Writing a check to every organization and opportunity that comes across your desk may have created a “nice guy/girl” reputation among your community, but this strategy isn’t going to help you achieve the growth goals you’ve set for your firm. We know it’s hard to say no. We also know how common it is for firms to misspend the dollars they’ve allocated to sponsorships and advertising. Spending pitfalls come from a lack of appropriate checks and balances and a lack of strategic vision. Firms need to define how to best spend their dollars and what they want to achieve from their investment.
To alleviate the pressure in these areas, we suggest having a policy that surrounds your sponsorship and advertising dollars. The right action plan will ensure a systematic approach and propel your spending from arbitrary to strategic. Here are five tips to create a sponsorship and advertising policy that will become a proactive tool in your arsenal and not a free-for-all fund.
Begin by evaluating the firm’s strategic vision and the current marketing plan. Keep the firm’s major growth goals and niche areas in mind and identifying opportunities in advance. Base your approach on proactive activities that contribute to the overall success of the firm. These strategies leave little room for reactive spending.
Determine organizations that you wish to align yourself with and identify ways to create brand awareness among their audience that reaches beyond traditional sponsorships. Build credibility by volunteering for speaking engagements and writing articles for their publications. Begin by identifying the organizations and then research ways to align the firm with their audience.
Setting a budget and categorizing dollars spent is crucial to bringing awareness to your sponsorship and advertising spending. Be sure to bucket the dollars appropriately among sponsorships and advertising, and separate out charitable donations that aren’t held to the same metrics. You should also review past spending to determine if it aligns with your newly developed criteria. The AAM Marketing Budget Benchmark Study is a good resource with industry information to use for comparison and to assist in categorizing your spending. The study also outlines high-growth and low-growth firms and the differences in their spending. For instance, high-growth firms put much more of an emphasis on online and content marketing and much less of an emphasis on sponsorships and advertising than low-growth firms.
In working with our clients, we’ve found it effective to funnel all sponsorship and advertising dollars through either a person devoted to marketing or a small committee made up of marketing-minded individuals in the firm. This committee would be responsible for creating the policy, reviewing opportunities against it and monitoring the budget.
Measuring the effectiveness of dollars spent is another vital step in this process. Determine the metric of each opportunity and evaluate whether you met those metrics upon the conclusion. Metrics can range from the number of social media followers you gained through a giveaway at a tradeshow, to potential leads that were generated through a hospitality suite hosted at an association event that aligns with your practice groups.
Remember to focus on the areas of growth you’ve identified – and if one of those flyers on your desk doesn’t help you grow in that area, create client loyalty, or build brand awareness among a specific target group, then it isn’t the right fit for your firm. Saying “no” isn’t fun for a lot of accountants. Feel free to funnel those requests through your marketing coordinator or committee and allow them to evaluate whether to move forward or decline. If you do decide to decline an opportunity, simply state that you’ve decided to tailor your marketing dollars and this specific opportunity doesn’t fit those criteria. If you need any guidance with your marketing strategy, please contact one of our growth professionals today. Check out our blog post, 5 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Advertising Opportunities for more tips!