SMP foundational series - marketing your practice

The key takeaways from this session

This summary is based on the discussion conducted as part of the ACCA Practice Room initiative.  The session was co-hosted by Bright Amisi and Robert Belle both running their practices who were joined by Mike Crook, MD of digital marketing agency PracticeWeb

Accountants know numbers inside out. So they can often be sceptical when it comes to the value of marketing spend for their own practice. “You’re not alone in thinking marketing is fluffy and doesn’t deliver return on investment,” says Mike Crook, MD of digital marketing agency PracticeWeb, a specialist marketer focusing on accountants. But says Crook, that way of thinking is wrong. “The objective of marketing is to win business. For you to be in control of who your clients are and how you grow your firm.” Marketing, says Crook provides companies with a scalable way to grow, which they can optimise to attract more clients and employees. 

One of the reasons, says Mike, that people think marketing doesn’t deliver value, is that they aren’t doing it properly. “Marketing isn’t which font you use, or which colours you pick for the logo,” he says, “that’s branding identity.” Marketing, he says, involves working out how to make an emotional connection with the kind of clients you want. He outlines a four step plan to set new practices on their way, and improve marketing at existing practices. 

  1. Know your prospective client: it isn’t good enough to understand the size of the market. You have to understand who you want to work for. This means building ‘personas’ for each type of client. Think about the problems you can solve for clients, and the expertise you have. What is it that you value? What is it that your client values? Can you meet in the middle? This thinking should inform the personas you build
  2. Know your client’s journey: we all know that the marketing journey involves three steps - awareness, consideration, and purchase. Most people focus on consideration when they start marketing, but you really need to focus on awareness first. You have to work out what the pain points are for your prospective clients, before they even contact you - what kind of questions they ask in search engines. Then build your marketing content around this to drive contact. Answer the Public and Ubersuggest can help you with this 
  3. Collect data: make sure that the content that you post online is set up to collect prospective clients’ data, and use data that you have from current clients too, to build out what you know about clients, where you have gaps, and where you can better target your efforts. Data on click-throughs and conversion rates can help you to understand return on investment too. 
  4. Consult with experts: whether you know someone who can help you pro bono, or whether you have the cash to hire a marketing company, you need to be consulting experts. If you have a lower budget, perhaps considering downloading a marketing guide and teach yourself about website building and effective social media. If you have more resources, find a marketing agency that can help take the load off, and free you up for strategic thinking. For a small subscription fee to an agency, you can get a lot of expertise. Whatever you do, find help early and it will pay dividends. 

As your accounting practice grows, so can your marketing efforts. “It may be worth slightly larger practices hiring a marketing manager, who can be the guardian of your marketing, liaise with agencies, organise and analyse the data you collect, and keep you from using your time on the small stuff,” says Crook. And remember, he says, “how you talk to the market and what you’re known for will attract the right clients for you - work out your personas, work out your positioning, and be where your customers are.”