AAM Minute: Best Practices
By: Kristen Lewis, Director of Marketing, EisnerAmper LLP
Marketers are implementing increasingly sophisticated demand and lead generation strategies as a way to differentiate their firms and reach new audiences. No matter the size or orientation of your firm, managing this strategy can be tricky from a fiscal perspective. Accounting marketers are often asked to do more with less (or the same dollars), and demand and lead generation strategies are expensive. It can be hard to wrap your arms around what makes the most sense to have in your budget to achieve those goals in the most efficient way.
Our budgets can also sometimes appear as a wacky catch-all, with a mix of items under the marketing umbrella with either vague or non-existent business development goals. Oddball memberships, “Same as Last Year/Same as Always” sponsorships, and golf funds further muddy the waters as you make these expenditures to be visible in the business community but without any accountability for results built into them.
How do you know if you are spending on the right initiatives to support your strategy? I find it helpful as a point of reference to understand what others are doing in the space, as it provides both guidance and additional credibility with your team. For a great external perspective on the matter, there is data in the form of the Budget Survey from AAM and Hinge.
According to the survey, the top expenditures in firm marketing budgets were sponsorships, charitable giving, networking events/trade-shows/conferences, entertainment events and advertising. They also took a look at the items that high-growth and low-growth firms prioritize in their budgets. Based on the findings, high-growth firms spent more of their budgets on online and content marketing, which can have a more direct impact on boosting lead generation than broad sponsorships and advertising expenses.
To view an executive overview of the results or to purchase the survey, visit the AAM Website.
Another way to gather information is to audit your current spend. Take a look at the initiatives you undertook and the ultimate results. By linking line items directly to metrics like the number of opportunities gained, new contacts made, meetings set, attendees recruited, proposals sent, website traffic, content and social media engagement, and you guessed it – new business acquired – you can start to see which lead generation tactics actually moved the needle for you.
Evaluating the validity of a longtime sponsorship can be difficult, but it’s necessary to hone in on the methods that really matter. For line items that don’t correspond to results, is that a function of it being the wrong method or venue? Or is it instead the result of a failure to properly plan and take advantage of the demand and lead generation vehicle? These can be tough questions to ask but you may be able to let go of less productive endeavors, and instead use those dollars to bring a content campaign to life. In the end you most likely will not be able to give up all under-performing efforts, but going through the process gives you the opportunity to figure out how to get more out of them.
For each sponsorship, content campaign, telemarketing program, firm event, etc., determine clear goals tied into lead generation. How many opportunities will you gain? What number of defined targets will you engage with? And revenue wins the day, always. Can you put a dollar amount on what you expect to close?
Rolling forward, every project should then have goals with accompanying metrics baked into the business plan, which can be reported to firm leadership. This report card approach may seem daunting when you start, and you may have some push-back on assigning hard data to something as seemingly nebulous as building relationships with prospects. Over time though, your teams will become accustomed to not just receiving the data, but acting on what it tells you. This is where marketers can really show value in a concrete way and tie our actions directly into the ultimate language of firm success: growing and sustaining revenue.
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About Kristen Lewis
Kristen Lewis is the President of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and the Director of Marketing for the Philadelphia office of EisnerAmper LLP.
Kristen has been an active volunteer for AAM since 2004, serving on various committees and task forces over the years, as well as a member of the Board of Directors. As AAM’s current President, Kristen has been heavily involved over the past two years in the planning and implementation of the organization’s Vision 2020 strategic plan. In 2009, AAM honored Kristen as Volunteer of the Year at the organization's Annual Summit. She serves her local community as an employee campaign chair for the United Way of Southeastern PA. Kristen also serves on the Marketing Committee for the annual PACT Capital Conference.