You may have thought marketing wasn’t the best use of your time in the past, but you’ve now recognised marketing is an integral part of your firm’s development. But how much time do you need to be spending on it?
The time you spend on marketing will mostly depend on where you are in your marketing journey. In the beginning it’s all about taking small steps to build up your marketing efforts and as you become more experienced and fully understand what works for your brand you will find yourself wanting to be more involved in your marketing, because you’ll see how it impacts your firm and the type of clients it attracts.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to figuring out how much time to spend. The Marketing Map is your guide to figure out where your marketing time is best spent, depending where you are on the map. Like with navigation systems on your phone when you ask for directions there is a recommended route. Of course you can take a different route but it might take you longer to where you want to be. But either way, the map tells you where to go and how long it will take.
Get marketing education first so you know where to focus your time
You might have done the bare minimum when it comes to marketing but you are now aware it’s more important than you initially thought. It may seem overwhelming right now to know where to begin. Relax, take a deep breath, and know you can do this. Many accountants have gone before you and done it, and are even now spending more time than they ever imagined on marketing – and even enjoying it! You can, too.
At the beginning of your marketing journey, or your marketing refresh, go back to the basics and educate yourself on where best to spend your time and money. We have an article called “I’m concerned about wasting time and money on marketing and getting no results” that addresses any fears you may have about this. Don’t jump right in and spend hours and hours creating social content. Take a step back and ponder “am I currently attracting more of the clients I want to be working with?” and “how do I get more of my ideal clients?”.
We recommend starting by spending at least 2 hours a week, in the beginning, to help educate yourself on the 12 content marketing elements and how you can use each of them to your advantage in your firm’s marketing strategy. The 12 elements of content marketing are shown here:
When you approach marketing by learning about these 12 elements in order, you won’t be wasting time trying social media before you’ve considered your audience. Or buying fancy video equipment when you haven’t fully addressed the issues your audience faces. Join the Accelerator coaching group to understand the 12 elements and how they work together for your clients. Gradually working your way through these in order is the best way to not get too overwhelmed or excited about all the things you could be doing with your firm’s marketing. Each one of these elements builds off of one another: for example, you won’t understand your ideal client’s issues, without knowing the audience you’re trying to connect with.
In addition to Accelerator, you could spend additional time going deeper into the 12 elements, which is why we’ve created PF Lab. It’s free when you’re an Accelerator member, and gives you extra learning, sessions, training, tutorials, and even action sessions so you can have direction from the whole PF creative agency while you create the content your firm needs.
There are other ways to learn, too. In the past, I have used LinkedIn Learning to help expand my knowledge of various marketing elements. If you pay for a premium account you can gain access to multiple marketing courses. As you know, the challenge with signing up for courses often brings you back to the question of time: will you really spend the time on these? Don’t sign up for them to make yourself feel better and then let them sit there. Better to start with your 2-3 hours per week on Accelerator and build from there.
Accelerator sessions are 1.5 time hours per week, and broken down into:
- 1 hour learning about that week’s marketing element (i.e. audience, blogging, video, etc)
- 30 minute unstuck session: Your opportunity to ask specific questions about how this applies to you and your firm. What if you want to have multiple niches? Which topic would be best for your next blog post? Is this video equipment helpful to have?.
We also recommend you take at least another hour to create content relating to the concepts covered that week. Accelerator will help you stay accountable and give you direction while sparking ideas along the way. Once you have the education pieces you can dig deeper into what else your firm needs, and how all of these pieces work seamlessly together.
When looking at your firm’s marketing strategy you need to start at the foundations
When looking at your marketing plan it can be easy to get distracted with all the things you could be doing as opposed to what you NEED to be doing. It’s completely understandable to have an abundance of ideas you want to act on after gaining all this marketing knowledge. Let’s slow down for a second, before you go bouncing into action all of these new ideas you have, let’s go back to the basics. You need a strong foundation to work off of. Like a building, if your marketing foundations aren’t strong, they will eventually start to crumble and you’ll need to start all over again. Start with your goals (both business and personal), your brand, your website and your current marketing plan.
The PF Foundations is the next step of the marketing map, and it involves spending at least 2 hours every 2 weeks on the foundational areas. Here are the types of things you’ll cover. You could start by using your time to answer these for yourself:
1. Be clear about where you want to be in the next year, 3 years, 5 years and longer term in your firm and personal life
- What actions will you need to take in your marketing to get there?
- Can you tackle these actions on your own or do you need help to get you there?
2. Know what your existing brand is, and how it is currently serving you
- Is it attracting the clients you want to be working with?
- Is it a true reflection of you and your team?
- Do you feel a level of consistency in the content you are currently putting out there?
3. Understand if your website is currently serving the clients you want to get:
- Does it qualify people in and out?
- Does it have a clear action you want people to do first?
- Does it support your onboarding process? Do prospects get their questions answered before they even meet with you?
4. Create your current marketing plan/strategy
- What content have you created which contributes to the understanding prospects have before they purchase from you?
- Do you have content in all of the 5 areas of the Buyer Progression Model?
This model helps give you an idea of how prospects build trust and a relationship with your firm:
You’re going to want to take breaks between working on these 4 concepts because it can take a while to truly reflect on these questions and it can feel quite intense to answer them in depth. We recommend taking a 1-2 week break before moving on to the next thing. Of course you can move faster if you wish, but remember it’s better to make small amounts of progress than doing too much and getting overwhelmed.
This is why we’ve crafted Foundations to be five sessions of 1.5 hours each, with two weeks between, and homework to work on before and after each session. You can do this work with our guidance, or do it on your own, but either way all of these areas must be considered or you’ll find yourself returning back again and again, circling issues you thought you’d covered before. It’s well worth it to take this time.
Once your marketing foundations are strong and reflective of where you want to be, you can more easily focus your energy and figure out where to spend your time next. From digging in deep in these four areas you might find things come out you didn’t expect and realise your brand isn’t where you want it to be and it isn’t a true reflection of your firm or how you want prospects to perceive you.
If you discover you need some help with your brand and/or website you will need to seek the help from a professional. No matter how much time and energy you spend on this it won’t equate to their years of experience in strategy, design and website coding professionals have. Being involved in your marketing is great and don’t try to do everything yourself. Spend the time working on what you’re best at, helping your clients!
Once the marketing foundations are in place you can settle into consistency of content and monthly strategy
Now you understand how marketing works and your marketing foundations are ready, it’s time to plan out your monthly marketing. How much time you regularly spend on your monthly marketing will entirely depend on where you are focusing your time and attention.
What did you discover about your firm and your marketing goals? Do you need to spend more time getting visible to your ideal audience? Do you need to work on getting more helpful blogs out there to help potential clients?
If you want to be working on social media to get visible and want to be posting daily this could take you 3-4 hours per month. Broken down it will roughly take (at least):
- 2 hours to source the content and come up with captions
- 45 mins – 1 hour to source imagery
- 1 hour to schedule your posts.
This is presuming you are comfortable and familiar with these tasks. In the early days it could take twice this long, or longer. Once you settle into a pattern, the time it takes to work on social will vary depending on how much you want to post, and how much effort you put into the caption and imagery. There’s also an option to come up with content weekly so you don’t have to spend the time on sourcing social in one sitting. When it comes to social media, having a solid bank of content such as blogs is going to be your friend. You can pull snippets from the blogs and use them as stackable content for social media. It saves you so much time when trying to come up with things to post.
If you discover you need to be writing and posting more blogs to your website the time spent on this will be dependent on how much experience you have in writing blogs, and the depth of information you want to get across. Seek to create custom, original content at least once a week. If you are doing this by means of blog posts, you’ll need to write, edit, schedule, and publish at least 1 blog per week (4 blogs per month) so your prospects are seeing consistent up to date information. Writing a weekly blog will roughly take at least 3 hours (sometimes longer to start):1 hour to write your core structure (the main points of the blog) and 2 hours to write out the full blog. Don’t beat yourself up if you try writing blogs and it takes you a bit longer. It takes a lot of practice to get used to writing them but once you get into a rhythm it will get easier.
Tracking is also critical to your monthly marketing plan. Tracking your numbers from your website, socials, and proposals is crucial to helping you know how to pivot and evolve your marketing strategy over time. We recommend pulling all of the numbers you want to track into a Gsheet and so you can easily see how the numbers differ from month to month. Here’s an example of how you can set it up:
Pulling your numbers into a spreadsheet will take you at least 1-2 hours per month depending on how much you want to track. Take at least another hour to three hours to work on strategy for the following month based on the numbers you’re seeing. When deciding which numbers to track, think back to your goals and the types of things you regularly want to be focusing on.
Maintaining your website is also an important thing to consider when factoring in how much time you’re regularly spending on marketing. Maintaining your website, uploading content, and keeping all of your information up to date and relevant will take you about an hour every month. Of course, you will be spending more time on it if significant changes need to be made such as if there’s an issue with your SEO.
Working on your monthly marketing and doing all the things can feel like a full-time job in itself. As you know, it IS a full time job for many people. Looking at all of this seems like A LOT of time to spend when you are also running your own accounting firm, but it’s your decision who spends what time where. Do you spend a few hours at first, and get support along the way? Do you involve yourself with many hours for several months or years, and then hire a part time or full time marketing manager? Do you outsource some of your marketing work to PF, while you focus on what you and you alone know best about your firm? Any and all of these are options for you, and sometimes you’ll need to do the work yourself to understand how valuable it is to hire someone to do it for and with you. Remember, all great marketing is collaborative. You don’t do marketing for a little while, hand it off to someone, and go back to your ‘other work’. Marketing is part of your work, and you need to collaborate with others to get it done. Know that you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed with it all we are here to help you.
Before you know how long marketing will take you, figure out where to focus your energy
There’s no way to beat around the bush. Good, impactful marketing takes a great deal of time and effort to get right and maintain. As you can see, spending 1-4 hours per week is the bare minimum, and it only increases the more involved you and your team become (which causes your marketing to be more effective and authentic). However, if you try to skip steps and don’t work on the foundations of your marketing to help save time and money, it will end up costing you more in the long run. If you jump straight into working on your monthly marketing strategy without addressing underlying issues your marketing is never going to be where it needs to be to help develop your firm. You may even start to resent working on marketing because you’ve been focusing your time, energy and money on the wrong things if you try to skip foundational steps.
When in doubt, start small, start safe. Get your foundations right and make small and steady consistent changes. You will begin to feel the benefits even though it feels like it’s taking a long time to get going. Marketing is a long journey with lots of twists and turns. When following a map there are many different routes you can take to get to your destination and the time spent on the path entirely depends on which directions you take. Sometimes the fastest journey isn’t the best or the most beautiful.
If you are starting to discover you want the time you spend on marketing to be more effective, or if you have no idea where to start, PF can help! Fill out our diagnostic to get started.