As an accounting marketer, you have a challenging task before you. Odds are you are being asked to do more with less while still ensuring your firm is differentiating itself from the competition. You’re also charged with quantifiably measuring your ROI success while you simultaneously work to build respect and trust within your firm. Hey, no big deal, right? Truth is, it IS a big deal, and it’s no wonder that accounting marketers are constantly looking for more support and better tools to help them with this challenging job. Utilizing industry intelligence to grow your firm will help you meet this challenge.
AAM/Vertical IQ Webinar: Using Industry Intelligence to Grow Your Firm
I was honored to co-present on a recent webinar with the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) entitled “Using Industry Intelligence to Grow Your Firm.” The webinar also featured my colleague and Vertical IQ’s EVP of sales, Susan Bell, and Kristen Lewis, director of marketing at accounting firm EisnerAmper. Kristen is also a former president of AAM.
During the webinar, we discussed specific and tangible ways accounting marketers can use industry research, like the Industry Intelligence found on Vertical IQ, to differentiate their firm and improve their marketing tactics, while also elevating their role and hopefully earning a seat at the leadership table.
And that seat at the table is key in order to help drive the firm’s strategy. A few ways we discussed attaining that level of respect are:
- Be visible: Participate in events and support leadership when they take part in events. Grab (virtual) lunch with the partners to better understand their side of the business and their struggles. This helps build relationships and respect as well.
- Add value: Understand the financial model for the firm and the accounting industry as a whole — the trends and challenges — and share that knowledge across the organization.
- Market marketing: First, make sure that you understand the goals of the organization and how the marketing goals support those key performance indicators (KPIs), and then promote the work you’re doing to further those goals.
- Share successes: Start by measuring the right things. Then share those success stories with the rest of the organization to help them better understand the value of your role and the vast potential marketing brings.
What’s Industry Intelligence?
During the webinar, we talked a lot about “Industry Intelligence,” but what exactly do we mean by that? At Vertical IQ, we believe that the concept of Industry Intelligence means using specific, timely industry data sources to build relationships and increase sales. Why do companies that use Industry Intelligence excel? There are three main reasons:
- It’s specific: You’re not just more “aware” when engaging a prospect, you’re more “insightful” because you are armed with the right information.
- It’s timely: You stay current with industry changes — no matter how fast they’re happening (which can be really fast in today’s environment!).
- It’s the “what”: Industry Intelligence gives you the “what to say.” What keeps that business owner up at night? By having the “what” it will help you build more trust and add even more value to the relationship.
8 ways to use Industry Intelligence to grow your firm
As a key feature of the webinar, we shared eight specific ways that you can incorporate Industry Intelligence into your marketing strategy and tactics in order to grow your accounting firm.
- Build industry-specific prospect campaigns, collateral, and content.
This is all about focusing on the business owner — their challenges and opportunities — and then trying to figure out how to offer them a unique solution that’s a bit different from your competitors’ angle. It’s also about speaking their language in order to boost your credibility.
- Improve your firm’s website and marketing content such as whitepapers, ebooks, and blogs.
This also ties into speaking the language of your client or prospect, while moving beyond more traditional marketing tactics. These industry-focused online resources can drive traffic to your website, generate leads, and make for a great conversation piece that can hopefully convert into a new business relationship. It’s also great for social selling.
- Gain a better understanding of your client or prospect’s industry prior to meetings.
When it comes to call preparation, doing a Google search of your client or visiting your prospect’s website isn’t enough anymore. You need to be able to put their company into the context of their broader industry, as well as the economy as a whole, in order to offer them a more sophisticated take on what’s going on around them. Not only will this impress them, it will lead you to better questions and a deeper conversation to become a trusted advisor.
- Offer financial comparisons and assess competitive best practices to help your client’s business.
Clients are always wanting to see how they stack up against their competitors. With good Industry Intelligence and financial benchmarks, you can share how your clients compare to similar companies. Also, you’re better equipped to offer tailored advice based on this industry knowledge.
- Provide clients and prospects intelligence on the industries they sell to.
Any successful relationship should be mutually beneficial. There’s nothing better than helping a prospect or a client when you can, and sharing insights on their buyer/supplier relationships is priceless to them. Show them your value as a trusted advisor and even a potential referral source. You will help them meet their goals…and they just might help you meet yours.
- Validate industry trends and events for valuation, litigation support, audit, consulting, and other engagements.
If your partners are working on engagements that require business valuations — perhaps for litigation or an audit — they need insights about the industry of the business they’re valuing. They may even need information from a specific time period or date in order to get an accurate picture of what a company was worth at that time. Using a proven third-party source for Industry Intelligence in litigation support cases is crucial.
- Support your firm’s industry practices and clients with frequently updated information on risks, trends, industry statistics, and financial statistics.
If your firm is going after a particular strategic industry, there’s a level of knowledge that your entire team really has to have. It takes a team effort to attain this kind of industry insight and share it among the group. Then, using that institutional knowledge, keep your content pipeline fresh while also engaging colleagues at every level by enlisting various teammates to blog or write articles on that niche industry you’re targeting.
- Help your firm make decisions about new markets to expand into, as well as those to exit (strategic planning).
In all firms, there’s a client or niche that either has plateaued or the circumstances have changed — especially in today’s volatile business environment. If we all have to do more with less, marketing must advise leadership on how best to strategically prioritize your client mix. Analyzing industry trend lines, as well as local economic data, can offer you the insights you need in order to properly allocate your firm’s limited resources.
Bonus track: COVID-19-specific Industry Intelligence
To wrap up the webinar, we discussed how firms’ marketing resources have been affected by COVID-19. While marketing dollars are often the first to get trimmed during cost-cutting, many accounting firms have actually boosted their marketing efforts as a result of the pandemic. And in this environment, there’s a whole new way of using Industry Intelligence.
Vertical IQ has created a dedicated (and free!) COVID-19 webpage where you’ll find expert primary source research on how coronavirus is affecting sectors of the economy, as well as specific industries. We encourage you to share any of this content internally with your firm’s partners, marketing colleagues, friends, centers of influence (COIs), and of course customers and prospects.
To listen to the May 27 webinar, access this recording of “Using Industry Intelligence to Grow Your Firm.” The cost is free for members and $79 for nonmembers.
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About David Buffaloe
David is the chief marketing officer at Vertical IQ, a Raleigh-based Industry Intelligence firm that helps thousands of professionals who advise small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). He has over 25 years of experience with building early-stage companies through marketing strategy and execution.