Lee Frederiksen
The most important marketing concepts of the new year

Knowing the ins and outs of these five concepts can help CPA firms accelerate growth and profitability.

January 13, 2014
By Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D.

In the ever-changing landscape of accounting marketing, it can be easy to miss developments and hard to figure out what’s really important. With 2014 just underway, we offer our take on the most important marketing concepts for growing your accounting business in the New Year.

  1. Content marketing: It’s here to stay

    What it is: Content marketing is the strategy of building your firm’s brand through the creation and dissemination of free, valuable content including blog posts, webinars, white papers, videos, and books. In contrast to thought leadership, where firms use content to show innovation, content marketing is intended to be practical and useful. Content marketing helps clients build their businesses and demonstrates the value of your services. Unfortunately, relying on syndicated content isn’t enough; the information must be original and authentic.

    Why it’s important: The content marketing concept has changed the old paradigm of professional services marketing and sales. Instead of spending valuable resources chasing down leads, content marketing helps qualified prospects find you. FreedMaxick, an accounting firm in western New York, offers a great example of how it works.

    FreedMaxick uses its blog to share useful information on topics ranging from asset-based lending to the Affordable Care Act. The firm linked many of its blog posts to a call-to-action—a free white paper that is available in exchange for an email address. When consumers download the white paper and register their email, they’ve sent a strong signal that they value FreedMaxick’s services. FreedMaxick can follow up with periodic emails offering more free, valuable content—perhaps an ebook or another white paper. Now the firm has begun a relationship that, if nurtured, can lead to an eventual sale.

  2. Closing sales like a winner
  3. What it is: When it comes to closing sales, research shows that winning accounting firms are doing some things very differently from firms that lose the engagement. The No. 1 winning behavior is educating the client and offering new perspectives and insights.

    Why it’s important: Educating your prospective client is a great strategy for a variety of reasons. By providing new and useful information and perspectives, you prove your credibility and usefulness, boosting your reputation. And giving prospective clients a sample of what it’s like to work with you turns out to be the single best technique for closing new business.

  4. Changes to the Google search algorithm
  5. What it is: You probably already know about search engine optimization (SEO), a set of best practices for being found online by potential clients using search engines. But you might not have heard that these rules have changed. If you have noticed a variation in the normal traffic to your website, Google’s recent update to its search algorithm could be the culprit. Hummingbird, the update launched by Google in October 2013, changes how people find your website by placing more value on truly strong, useful material rather than spammy, keyword-obvious content that was a common SEO practice not long ago.

    Why it’s important: If you want your accounting firm to be found online, it is more critical than ever to produce rich, quality, and relevant content, rather than spammy or keyword-focused content. The good news is that these changes go hand-in-hand with online marketing best practices, as producing quality educational material should be the cornerstone of any content marketing strategy.

  6. Building a referral system
  7. What it is: Word-of-mouth is a powerful way for accountants to attract business. In fact, a recent Hinge study on buyers and sellers of accounting services found that 87% of consumers search for new accounting providers by asking friends or colleagues for recommendations. But consciously building a system to generate referrals is a much newer marketing concept.

    Why it’s important: Of the clients who have never made a referral, 43% said they simply had never been asked. Building a referral system into your marketing plan means putting your best clients in a position where they will be asked about your firm. This could include featuring case studies on your website (after asking permission, of course), inviting clients to participate in webinars or conferences, contributing to clients’ blogs, and more. This also works well for other referral sources. And by making these clients feel important, you are likely to reap additional business from them.

  8. Rebranding, reimagined

    What it is: Rebranding isn’t as simple as a website facelift or a logo redesign. In fact, if your rebranding is not rooted in research—on both your market position and your target audience—you’re missing out on a golden opportunity for profit and growth.

    Why it’s important: There’s often a major gap between how professional services firms perceive themselves and how they are perceived by the marketplace. In other words, you think you know what your clients want—but you actually don’t know at all. For that reason, any rebranding strategy must start with a thorough understanding of how your firm is perceived in the marketplace. Firms that use research to close that perception gap benefit from higher growth and profitability, as demonstrated in the chart below.

Have you set your 2014 marketing goals?

Trends come and go, but research has shown that the five marketing concepts on this list are here to stay. Firms that incorporate these ideas into their 2014 marketing plans should enjoy accelerated growth and profitability. Maybe it’s time to make a marketing change as part of your New Year’s resolutions.

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Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., is the managing partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm that specializes in the professional services industry.