Unless you are in a position to have hired a marketing director or manager, responsibility for creating a marketing plan for your accountancy firm may rest solely on your shoulders or one of your partners.
But if you do not know how to create a marketing plan for an accounting firm (or any business for that matter!), it may seem a daunting task.
Fear not, though, in a few steps we will show you what you need to do to write a robust marketing plan.
And you may be pleased to recognise that it bears hallmarks of the plans of other business functions, with objectives, strategy, tactics, and actions all present. As with other departmental planning, it should directly feed into an overall business plan.
Step one – Do your research
We call this situational analysis, and you are essentially asking the question: “Where are we now?”. It provides an essential foundation to the rest of the plan. You should cover the strengths and weaknesses of your own firm; a look at your marketplace including your competitors, clients and potential clients; and some will also consider the bigger picture – like the economic and political landscape.
There is a range of tools you can use to do this part of the plan. Just about everyone has heard of SWOT analysis. A good summary of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats may be sufficient.
But if you want to go a little further, PESTLE analysis is useful too. That stands for: political, economic, social, technology, legal and environment. As you can see, it is a bit broader and more outward looking than SWOT. It may prompt you to explore a few issues that you wouldn’t otherwise have analysed.
By the end, you should be able to get down a description of your services, who you are competing against, how you are currently marketing and what the opportunities and threats are.
Step two – Set your objectives
As with SWOT, the concept of “SMART” objectives is by no means limited to marketing. Keeping your objectives specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based is a good discipline for achieving success.
Where you are at in your business journey will influence your goals. If you are just starting out, it may be to build a minimum viable client base. If you are close to retirement, it may be to ready your business for sale.
As you can see from these examples, an essential aspect to good marketing objectives is that they are aligned to business objectives. Aiming for a specific number of social media followers is not what it is about.
Step three – Develop a strategy
This is the overall way in which you intend to reach your goals. Defining and understanding your target audience(s) are key to getting the right strategy. We always recommend a tool called buyer personas for this. It will help you understand the differing needs of varying types of client.
Drawing on some theory, Ansoff’s Matrix divides marketing strategy into four paths. You should be able to recognise your approach in one of the following:
- Market penetration – Selling more to a segment of your existing client base.
- Market development – Targeting new audiences or markets.
- Product development – Offering new products to your current client base.
- Diversification – Extending into new markets with new product offerings.
Your marketing plan should outline the rationale behind your chosen approach to demonstrate that it is worthy of the investment you are going to give it.
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Step four – Decide on tactics
Your tactics are HOW you follow your strategy to achieve your objectives.
It will depend on what resources you have at your disposal – both in-house and through outsourcing. There is a wide range of ways in which you can market your firm, from more traditional methods like print advertising and networking, to modern digital techniques like content marketing.
Done well, content marketing can generate an excellent return on investment. It works by creating useful content for your target audience which you share online – for instance, via your website, social media and email newsletters. This both showcases your expertise and creates goodwill with current and potential clients, so that when the time is right for them to buy, you are at the front of their mind.
As part of your tactical planning you should decide on budgeting. This will help you understand how much you are spending and to calculate return on investment.
Step five – Implement your plan
With all the groundwork laid, now is the time to get marketing! Whether you outsourced to a marketing agency or are carrying out the activities in-house (or both) everyone should know what they are doing and how they fit into the plan.
Good communication at this stage is vital, and it is also important to build flexibility into your plan. There may be factors beyond your control that interrupt proceedings, or unexpected opportunities may present themselves. Being nimble enough to respond will help you succeed.
Step six – Review and revise
Don’t neglect to build in a review stage to your plan. Some things may go better than you had anticipated, whilst others may not have worked so well. Understanding the reasons behind these will help you refine your plan for the future.
Measuring the return on investment rather than just assuming there was or wasn’t one will help inform future decisions. It may allow you to be bolder having seen that expenditure now leads to better growth.
Just as your clients outsource their accounting to you, you may choose to outsource some or all of your marketing to experts. We can help you with your marketing planning as marketing for accountants is our specialism.
We also have vast experience in executing content marketing with demonstrable return on investment. So if you would like to find out how we can help you, please get in touch.
Our complete guide to marketing plans for accountants explains the process of creating a marketing plan in full, with helpful tips based on our experience.