Growth Strategies For Measuring Sale Success- Summer 2022

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Gr wth Strategies

For Measuring Sales Success

The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales Summer 2022

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growth through expansion of existing client relationships —
16 Marketing KPIs: What Do Partners Really Want to See? When considering which metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) matter most to partners, those directly involving revenue win by a landslide. Focus In This Issue Features
2022 Growth Strategies: The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales is published four times a year by the Association for Accounting Marketing, Inc. (AAM). It is a benefit of membership in AAM. The views expressed in any article do not represent the official position of, or endorsement by, AAM or the author’s employer. Association membership for executive and affiliate members is $350 annually with a one-time $50 initiation fee. Association membership for student members is $150 annually with a one-time $50 initiation fee. Copyright © 2022 by Association for Accounting Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved. Article reprints for Growth Strategies: The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales must receive approval from the Association for Accounting Marketing. Trends and Insights 4 Partner POV 8 Take 5 9 Q&A 12 TechNOWlogy 13 Business Development 14 Consultants’ Corner 18 By the Numbers 19 AAM Headquarters 201 East Main Street, Suite 1405 Lexington, KY 40507 859-402-9769 Rhonda Clark AAM Headquarters Editorial Board Dana Bottorff Committee Co-Chair Anadon Marketing Communications 781-856-3262 Heather Kunz Committee Co-Chair Williams Benator & Libby, LLP 770-512-0500 Janet Berry-Johnson JBJ Media LLC Kim Cooley HHM CPAs Stacy Dreher James Moore & Co. Tammy Farrell Savvy White Papers Katie Funderburk Mauldin & Jenkins Jacqueline Harnevious Windham Brannon Hannah Kubik EisnerAmper Eileen Monesson PRCounts, llc Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk bbr companies, llc Richard Shippee Whitman Business Advisors Mary Yanocha Global Tax Management, Inc. Bruce Van Vreede Brady Ware Maddy Rojo, Publication Designer Christian Moises AAM Board Liaison 3
6 How
a Lead Generating Machine For an
can be a lead generating machine. To ensure your website drives leads that impact the bottom line, make sure it follows these four guidelines.
Measuring an
Client Expansion Plan Revenue
also called cross selling — is an imperative that can help many firms boost profitability without adding staff or clients. But it may require a change in mindset for some.

Trends and Insights

Key Findings and Opportunities from AAM’s Compensation Survey

Then check out the AAM 2022 Biennial Compensation Survey. The 2022 survey, which was conducted by Ingenuity Marketing Group in Saint Paul, MN in partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing, included 213 responses from the top accounting marketing leaders in the U.S. and Canada. About 92% of survey participants are members of AAM.

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To obtain a copy of the report, which is $150 for AAM members and $250 for non-members, visit:

A downloadable executive summary is also available from AAM at no charge.

Staffing Challenges

With firms across North America struggling to meet their workforce needs, attracting top talent through competitive compensation and innovative benefits was the top strategy identified in the survey. Other long-term initiatives identified include:

• Keeping young talent within the accounting marketing profession

• Developing professionals and promoting from within firms

• Strengthening the profession through specialists and certifications

• Elevating marketing/business development leaders to executive positions and/or ownership

• Succession planning to sustain institutional knowledge in marketing/business development

Roles, Skill Specialization

Traditional roles of marketing coordinator, marketing manager and director of marketing are the most prevalent roles among firms in North America. About 18% of respondents reported having a chief marketing officer. Other top marketing leaders included chief growth officer, CEO or principal. A growing number of firms are offering their marketing and business development professionals an ownership stake, indicating a new value proposition and leadership track for future marketing talent.

More marketers are pursuing advanced certifications that will help their teams align marketing with firm growth initiatives even more seamlessly. With continuing education, these leaders become more valuable to the firm but also more marketable. Accounting firms are also adding inhouse specialists that include graphic design, social media, SEO, public

Curious how your compensation and benefits measure up to your peers within the public accounting industry?
4 Growth Strategies Summer 2022
Biennial Compensation Survey can help marketing leaders, accounting firm partners and HR professionals identify new strategies for attracting and developing marketing and business development talent.

relations and content marketing roles. The evolving specialization of accounting marketing, expanded positions and increasing team size can provide more avenues to attract and develop these professionals inside firms.

However, the survey findings demonstrate marketing teams remain small compared to overall firm size.

Salary, Benefit Opportunities

The survey offered a glimpse of base salaries/wages and variable compensation and benefits reported across a range of accounting marketing and business development roles. Reported benefits are traditional overall, but outliers with creative perks

and benefits could improve their chances of attracting and retaining new talent. For example, some firms indicated benefits such as paid or unpaid sabbaticals, pet insurance or childcare reimbursements.

New to the survey this year was a focus on regional differences among firms, including data specific to Canadian firms. The survey report helps firm leaders overseeing one or more locations to identify salary and benefits distinctions by region or, in the case of Canada, compare their firm against firms in the same country.

Succession Planning Needs

As accounting marketing and business development leaders gain influence and, in some cases, an ownership

stake, succession planning is on the horizon. The survey found that 68% of responding marketing and business development leaders have more than 11 years of experience in their profession. Since the majority of survey participants are the top leaders in their firms, they represent a pending wave of transition in the next 10 years or so.

Planning will help firms maintain momentum on marketing initiatives by transferring knowledge to emerging leaders and supporting their retention. With 35% of marketing/BD leaders reporting more than 20 years of experience, the value proposition for succession planning is further emphasized in this report.

Overall, the 2022 Biennial Compensation Survey is a glimpse of the future of accounting marketing and business development that shows a more formal, highly educated and specialized view of the profession within growing firms. As the industry experiences consolidation and firm sizes increase, expect a larger, regional approach to marketing and business development that will expand professional opportunities and attractive compensation and benefits.

Christine Nelson, Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC. Contact at


How to Make Your Website a Lead Generating Machine

But a website that is confusing, doesn’t include effective calls to action, is missing strong content or lacks effective SEO is unlikely to convey a firm’s strengths to interested prospects.

Typical markers for website success are traffic and year-over-year growth, but high numbers don’t always reveal meaningful traffic or even quality leads. To ensure a firm’s website drives leads that impact the bottom line, make sure it follows these four guidelines.

Streamlined User Interface

When Karen Deaton started her role as marketing and business development manager at Hayashi Wayland, she noticed several pages of the firm’s website were getting little to no traffic.

Working with Team of Horses for their website redesign, Deaton made changes that had a significant impact.

“We streamlined our services and industries pages way down and made sure the site was mobile responsive so visitors can access the website quickly to find what they need,” Deaton said. Hayashi Wayland now gets five to seven qualified leads from the website each week.

Another way to ensure buyers can find what they’re looking for is to

create paths that guide visitors to the information they want. For example, when a prospect visits your website to learn more about your firm’s business advisory services, their experience should be different from someone interested in wealth management.

“People are easily confused, so your website should help them out a little bit,” said Lee Frederiksen, managing partner at Hinge Marketing.

If you’re unsure whether your website’s user interface is in good shape, Scott Dine, partner and technical director for Catalyst Group, recommends a website audit, which can help you see how your site ranks for speed, how the code functions and whether there are any errors on the pages.

“A website audit helps you take a step back to see where users are getting hung up, causing them to leave,” Dine said.

He recommends tools such as Lucky Orange or Crazy Egg, which offer session recordings, heatmaps and other features to see where visitors get stuck so you know where to make changes.

Automation Tools

Many accounting firms have lead generating offers on their websites, such as whitepapers, checklists or templates that provide value to visitors in exchange for their contact information. Having a process for following up on the leads is just as important as a valuable offer.

Firms with multiple service lines targeting various industries may have difficulty keeping up on that followthrough manually, but automation can help.

“Each service line should have an automated email campaign,” said

Your website can be a lead generating machine for your accounting firm.
Focus Article 6 Growth Strategies Summer 2022

Jon Hubbard, shareholder and consultant at Boomer Consulting.

“Set up your campaigns so when someone downloads a resource or completes a form, they receive a series of automated emails over the next five to seven weeks reinforcing the value of those services. Email automation has gone from really progressive to something a firm just has to have.”

Both Dine and Frederiksen recommend artificial intelligencepowered chat as an effective yet often-overlooked website element. Dine specifically recommends LiveChat, which can be programmed to pre-qualify leads.

The Right CTA

A website’s call to action (CTA) must be clear and direct.

“One of my missions is to rid the words ‘Contact Us’ from a website as the main CTA,” Hubbard said. “What does it mean? It’s very vague. Using a more direct CTA like ‘Schedule a Discovery Call’ and repeating it three or four times per page will increase the likelihood of it being clicked.”

A website audit can also reveal where users get confused by a website’s CTAs. For example, is the data showing they’re clicking the button and not filling out the form? Or are visitors not even clicking the button?

Positioning the right CTA in the right place is also essential.

“People try to get website visitors to ‘reach out’ everywhere. But it’s more effective to have your offer linked to where they are,” Frederiksen said.

In other words, make sure your CTA is linked to a relevant action based on where your visitor is in their buying journey. For example, suppose the visitor is on the homepage or reading a blog post. In that case, a transitional CTA, such as an invitation to read another blog or download a resource, is more effective than a direct CTA asking them to make an appointment.

SEO Best Practices

A website’s success and whether implemented strategies are working can be found within data analytics.

“Search engines prioritize user experience, especially mobile-first,” Frederiksen said. “When search engines indexed sites according to how well the site performs on mobile, that caught a lot of people off-guard.”

Search engines are also more focused on video, imagery and zero-click searches, where Google serves up the answers to questions without people having to click through to the website. This shapes the type of content firms need to have on their website.

“If you’re just starting out in your SEO program, it may not be realistic to only measure leads as a sign of success,” said Brian Swanson of Flashpoint Marketing.

If a firm is new to implementing SEO, a sign they’re on the right track is when Google Analytics shows an increase in organic search. Other positive signs are increased pageviews and the number of pages a user looks at per session. If they’re quality users (i.e., your target audience), they’re looking at more of your content and spending longer on your site, so you’re seeing time on site increase.

When it comes to getting buyers on your site, custom content and showcasing your firm’s expertise with consistency should be a priority, with the next step being on-page SEO. Think about the keywords you’re trying to rank for and ensure your editorial content calendar aligns with your SEO strategy. When you get your content and SEO in alignment, you’ll start to see the needle move on analytics. From there, look at your backlinking strategy. Who is linking to you? Are they linking to the right page?

From the end user’s perspective, education is the primary function of

a website. This is why Swanson said it’s not enough to post staff bios and descriptions of your services.

Once you’ve put effort into your SEO program for about a year, Swanson said to expect two to 10 actionable leads a month, depending on various factors. You’ll know your efforts are working when you see an increase in inquiries from the type and size of prospects you want to work with.

Key Takeaway

Creating a successful website that brings in business for a professional services firm won’t happen just because a firm used a bundle of tools or the latest technology. A website is hardly complete once it launches. It’s an evolving growth machine that requires consistent execution of multiple strategies and followthrough.

With changes in technology and search engine algorithms, the strategy you use to attract buyers to your site and get them into your sales funnel must evolve continually.

Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA. Contact at

Jacqueline Harnevious, marketing manager, Windham Brannon. Contact at


Ralph MacNamara

Ralph MacNamara leads Kaufman Rossin’s business development department, responsible for driving growth strategies for all service lines and industry teams. MacNamara, who also oversees the firm’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, has helped launch more than a dozen new service lines and co-founded the firm’s IT security and computer forensic practices.

Which metrics do you use to assess firm growth?

Most firms typically report lagging indicators, such as growth in net services, increases in collections, better productivity and improved collections compared to last year, at the end of the year. I come at it from a finance background, so a lot of what I do is forecast and track leading indicators.

What are you doing with those metrics?

We implemented a new client estimated revenue report based on service line, industry and partner in charge. Every time a new client is set up, we estimate revenue. We’re also doing that from a cross-selling perspective. Who is generating cross-sell opportunities in what service line, who is receiving those opportunities, what service line is benefitting and who from other teams is participating to help win the business? We also use metrics to track proposal win rates. We track volume in terms of quantity, revenue, what service lines and how much we are winning. Those metrics are very helpful in determining where the business is, where it’s going, where we need to align our efforts and what we need to do to grow revenue.

What surprised you the first time you saw these metrics?

We learned our most profitable clients were concentrated in seven different industries, which allowed us to focus our efforts on those industries where we had distinct expertise. That allowed us to go from trying to support 20 different industry initiatives to focusing on just seven, which now has an impact on over 80% of our firm revenue. When we started tracking the metrics, we realized we can get a lot more done more efficiently and more profitably by focusing on those seven industries and aligning service lines to them.

What is marketing’s role in this process?

Marketing can take on a key position in convincing management these metrics are important to track. They can also show leadership how they can leverage them to help manage the business and how different service lines are promoted.

How do you gain partner buy-in?

The manual report helped sell the idea of creating realtime reporting; we were seeing the data can be used in so many ways, even with manual Excel-based reports. I would encourage any firm going on this journey to start there and build on those [reports] by automating some of the processes throughout the month.

Can you imagine running the firm without these metrics?

We tell our clients they need reliable data to run their businesses, yet CPA firms often use lagging indicators to run theirs, such as “How many hours did we bill last month,” or “How many dollars did we collect last month,” as opposed to what’s coming down the pipe. It is so much more powerful to run the firm using these tools to demonstrate the value of marketing and business development. Any firm that hasn’t done it should strongly consider doing so, particularly firms trying to grow at a fast pace. I can’t see running the firm without these tools.

8 Growth Strategies Summer 2022
Interview by Katie Funderburk

How do you convert webinar attendees from cold contacts to warm leads?

Our immediate post-webinar step is to compare attendee information against our existing contact database to identify those with whom we have existing relationships. We then prioritize by region to separate contacts that are closest geographically to our offices. Those leads are sent to our partners for review. We request the partners highlight the contacts they most wish to contact personally when we conduct our post-event series of mailings and phone calls. We then often do a ZoomInfo search from the prioritized contacts to come up with additional information about the leads the partners can use for their follow-up.

One of the best deliverables to come out of the pandemic chaos was our SWAT process. “SWAT,” short for specialized weapons and tactics, is Grassi’s process created to track, report progress and move opportunities through the sales cycle. Specifically, after webinars, professionals from marketing, BD and other key areas separate clients from non-clients, qualify, then identify any leads worth pursuing. In addition to being added to our distribution lists, these opportunities get personalized outreach depending on the topic of the webinar, any questions they may have asked and more research. They are then tracked and folded into our pipeline process.

We suggest providing a high-quality piece of content such as a downloadable guide, whitepaper, or checklist that solves a specific problem your webinar attendees have. For them to download it, they need to provide their email address and opt-in to receive emails. Then we send them a high-value email each week related to solving the problem the content addresses, via an automated email campaign. We have used this method for years, and it produces warm leads weekly.

The first step is to put on a compelling webinar, then offer a call to action, such as signing up for a free consultation, newsletter, guide or another resource. Send a follow-up email with the slides or recording reminding them about the free opportunity. Add those who respond to your marketing funnel, your CRM and bring them through the marketing stages. Conversion time depends on the webinar’s topic and service you are promoting. For example, our webinars on the PPP and ERC during the pandemic resulted in multiple requests for consultations because they had an immediate need.

After hosting a webinar, we add attendees to our email distribution list so we can share future thought leadership with them. We also send a post-event email with the presentation slides or the recording. We include presenter contact information to encourage the contact(s) to reach out with any additional questions they may have. For smaller events and/or webinars, we have sent a customized, post-event “thank you” email that includes a link to the presenter's Calendly page. That way, the contact(s) can easily schedule time with our associates to learn more about our services.

Interviews by Bruce Van Vreede

Building and Measuring an Effective Client Expansion Plan

As the pressures of understaffing and increasingly complex engagements continue to mount in accounting and advisory firms, revenue growth through expansion of existing client relationships — also called cross-selling — is an imperative. But it may require a change in mindset for some.

“It’s not cross-selling, but crossserving,” said Art Kuesel, president at Kuesel Consulting. “The focus needs to be on making the clients' businesses better and helping them make better decisions. None of this says selling.”

Strategic account management requires ongoing conversations with clients about their needs and well-defined goals and objectives, according to 2022 AAM Summit panelists Mark Homan of Intapp, Charlise Hyatt of Armanino and Chris Lazzuri of Cherry Bekaert. Their top recommendations are:

• Change the mindset in your firm, if necessary, from partners owning (and feeling possessive of) client relationships to the firm owning client relationships.

• Identify and focus on key clients that align with the firm’s priorities and goals.

• Organize clients by industry, rank by revenue, and identify the number and types of services the firm provides.

• Evaluate current relationships with partners, staff and the firm, and ask staff who their favorite clients are to work with. Then rank them from strongest to weakest.

• Develop an account plan for each key client. The account plan is like a road map to help guide internal strategic conversations, identify real opportunities and manage follow-up.

Build the Roadmap

A client expansion roadmap sets the stage for practitioners to have effective, focused conversations with clients that yield valuable information. If done well, the team can uncover what the client is ultimately looking to accomplish instead of reacting only to what they may have asked for.

“When I talk to my team, I often mention the rule of one layer of adjacency,” said Jeffrey Thompson, a Cloud Solutions Architect at NetApp. ”That is, understanding the adjacency of who you’re talking to and their connections with the business, the people in it and the overall go-tomarket strategy. The transition from product to solution to outcome equals solving to adjacency.”

Once you understand who your client answers to or influences in their business, you can map out services that might help them be more successful. The map will not only demonstrate to the client their needs were heard but may also result in uncovering needs the client didn’t initially realize. For instance, a client who owns a distribution warehouse may be looking for cash flow solutions and tax-saving strategies to help finance a building expansion. Steering the client to a cost segregation study can help move their project forward and contribute to your firm’s client expansion goals. Such a roadmap is key to facilitating marketing’s role in supporting crossselling.

Marketing’s Role

A large-scale client expansion program or strategy is not always needed. Marketers need to be discerning and realistic about how and where to implement cross-selling opportunities.

“Don’t aspire to get 100% participation,” Kuesel said. “Aspire to get 30% and approach it with a limited lens. If you’ve got a third of the partners focused on one strong cross-selling service, it is a win. You may have some resistance but that’s normal. Work with the willing.”


Firms may want their clients to know everything they can do for them, but you will be more effective if you listen to what clients say, then help them find specific services and solutions to meet their needs. It may

Focus Article 10 Growth Strategies Summer 2022

look good on paper to list everything you can do for a client, but you can’t expect a client to go on a hunting expedition to find just what they need. A successful cross-selling program requires trust, which is grounded in listening to what clients say. Marketing can help structure a reasonable response and work with partners who are willing to take the solutions back to the client.

Build Trust

A second, critical technique is to build trust that works both within your firm and externally with your client.

“It takes time to establish trust. External trust starts by understanding and listening to your client’s pain points and their business,” Thompson said. “Once it happens, you can map out solutions that fit their needs.”

From there, internal trust needs to kick in.

“Most partners are protective of their clients. That’s the traditional approach to selling accounting services,” said Bruce Ditman, managing partner of Chief Seconds, a professional services marketing consultancy. “But if you are not willing to talk to your client about their needs that might be served by other members of your firm, you can be sure that someone else is. Crossselling is a defensive posture.”


Marketing can help partners understand that approaching clients with services they need is a business strategy, not just marketing. To accomplish that, there should be more open internal discussions about clients so marketing, technical and advisory professionals within the firm can develop a holistic understanding of their needs. Awareness of the firm’s services needs to be shared across all teams, who should also develop client profiles, buyer personas and be honest about which clients fit a particular service team the best.

“Firms do not do a good job of educating internally what the firm does,” Ditman said. “Marketing can be that change agent to not only develop a process that creates an account-based strategy but also to keep the firm focused on that long-term approach. Marketing is a business ally.”

Client service teams also need to share information about services that clients have engaged in the past, and why they did so. Replication is more likely to happen if the team clearly understands how the process worked in the past.

Measuring Effectiveness

With an effective client expansion road map focused on clients’ needs, how do firms measure cross-selling success?

During their strategic account management presentation at the 2022 AAM Summit, Homan, Hyatt and Lazzuri said strategic account management requires well-defined goals and objectives. Their top recommendations are:

• Identify and track revenue from new clients and revenue from client expansion. If you are just beginning to track client expansion efforts, zero in on the best candidates for expansion opportunities and just track those to begin.

• Set goals for the number of strategic conversations to have with key clients each year and track them (e.g., 12 per year). A strategic conversation is not about a current engagement but the client’s overall business.

• Track and provide incentives for team selling. Break down goals by new revenue and client expansion. Partners should continue to be responsible for most new revenue and junior staff can be responsible for selling and meeting client expansion goals. Distinguish

between initiating credit and closing credit.

• For new revenue from current clients to be counted toward client expansion goals, it must come from ideas the team brings to the client. If the client initiates additional work, consider it an unsolicited RFP, with no initiating credit given.

• Revisit revenue estimates at the end of the year and compare actuals to estimates (year over year).

• Do not count annual fee increases toward client expansion goals.

Crafting an effective client expansion strategy requires fostering a one-firm mentality, setting clear, achievable goals and using effective KPIs to identify the most promising clients. Marketers can help their client service teams create and follow a strategic roadmap, listen and respond to what they hear and achieve revenue growth in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Bruce Van Vreede, Brady Ware. Contact at

Hannah Kubik, EisnerAmper. Contact at


Heather Robinson

You were a marketer in the education and organic food industries. What lessons from those industries would benefit accounting marketers?

It might sound simplistic, but clients are clients. In education, clients wanted to better their lives, and I made sure they knew we could help them get the education to do that. In food, people wanted nutritious food they could enjoy. When we focus on what the client is looking for, we’re better prepared to show them we can help them find it.

Have your services changed in the past few years (since COVID)?

Are you noticing new trends?

We’ve realized some ways we’ve been doing business are broken. We were very streamlined before, but people weren’t necessarily looking for certain services, or looking for those services in the way we delivered them. For example, many of our consulting and training engagements, which used to be entirely in person, are now being delivered digitally. And that’s not going away. We’ve also focused more on expanding our relationships with existing clients rather than constantly trying to attract new clients. We have an opportunity to provide more value for them and, in turn, grow our revenues.

Where do you get information and insight to help you grow as a marketer?

I’m always reading books and articles, attending webinars and conferences, and learning from others in the profession and outside of it. You have to be open to new ideas and learn new ways to do marketing because it’s constantly changing.

How can marketers with small budgets level the playing field to compete with better-funded firms?

The best way to market your firm, no matter your budget, is to create content. Creating content internally is free, and it goes a long way toward getting your name out there, building trust, and demonstrating authority.

Look beyond blog posts. You can develop short videos to highlight your knowledge and the niches you work in. You can gather and share client testimonials and let someone highlight what’s great about you.

How can new accounting marketers get more involved in shaping their firms’ strategic goals?

It’s essential to gather data about the key performance indicators your firm’s leaders want to see. Not just metrics like pageviews, followers or likes, but more concrete KPIs like qualified leads and conversions. Use the data to tell a story about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This helps firm leaders see the value in what you’re doing. And keep in mind that marketing should be involved in everything — your messaging, brand, the client experience, and talent attraction and retention.

How should accounting marketers be using AI, if they aren’t already?

Once you start looking into social listening, you’ll be amazed at how much information you can find about your client’s problems. Your target clients are Googling questions, asking for recommendations on social media and reading blogs on your website. Using AI and automation to find it can help you create content and develop new services that align with what they’re looking for.

What are your go-to tech tools right now?

I’m using an amazing automation platform, Active Campaign. It helps with one-off emails and the marketing automations we create weekly and monthly. It uses AI to gather information from users as they click on campaigns and show interest in content. We also use Social Bee for social media automation. It helps us keep up with a regular posting schedule and it gathers data so I know what our clients are clicking on and reading. This helps us understand where to focus our content creation efforts in the future.

12 Growth Strategies Summer 2022
Heather Robinson is a professional certified marketer (PCM) and certified digital marketing professional (CDMP). As the marketing manager for Boomer Consulting, she develops the firm’s marketing strategy and manages the execution of marketing and business development initiatives to build brand awareness and drive business results. Interview by Heather Kunz

Tools to Get More Insight from Your CRM System

Implementing a robust customer relationship management (CRM) platform is vital for accounting and advisory firms looking to elevate their performance, improve client relationships and plan for the future. Firms that overlook a CRM strategy could miss key opportunities to meet strategic goals.

Consider some of the following best practices and tools to help maximize the data captured within your CRM and leverage it to improve your firm in three ways:

• Get a 360-degree view of your customer. Understanding customer behavior is table stakes to keeping your business competitive and your clients satisfied. Tools like A/B testing allow you to improve target outreach in marketing campaigns, giving you a better idea of who your ideal client is and what they are looking for. Microsoft Customer Insights can also give you a 360-degree view of your customer, helping you personalize customer experiences and navigate real-time customer journeys.

• Gain downstream benefits. CRM data can offer valuable insight into your firm’s operations and workforce needs. By using CRM data to accurately forecast sales, you can get a better understanding of what your staffing levels need to be based on what you have in CRM and what you expect to sell.

• Stay ahead of the curve. Analyzing your CRM data using artificial intelligence (AI) can help you gain the datadriven insights needed to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Enabling Salesforce’s Einstein Forecasting, for example, allows organizations to predict future sales revenue and improve strategic decision making. You can also use advanced analytics to analyze customer cohorts year over year or even help identify optimal target customer profiles. An interactive visualization software, such as Power BI, can also help draw meaningful business insights.

Stay competitive by extracting valuable insights from your CRM platform now and using those insights to position your firm for future success.

Noah Kluge, Armanino Derrick Magdefrau, Armanino

Business Development Pipeline Meetings Accelerate Growth Through Structured Collaboration

Pipeline meetings

You might think the pipeline meeting, like other tools in your marketing and business development toolkit, would have been perfected by now. Yet, why is the outcome of pipeline meetings so inconsistent between firms?

While some leaders tout the pipeline meeting process, others see it as a complete waste of time. Pipeline meetings can be a powerful tool in supporting a firm’s business development efforts and be instrumental in accelerating growth. Here are a few best practices to keep your pipeline meetings efficient and effective.

Set the Foundation

Pipeline meetings are a great tool to keep the team informed, maintain momentum on opportunities, help the team focus on landing optimal clients, and track individual, sector and firmwide goals. Start by getting leadership on the same page as to their expectations regarding participation and outcomes.

Establish Norms

Create a structure to promote a collaborative meeting culture. The norms, or meeting protocols, determine whether your group functions as a high-performing team or simply a collection of people. Being explicit about norms increases effectiveness, expands emotional intelligence, produces positive

experiences for group members and helps to socialize newcomers into the process quickly.

This means clearly defining the structure of your meetings. Reach an agreement as to who will participate. While a few firms opt for partner participation only, that can be a short-sighted perspective. Pipeline meetings are an opportunity to develop your team and create a learning environment.

Set a consistent date, time and length for pipeline meetings. The best practice is to schedule pipeline meetings every other week and early in the morning with a 20-minute time limit. Then set protocols for extending conversations beyond the boundaries of the meeting.

are not a new concept.
14 Growth Strategies Summer 2022

Team members need a transparent understanding of how and when thorough discussion and more indepth brainstorming sessions will occur.

Adopt a One-firm Mindset

Pipeline meetings have the potential to eliminate individual silos and bring team members together toward common goals. It is not unusual for a firm to have one or two rainmakers — those whose pipelines are always full and can land new business in their sleep. Individuals find substantial satisfaction when using their strengths and a shared vision for a greater purpose.

One area to which a “one-firm” mindset applies is the tone of the meeting. The best outcomes are achieved when the tone of your meeting is positive, upbeat and celebratory. The meeting leader can significantly impact the meeting tone. For the best outcome, have the most encouraging partner or the head of marketing or business development lead the meeting. Avoid having an assertive rainmaker take the helm, as their desire to share their wisdom or expound on the size of their pipeline or wins can discourage participation.

Reporting structure also can impact the meeting’s tone. Avoid the temptation to report by individual accomplishments, particularly if you have younger team members participating. Individual reporting encourages rainmakers to elaborate and those just learning to become discouraged and stop improving.

Report instead by service line or, better yet, industry group. Have one person responsible for reporting the status for that segment, then rotate the responsibility of reporting among team members. Individual members may still offer a brief perspective on specific opportunities, but reporting as a group reinforces the one-firm mindset.

Tracking Tools

Do not expect efficiency if your team is using excessive, outdated or inaccurate resources. Whether it’s a simple spreadsheet or HubSpot Sales Hub, track details such as opportunity, contact, opportunity lead, estimated revenue, service, industry sector and referral source. Tracking this information allows for in-depth analysis at the end of the year. Don't forget to include a summary page that tracks back to goals.

Decide how the information will be reported, whether it’s a series of reporting forms that individuals complete and submit to the marketing team for addition to the pipeline, or self-submission with your reporting tool accessible to all participating team members, with each professional responsible for entering their own data.

Celebrate Success

Lock in long-term successes. Start with firmwide goals and break down projected revenues by service line, industry sector and monthly, quarterly and annual goals. Have segments (industry or service) report on updates such as new opportunities added, qualified versus unqualified opportunities, opportunities moved to inactive, as well as wins, wins without a sales cycle and losses.

Encourage participants to ask for or offer help when opportunities get stuck such as no decision, difficulty setting meeting, or the prospect has gone silent. However, the offer during the pipeline meeting should be kept to a simple “let’s set a time to strategize,” or “I’m happy to give Jane a call,” rather than an in-depth conversation about the issue. Then, always end with a review of progress and a celebration of wins.

Collective Commitments

Use these meetings as an opportunity to make commitments to each other and hold people accountable.

Leadership can use these commitments as insight into what is and is not getting accomplished. For example: “I will commit to the team to make contact with the CFO by {date}.” Then, leadership must hold people responsible by having one-on-one conversations about the lack of follow-through outside the pipeline meetings.

The other commitment involves timing. Start the meeting on time and end on time. While it is not uncommon for initial pipeline meetings to run 45 minutes to one hour, strive for 15-20 minutes. Schedule the first meeting for a longer period, and shorten the timeframe for subsequent meetings. This will teach the team to keep the reporting at a summary level. Participants may tend to overshare and drift from meeting norms if expectations and procedures are not consistently reviewed. Put signals, time limits or voice prompts in place to notify the group of necessary redirection.

Key Takeaway

Pipeline meetings are useful to track progress and success and as a development process for team members with less business development experience. They are also a tool that reinforces the culture of the firm and builds future success. If you do not take opportunities to develop future leaders by leveraging tools like pipeline meetings, someone else will.

Christine M. Hollinden, CPSM. Contact at


Marketing KPIs: What Do Partners Really Want to See?

directly involving revenue win by a landslide. Whether broken down by service line, location, vertical or initiative, how they each contribute to the firm’s bottom line is the ultimate concern.

Tevrizian said, adding that he helps partners digest marketing data by placing it into three buckets: lead generation, client experience and branding.

When marketers integrate performance metrics into every marketing initiative and tie each one to the firm’s strategic plan, firm leaders develop a deeper understanding of — and appreciation for — the value the marketing team provides to them daily.

But what metrics really matter to partners? Numbers are important, but don’t tell the whole story by themselves. Partners don’t always intuitively understand how pageviews, NPS scores or social media followers connect to the bottom line.

“Drawing clear lines from initiatives and key performance metrics to firm goals provides self-directed accountability and a more meaningful role for marketers,” said Gabriel Tevrizian, director of marketing for REDW. “Translating training events into proposals generated, wins and losses, and ultimately revenue is necessary to present the complete picture to partners.”

All About Revenue

When considering which metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) matter most to partners, those

Steve McDonald, managing partner with Abdo Solutions, drove an initiative to develop a comprehensive business intelligence dashboard to visualize all the metrics used to manage the firm and its growth. He correlated data from practice management software with goal benchmarks to give Abdo’s leadership insights into its performance. His efforts provided the firm with a new revenue stream. Abdo monetized its dashboard tool and now shares it with other accounting and professional service firms that could benefit from their investment.

”Partners care about practice management metrics, period,” McDonald said. “At face value, these metrics never tell the whole story without providing narrative and context to the nuances and drivers of those numbers. Now marketing plays a wider integrated role in the business. Marketers interpret data alongside business line leaders and ideate how to address areas that may be off target. Providing the firm with multidimensional metrics helps partners visualize the revenue streams and focus their time and investments to achieve positive outcomes.”

Marketers must change the perception of partners and become more accountable for firm outcomes,

“Social media metrics on their own may be interesting, but unless they’re aggregated into a metric that grows the firm’s brand strength, it’s hard to grasp its impact,” Tevrizian said. “Once that connection’s made, there’s little room for argument about its importance.”

Leading Indicators

Eric Majchrzak, CEO of BeachFleischman, has the unique perspective of ascending to the lead role after serving as the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief strategy officer (CSO) for his firm. He said it’s helpful when marketers track metrics used in horizontal analysis when comparing one period against another or in vertical analysis, such as when revenues from one service line are compared against another. But these KPIs alone won’t help firm leadership make strategic decisions. Traditional marketing metrics are inward-focused; they are effort-based and are lagging indicators rather than outward-focused leading indicators.

“Future firm metrics are client and technology-focused, which is a major cultural shift for accountants,” Majchrzak said. “Turnaround time and monitoring client experience are important and are factors never traditionally incorporated into a dashboard.”

As McDonald pointed out, when dashboard metrics identify available

Future-focused marketers recognize the need to shift the perception of marketing as a lineitem expense to an integral strategic driver of firm growth.
Focus Article 16 Growth Strategies Summer 2022

capacity in a practice, marketing can help with internal communications to promote practice offerings and educate partners throughout the firm on how best to position the service area with their client. External promotions through digital advertising and industry events can help drive demand for the service. Where other lines are at capacity, scaling back marketing efforts may be appropriate.

Go Beyond the Numbers

David Toth, director of growth with Winding River Consulting, emphasizes starting with a common vocabulary.

“Practice leaders want to see objective measures of success,” Toth said. “When each industry vertical measures traffic, conversions and content with the same data points, using KPIs to tie data to the pipeline makes sense to partners and sets

the stage for more meaningful conversations about how marketers are driving revenue.”

Toth urges marketers to look beyond form submission counts by overlaying data from CRM and marketing automation platforms to reveal the full impact of marketing’s influence on the sales process.

“Connecting each form with the full buyer journey — starting with source of entry to your ecosystem, webpages viewed, webinars attended, blogs read, opportunity pursued, proposal made and initial deal signed — reveals the true value chain of marketing and business development efforts that drove the conversion of a prospect to a client,” Toth said. “Share these new business success stories with partners. They demonstrate both analytical prowess of marketing and direct contribution to revenue growth.”

Accounting and advisory firm marketers are uniquely positioned to transform their partners’ mindsets. By linking traditional marketing metrics with firms’ strategic growth KPIs and nuanced client experience feedback, marketers can help partners see their marketing investment’s true value and significant return.

Mary Yanocha, Global Tax Management. Contact at

Tammy Farrell, Savvy White Papers.

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Consultants’ Corner

Regardless of which technology you use, marketers should track key marketing indicators, including number of leads generated, number of leads converted into sales, client retention, repeat purchases and revenues per client. You can break these down further to cost per lead, lead source, lead quality and conversions into different stages (meetings, proposals, etc.). The challenge we face is these are all “lagging” indicators that can’t be measured until after the associated activity has happened. “Leading” indicators will vary by firm and campaign but often include a combination of audience (size and quality) and engagement, but only when the two are used together.

Apoorv Dwivedi Fixyr

CPAs love numbers. Here are three critical KPIs that will impress managing partners:

1. Lead sources (e.g., e-newsletters, blogs, etc.) show where decision-makers spend their time and help identify where to focus your marketing spend to close more deals.

2. Average cost per lead measures marketing and sales campaign efficiency in generating qualified leads. This will help determine if your client acquisition practices are cost-efficient and help with budgeting.

3. Cost per acquisition shows the effectiveness of your digital campaign and goes hand-in-hand with ACPL. Remember to calculate the average lifetime value of new clients who often are multi-year and multi-project sources of revenue.

Clients rarely choose an accountant after one ad click, so how do you know which digital marketing investment is working? While first- and last-touch attribution models used to be the norm, digital marketing platforms have recognized the need for multitouch attribution and have built it into reporting capabilities. Google Analytics 4 will include data-driven attribution models that distribute credit for conversion based on data for each conversion event. Facebook and YouTube have windows where purchase decisions can be attributed to an ad view in the past 30 days.

Hubspot has an “influenced contacts and revenue” report. These newer attribution models are evolving, but the good news is they are more robust in giving digital advertising its rightful credit.

Are there new or emerging KPIs, especially with advances in digital advertising?
18 Growth Strategies Summer 2022
Interviews by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

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