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How Should Firms Redirect Marketing Dollars After COVID-19?

     -     Jun 6th, 2020   -     COVID-19   -     0 Comments

By now, every accounting firm and professional services firm across the U.S. has been working remotely for at least a few weeks. Marketing conferences have been canceled or postponed one by one, while a select few have moved to an online-only format. Outside of the marketing world, life as we know it has changed drastically. There are no more face-to-face meetings, networking events, trade shows, or awards ceremonies for the time being.

What this has done from our perspective is free up a ton of money in the marketing budget. Some firms have already looked at cutting their marketing expenses, similar to the recession of 2008-09. Such a strategy just won’t work for modern accounting firms. To come out of the coronavirus crisis stronger and more agile than ever, accounting firms need to redirect their marketing dollars … not necessarily cut them back.

One of the best and most effective ways to do this is by shifting resources to digital. Stop for a moment and take a look at the firm’s marketing budget prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Chances are, sitting somewhere in the top ten expenses as a percentage of total spend are:

  • Sponsorships
  • Giveaways and gifts
  • Networking events
  • Tradeshows
  • In-person seminars and educational events

It’s even estimated that the average B2B company spent about 40 percent of its budget on exhibitions and trade shows.

None of these marketing activities can be done right now, which means the allocated funds have either been put on hold or put back in the budget completely. Now is the opportunity to think like a high-growth accounting firm and shift marketing dollars to digital. Here’s where we recommend accounting firm marketers start.

See the Bigger Picture

In making the case to accounting firm partners on why the marketing budget should not be cut, but rather redirected, start first with its biggest benefit: it’s measurable. And it also doesn’t require in-person interaction to work, which means the firm still keeps its lead generation activities going.

Next, recognize that this is an opportunity to quickly develop skill sets into areas where the firm may have been reluctant to before. Webinars and digital communications have come a long way and there is a lot more trackable data that can be incorporated into online marketing efforts now.

Finally, pulling back on all marketing efforts would be a mistake right now. Marketers can help the partners see the bigger picture.

  • Investing more in digital now will set the firm up to recoup any losses in the second half of the year.
  • To stop marketing efforts now would be a waste of the time and resources already spent to get the firm to this point.
  • We don’t want to lose ground against our competitors.
  • Historical analyses indicate that more forward-thinking spending strategies during a downturn lead to better performance when the markets rebound.

Five Places to Invest Digital Dollars

There are a few key areas where accounting firms should consider investing more right now. From SEO to social media, none of these are novel but all of them can combine to position a firm for the eventual upswing from this crisis.

SEO

Accounting firms can help sort out the complexities of the CARES Act, business loans and grants, and extended tax deadlines, so make sure the firm’s resources stay top of mind by being at the top of Google SERP. That happens through SEO.

Whether your firm is new to SEO or has had a strategy in place, now is a great time to double down on it. SEO is a long-term marketing and lead generation strategy that usually doesn’t produce results immediately but takes quite a bit of effort – and perhaps even retooling the website – to launch. What better time to do that than now?

SEO’s benefits are many. It helps your firm get found quicker online, where practically all of interactions are taking place right now. It generates quality leads through organic and paid traffic, helps the firm stay ahead of its competitors online, and keeps the pipeline full. Plus, the firm is probably producing a lot of great, useful content right now. SEO can help more people find it.

Local SEO

In-person client meetings may have stopped and the firm’s physical offices are closed, and that’s all the more reason to get local SEO right. Any searches that involve zip codes or the text “near me” or “nearby” are considered to be local SEO, and they’re all more relevant than ever right now.

When potential clients – let’s say, the overwhelmed small business owner – are searching online for help applying for Paycheck Protection Loans, a local SEO strategy would help direct them to the firm’s website.

Social Media

One of the most important things an accounting firm can do right now is to increase the frequency of communications with clients and community members. In few other professions are there qualified financial and business advisors as in accounting. Sharing this knowledge through social media is a way to ensure that clients and other stakeholders remain up-to-date.

Now more than ever, firms should also be maintaining a sense of empathy and understanding. Social media is an excellent place to communicate how helpful the firm’s professionals can be during a time of crisis.

Beyond crisis communications, social media is an effective way to leverage other parts of the marketing strategy, like PR and SEO.

Google Ads

In addition to ramping up SEO and social media, investing in Google Ads helps to drive quicker online results. It’s also an excellent way to redirect marketing dollars that were going to other forms of advertising and try to recoup lost market share. Plus, PPC advertising is easy to track, measure, and edit in real-time, which is why a lot of high-growth firms prefer it over traditional forms of advertising anyway.

Online Reviews

Online reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp (yes, even Yelp for accounting firms), and other industry-specific sites are important to generate web traffic, increase brand relevance and positioning, and as a passive lead generation tool. We’ve written before how people trust online reviews from strangers as much as a referral from a friend. As the firm’s professionals are talking to their clients more than ever right now, make sure they’re asking for reviews. Plus, online reviews during a crisis help to boost the firm’s overall reputation.

Google My Business reviews are temporarily shut down due to COVID-19, but clients can still submit reviews. They just won’t be published until Google’s staffing returns to normal. But hey, that means a surge of newly published reviews a month or two from now, right? And in the meantime, if the firm has a Facebook page, Facebook reviews and recommendations are unaffected and still a great place to direct people.

 

 

What Else Can Be Done Right Now?

Reallocating the budget isn’t the only thing that marketers can do during this time. After the flurry of coronavirus-related messaging calms down (and we know there are still a lot of webinars and newsletters that marketers are preparing right now), there are probably several ways to fill the time wisely.

First, consider that the CPAs are in the midst of a regular tax season compounded with thousands of pages of new legislation affecting most, if not all, of their clients and an extended due date for the regular tax filing deadline. What this means for marketers is probably an extended period of time where the CPAs might not be available to pursue marketing initiatives.

Marketers can use this time to do the things they never seem to have time to do. Necessary but often overlooked activities include but aren’t limited to:

  • Updating the website for SEO optimization
  • Finetuning or updating marketing collateral and partner bios
  • Increasing social media engagement
  • Upskilling: learn new software or earn a marketing accreditation (or tune into a virtual marketing conference, some of which are free now that they’re online-only – check our list of SEO conferences first)

Other ways that marketers can take advantage of some extra time working from home are to generate new ideas for the firm’s blog and e-newsletter or refine the firm’s PR approach and strategy. The value to the firm in any of these activities is that they’re either free or low-cost. This is yet another way that marketing dollars can be allocated toward digital to help pivot the firm as almost all “foot traffic” moves online.

Even though these are unprecedented times, accounting firms are in an excellent position to advise businesses and individuals on the steps they can take to limit the long-term impact of the coronavirus. As marketers, it’s our job to advise our firms on the best ways to come out the other side stronger, too. Cutting the marketing budget just isn’t the way to do it. Making smart moves in digital marketing now will help the firm recover faster and easier later.

Do you have questions on how to divvy up the marketing budget among the different options for digital spend? FlashPoint works with SEO, SEM, Google Ads, content marketing, and more and we can help you decide the best way to position your firm.


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