Pandemic Uncertainty – What Set High-Growth Firms Apart?
The September 2021 AAM Webinar featured a panel of speakers including Nadine Leighton, LexisNexis InterAction’s global marketing leader, Lee Frederiksen, managing partner of Hinge, and Suzanne Reed, CMO for the LBMC Family of Companies. The panel reviewed the findings of the Marketing and Business Development Report which was co-produced by Lexis-Nexis and Hinge. The report gathered data from 154 professionals across 14 different titles. Questions included respondents’ marketing and business development strategies from 2020 and the impact that they had on their accounting firm’s growth. (Members can click here to access the recording. Learn more about AAM High! webinars.)
The information reported garnered many clear differentiators between the firms that grew and those that didn’t during the rapidly changing marketplace that resulted from the pandemic. Of the responding firms, 51% were negatively impacted by the changes brought about by the pandemic. However, the discrepancy between the impact had on high-growth firms versus no-growth firms was substantial. Of the firms negatively impacted, 75.6% were no-growth firms compared to 44.7% of firms that had high-growth impact during the same time period.
So what was the differentiator? What did firms that were able to adapt quickly do to effectively adjust to the rapidly changing way of doing business?
Three differentiators for high-growth firms amid pandemic uncertainty
Focus on client care
According to Suzanne Reed, the LBMC Family of Companies gained momentum and maneuverability by focusing on their core value. They focused their efforts on serving their clients. In this role, they often stepped out of their typical scope of advising. The firm helped their clients navigate the unpredictable, confusing, and fast-changing landscape of new regulations and compliance resulting from the pandemic.
Ms. Reed also shared that her firm fortunately had a strong digital presence going in to 2020 and advised any firm currently struggling to putting attention to building that.
Clean and reliable data
In addition to building a strong digital presence, the panelists also stressed additional key themes pulled from the data of high-growth versus no-growth firms. Another important theme for CPA firm growth and the ability to adapt to the changing landscape quickly was the firm having clean and reliable data. This piece was stressed as critical by all the panelists, stating that it was a must for firms to invest in technology and data quality.
For those firms that weren’t quite there yet with a social presence, clean, reliable data or technology, Ms. Reed suggested they focus on what they are doing well and doubling down effort on that while simultaneously working to build up the other three key aforementioned areas of importance for growth.
Transferring in-person to virtual and digital equivalents
Further differentiators discovered in the report between high-growth and no-growth firms built off these three basic themes. High-growth firms used more webinars, virtual events and trade shows to drive growth. They on transferring traditional analog (in-person) activities for their digital equivalents like networking on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Additionally, they focused on their social platforms as a place to give value to their followers. They used social media to educate their audience on how to solve problems, as opposed to being salesy and spammy. High-growth firms also had a greater belief in their marketing. 97.2% of high-growth firms stating they found marketing to be successful in winning new business, compared to 48.8% of low-growth firms.
The importance of quality over quantity
Overall, the panelists emphasized quality over quantity. They acknowledged that marketing investment in firms has increased, but that firms need to ensure they are using the right techniques to get the biggest return on investment. They encouraged rethinking old strategies such as direct mail. However, they also stressed the importance of doing so based on clear, quality and reliable client data. Implemented strategy should be based on what would provide the most value to their clients and audience. In order to compete in this new, ever-changing business landscape, firms must adopt a technology-driven approach to marketing and business development. This includes clean data, a social media presence based on providing value, a firm-wide adopted CRM and processes set up in order to analyze, review and refine the effectiveness of these strategies.