You can no longer evaluate marketing ROI based on individual efforts.
It’s so tempting for accountants to still do this. “I tried Twitter for two weeks and it didn’t work – I didn’t get any new leads.” “We ran an event and didn’t get any new business.” “Networking doesn’t work for us.”
You look at one campaign, one effort, one trial, and make your decision swiftly (usually within 30 days). If you haven’t gotten an instant return, the presumption is that this is not an effective or valid marketing tool.
This could not be further from the truth.
The accountancy firms who are getting the greatest results, the highest ‘return’, don’t tend to use this method in ROI evaluation.
That’s not to say they don’t evaluate the marketing efforts they are putting in, and the results they are getting: but it’s a different approach than you may be used to, and it has its foundation in the principles of content marketing.
The foundational principles of content marketing
Content marketing is based on the principle that you don’t push or sell your services: you talk about what your clients or prospects care about.
Their issues. Their problems. The challenges they face.
You talk about those things, and you bring your significant and relevant expertise to bear on the topic, and you let the buyer come to you when they’re ready – when they’ve become convinced that you are the expert who can help them with their high impact, critical problem.
This content marketing approach works particularly well for accountants, because most accountants and bookkeepers I talk to are not particularly a fan of selling, the way we understand it.
The kind of ‘selling’ that pushes. Encourages people to buy something they never knew they needed. Keeps hounding and pressing and driving prospects until they finally give in and buy something.
That’s not the sort of selling that works for the buyers of accountancy firm services: and it doesn’t fit with the skills of accountants, who are able to be patient and take time to explain things to their clients.
Therefore content marketing is about what you have to say, not what you have to sell: and yet the continual drip feed of sharing your knowledge and expertise and wisdom with a watching world means that eventually they come to you – again on that drip feed.
The formula approach for marketing ROI
It used to be that prospects needed 6-8 touch points before they would do business with a new company. Now it’s closer to 80. Perhaps more.
Someone sees a tweet and follows you on Twitter. Then you share a link to a blog post, which they read, and sign up for your email list. Whilst on the email list they notice you are running an event, which they attend. Perhaps they attend three or four events in the space of a year. You follow up and they access some free resources. They run into someone from your team at a networking event. And then one day, suddenly, they have a need and it relates to what you provide, and they get in touch, and sign up with you, and you have a new client.
Now, how do you measure the success of all those small elements? If you weren’t investing time and money in Twitter, they wouldn’t have seen you in the first place. But if you weren’t present at that networking event, and hadn’t gotten the postcard for your own seminar designed and printed, they may have lost interest. It all works together, so seamlessly that it’s hard to define which one is more effective.
And that’s so difficult for accountants. You want to have a formula. Spend £600 on social media and the next month you have a new client worth £1200. Your investment has been doubled; therefore it is successful.
But there is no exact formula for accountancy firm marketing. Twitter works brilliantly for some firms. Another firm specialises in retail clients who are primarily on Instagram. Another works with 60-70 year old business owners who are looking to sell, and they’re not on Twitter at all.
The point is, you try many things. Of course over time you begin to notice that your Twitter followers have increased from 20 to 2,000, and not only that but you have constant conversations there, so you stick with it. Or you try Facebook ads and you see how it integrates with the new website page you created.
The ‘two bucket rule’ of marketing ROI
So how do you measure your marketing spend, and its results?
The answer is not to separate out your marketing spend by hundreds of line items or fifty categories. We’ve discussed how that is not an accurate review.
The answer is to keep it extremely simple. You pour all your marketing investment into one bucket – website, social media, content, paid ads, billboards, webinars, events, new logo.
The second bucket is the number of new clients or new leads you are getting. (If you are getting loads of new leads but none of them are turning into new business, it could be that they are the wrong sort of leads, or that your follow up isn’t effective.)
And when you review the costs going into your marketing investment bucket, compared to the total increase of income coming from your new clients bucket (or total clients), that’s when you begin to see the ROI.
“But how do I know what to keep doing and what to stop doing?” you ask.
1. Invest in multiple areas for a minimum of 12 months.
The lead to sale cycle for buyers of accountancy firm services is much longer than a month – and sometimes it can stretch into years.
2. Ask every new client where they first heard of you.
Find out how they first got in touch with you, if they remember. Keep a record of it, and begin to look for patterns.
3. Try new things.
If all you’ve been doing is sending out email newsletters and running events, it’s time for social media and some website changes. Or vice versa.
4. Be involved personally in your marketing.
There is a great temptation, particularly for those who are owners or partners of medium to larger firms, to simply leave it all with the marketing team and trust it will all work out. “People do business with people”, we all say, but when it comes to marketing efforts sometimes we revert to the ‘business’ side.
There are almost no accountancy firms I know of who over-invest in their marketing. It’s a grudge spend, a misunderstood area. But those who go overboard and put a lot extra into their content, their events, their social media, their marketing team, tend to see a greater result in the long run.
6. Learn how it works.
There is much to be said for delegating marketing to those who know what they’re doing. But the more you understand about how a particular marketing aspect works, the better you’ll be able to delegate.
If you want to learn how to apply these critical principles of content marketing for your accountancy firm, join the Content Marketer programme we’ve designed exclusively for accountants. Because the sessions run live monthly and run in order, you may want to join the new group kicking off in September 2016.