Turning Your Marketing Budget Upside Down: New Trends to Consider
Emily Taibl, Sweeney Conrad, PS
It is that time of year. For many accounting marketers this is the time when we take a look at which of the current year’s marketing efforts have been effective and where we feel we should allocate our marketing dollars for the coming year.
As the days of the print ads, snail mail and the handshake on the golf course lead way to marketing automation, chatbots and artificial intelligence, the marketing budget is sure to be flipped on its head. Based on current trends, marketing is becoming much more reliant on the digital space. While there is still value in supporting relationships through sponsorships and networking opportunities, the in-person event is giving way to webinars, podcasts and private Facebook groups.
According to Hinge’s 2017 Marketing Budget Benchmark Study1 the top marketing expense categories excluding compensation were sponsorships, charitable giving, networking events, tradeshows and conferences. This may be partially because these types of marketing activities are more expensive than others, but these are the types of events that have historically created brand awareness and person-to-person connection for our shareholders.
However, the tides are changing. The reality is that while we are still marketing to our existing clients, most decision makers are coming from younger generations who are pulled in many directions, place high value on time, and are quickly turned away when faced with a less than easy user experience.
Farther down the survey were things like website expenses, search engine optimization (SEO), content creation, social media and e-mail marketing: all trends that are expected to continue to prove more and more valuable.
Trends of the Near Future
As you sit down to map out your marketing plans for 2019 and into 2020, here are just a few of the trends you may want to consider:
- Fueled by artificial intelligence, chatbots make for a more rapid customer experience, and help move potential customers seamlessly through the sales process. While at first they may seem a little impersonal, chatbots are a great way to inexpensively position your firm as technologically on the cutting edge, while vetting a new visitor’s needs so that you can skip all of the initial small talk and get right to helping them solve their problem.
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: Consider using a chatbot as a line of communication on you firm’s website and social media. Your chatbot can answer basic questions like address, hours of operation, etc. or help extract information from a visitor like area of interest, niche, company name and size.
- Platforms and tools: MobileMoonkey (formerly Chattypeople), Smooch, Botsify, Chatfuel, Facebook Messenger Platform, HubSpot, BotKit, FlowXO.
- Customized apps. Apps can do almost anything these days. You can order your coffee, balance your budget, schedule appointments, check the weather, buy a car, even navigate the night sky through an app! Why not create an app for your firm?
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: App building platforms boast that these highly customizable platforms create increased client engagement and retention, differentiation in the marketplace, illustrate technological advancement and are an efficient way to communicate with less clicks. Consider having clients pay their bills through an app, providing content with push notifications, and sending updates through an app specifically designed for your firm.
- Platforms and tools: ProFirm Apps, Appypie, Appsbar
- Video, video, and more (but shorter) video. Video is the conversation of the future (in fact it is really the conversation of the present!). As attention spans are shortening and multi-tasking is taking over, who has time to read an article (hopefully you, since you’re reading this)? In fact, according to SmallBizTrends2, “by 2019, global consumer internet video traffic will account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic.” The key to making video that engages is keep it simple. A new trend called “snack videos” are videos that are six-seconds or shorter. If you can’t hold someone’s attention for six-seconds, it’s a lost cause!
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: Video is an excellent way to showcase culture, capture personality, and add some life to some (let’s face it) pretty dry content. Consider short videos on social media, Facebook live answering accounting questions sent in by clients and/or prospects, dynamic recruiting videos showcased on your website, even video newsletters for internal use.
- Platforms and tools: Vimeo, Brightcove, Biteable, Quik (app), Ripl, Lumen5, Animoto, Magisto, Adobe Premiere Clip
- Content Creation. Content creation will remain a popular method of sharing expertise and brand, but the key is being sure to create content that solves users’ pain points. Gone are the days of creating thoughtless content in bulk. Now the key is the conversation.
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: Create and repurpose content that really gets at your client’s struggles. If your plate is too full, and you can’t get content from inside your firm, consider purchasing really good quality content (the key is quality not quantity). Consider using influencers and champions to share your brand. These firsthand accounts are the digital equivalent of the old school conversation on the tennis court that helped many of our shareholders build their book of business. In addition, getting backlinks from these digital mentions on other websites can lead to increased traffic due to search engine optimization.
- Platforms and tools: co, Upfluence, Aspirel (formerly Revfluence), Pixlee, NeoReach, Mavcrk, Traackr, Famebit, Webfluential
- Native Advertising. Sharethrough3, a native advertising publishing software, defines native advertising as “a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.” We have all seen these types of ads, they appear as articles towards the bottom of the page on a topic related to something you are currently reading. The benefit is that you are targeting readers who are already interested in a similar topic and are attracting leads who are generally further into the buyer’s journey. This trend will most likely begin to replace the traditional “blog post” written simply for SEO purposes.
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: Think about your potential client’s pain points and questions. Create articles related to these topics with catchy headlines that speak to their emotion, and then be sure to provide solutions in your article.
- Platforms and tools: Sharethrough, Stack Adapt, Outbrain, Revcontent, AdNow, Taboola, Nativo, TripleLift
- Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation is a marketer’s best friend. HubSpot4 defines marketing automation as “software that exists to… automate repetitive tasks such as e-mails, social media, and other website actions.” In other words, if you haven’t found ways to automate some of your daily interactions and marketing functions, you are missing out.
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: With many of us working in departments of 1-5 employees, anything that can make our jobs easier is a win. Create automated messages that allow interested parties to access more information on your blog, follow up on content with additional content suggestions to move leads through the sales process, and schedule those time-consuming social media posts.
- Platforms and tools: SharpSpring, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Marketo, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, Act-On, Pardot, Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Buffer
- As the consumption trends move away from reading and towards listening and viewing, podcasts are a fantastic way to create content easily, while at the same time highlighting your firm’s expertise and personality. They are easy to enjoy on the go, or while multi-tasking, increasing the chances that clients and potential clients will hear your message. Another added perk is that while it can be intimidating at first, most people are more comfortable on audio than video, and they are fairly inexpensive and easy to create.
- How Accounting Marketers can best use this trend: Consider short podcasts on tax code changes, interviewing influential people in your market, or even short tax planning tips served up weekly.
- Platforms and tools: Anchor, Buzzsprout, Podbean, Transistor, Blubrry
Trends Losing Steam
Since we have focused a good deal on the trends that are up and coming, it is also fitting that we pay respects to those that have seen their day. The overarching theme with many of the trends that are on their way out is the concept of personalization. If your marketing efforts are not customized for your buyers, pulling at their heartstrings, and available on platforms of their preference, your message is bound to get lost in the mix.
It is anticipated that in the next year or so, we will be seeing less success with:
- Lengthy technical e-books in favor of shorter more succinct content
- Organic Facebook (as the algorithms seems to change daily) in favor of paid digital advertising campaigns
- Blogging for the sake of churning out content in favor of content that speaks to potential client’s pain points
- Lengthy videos in favor of videos that are 6 seconds or less (our attention spans are shrinking)
- “Click bait” in favor of ads that deliver value to the consumer
- Non-responsive websites in favor of chatbots, marketing automation, calls to action and forms
While there is no doubt a lot for marketers to think about, successful marketing pathways abound are making it an exciting time to rethink your strategy.
- Hinge’s 2017 Marketing Budget Benchmark Study