Recently I was contacted by an accountant who was considering investing in outsourced marketing for his firm. “I’m keen to progress but unsure about the budget I should put aside for 2017,” he said. “How much is a decent marketing budget, based on your experience with other firms?”
It’s a great question.
What I have learned about a marketing budget for accountants is that there are three key elements:
First, the cash you put in.
Second, the time investment you’re willing to spend.
And third, the commitment to the journey for the long haul.
In my experience the firms who get the greatest results over the long run are those who not only invest seriously in their marketing when it comes to direct costs paid out – but who also choose to invest their own time in learning, testing, trying, asking, writing, and recording. And who are committed to seeing it through for the long run.
Interestingly, we’ve seen some firms who have invested at a pretty high level (with us or elsewhere) but if they are not personally invested in their own marketing, they still struggle to see results. So, it’s not all about the money.
Remember, it can take 2-3 years for the proper drip feed of content marketing to really pay off. It is a lot of work and there is definitely no easy fix.
Here are a few things to consider in those three areas:
1) The marketing cash
There are some things you’ll need to fork out the monies for. These can include (but are not limited to):
- A content strategy.
This means solidly understanding your audience, their needs and issues, and preparing a plan of content you will share to address those issues. Without this you’re flying blind and simply firing randomly at targets and hoping something sticks.
- Your website & brand.
If you’ve got these nailed, great. If not, do it now. Your brand will define every marketing action you take for the foreseeable future – and in my experience, when your brand is locked in, your marketing decisions are made much easier from that point on.
- Social media.
Start with ensuring that you are on-brand with every social media platform (cover images, thumbnails, images, GIFs, content, posts, etc). I’d also recommend either hiring someone to help train and coach you and the team in using it, or outsourcing at least a portion of it.
- Video and recording equipment.
This is a must-have for marketing in 2017. At a minimum get a decent camera, a tripod, some basic lighting and a lapel mike. Read our list of suggested video equipment
- Marketing assistant.
Almost every firm we work with has hired at least a part time marketing assistant, and some are hiring 2-3 marketing team members. Most firms are beginning to build an in house marketing team.
You need someone on hand, built into the firm culture, to ensure consistency in marketing and to be a go-between so the firm owner and partners can focus their time on what they do best. (This is true even if you’re outsourcing some of your marketing work: many of the firms who have an outsourced package with us also have someone in-house to liaise with our team.)
I would put a serious budget towards training yourself and all of your team members in these areas:
- Content marketing: what is it, and how does it work? How do you do it? Why is it exponentially more valuable to have the whole team involved?
- Social media: How can you all be involved to enhance the effectiveness of your firm’s marketing?
- Video: What makes for good video and how can each of you get better at recording it?
This training could include:
- Conferences – here’s a list of CMA’s top 10 marketing conferences for 2017
- Content Marketer – our custom programme built exclusively for accountants to take you step by step through the power of content to bring you leads – find out more
- Social Marketer – DIY videos for accountants to learn how to use social media effectively – find out more
- Content Marketing Academy – this is a community of which I and some of the PF team are members, and allows you to connect with other business owners who are using content to generate results – explore
2) The time investment
It’s so tempting to try to figure out how much money you need to spend so you can get back to the work you want to do and not have to worry about marketing.
But regardless of how much cash you invest, it’s critical to remember that the ultimate responsibility for your firm’s marketing is the owner or leaders of the firm. Again, the firms getting the best results are the ones in which the leader of the firm is heading the charge. Learning what content marketing is about. Attending conferences. Talking to the marketing team and listening to their ideas. Learning. Lots, and lots, and lots of listening and learning.
This may not be appealing to you. And you can get by for a little longer by delegating as much of the marketing as possible to others. But it won’t last.
For firm owners and leaders, here’s where I’d recommend you use your own time in relation to marketing:
- Learn what a content plan is. Your firm needs to have one: you don’t need to create it yourself (and I would suggest getting help with this), but spending a little time on seeing the big picture is extremely valuable.
- Talk to high growth business owners about their own marketing. As an accountant, you have countless opportunities to have this conversation, because you have motivated entrepreneurial clients who are trying, learning, experimenting, winning. Ask them what they’re trying and what works for them.
- Start using social media daily. Pick your favourite (or least un-favourite!) platform, and open it up 3-5 times a day. Browse. Comment. Share. Send messages.
- Record video. I know that many of you hate it. Don’t find it appealing. Are concerned it won’t turn out well. Would rather avoid it. But it’s how your audience you still need to do it: and if you don’t lead by example, your team will definitely not pick up the slack.
- Consider marketing coaching. No serious athlete would dream of self-training forever. When they get serious, they get a coach. What could you accomplish if you spent an hour or two per month with someone who will push you and keep you accountable to the marketing you know you want to do more of?
3) Your marketing team
If you want to operate as a serious business that happens to be an accountancy firm, then your end goal is to build a marketing team.
Start wherever and however you like: keep the cash investment low and the time investment high, working your way into it slowly and steadily. Or invest a massive amount early on so that in a few years’ time you will be getting big results when every other firm is scrambling to kick off their marketing.
Either way, marketing will no longer be a little extra expense here and there: it will be a serious, focused, internal part of everything you do in your accounting business.
Rather like any other kind of business that is serious about growth.
If I can be of help at any stage on the journey, let me know!