A Better Way to Grow Your Accounting Firm
Accounting firm marketing is the engine for growth. It’s adding new clients. It’s building a profitable business. Marketing for your accounting firm is how you can have freedom as the owner.
Instead of constant fluctuations and unpredictable growth, your marketing can bring you steady new clients, allowing you to focus on strategy.
But marketing for accounting firms is more than that. It’s education. Business owners need to know their numbers to survive. They need to understand their financial reporting, cash flow, and make meaningful projections into the future.
And they need great accounting firms to be a guiding voice to them. Your marketing is a bridge to help educate these business owners. And it’s a bridge to connect them to the services they need to grow.
Let’s be honest. For the most part, your firm is not competing with other firms. Your biggest competition is businesses who stubbornly try to do too much in house. Your biggest competitor is a business who doesn’t understand what they are missing in having a greater level of financial insight.
Marketing should crush that competition by making it so glaringly obvious how you can help.
In this guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive plan for marketing your accounting firm. It’s a deep dive into marketing, so take your time and consider taking notes.
To help you put everything into action, we’ve put together a simple Cheat Sheet which condenses some of the key steps.Your Marketing Cheat Sheet!
Accounting Firm Marketing is a Process
The biggest problem accounting firms, along with many businesses, make with marketing is making it too complicated. It’s very common to shift from one tactic to another without a deliberate plan for results.
You heard social media is a good idea, so you put some Facebook posts out but nothing happened.
You read you should have a newsletter, but there’s no one to send it to.
So you dabble in these tactics, but don’t get anywhere. So it’s back to your networking and hoping a few extra referrals come through this month.
Strategic Accounting Firm Marketing
The key is a marketing plan. Not a theoretic marketing plan that takes months to build and contains no practical advice. A real marketing plan. An action plan with goals, steps and accountability.
In this guide we’re going to simplify marketing.
At its core marketing boils down to this:
- You have an ideal client
- You have a message for that ideal client
- You need to take that message to that client
This is marketing. There are many ways to execute it. The key is to build a real plan, then to execute each step in sequence.
By the time you’re finished with this guide, you’ll have some work to do, but you will have the plan in place to go out and grow predictably with the clients you love working with.
Now, we’re about to dive into the guide. Before we get too far, I want to introduce myself to explain what I know about accounting firm marketing.
My name is Micky Deming, and I handled marketing and sales at a cloud accounting firm from 2013 to 2018.
In that time we grew to over $1.5M in revenue, several hundred clients, and were named Xero’s US Accounting Partner of the Year in 2016.
We went from 6 to 30 employees in 4 years, and best of all were ranked at the top of Google in several categories for our niche. So we had 30-40 inbound leads coming in for free every month just from reading our articles.
I really hate talking about myself, because, who cares about me? But I thought I’d share that, so you know everything in this guide is coming from personal experience.
OK, Let’s get started.
Part 1: Your Ideal Client
Where it all starts
Marketing success doesn’t start with tools and technology or methods of advertising. In fact, it doesn’t even start with a marketing plan. Before we can build a plan for reaching clients, we need to know WHO we’re trying to reach!
Yes, who is much more important than what, when or how you execute your marketing plan.
Your first step is identifying the ideal client. The perfect client who you wish you could just recreate and multiply. You need to identify the exact client you wish you could have hundreds of.
Why you need to dominate a niche
It’s hard to do this because it requires you to go narrow. All businesses hate to go narrow, because that means we eliminate certain clients. Going narrow, by definition, means saying no to mediocre things so you can say “Yes” to great things.
So to build and execute your marketing plan you need to dominate a niche. Why do you need a niche?
- You can have clients coming to you
- You can create more referrals
- You can do co-marketing with others in the niche
- You can charge more
- You can provide a greater service
- You have less technology to learn
- You can standardize your reporting
The list goes on and on. When you have a specific niche, your marketing gets a lot easier. It’s now easier to target your ideal client, and it’s easier to craft a compelling message.
People don’t care about you. When they see your website, they likely don’t care. But if you speak directly to their problem, you can grab their attention. If you show them you get them and can help their particular situation, now you’ve got something.
Finding your ideal client
How do you find your ideal client? First, look at the clients you have that you enjoy working with. Is there a specific industry you can specialize in? A specific software tool?
Some examples of great niches could be:
- You know crypto accounting so you work with crypto entrepreneurs
- You understand the construction business, so you do accounting for construction
- You work with venture-backed startups, and help them work with investors
There are plenty of options out there. And don’t worry if someone else has already claimed that niche. There is usually plenty of room out there for multiple players. Never worry about being too narrow. It’s crucial to be focused and specific.
Once you know your niche, now our job gets a lot easier. It’s time to figure out how to get in front of that ideal client and find a bunch of them!
Part 2: Your Accounting Firm Marketing Plan
Creating a marketing plan is one of the most enjoyable things you can do. It’s helpful to your entire mindset and focus.
Rather than approach your firm’s growth by just repeating days over and over to see where you end up – planning helps you become the architect of your firm’s direction.
It’s helpful because it causes you to intentionally think about what you want. When you go through a process of thinking what you want, you are much more likely to build a path to getting there.
In marketing, it seems to never work when you try a scattered series of tactics to try to drive results. But when you create a plan (a simple plan!) that’s where the results come.
To make things easy for planning, we put together a simple one-page cheat sheet.Grab the cheat sheet!
Let’s go through a planning process that works:
Start at the end – What’s your revenue target
Any goal should have a number. Do you want a certain number of clients? A certain revenue number? I like choosing revenue, because it’s more concrete and all clients aren’t created equal.
If you have monthly services, it’s even better to look at a monthly recurring revenue (MRR). So let’s say you want to add $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue in the next 6 months. That’s a great target. And a great place to start.
Adding new clients
If you want to add $10,000 in MRR, now you need to know what it’s going to take. To start you need to know the average MRR per client. You may even skew higher than your current list of clients, as you make an effort to target only ideal clients.
To make the example easy, let’s say the average client pays $1,000/month. Now the goal is to get 10 new clients in the next 6 months.
Number of consultations and close rate
Most accounting firms will have a consultation or discovery meeting before making a proposal. Once you start working more deliberately in your planning, you’ll want to know how many consultations it takes you on average to get a new client.
This is usually called a close rate in sales terminology.
So if one out of every three sales conversations turns into a new client, your close rate is 33%. If you don’t know this number, you can do your best to make an assumption, then test the assumption.
The great thing about a marketing plan, either for 90 days or 6 months, is you can build a new plan for the next cycle and be even more accurate in your projections.
So now, let’s review the marketing plan.
Goal = $10,000 in MRR
$10,000 in MRR = 10 new clients at $1,000/month
10 new clients requires 30 consultations at (⅓ close rate)
So now the goal is simpler. Instead of trying to get to an arbitrary target like revenue, now we know all the marketing effort leads to getting 30 consultations. In a 6-month plan, that’s 5 per month. Certainly attainable!
Note: If you don’t like the numbers, you can make adjustments in the model. Maybe you’re the type that if they get on a call with you it’s almost certain they become a client. Great! You can change the model to reflect a 50% close rate, and now your goal is only 20 consultations.
Lead generation for your firm
In the next section, we’ll dive deep into how to drive these consultations. There are 6 traffic sources you can use to drive leads to your firm.
At this stage of building the marketing plan, the goal is to understand how many leads you need to get to your consultation number.
For someone to agree to a consultation, they usually visit your website and fill out a form. There are many ways to do this. You want to track how many people are visiting your site and filling out the forms. Where are the consultations coming from?
If you have a landing page that says contact us, you need to know how many people who visit that page fill out the form? If it’s 1% this is a conversion rate.
This means you need 100 people to visit your page to get 1 consultation. Or, to go back to our goal, you need 3,000 visits to get 30 consultations to get the 10 new clients to get the $10,000 in MRR.
Do you see how this planning process helps? Getting 3,000 targeted potential clients to your page is not easy, but there are plenty of ways to do this. Now, with a plan in place, you can try different tactics with that goal in mind. How do I get visits to my page. And how can you constantly iterate so that you improve metrics along the way?
Calculating your Cost of Acquiring a Customer (CAC)
Finally, the last step is knowing your Cost of Acquiring a Customer (CAC). Do you pay for referrals that become clients? This is a CAC. You may pay $500 to someone who refers a new client to you.
Not bad for $1,000 MRR.
If that works in your model, you can apply it to your marketing plan. If you are willing to spend $500 to get a new client, then you can try to find ways to spend $500 to get 100 people to your website.
This will require testing, but once you make it work, you can spend $500, get 100 visits, get 10 consultations, and then a new client at $1,000/month.
So, to summarize, here is our sample marketing plan
- 3,000 targeted visitors to landing page with 1% conversion rate
- 30 sales conversations at 33% close rate
- 10 new clients at $1,000/month
- $10,000 MRR goal
Don’t try to do too much! Keep it simple
The power of the planning process is in the simplicity. Growth can seem overwhelming. But when you break it down, you can make growth attainable. You can also use the simple planning to help you prioritize what’s actually going to drive results.
Part 3: Messaging that Converts
Once you’ve taken the time to build your firm’s marketing plan, the fun beings. It can be exciting because you now have action steps in front of you to take and results to manage.
But don’t go too fast yet. Before you start throwing out advertisements, or email blasts, remember what we said was the most important component of your marketing?
Knowing Your Ideal Client!
How to Craft a Message that Resonates
Most businesses believe the reason they aren’t growing is because they don’t have enough traffic. If only you had thousands of people coming to your website every day, then all the problems would be solved.
But for most accounting firms (and most businesses), you don’t actually have a traffic problem. Traffic is something you can get in a variety of ways. Traffic is a commodity. It’s something you can buy from Google, Facebook, or many other places who have an audience.
The problem is not traffic, it’s your message. In order for any marketing to work, you need a message the resonates with your ideal client. That’s why being specific is so crucial.
Owning a Niche is the Key to Your Messaging
When you have a specific ideal client, you can speak in a way that cuts through the noise. Too many accounting firms are saying the exact same thing.
We help you understand your numbers.
We help entrepreneurs grow with better financial insights
We help your numbers make cents (accounting puns are the worst!)
Hopefully, you get the idea. These messages aren’t exciting or meaningful to anyone.
What if you had a value proposition that said: We help law firms avoid potential disbarment, because we specialize in trust accounting for law firms.
Or: We save e-commerce businesses hours because we understand the tools they use, automate reconciliations, and make sense of sales tax reporting
Now, you’re going to gain some attention. If someone owns that business, they will feel like you get them and are speaking direction to them.
What Problems Are You Solving?
For messaging, the biggest mistake everyone makes is starting with themselves. You think about the things you can do, and you talk about those things.
A better way to nail your messaging is to think about your ideal client. More importantly, you should think about their pain.
What are the biggest problems they are facing?
What are their biggest headaches?
If you know those problems, your messaging needs to point those pieces of pain out. You need to help them feel that pain as they see your website.
Marketing and sales is hard. Most people don’t easily give up their money. What is it that gets people to trust you enough to give up some of their hard-earned money?
Pain! If you can solve a pain, people will pay you money to take it away. It’s harder to get people to pay for something cool that adds to their life. But if it’s something that takes away pain, people will line up.
What Can You Do About it?
Believe it or not, once you’ve brought out the pain, you’ve done most of the hard work. Now you need to show that you are capable of solving it.
But this is not the most important piece. What you need to do, after establishing that you understand their world is:
- Establish credibility – use social proof via testimonials and case studies
- Speak their language – this is why we at Full Stadium love content marketing. By using articles, and e-books you can show potential clients that you know their world and have experience in it
- Give a clear next step – We’ll get to traffic next. Once you’ve shown you know the pain, can solve the pain, tell them what to do next. Typically, it’s a phone call. Don’t make it complicated: Provide the next step and tell them how you can help.
Once your messaging is dialed in, we can get to the fun part. It’s time to send some traffic and grow!
Part 4: Traffic Channels
Now we arrive at the fun part. If you have a clearly defined audience, a marketing plan with goals, and a message that will resonate – it’s time to get that message in front of your audience.
This part takes work (and often money), but is do-able. You’ll have to learn the hard ways in many instances. You can try a certain channel you think is going to work great, and it flops. You can try another with low expectations and it takes off.
The key is trying and measuring what works. It also matters what your industry is. Part of knowing your ideal client is not only for messaging. Knowing your ideal client also means knowing where to find them. Certain niches may work well in Facebook, while others are more likely to find you at an event.
My favorite traffic source. The best traffic source because your organic traffic means you get relevant, targeted visitors coming to you!
This means you don’t have to pay for them, and it means when they engage they are the ones looking for a solution. Meaning if you get a lead from an inbound source, they are much more likely to be interested in services than in an outbound situation.
If you’re looking to add clients immediately, organic traffic is not the best route.
The best way to approach organic traffic is as a complement to other marketing efforts.
If you are writing regularly on your blog, it’s going to help everything else you do.
- When you use social media, your content is a means for engagement
- When you run ads, they will check your blog as the browse
- When you create content, you open the door for co-marketing opportunities
Every B2B business should be creating regular content, because it provides an opportunity to educate your potential clients. When you educate them, they trust you more and want to work with you.
As you create content, learn the basics of keyword research and optimization. If you do this regularly, the organic results will come over time.
Then you’ll have that sweet, incoming free traffic.
You know about advertising. We all see ads every day. You can buy ads from Google, Facebook, or you can try additional methods.
They key to advertising is to have a plan. Your targeting needs to be really good for this to work. If you are using Facebook ads, you can waste a lot of money really quickly unless you know what you are doing.
A simpler way to do effective advertising is to find a way to advertise within your niche.
An example of this is a newsletter. Let’s say there’s a big industry-leading website in your niche. Their readers are all your potential clients. Find out if there is an advertising opportunity.
These ads are usually more effective than something that interrupts. That’s because readers trust this authoritative website and are interested in who they recommend.
As mentioned above, this is where CAC really comes into play. Make sure you have a budget, and experiment with advertising. You need to know if your ads are working, and your CAC number tells you if it works or not.
If it’s not working, you’ll know it’s time to make changes to the ad strategy.
The whole idea of this guide is to build a marketing plan, so you can have predictable growth and less reliance on referrals.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t want referrals!
Referrals are awesome. They may not be predictable, but there are ways to try to get more referrals.
Make sure you are bringing up the possibility of referrals when:
- You have a committed referral partner
- You have a compliment from a client
Simply mentioning that you are open and welcoming of referrals can spur their brain into thinking of who might need help.
The best referral relationships are when you have a complementary business where you can both help each other. Keep an eye out for consultants, lawyers, and other service providers in your space who would know who needs help with accounting.
Partnerships / Co-marketing
One of the most powerful ways to grow an accounting firm, that is rarely used is co-marketing.
Here’s what it looks like. You are creating content, and have a list of clients and prospects in a specific niche. Let’s say you work with E-commerce businesses.
There are a ton of other businesses out there who also work with e-commerce businesses. Maybe they’re a software company, or another service provider in the niche. They also have clients and an email list.
If you reach out to the marketing person at that company, you can offer to educate their users on an issue specific to e-commerce business.
This could be a guest post, interview, webinar, or a newsletter. It depends on how they engage with their audience.
You can then do the same, and invite them to engage with your audience.
You obviously want to do this with businesses that you know are reputable and do a great job with their clients. If you have that, it’s a win/win.
You get a warm introduction to your ideal clients. You provide helpful education to your own list by bringing forward an expert.
Like organic content, social media is a long term game. The goal is really to complement everything you are doing.
Think of social media engagement like networking at scale. Back before the internet, networking was crucial for growth. You had to get out there and hand out business cards.
Today, that happens on social media. You can make connections, grow your network, and slowly build up your reputation.
Like content marketing, if you’re consistent over the long haul you can build up a real following and use social media to add free leads.
Finally, we get to the black sheep of marketing. Call it want you want. Outbound marketing, sales development, prospecting, outreach.
The idea in sales development is you are reaching out to potential clients and introducing yourself. Gross!
We all hate this outreach. Log into LinkedIn right now and I’m sure you have an annoying message waiting for you.
So I want to say that I also hate this, and please don’t go out and blast a ton of people with spam.
All that being said, I do believe there is a place for sales development when it’s done properly.
Again, this goes back to knowing your ideal client. If you really, truly, at a deep level know your client and their problems, you can introduce yourself in a proper context.
Something like: Hey, I noticed your business…A lot of these businesses are dealing with X …We are super-specifically focused on helping with X… We work with similar companies like ___ and ____ … If that’s an issue for you guys and you need help, I’d be glad to chat.
Of course, you can do better than that, but I’m not going to give you a template. You should reach out in context. Even better if you can say something specific you’ve noticed about them or their business.
And don’t do a ton of these. And don’t do them through a system. Just send a few per day, introducing yourself to people in your niche.
Remember the marketing plan. You only need a certain number of consultations per month to succeed. If you can add sales development to add a few more, it’s worth a shot.
Now it’s time to build the plan and get to work. There are no excuses. Growing your firm is not easy, but there are steps you can take to get your message to your client.
Hopefully, this guide has been helpful. Let me know what you think, and feel free to reach out to us at Full Stadium if there’s anything we can do to help.
I’d also be glad to connect with you on LinkedIn, so reach out and say Hey!
If you’d like the cheat sheet summarizing this marketing plan, you can grab that here.