How to create a marketing plan

Philippa Jordan, marketing manager at PracticeWeb, guides you through the process

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If you want to take your accountancy firm to the next level, you’re going to need to build a marketing plan. And, unless you can hire a marketing director or manager, it’ll end up being your (or one of your partners’) responsibility.

If that seems daunting, don’t worry. You’re an accountant, not a marketing professional! You’re not the only one who’s felt the pressure of having to do something they don’t have much experience with.

The best thing you can do is seek some help. Here, I've set out a few steps that'll help you create, implement and measure a robust marketing plan.

Step one: do your research

Your first step should involve something we in the marketing world call ‘situational analysis’, which boils down to the answers you arrive at from the question: ‘Where are we now?’

Answer that vigorously enough and you’ll have an understanding of the foundation on which to build the rest of your plan.

How do you go about answering this question? Think about:

  • strengths and weaknesses
  • your position in the marketplace relative to competitors
  • your clients and potential clients
  • perhaps even the wider political and economic landscape.

Your best tool to help you delve into these concepts is a SWOT analysis, which involves looking at your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s important to be really honest with yourself; you’re setting your benchmark, so that you can improve things from here.

A PESTLE analysis could be useful, too. This stands for political, social, technological, legal and environment, and is more outward looking than a standard SWOT.

Whichever one you use (or both), you should be able to get a description of your services, who you’re competing against, how you’re currently marketing to your ideal client, what that ideal client looks like, and what your opportunities and threats are.

Step two: set your objectives

As with SWOT and PESTLE, the concept of SMART objectives is by no means limited to marketing. You’ve probably heard of this acronym to make sure business objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based.

Where you are in your business journey will influence your goals. If you’re just starting out, for instance, you might be trying to build a small but viable client base. If you’re nearing retirement, on the other hand, you might be thinking about how to create an exit strategy.

For your marketing plan to have true meaning, you’ll need to line it up with your overall business strategy and goals; just hoping for a specific number of followers on social media is not what it’s about.

Step three: develop a strategy

This step will map out the thinking you’ll use to reach your marketing goals.

Defining and understanding your target audience(s) is key for this, and we recommend creating buyer personas to help bring your targets to life.

Once you have that, you can follow one of the paths of Ansoff’s Matrix, which you should be able to pick out for your needs relatively simply:

  • market penetration – selling more to a segment within 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 path to demonstrate that it’s worthy of the investment you’re putting in.

Step four: decide on tactics

This is when you decide exactly how you’re going to achieve your goals, which will depend on what resources you have available, both in-house and through outsourcing.

There are a wide range of options for you to market your firm, from traditional methods like print advertising and networking, to modern digital techniques such as content marketing or social media.

Done well, content marketing is one of the best marketing tactics to bring a good return on your investment. Specifically, it involves creating content that will be useful to your target audience (just as this guide is hopefully useful to you).

Not only can you share this content online with a large audience via your website, social media and email newsletters, it also helps demonstrate your expertise, build your brand, and develop relationships with clients and potential customers who find it useful.

Don’t forget to factor in budgeting, so you can understand how much you’re spending and calculate return on investment.

Step five: implement your plan

Having laid all the groundwork, now it’s time to get to the actual marketing! Whether you’re outsourcing to a marketing agency, enacting your plan in-house or both, everyone should know what they’re doing and where they fit in the plan.

At this stage, communication and flexibility are key. There may be factors beyond your control that interrupt processing or some unexpected opportunities that present themselves. Being nimble enough to respond will lead you to success.

Step six: review and revise

Don’t neglect to build a review stage into your plan. Some things may go better than expected, while others may not have worked as you had hoped. Understanding the reason behind these will help you refine your plan for the future.

Measuring the return on investment accurately will also help inform future decisions. It may allow you to be bolder, having seen how expenditure can lead to better growth.

Our eBook, Marketing Plans for accountants, covers some of the areas you will need to address when putting together your practice’s marketing plan for the year ahead.

Get expert help

Just as your clients approach you for your expertise, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for our marketing knowledge.

We have vast experience with executing content marketing campaigns with a demonstrable return on investment, so if you would like to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch.