There are some things you just can’t predict.
If you told anyone a year ago about the challenges your accountancy firm is facing today, they might not have believed you.
Even now, a multitude of factors could affect the impact of coronavirus on the economy, making it very hard to see where your business might be in a year’s time, and even harder to plan your marketing goals and activities in the meantime.
As uncertain as things are, planning is still key. Taking a methodical approach to the risks and opportunities ahead will help you to deal with them, while also putting you in a more stable position to handle any unexpected problems that come your way.
Fortunately, there are tools you can use to help you do this when you’re revising your marketing strategy for 2020.
You might already be familiar with the practice of SWOT analysis, which can help you to assess your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for an understanding of your market position.
A slightly lesser-known – but equally important – tool is the PESTLE analysis. This is a way of understanding and evaluating the external factors that affect your business, and your sector of the market.
It goes beyond what your firm is doing and looks at what’s happening in the wider world, to anticipate how factors beyond your control might impact your business and affect the marketing activity you choose to spend on in the year ahead.
A PESTLE analysis looks at the following six factors:
It might feel too late to be making predictions about the threats your business might face over the next year – after all, many businesses have already suffered financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But even after lockdown restrictions are eased, the virus is almost certain to have long-lasting effects on the way society, the economy and businesses work in the future.
Conducting a forward-looking PESTLE analysis can help you to break down potential challenges across different areas, and plan for eventualities you might otherwise have overlooked.
For instance, you’re already likely to be considering the economic impacts of COVID-19 as a part of your planning and forecasting, but it’s also important to think about the social and technological implications on your market.
How will this change the way your clients work, and how they interact with customers? Will there be a permanent shift in their working practices and business model? And will their needs when it comes to accountancy services change as a result?
Thinking about these shifts and planning your marketing around them means you’ll be staying ahead of the curve, rather than responding to changes as they happen.
How to carry out a PESTLE analysis
Your analysis itself can be carried out step by step, with bullet points – or a more in-depth description, if you prefer – for each section.
Consider the six factors in turn and think about what might happen in the year ahead, and how it might affect your business.
It might be helpful to carry out research into each area, and find relevant data so that you’re not just relying on assumptions.
Think about the level of risk for each category, as well as the potential opportunities on offer.
Using this information, think about how each aspect of your analysis applies more specifically to your marketing activity.
This section looks at how political change could affect the business environment, in particular with regards to regulation and taxes.
For example, following Government spending in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, and the predicted economic impacts of the virus, many are expecting significant announcements to be made in this year’s Autumn Budget.
Your analysis should consider the changes that might be announced, and the potential impacts of measures that take effect in April 2021.
This can include any economic change that could affect your business, taking into account current forecasts and how they will affect other businesses in your sector, as well as buyer behaviour.
Consider any demographic and cultural changes that are happening at the moment and could continue throughout the year, as well as changes in attitudes.
The most obvious form of social change to emerge from the coronavirus crisis will be the way people feel about events, large gatherings, and returning to public spaces such as high street shops.
Even after restrictions are lifted, attitudes towards close social contact are likely to see long-lasting change. How will this affect your marketing plans?
Advancements in technology could affect how your business operates and how your clients operate, too.
Many businesses in the UK have already moved to digital ways of working as a result of the lockdown, and are relying more heavily on e-commerce.
Your accountancy firm’s website is now the main point of contact you’ll have with potential clients. It’s now more important than ever to make sure your website is functional and appealing, and that you’re spending time on the right digital marketing activities.
This covers the regulatory requirements that apply to your business and your clients’ businesses.
Changes to consider might include industry-specific regulation, or wider-ranging laws like the general data protection regulation that was implemented in 2018.
Significant upcoming changes might affect the way you communicate with prospects, and the content you produce.
Finally, it’s important to factor in the way the environment could impact your business. This could include concerns around climate change, and steps your firm and your clients’ firms are taking to reduce their carbon footprint.
It could also include weather-related issues, such as the risk of damage from flooding or storms.
What else should you put in your marketing plan?
A PESTLE analysis is just one of several components that should go into your full marketing plan.
Other sections could include a SWOT analysis, a summary of your marketing goals, assessment of your growth areas and capability, as well as customer and market research.
It’s also important to include a schedule to set out the marketing activities you’re going to undertake to meet your goals.
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.
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