The accounting industry is rapidly changing as compliance is becoming a commodity, firms are hyperspecialising, advisory services are becoming the biggest growth areas, and delivery models like outsourcing and automation are in demand.
Branding and inbound marketing agency Talking Brand conducted a report using the Business Review Weekly’s (BRW) Top 100 Accounting Firms of Australia list for 2013. They then run each firm’s website address for through the HubSpot Marketing Grader, which allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing by looking at many factors, including your website, social media activity, mobile responsiveness, blogging activity, email marketing, lead nurturing, and analytics.
Through this report and qualitative analyses, they found out that these firms are missing out on business because of poor digital marketing practices and under threat of digital disruption. Among the digital gaps are in key areas such as content marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing and brand clarity. However, it also presented opportunities for them to plug these gaps and address brand weaknesses in order to respond to these changes.
What is Digital Strategy?
There are three parts to digital strategy. The first part addresses the question, “How are you getting customers?” Before, companies focus on finding customers; but today, modern marketing is all about getting found by customers. This is called Inbound Marketing, the proven method used for doing business online. It empowers marketers to attract visitors, convert leads, close customers, and delight promoters. To do these, your website needs to be the hub of your sales & marketing efforts and have the inbound marketing foundation elements: good content; calls-to-action, landing pages, and forms; and e-mail nurturing and lead scoring.
The second part focuses on how you are delighting and retaining customers. In traditional marketing, some of the approaches used were holding events and giving out printed newsletters. But in this modern world, people are attuned to technology so it’s a good idea to consider sending out e-mail newsletters, using smart web content, creating clients-only area, and considering a membership program. In fact, several other marketing companies are predicting that as social media matures, branded communities will make a comeback, including big brands.
The third part answers the question, “How are you using digital tactics to reinvent the service offer?” A report on firm preparedness by Wolters Kluwer and CCH delves into trends that will have the biggest impact on accounting firms and their clients over the next five years. It found out that only 18% of accounting firms are “very prepared” to take advantage of the top five trends, which include leveraging technology to automate processes, making sound and strategic investments in technology today, and leveraging mobile devices and digital platforms.
Digital Marketing Foundations
The industry benchmark report measures these firms’ performance against eight digital marketing foundations namely: brand clarity, recent and relevant content to be found in search, amplification and relationship building through social media, search engine optimization, lead generation, lead intelligence and nurturing, mobile responsiveness, and client delight and retention.
Some of the findings in the benchmark report are the following:
- While companies that blog 15+ per month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog, 51% of the top 100 don’t blog.
- While companies that use Twitter average 2 times more leads per month than those that don’t, 21% of the top 100 don’t use social media at all and a further 52% don’t use Twitter.
- According to the Annuitas Group, businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads, and that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. However 84% of the top 100 don’t use marketing automation, a key technology for powering lead nurturing.
Sitting on a ‘content marketing goldmine’
Nevertheless, the report reveals that firms can make opportunities out of these threats because most of them are sitting on a ‘marketing goldmine’.
Here are five ways you can turn these threats into opportunities:
- You have expert knowledge
Convert what you know into content that answers potential prospects’ questions.
- You have clients, which means case studies
Clients’ common questions can make great content, and other clients may find them interesting or inspiring.
- You probably have history
If your firm has been around for a long time, you can provide insights on things that competitors will find hard to emulate.
- You have data
Use your pool of data to produce a series of reports.
- You have a bird’s eye view about trends
With your industry expertise, you have very intimate views of the inner workings of your clients’ businesses.
Plugging Digital Gaps
Ultimately, you would want to plug these digital gaps. “The partnership structure of many of these firms can make change slow and difficult. However, these digital gaps are only going to grow,” Talking Brand principal Amanda Falconer said. She added, “I believe that as older partners retire, lack of loyalty to what firms stand for will expose brand weakness. At the same time, other firms will be forging ahead and attracting new clients, with modern marketing tactics and techniques.”
To focus on strengthening your brand, you need to review your brand strategy, develop a content strategy, and implement content production and optimisation workflows. Always keep in mind where your customers are at the buyer’s journey and tailor the content according to their needs.
The threat of digital disruption is pressing all accounting firms to move fast because the changes are not slowing down. Help your firm remain relevant by overhauling your digital marketing strategies.
The Outsourced Accountant supports Australian and New Zealand accounting firms by helping them understand and implement outsourcing solutions to help them become more proactive and truly add value to their clients. If you want to know more about outsourcing, call us at 1300 896 522/0800 452 853, and download our e-book.