each social media property. You may be selectively looking for paid opportunities to drive prospects, such as through PPC, retargeting, or sponsorships.

At this stage, moving from reactive, ad-hoc emails to consistent, educational emails can quickly move the needle for your firm. With each email, your advisors will receive calls from clients wanting to learn more. These provide the opportunity to better serve clients and generate new engagements. Social media outreach has a broader audience and may take time to realize specific impacts; regardless, your brand is consistently in front of your audience and presents well to clients, prospects, and potential employees.

1

2

3

Stage 4: Strategic

5

Your firm is more deliberate about marketing efforts and has formed a strategy that synchronizes both business development and marketing. Your firm has a vision, mission, and core values statement. Management has painted the picture for the firm’s future and established goals and targets. Progress toward those end goals is measured, managed, communicated, and celebrated. The marketing role is filled by an individual with marketing expertise or is outsourced to an agency. You have defined who you serve (personas), what you provide, your unique value proposition and competitive advantage, and opportunities to drive revenue and growth. Even though every person in your firm plays some role in sales, you may have dedicated business development personnel, or specific partners may be taking the lead in business development. Marketing and BD coordinate sales and marketing strategy and efforts. Marketing helps to attract and move prospects through the pipeline, nurture and educate clients, and support BD sales efforts. Business development opportunities are tracked through a pipeline. The source, value, and final outcome are tracked to measure marketing efforts’ ROI. Search engine optimization and content development are based on the marketing strategy. Instead of single-purpose marketing content and thought leadership, multi-step, and omnichannel marketing campaigns are developed to drive growth for specific service lines from specific targets. For example, a campaign to drive growth for IT Security Consulting may include a series of five emails and ten social media posts. Each email educates recipients on a specific yet different hot-button issue in IT Security. Engagement is measured and contacts with high scores are targeted by BD. Marketing effectiveness is measured on various levels. Website, email, and social media analytics are used to measure overall engagement. Segmentation and scoring are used on a more specific, contact level. Segmentation may be based on contact demographics (e.g., business owner, retiree, healthcare industry, high net worth), services (e.g., audit, consulting, tax), and/or interest (e.g., college savings). Contact scoring may be based on segmentation and or online behavior/engagement with marketing. You manage the costs associated with each channel and marketing campaign, calculate ROI, and optimize marketing spending. Marketing provides a dashboard of analytics to communicate past efforts, results, and future campaigns.

At this stage, your firm’s marketing efforts are advanced. Campaigns and channels are considered against the overall strategy and expected return, demonstrating and achieving an ROI. Management places a high value on marketing, and marketing personnel have a seat at the table.

1

2

3

4

Stage 5: Continuous Improvement

At this stage, the strategy, budget, personnel, and systems for executing, measuring, and managing marketing efforts are in place. Internal processes are running smoothly, and technology platforms share data and link functionality. The focus is on constantly improving metrics to achieve specific goals. Campaigns are executed, reviewed, and incrementally modified. Marketing’s scope has expanded to include talent acquisition strategy and growth through mergers and acquisitions.

At this stage, you have a mature marketing operation that drives growth and clearly demonstrates significant value to the firm.

Where do you stand?

Of course, these stages present a generalized view of marketing maturity. Even though your firm may fall across multiple stages, this provides you with a sense of where you stand and potential next steps to improving your marketing operations. The Marketing by Numbers platform helps hundreds of accounting firms accelerate through the marketing maturity stages by providing prewritten thought leadership content, technology, strategy, and a done-for-you service. Smaller firms tend to leverage our full end-to-end system, while large firms tend to choose specific features to enhance their current infrastructure. If you would like to discuss where you are in the process or learn more about the Marketing by Numbers platform, please schedule a call here.

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