Driving organic growth: 5 marketing strategies for accounting firms

Growth can come in two varieties: organic or driven by mergers or acquisitions. Mergers and takeovers often grab headlines, largely because of the enormity of the deals. And while they are certainly proven strategies for growing a firm, most companies actually grow through organic growth.

Because organic growth is based in large part on a firm’s foundational expertise, specialized skill sets, and experience, it often provides a reliable, sustainable path to greater long-term growth and profitability. Our most recent research shows that high-growth accounting and financial services firms, including those engaged in M&A activity, owed an average of 85 percent of their growth to organic growth. So even if your firm has an M&A plan in place as part of its growth strategy, you’ll also want to achieve at least some of your growth through sales.

Let’s take a look at five organic strategies used by high-growth firms that your practice can employ to achieve healthy organic growth:

1. Develop a clear picture of your target audience. Our research at Hinge has revealed that accounting firms that conduct regular research into the wants and needs of their prospects grow up to 70 percent faster and are up to 50 percent more profitable than firms that don’t research. The information uncovered by research can provide critical insights to help focus your marketing efforts and specifically address the key concerns of your ideal new-business prospects for greater success.

2. Specialize to create greater value for your firm. Everyone wants to work with an expert. Accounting firms that generalize appeal to no particular audience, face increased competition and make it more difficult to articulate their value to prospects. Specializing in a well-defined niche enables you to reduce marketing costs by concentrating your efforts on a smaller, more valuable target audience. Our studies have shown that high-growth accounting firms are 75 percent more likely to specialize in a specific accounting service or industry.

3. Clearly define your competitive difference. The unique attributes of your firm are called “differentiators.” They help distinguish you from your competitors. Here’s an example: Your accounting firm specializes in the pharmaceutical industry — that’s your competitive advantage.

Accounting firms with unique differentiators have a much easier time defining their competitive difference, communicating their value, and winning new business. However, identifying high-value differentiators is crucial. Three key factors define a powerful, compelling differentiator:

  • Truth;
  • Relevancy; and,
  • Provability.

Is your claim true? Is it relevant to your prospect? Can you prove it? No one truly believes you’re “No. 1 in the industry” or puts much faith in the claim that you’re “the firm that puts the client first.” Claims like these fall flat because they’re unprovable and lack real value for the prospect.

4. Balance your marketing efforts. Investing in your firm’s growth requires balancing your outreach campaign with a blend of traditional and digital marketing tools to minimize risk and ensure effective coverage. Target audience research will reveal how your best prospects prefer to receive information about potential vendors and partners so you can efficiently invest your marketing budget in the most effective channels.

Just as important as investing in the right marketing channels is tracking your marketing results. This enables you to fine-tune your campaigns and maximize your marketing investment. And while most firms track the basics such as new clients, revenue and profitability, high-growth accounting practices also track and analyze specific metrics to gain even greater insight into their effectiveness. This can include such variables as:

  • Website traffic;
  • Social media engagement;
  • Brand awareness;
  • Lead generation; and,
  • Conversion rates.

Most online marketing resources such as social media platforms offer free or low-cost activity-tracking tools that enable you to quickly spot marketing program strengths and weaknesses, providing you the opportunity to make any necessary course corrections in real time.

5. Make your expertise visible: Determining your firm’s differentiators should reveal its expertise, if you were not already fully aware of it. However, expertise is intangible and the challenge is making it visible and discernible to prospects. So how do you do that? By demonstrating expertise through valuable, objective content that uses your firm’s expertise to provide solutions to issues or problems that concern your ideal prospects (there’s where research comes in again). This content can take the form of web pages, blog posts, industry publication articles, white papers, executive briefings, in-person presentations, webinars and videos, to name a few.

As more and more people see, download and share your content, the authors within your firm who generate it become what we refer to as “visible experts.” These are the sought-after industry thought leaders whom others are eager to work with because they can provide the significant advantage your clients and potential clients are seeking to grow their own businesses.

Their value, and therefore your firm’s value, contributes directly to organic growth and provides you with a substantial marketing advantage no expensive, inorganic marketing campaign can match.

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