By Eric R. Elmore, PICPA Vice President, Marketing & Member Experience
The challenges of developing and executing marketing plans are many and wide-ranging. For marketing managers at smaller firms—usually as a one-person department—the effort can be a constant battle between choosing what is achievable versus what is best for the firm. Marketers at smaller firms often have fewer resources but are expected to deliver big. It can be done with the help of technology.
By choosing the right combination of solutions, including automation tools, email, vmail and text marketing, social media, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, you can turn your one-person department into a synchronized orchestra of promotional excellence.
After you assess your situation, do your research, and narrow down where you need the most help and what tools may accomplish your goals, you will need to go to the managing partner or executive committee and tell them the dreaded costs. This is when most quests for a robust marketing department run aground. Instead of foundering in a sea of cost-induced frowns, take a page from the partners’ own handbook when pitching the advantages of these tools.
Here are five ways you can engage marketing budget decision makers in your firm in the same manner they engage with potential clients.
A great quote from Warren Buffett is “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Firm partners know this and are adept at delivering this message. Often faced with justifying their hourly rates when on a sales call, they effortlessly pivot the conversation to value. For the marketing manager, this entails creating a vision of the benefits the firm will experience through the purchase of technology tools. Talk about and quantify return on investment, increased website traffic, better tracking and conversion of leads, and higher search engine optimization rankings. This is selling value, and it is a language they understand.
I’ll use email marketing tools as an example. According to McKinsey & Co., email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new clients than Facebook or Twitter. What would that mean to the partners of your firm to have an automated email marketing solution? A possible 4,000% return on investment would be a good place to start, and it would also likely drive down the cost to acquire a new client. Yes, automating the email marketing process would be easier for you and allow more time to devote to other priorities, but do not sell it on those merits. Focus on how it helps them do their job better by targeting and reaching more prospects, increasing the number of leads, and, hence, the firm’s revenue.
Do not let their mild manner fool you. CPAs are extremely competitive. You can use this characteristic, along with a data-driven approach, to justify technology purchases. Look at similarly sized accounting firms in your area. Focus on those using marketing technology and let your partners know what they are doing and what they are using. Point to things they are doing well, and link it to the technology driving that process.
I once had a partner ask, “Eric, why aren’t we quoted as much as ABC Firm in the media?” My response was, “Because we have not made it a priority. We haven’t engaged a public relations agency to help. ABC Firm did, and it’s yielding great results.” Soon, the partners were discussing making public relations a priority on their own. Though not a technology analogy, I believe it is still relevant. Competition is a powerful driver. When leveraged correctly, it can be an effective ally.
Few marketing managers include a technology spectrum in their pitch. I learned to do this from my days at a big-four firm, where it was used in the strategy consulting selling process. On the left side of the technology spectrum was zero; on the right side was 100. At various points along the spectrum, we placed progressively effective and necessary technology tools specific to their industry. Finally, we placed the prospect on the spectrum where we thought they were today (based on the level of technology used), and where we thought they would be in five years if they did not embrace certain technologies. We backed it up with accurate and compelling data. It was eye opening. No one likes to see proof they are lagging and that it is leading to underperforming.
“No” is a relative term, and it is a snapshot in time. It rarely means “never.” If you are steadfast in your belief to introduce marketing technology into your firm, keep at it—even if you are initially denied the funds. Each year around budget planning time, bring it up again. Demonstrate how much things have changed since they said no last year. Help them realize just how fast technology changes and how far they can be left behind if they persist in saying no.
These steps in concert can paint a powerful picture of how technology can help your firm transform and increase its marketing output, making things easier for the partners and yielding tremendous return on investment.
Marketing technology tools and the insights they bring will continue to give you the information you need and the results you desire years after the initial investment. Securing these tools for your firm can make you invaluable as your one-person department begins to perform like a bigger firm’s multiperson team.
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