Oct 15, 2020

Accounting Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Eric ElmoreBy Eric R. Elmore

Seminars, speaking opportunities, media appearances, advertisements, event sponsorships, and conference participation are all part of the arsenal accounting marketers have at our disposal to promote our firms’ expertise and thought leadership. This, of course, is under normal circumstances. The year 2020 has been anything but normal.

With COVID-19, firm marketing shifted from in-person courting to 100% virtual. No worries, right? Marketing professionals are nimble by nature. The possibility of changing direction mid-stream is usually built into our annual strategic plans and budgets. True, but the pandemic tested us more than ever before and in ways we could not imagine. It continues to be the biggest challenge in most of our careers.

A group of marketing professionals from some of Philadelphia’s accounting firms met virtually in August to discuss how we are working through the COVID-19 pandemic and approaching the changing social dynamics across the region. The roundtable discussion was led by the PICPA’s Mike Colgan, CEO, Sara Albert-Hussey, member relations manager, and Allie Peplau, member engagement administrator. Joining us were the following accounting marketing professionals:

Shelly CastorinoShelly Castorino, Wouch Maloney & Co. LLP

Malorie GoldblattMalorie Goldblatt, Baker Tilly

Kristen LewisKristen Lewis, EisnerAmper LLP

Jill LockJill Lock, Isdaner & Company LLC

When it became apparent in March that we would be forced into quarantine for a while, most firm marketers agreed there was immediate focus on the importance of communications and retaining clients. Demonstrating to clients that our firms were still operating and had all of our resources available to help them was critical.

“When in-person events were scrapped, communications were immediately fast-tracked,” said Lock.

Goldblatt agreed: “We scaled back on events and networking immediately when the pandemic hit and became extremely busy with communications initiatives.”

Castorino added that she was pleased with the positive feedback from communications early in the pandemic: clients were grateful and would call the firm for assistance, providing a great opportunity to create strong bonds with clients and associates. “Our team produced over 90 blogs with high click rates,” she explained. “There was definitely an appetite for trustworthy information.”

Though we all lead the digital efforts of our firms, the reliance on this medium had become much more important in the face of the quarantine. Clients and referral sources alike were all surfing the web at a break-neck pace for information to help their businesses stay afloat. Accounting firms were leading the way with among the most reliable information – and we were getting it out fast.

At my firm, we built a COVID-19 tax information website that kept pace with all the changes coming from Washington, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia City Hall. We broke every internal click-through record in April, both on our website and our social platforms.

“Our digital and virtual engagement has been great,” added Lewis. “We quickly embraced the use of platforms like Zoom, and it is becoming the norm.”

Lewis and Lock also addressed staff morale and the need to keep the lines of communication open with staff working from home. The need to give a sense of connection to the collective group has become more important than ever.

“People have been more productive at home; managing outcomes is important as some people could be prone to burnout,” said Lewis. “Workplace flexibility will play a role in planning for the future.”

“Communications to employees and morale initiatives became a focus as well,” said Lock. “We send gifts and snacks to employees at their homes to let them know we are thinking about them and they are important.”

All the participants agreed that the pandemic has underscored the value CPAs bring to clients and the market in general. CPAs have the information clients need in a business crisis, and the pandemic allowed firms to highlight the skills CPAs have and to bolster the level of trust in the profession.

Overall, the marketing departments at CPA firms have been highly involved in helping raise the profile of accounting during the pandemic. Working with leadership and contributing to the strategic changes all firms had to take, marketers are making the case that CPAs are needed more than ever.

Eric R. Elmore is marketing manager for Drucker & Scaccetti in Philadelphia. He can be reached at eelmore@taxwarriors.com.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.