Marketing for Growth – 4 Tips for Firms

By Sarah Acton, Chief Marketing Officer at BILL.

Many accounting firms started 2024 with an eye toward expansion, and the post-busy season spring brings renewed purpose and fresh perspective to put plans into action. According to Accounting Today, 62% of the top 100 firms reported double-digit growth in 2023, and the majority are optimistic for continued growth this year.

To continue to thrive, firms know they will need to not just maintain, but also expand relationships with clients and reach new ones with compelling offerings.  One core strategy for doing this will be marketing new and consistently in-demand services – from CAS and CFO advisory, to AP and financial statement preparation.

As CMO of BILL and a former small business owner myself, I know firsthand that creative, well-targeted and effective marketing is essential to achieving growth goals – and this is true regardless of whether you are selling products or services to consumers or businesses.  I also have the opportunity at BILL to speak to many accounting firms, and a consistent theme I hear is that while smaller and midsize firms recognize the importance of marketing, they often have limited resources to dedicate to big efforts and need to invest carefully.

For firms taking another look at their marketing strategy for the coming year, here’s a universal marketing roadmap that can help ensure your efforts maximize potential ROI.

Your edge in understanding your growth opportunity and determining your marketing roadmap starts with your client relationships. 

Having worked for some of the biggest global brands like Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and LinkedIn, I can tell you that these brands all know that  your best insights on business opportunities are at the source of your business: your buyers.

Many firms conduct surveys to gauge client satisfaction, which is a great start, but there is nothing like a one-on-one conversation for you to connect on their personal and business stressors, dreams and goals. The goal is not to make a quick sale, or capitalize on your client’s difficulties, but to help you truly understand at a human level how to design new or improve existing solutions. True listening can show your passion for their business and open up feedback that is eye opening.

Current clients are also the best sources for expansion because they already know and trust you. In fact, according to the CPA.com and AICPA PCPS CAS Benchmark Survey, the top sources for CAS leads are existing clients. Two thirds (67%) say existing tax clients and 45% say traditional bookkeeping and accounting clients have been their best conversion targets.

Stay close to your clients’ needs and you’ll be the first they think of for additional services.

Sometimes innovation takes time to catch up with people, and while it’s important to think ahead, marketing efforts work best when there is urgency. 

Accountants understand this intrinsically because of tax season: nothing moves people to action like a deadline and a penalty.

I recommend aligning your marketing message and solutions to pressing needs, relevant market trends, and your own capabilities. Frame your messages for new solutions like CAS around how it can help clients address current pain points or grow their practice now, not just tomorrow.

You might need to meet your audience where they are and provide some education. In fact, according to the same survey from CPA.com and AICPA, 69% of firms say that a lack of understanding around CAS can be a barrier to sales. Your most important asset in this education process is your team, so it’s important they understand the full range of benefits and capabilities offered by CAS tools and technology. 

Summit CPA, a division of Anders CPAs + Advisors, is a good example.  They’ve found that client managers that have other clients using spend and expense software are motivated to get more companies on the platform since they’ve seen the benefits not only for the client, but also for their own workflows. This makes them great educators, and great frontline marketers. 

  • Make Ripples, Not Just Waves

Even the best, most creative marketing message needs to be repeated or cascaded to make sure it is seen and heard. In marketing, we think of this as pulling in and nurturing your target audience with consistent communication: effective marketing enables you to deliver your message through multiple channels.

Put another way, your day revolves around your client but theirs doesn’t revolve around you. A big campaign or meeting might get their attention once, but they need reminders and reasons to think of you. So, act like the stone that sets off a hundred ripples by connecting through multiple channels: from regular calls and emails to client appreciation or industry events and social media messages. Always keep in mind that marketing does not end when someone becomes a customer.

Great marketing campaigns don’t need a big budget or outside agency.

There are so many cost-effective and fun ways to promote your firm and reach new audiences using the resources and tools you already have. Engaging in a regular dialogue with your audience on LinkedIn, sharing new articles and insights, connecting with new prospects and colleagues are light lift efforts that can drive real value.

To take it a step further, consider recording yourself or a colleague on short, educational topics that can deliver a tip or insight to your clients and prospects. Even better – get them involved by teaming up for co-marketing opportunities like events, articles or webinars.

At the end of the day, there’s no one roadmap for marketing success – what works for one firm may not be right for you.

My advice: Anchor your plans in your own brand identity and what makes your firm and its people unique.  If you start with a marketing strategy rooted in authenticity, a little can go a long way.

Originally Appeared Here

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer