7 Components of a Marketing Plan for Accountants

It’s quite common for accounting firms (even the regionals) to have no marketing plan in place. The marketing plan might very well be, “get as many referrals as we can.” Or it might be a number for each partner (which is not a marketing plan). Or it might be, “if it’s not busy season, I’ll go to my BNI (Business Networking International) group.” None of these are plans. They are individual marketing tasks and components.

The number of companies that do not have fully functioning marketing plans is certainly not surprising because marketing by CPAs was illegal – and considered quite sleezy — in most U.S. states until about the 1970s. So we are a profession that has always been behind on our marketing skills.

Now that most of us need to market, the relief is we can do it on our terms, using Excel spreadsheets, with a bunch of numbers, adding in some deadlines, and creating a very organized process, just how we accountants like things.

So here are 7 components of the kind of marketing plans I like to create. We start with an Excel spreadsheet.

1. Revenue history and forecast by service or industry or both

Assuming you’ve been in business for at least a year, you can start from the momentum you’ve gained to-date in your business. What repeat revenue can you count on in 2013, and which services will it come from?

The forecast is where you get to dream. What revenue number do you want to make, and which services will deliver? Of course, the bigger the gap in last year’s vs. this year’s numbers, the more you will have to work (and the more you will have to do something different from the way you did it last year). But at least you are in control, and you are calling the shots.

2. Pricing

Do you need to make any pricing changes from 2012? Do you have new services that need to be priced?

3. Positioning

How do you want to position yourself? Alas, this is the part where we need to part from our spreadsheet and do some thinking about what type of clients we can best serve. We also need to answer how clients will be able to use our services. Are we meeting their needs or do we need to re-position?

4. Marketing channels

As long as you need more clients, lead generation will need to be part of your marketing plan. Here we need to list the places where we can find qualified prospects who need the services we offer.

A few examples of marketing channels include social media, a newsletter, direct mail, and referrals. Luckily, we can go back to our spreadsheet to complete this.

5. Marketing budget

How much do we need to spend to get the additional revenue we need? More number-crunching.

We can also take a peek at last year’s if we don’t want to start from scratch.

6. Metrics

How will we measure our success at marketing? We’ll need to create a set of marketing metrics to help us measure our return on investment.

7. Action items

From here, we can create a solid list of tasks we need to do to implement our plan.

I know this sounds simple, and you can make a plan that’s far more complicated (and a lot of consultants do). But in our industry, there’s really no reason to. This will give you a great outline for your business development in 2013.