Accounting firm leaders tend to schedule their partner meetings to take place right after fall busy season wraps up. These one or two-day meetings often focus on what has happened over the past year in areas like revenue, realization and staff turnover. In addition to these topics, many firms are adding strategic planning to their meeting agendas. With so much information to consider in a relatively short period of time, it becomes easy to run out of time for discussing marketing and growth. Marketing team members can help maximize the value of these growth discussions by collecting data, generating reports and providing recommendations that can lead to meaningful and productive discussions. Here are the critical items that should be prepared:
Selecting revenue growth goals for one, three or five-year plans can feel like aiming at a dart board. We’ve seen firms choose growth goals because the number sounds like a nice, even number like 5% or 10%. Some firms select a growth goal based on a benchmarking number from surveys or articles. The reality is, firm growth goals should be set from a full analysis of partner and practice results and expectations. We recommend preparing revenue segmentation reports to identify revenue by practice, service and individual. These reports can be automated by coding clients in the firm’s practice management system, or they can be generated manually; either way, these reports will help with the revenue goal discussion. Firms can base goals on realistic growth expectations at the partner and practice level, and roll that up into a meaningful target number for the firm.
Budget and ROI Reports
We’ve shared case studies and recommendations for building marketing budgets, as well as how ROI can be measured and related back to sales. Now is the best time to review the past year’s budget and ROI reports. This will help your firm decide if something makes sense to include in the next year’s budget, or how the firm can get better value from continuing certain programs. Firms can benchmark their spending against the AAM Marketing Budget Benchmarking Survey to see if they have the right combination of programs. Marketers can draft next year’s budget (based on the past year’s budget and conversations with practice leaders and partners) to help guide the meeting discussion. We also recommend identifying owners of next year’s larger budget items to create accountability for how the firm spends marketing dollars.
Accounting firms can benefit from thinking of their content planning in the same way as magazines create their editorial calendars – planning topics a year in advance. Marketers can research and work with practice leaders to identify trends and topics for the upcoming year. The draft content calendar for the new year will help facilitate the discussion around not only content creation, but also around potential growth areas for the firm.
Fall planning season is the perfect time for marketers to conduct brand audits. This can be as simple as quick review of basic branding: Is the firm using an anniversary logo that needs to be phased out? How is the firm’s inventory of critical materials like presentation folders, service sheets, brochures and giveaways? A brand audit can also be more comprehensive, identifying anything about the brand that feels dated or old, or reviewing the website for design and functionality. The brand audit process not only reinforce the firm’s brand during the planning process, but it also helps with budget planning.
Marketing plays a key role in the firm’s planning process. Firms should begin collecting reports and recommendations early, identifying ways to automate this process for future meetings. And of course, be sure to allocate enough time in upcoming partner meetings for the important discussion around growth.