Businesses take different marketing approaches – depending on their size, skills, mindset, resource, and, ultimately, budget. But you don’t need to spend millions to make marketing work for you.Instead, spend some time working out how to make the most out of the pot you’ve got – however modest it might be. Here are five ways for accounting firms to make small marketing budgets stretch.
1. Understand Your Business Goals
One of the most common mistakes firms make is jumping into marketing without understanding how, in an ideal world, that activity will support them in achieving their business goals. And, without clear KPIs or a tangible line connecting your efforts with your success, it’s easy to dismiss marketing activity as not worth your time or money.
That’s why it’s critical to understand what your business goals are before you even think about what marketing activity to invest in.
It might be that you want to move from compliance services to more business advisory work, for example, or to step away from a certain type of client and attract more of the businesses you like working with. Maybe you want to launch a brand new area of practice, like payroll or outsourced bookkeeping, or simply generate more good quality leads overall.
Whatever your goals are (and you can think short, medium, and long term), it’s important to understand and document them first.
2. Know Where Your Audience Is
Once you’ve got some clear business goals to guide your activity, it’s time to research where your audience is – geographically and digitally.
If, for example, one of your aims is to become the go-to payroll provider for SMEs in Bristol, you might want to make use of local trade titles, events, networking groups and advertising forums – rather than spending huge sums competing for national coverage or attention.
This applies to your digital activity too, particularly regarding social media advertising or pay-per-click, as geographically limited search terms (like ‘payroll accountant Bristol’) will generally cost you much less than broader, competitive ones (like ‘payroll accountant’).
Similarly, if you know you’d like to target high-net-worth individuals for their self-assessment work, think about where those people spend time. Facebook might not be the best platform, for example, whereas connecting on LinkedIn and sharing useful tips and advice may put you front of mind.
3. Streamline Your Channels
If you’ve only got a small budget you can’t be everywhere at once. And nor should you be.
Once you’ve established what you want to say, and who you want to say it to, it’s time to streamline your activity. Take a look at the main marketing channels you use, and critically assess whether a) they’ll help you achieve your business goals and b) your audience will be present there.
Don’t be afraid to rule things out and avoid marketing in places your audience won’t be.
If, for example, you spend time each month preparing a newsletter focused on tax updates, but you want to focus entirely on new business in a different sector, stop doing it.
Similarly, delete any dormant social media accounts that you won’t have time to attend to, make sure your website reflects exactly what you’re trying to achieve and is full of useful content, and sense-check any events or conferences you’re scheduled to attend.
Once you give yourself permission to stop doing things just because a competitor’s doing them, you’ll find you have more time, headspace, and probably, money to focus on a smaller, more targeted set of activities.
4. Leverage Partnerships
Partnerships can be incredibly powerful – and the right ones will help you reach your target audience, gain credibility as a brand, and expand your overall professional network.
There are different types of partnerships you can make use of. If, for example, you offer a specific set of compliance services but don’t do advisory work, is there another firm or individual offering the reverse that you could contact?
Referrals haven’t stopped being powerful in the accounting sector, and trusted professionals recommending each other sends huge trust signals to clients.
On a different note, you could try partnering up – perhaps with a local software provider, legal expert, or think tank – to create some content that your target audience will find genuinely useful and engaging.
This could be shared white papers, guest blogs, or even jointly hosted webinars and podcasts. Whatever medium you use, drawing on experts outside of your own firm can add real weight to your content, and value for your audience.
5. Measure, Measure, Measure
If you take one thing away from this article, make sure it’s this: never commit money or time to a marketing activity without knowing in advance what success looks like.
If you’re working with a small budget, it is more important than ever to be able to measure whether your marketing activity has worked or not. But if you don’t know what good looks like from the start, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
There are lots of metrics you can use to determine success, and the best one will depend on your business goals and marketing channels. You might consider looking at things like leads generated, visits to a certain webpage, newsletter signups, direct client contact, click-through rates on your emails, or new followers on social media. Whichever metric you go for, it’s important to specify in advance what you’d like to see.
Taking the business goal of becoming a go-to payroll provider from earlier as an example, your marketing goal might look like this:
To use LinkedIn advertising to promote our payroll services and generate a 20% uplift in direct inquiries through our online form.
Make your metrics as specific as possible, and you’ll make it easier to work out what works and what doesn’t.
Measuring return on investment is a critical part of implementing successful test and learn marketing, which is another fundamental tactic you can use to make your smaller marketing budget stretch.
Essentially, when it comes to getting the most out of your time and money, try to do the following:
- Ask yourself why you want to do marketing in the first place (what business goal do you want to achieve?
- Work out where your audience is
- Streamline the marketing channels you use
- Get others to help you – and help them in return (make use of partnerships)
- Try things, work out what works, keep doing what does – and stop or rethink what doesn’t
There’s no magic formula or one-size-fits-all, because all firms and accountants are different. But by following the steps above, you’ll avoid falling into the trap of spending money on marketing without knowing if it’s worthwhile