In a world that is developing at an almost exponential rate thanks to new advances in technology that are taking place by the second, it is important for all of us to keep up with the innovations as best we can to avoid falling behind while others take over. Typically, it is the more traditional sectors that are the slowest to modernise, while emerging industries bring with them a youthful, “clean slate” approach that goes hand in hand with the latest innovations. Accountancy is one of those old sectors – The “big four” UK accountancy firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers) can each trace their origins back to over 150 years – and especially for large, hierarchical firms, modernisation in accounting has not been speedy.
A study by Pompero found that 84% of accountancy firms understand the needs to fully utilise digital marketing strategies, though only a small proportion (6%) see it as being extremely effective. The problem here is that companies may not realise the benefits of working the digital marketing strategies to their best advantage, and the result of this may be that opportunities at gaining new clients or retaining existing ones, are being lost. Recent studies have shown that 60% of purchase decisions are made prior to contact, which means much of the decision is based on the information gathered through a company website, advertising or exposure through social media.
However, it is not true that all accountants are towing the line
One company that understands the potential offered by the digital age is Atkinsons Chartered Accountants, a Brighton accountancy firm that relaunched a responsive website in 2016 and took a new focus on social media marketing and search engine marketing (SEM), which has served to create more interest for the company. With more accountancy firms to modernise and make the necessary changes to their practices in a similar way, the industry as a whole will reap the benefits.
An important part of digital marketing, social media marketing is something that is difficult to ignore in the 21st century. A recent survey by Inovautus Consulting, SocialCPAs, and the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) found that many accountancy firms do not use social media marketing effectively, or even make any use of it at all. Large proportions of accountancy firms do not have policies on social media marketing or offer any training relating to it. Postings on social media networks is quite low, at only a few postings per week, and the management of these accounts is often done manually, without using the available tools to make the most of the medium of marketing.
The lack of interest in social media for many firms could be attributed to the idea that social media marketing has no immediate Return On Investment (ROI), though in the modern world it is an effective means of improving sales and brand awareness, as well as managing customer service issues and increasing website traffic. As many as 91% of marketers recognise that just with just six hours per week spent on social media marketing they can increase their exposure.
So, what are the best steps that accountancy firms can take to make full advantage of digital marketing?
As the first port of call for many potential clients, ensuring your website is fresh, modern, clear, user-friendly and up-to-date is a necessity. One tool developed for websites relatively recently is the chatbot, a pop up box for answering questions that is powered by artificial intelligence. These are a way of guiding the customer experience and giving immediate assistance to new clients. As currently two out of every three minutes online is spent on a mobile device, making sure your website is also responsive (is accessible from a range of mobile devices) is also essential.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is as important as ever for businesses in keeping your URL high up in search results and driving traffic to your site. Experts in SEO are able to achieve this by using the most relevant keywords, ensuring they are found in the right places and everything is linked together, as well as a number of other specialist tricks to bring you the results you need.
According to the Association of Management Consulting Firms, content marketing is the second greatest source of new business, after referrals. This means that accountancy firms need to produce a variety of high quality, relevant content that serves to generate leads for the business, and this needs to be done on a regular and continual basis. Content marketing accounts for all online content, so this also includes posting on the various social media outlets in order to keep your company image current, fresh and active.
Other methods in digital marketing are available, including marketing automation, or email campaigns, using Google AdWords or using online advertising, such as Pay Per Click (PPC) or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) advertising. Accounting companies should also consider whether they should keep their marketing in-house or seek help from external specialists in the field.
In the end, all accountancy firms will have to admit that in a world that is changing more quickly than ever, digital marketing will eventually become a necessary tool for even the staunchest of luddites. Embracing the new age of business practices is something that will enable firms to take strides beyond the competition, while those that resist innovation could be left behind.