A glance at CPA firm growth trends for 2019:
- The robots. No forward-looking list would be complete without a customary nod to the robots. So I’ll go ahead and get that out of the way now. Whether CPA or marketer: as humans, we will continue to leverage the efficiency that technology brings by fueling connections, relationships and ideas that have always served both sides of the house in an accounting firm. Will artificial intelligence take our jobs some day? Probably just the parts we don’t want anyway. (But even so, wait for #7.) For me, Rosie from “The Jetsons” can’t get here soon enough.
- Content with content? And I mean relevant, original, optimized, on-point content. One blog does not a lead make. Do you have an editorial calendar? Willing authors? Do you utilize ghost writers? Purchase through a service? Whatever your strategy is, are you happy with it? Is it bringing you the results you want? Are you using it to its fullest potential, which is near oversaturation? One blog post can be repurposed in so many different ways; don’t waste all that effort for a one-off!
- Multi-media. That blog post from above in #2? Use it as a base and have a conversation with another colleague on it as a basis of a podcast! Are they brave enough to do it in front of a camera – what about a video? As a culture, we’re consuming content in so many different ways, and accounting firms are late to the game on podcasting and video. The generations entering the business world crave more than the written word. Yes, you will have most of your talent terrified to step in front of a camera. Don’t worry about them- find the few who relish it and love to share their knowledge with the masses. (They’re the fun ones to watch anyway.) Then, make them your stars!
- Slaying it. The data dragon, that is. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who have CRM and marketing automation systems, and one of the fewer whose systems work in harmony. And even if you are, can you pull out meaningful data to use to power your pipeline? It’s called “big data” for a reason; it can be a fire-breathing behemoth. Find measures, KPIs, triggers, exports, whatever works for you. But pick one and bring it into a process to drive lead generation. And give yourself some time; it doesn’t happen over “knight.”
- Shift to internal agency model. As CPAs shifted from generalists to specialties, so too follows the CPA marketers. I’ve given hints in #2-4: digital media, content, writing, CRM and marketing automation software: no one marketer can do all of those things and do them well. There’s education and experience that comes with every area- prime for professionals to find their own niche and master it.
- A seat at the table. With much going on in CPA firm growth, marketers bring a diverse and different voice to the conversations happening in boardrooms everywhere. One that may even be closer to the consumer, the client. More and more firms are seeing that we’re better together, accounting + marketing, and our different yet complementary skill sets when used collectively make the firm stronger, sustainable and more profitable. Gone are the days when marketers were responsible for merely making brochures and prettying things up! We bring a keen, fresh set of eyes to the complexities facing our firms today rooted in business competencies and sharpened over time by alternate experiences than our certified counterparts.
- Chasing innovation. Accountants want to innovate! So badly! And while they’re known for being incredibly intelligent and ethical, accounting firm innovation doesn’t come easily. The AICPA is even giving money away to stimulate innovation. You read that right: CPAs giving away money! So you know this must be something painful. There’s a golden opportunity here – a marketer lives in a world where you get comfortable being uncomfortable. Our job security and satisfaction is found in doing something different. We take great joy in newness and identifying what makes our firm and its talent unique. Let’s use 2019 to find ways to work together to innovate processes, programs, services, products and our profession as a whole. Change is coming, so we might as well embrace it and use it as a launch pad!
- M&A. Mergers continue to shake up the landscape of accounting firm growth. As firms continue to merge, we see that the American City Business Journal’s “Book of Lists” and the Inside Public Accounting Top 300 List continue to change every year. Not only are the CPA + CPA combinations still going strong, but the CPA + specialty boutiques acquisitions are making the menu of services that firms offer more robust. How many services you can provide to one client is a direct connection that strengthens both revenue and relationships.
- No, not the magazine – actual people. For as much as technology holds our future, it will never shrink the importance of relationships. The accounting industry, while based in numbers, is driven by people: people you trust. The value we bring as accounting marketers to our firms is growing, cultivating, and strengthening those connections to our people. The CPAs are the talent we’re selling, but we make it so that they are known, appreciated, and valued in the marketplace.
- YOU NAME IT! Given the first 9 trends, how do you as an accounting marketing professional make a difference in growing a CPA firm? We want to hear from you! What should the 10th trend be? Share your insights below and we’ll pick one to be the 10th!
Here’s to a great 2019!
By: Melissa Brogan