Brian Swanson, Flashpoint Marketing
As year end quickly approaches, now is the time many AAM members are establishing and revisiting their budgets for 2018. There are many items to consider including sponsorships, advertising, events, and promotional items, to name a few. One area where many accounting marketers often struggle is in cresting their digital marketing budgets. Let’s face it, there seems to be an endless number of tactics, tools, and opportunities for promoting CPA firms online. This can include search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content development (written and video), pay per click advertising (PPC), banner advertising, and even app development. While most get excited about the opportunity to do new things, the reality of limited resources means that focus is necessary. Establishing outcomes, creating tracking mechanisms, and defining tactics and achievement metrics are all essential to a successful equation. In other words, your plan needs to be more than just adding more funding towards a specific tactic, it needs to evaluate how available options fit within your broader plan.
Key Budgeting Tips
- Establish Desired Outcomes – It may seem like a basic step, but it is one that is often overlooked. If you have an established goal, then determining what tactics will help you get there becomes a lot easier. It is important to make your digital goals as specific as possible. Do you want to enhance your online branding? Do you want to increase your market position as a thought leader? What about new business goals? This is a crucial step that needs to be agreed upon to make thoughtful decisions about how to invest your resources. If there are competing priorities, then it will be very difficult to make clear decisions.
- Determine What’s Working – Those who have been in the industry a while are likely familiar with the tendency of accountants to look to past results to understand what is working. Although this can limit innovating, such an approach does have its value. Understanding why a campaign or other tactic was successful is essential in determining if the same investment should be repeated. If it did not go well, consider what happened and what could have been done to make it better.
- Conduct a Competitive Analysis – It never hurts to look within the industry to see what has been working for other firms. Consider beginning with competitors and then work your way across the industry from there. AAM offers several resources which can be useful in this endeavor. The goal of this activity is to see if you can translate what others are doing into a successful approach for your firm.
- Sharpen Your Pencil – Once you have completed the prior three steps, it is time to sharpen your pencil and start your budget. Some sources say that a firm’s digital marketing budget should be between 10 percent to 15 percent of your overall marketing budget. While there is limited information available about how much a firm should allocate to digital marketing, the amount often varies. The best thing an accounting marketer can do is find the tactics that will best help them accomplish their goal and invest resources there. Remember: the more wins you have, the more opportunity there is for additional resources in the future.
Many accounting marketers continue to seek guidance on the best places to spend digital marketing dollars. I believe it is important to invest in SEO and content development. The best way to increase rankings (and therefore activity) is to create a consistent flow of new, high quality content on your website. All other tactics are largely designed to get qualified eyes on your site; however, if you have very little value to offer them once they are there, it is unlikely they will stay on your site long or engage with your brand. Content development and SEO can be accomplished in-house or via outsourced methods, but either way, they should be the foundation of your approach.