Growth Strategies For Results- Winter 2022

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Gr wth Strategies

For Results

The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales Winter 2022
6 Big Impact From Small Adjustments Look for opportunities to make small adjustments in your marketing program that will have a big impact. 10 Metrics
Matter Digital transformation has given marketers a wide variety of tools to track metrics, analytics and KPIs. Which metrics are most meaningful to marketers and firm partners? 16 How Small Marketing Departments Can Be Successful For marketers who are a “department of one,” prioritizing and pacing are key to getting the job done. Focus In This Issue Features Winter 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 By the Numbers 19 Consultants’ Corner 20 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 Robert Adrian Jones & Roth CPAs and Business Advisors Kim Cooley HHM CPAs Stacy Dreher James Moore & Co. Tammy Farrell Savvy White Papers Jacqueline Harnevious Windham Brannon Janet Berry-Johnson JBJ Media LLC Geoff Jones AICPA Hannah Kubik EisnerAmper Eileen Monesson PRCounts, llc Brittany Olsen Kingsbery CPAs 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

The Four Ps were introduced more than 60 years ago in Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, in which author E. Jerome McCarthy classified various marketing activities into four broad components: product, price, promotion and place. The Four Ps represent the main (but not the only) elements marketers can leverage in

varying combinations to create programs to meet their marketing goals.

Focus on Solutions

The Four Ps can seem narrowly focused on product sales instead of the solutions marketplace. Technology, globalization and social responsibility are now prevalent and must be considered in the marketing mix. Thanks to the internet and social media, prospective clients research and decide for themselves if they want to pursue engaging a firm. Geographical boundaries no longer stand in the way of entering new markets and new decision criteria, such as social responsibility, influence purchase behaviors.

In their textbook, Marketing Management, Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller define holistic marketing as “the development, design, and implementation of marketing programs, processes, and activities that recognize their breadth and interdependencies. Holistic marketing acknowledges that everything matters in marketing – and that a broad, integrated perspective is often necessary.”

Holistic marketing encompasses four “dimensions”: internal marketing, integrated marketing, relationship marketing and performance marketing.

Holistic Marketing

Internal marketing can be more important than external marketing for growing firms. It involves communicating the firm’s brand promise to all employees and telling them how to deliver “on-brand” experiences.

Today’s complex and increasingly digital marketplace has fundamentally changed the approach to marketing, powering a shift from the Four Ps model of marketing to a new model – Holistic Marketing.
and Insights 4 Growth Strategies Winter 2022 Holistic Marketing:
Four Ps Marketing Mix Based on the Original Four Ps Product Price Promotion Place Product Variety Quality Design Features Brand Name Packaging Sizes Services Warranties Returns List Price Discounts Allowances Payment Period Credit Terms Sales Promotion Advertising Sales Force Public Relations Direct Marketing Channels Coverage Assortments Locations Inventory Transport Source: Marketing Management. Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller. 15th Edition. 2016. Internal Marketing Integrated Marketing Relationship Marketing Performance Marketing Holistic Marketing Dimensions
Updating the

The New Five Ps

• People addresses the needs of the firm’s clients, employees and stakeholders.

• Processes are the creativity, discipline and structure of marketing programs as a whole instead of individual activities.

• Programs include all the firm’s clientdirected activities, as well as the original Four Ps.

• Performance captures the range of outcomes from a financial and non-financial perspective. This includes metrics such as profitability, brand and client equity and implications beyond the firm like social, legal, ethical and environmental responsibilities.

• Productivity includes production, deliverables, quality control and other programs that deliver value to clients.

Integrated marketing requires marketers to create programs and activities to communicate and deliver value for clients. Each activity takes all the other activities the marketing department implements into consideration. Relationship marketing builds mutually satisfying long-term relationships with key stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers/ distributors and the community) to earn and retain their business. Performance marketing focuses on financial and non-financial metrics that deliver a return on marketing programs.

Expanding the Four Ps

Although the original Four Ps can be used as a foundation to build a strategic marketing program, firms must consider other variables. Kotler and Keller, as well as others, suggest the Four Ps are expanded to incorporate the concept of holistic marketing. The new “Five Ps” — people, processes, programs, performance and productivity were introduced to embrace the realities of modern marketing.

The original Four Ps are not irrelevant. They are still an important part of

the marketing mix. Yet, the new Five Ps are broader and more inclusive. They apply to all disciplines within the firm. They help to center marketing initiatives on the firm’s brand, values and mission instead of catchy slogans. The Five Ps involve the entire firm in the marketing mix to achieve better outcomes by focusing on building stronger client relationships.

Eileen Monesson, CPA, MBA, principal, PRCounts. Contact her at


Big Impact From Small Adjustments: Finding Efficiency to Energize Firms

could be better served by a different CPA firm and that saved time on follow up and valuable resources that might have served no ROI.

• Focusing on the user experience provided an opportunity for buyer persona development and discovery.

While you are busy focusing on building a comprehensive strategy, linking cross-selling opportunities, implementing campaigns and measuring return on investment, don’t forget to look for opportunities to make small adjustments that will have a big impact.

Here are three areas where a little effort can lead to big results:


A complete overhaul of a firm’s website is not an easy fix. But there are simple changes that can yield big dividends. Robert Adrian, practice growth advisor with Jones & Roth CPAs & Business Advisors in Eugene, OR, took one area of his firm’s website and created a pathway to connect with prospects.

“We created an ideal client profile for each practice group,” Adrian said. “Then, we created a user experience on our ‘contact us’ page to find out if they are a good fit for us and, conversely, if we are a good fit for them.”

This decision tree, as Adrian called it, helped ensure incoming leads were a better match for their client profiles. It filtered out respondents who likely

“We spent about two hours with each of our niche groups and created a basic set of questions that would qualify new relationships to our firm,” Adrian said. “Those conversations also were invaluable to the firm to focus on what client types are best fits for us while giving marketing added insights into a target’s thought process in selecting a CPA.”

Jones & Roth’s Connect with an Advisor user experience resulted in several positive outcomes:

• A higher number of quality leads that are better aligned with specialty niche teams.

• Many of the basic (and often numerous) 1040 inquiries were filtered.

• Collection of key contact data and service area interest was improved with less time spent on unqualified or nonspecified interest from outreach.

• Integration of the new user experience with CRM applications created efficiencies by importing new client opportunities into sales pipeline processes along with tracking interactions and documentation of win/ loss results.


The universe of search engine optimization (SEO) can be tricky to understand, sending many marketers in search of help from outside consultants. While hiring a consultant can have an impact on a marketing budget, it does not have to be a “bigticket” item.

Becky Livingston, president and owner of Penheel Marketing, has done this for a few clients and the numbers speak for themselves.

“A couple of my clients have implemented several SEO changes on their website this year that have yielded higher traffic results for them,” Livingston said. “After an audit to identify needs, we can move quickly

It is the time of year when most marketing leaders are plotting 2022 strategies, aligning budgets with priorities and wrapping up end-of-year tactics.
Focus Article 6 Growth Strategies Winter 2022

to implementation steps. One of my clients completed the audit this past April and implemented the recommendations over the next four months. Most, however, can be implemented usually in a few weeks.”

To determine success, prepare a sideby-side comparison from the same period the previous year.

“The goal of SEO improvements needs to be elevating the number of qualified visitors and making it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for,” Livingston said. “If it’s done right, the numbers will bear that out.”

Don’t expect all SEO metrics to increase or improve. Livingston said one of her clients saw a decrease in users (by 75%) and in sessions (by 69%), but a 26% increase in the number of sessions per user and a 46% increase in the pages viewed per session. The SEO improvements helped reduce the bounce rate by 18% and increase the average session duration by 200%.

However, organic search results increased by 400% from the pre-SEO update six-month period to the postSEO update six-month period. Direct traffic to the site increased 176% for those periods. Referral traffic increased 402% during those periods. Overall landing pages saw a 260% increase.

“These results told the marketing team that users were finding the content they were looking for more easily and were discovering more content within the site than they had in the past,” Livingston said.


Are team meetings effective? Are they short and more frequent or long, weekly reviews of everything everyone is doing?

“I always have felt that meetings should be focused and short whenever possible,” said Jennifer Disharoon, chief marketing officer with GRF CPAs and Advisors, a

130+ person firm headquartered in Bethesda, MD. “It’s critical to stay connected and keep everyone going in a positive direction, but identifying specific goals for each meeting reduces stress and ambiguity. And, when the team has achieved the stated goal, end the meeting. Good job. We’re done.”

Also, with her team managing numerous tactics and serving internal clients, Disharoon said regularly presenting work within the team first helps clarify and identify opportunities.

“This has helped us tremendously to grow as a team and develop rather than keeping items as isolated responsibilities,” Disharoon said. “Unless we go over it together, we miss building team synergy and connections to broader strategies.”

Take 30 minutes and review what meetings a team is asked to attend and what marketing is asking of internal clients. Identify what is working and what feels like a pain point. See where opportunities exist to shorten meeting length, create more focused agendas, consolidate redundant meetings or even eliminate meetings. These simple changes can be effective in other departments of the firm, as well.

Disharoon said one example of a meeting “audit” that yielded

efficiencies was with new business and pipeline meetings. A simple point of emphasis on sales data led to a more comprehensive tool allowing highly accurate and real-time data on sales, pipeline and pursuit activity, she said.

Her team adopted a new approach to data collection in 2016 regarding wins and losses. From there, meaningful examples as to what worked (or didn’t) were discussed to help everyone appreciate changes that could be made in future sales pursuits while giving everyone greater control over the process.

Sales data and pipeline activity went online through SharePoint, then HubSpot. Outcomes included accurate, real-time data, a better understanding of clients and prospects, and the consolidation of several platforms in the marketing stack.

Making small, low-budget changes may seem minor, but there’s a reason they’re called “low-hanging fruit.” Don’t overlook these opportunities to have a big impact on your firm’s marketing and business development ROI.

Bruce Van Vreede, director of marketing, Brady Ware. Contact at


Jason Martin, CPA, CFE, MBA Managing Partner, Memphis Office HHM

Jason Martin is the managing partner of HHM’s Memphis office, where he has played a critical role in creating a culture of communication and trust among his employees and their clients. Jason discusses HHM’s client experience model, his management tips, client diversity and more.

What does your firm do to positively influence client experience?

Our client experience model is focused on building relationships with our clients and earning their trust. We’re in the trenches beside them when they’re making decisions, from the day-to-day details to those tough, lifechanging decisions. We’re deliberate about getting face time with our clients as much as possible versus connecting via Zoom or by phone. We also focus on staying abreast of the business and economic climate to provide timely business advice and push relevant information to our clients via webinars, articles, seminars and more.

How do you keep staff engaged and bought-in to the firm’s culture?

You need to communicate with your staff at all levels, from the direction your firm is headed to the challenges you’re facing. Employees become disengaged when they’re not included and left to make assumptions. Our partners maintain an open-door policy to promote a comfortable and open culture of communication. If it’s important to them, it’s important to me.

How will the shift to remote or hybrid arrangements impact client experience?

Firms will need to be innovative and flexible while keeping the end goal in mind. If you have three firms marketing the same services to a prospect and two of the firms are remote and one drives across town to meet with them in person, the prospect will be more comfortable with the firm sitting across the table. Maybe there will be a generational shift where people don’t value that as much. But we’re a middlemarket firm whose clients still want to meet with us in person, so we need to maintain an environment where we can still provide that level of client service. At the end of the day, however, whether firms are remote or in-person, they can’t lose sight of the most important aspect of our profession — serving the public. Accounting is important, but the public side – the relationship building – really drives the industry.

How can firms authentically reach out to ethnic, immigrant or communities of color to offer support and services?

Being a minority myself, it’s easy for me to see the value in going after minority-owned or culturally diverse businesses. We have a unique group of clients owned by people from different ethnicities, races and genders. We try to be intentional and authentic about our approach and align ourselves with good referral sources who are on the same page as us. We have an open dialogue about the cultural differences that must be observed. You need to be aware of even the smallest customs or practices and do your best to honor them. As professionals, we can’t put our heads in the sand. If you want to know something about a particular culture, you need to be mature enough to ask questions and get to know people. I think the biggest part of ignorance comes from being afraid to ask the question. How will firms of the future work differently than they do today, and how should young people coming into public accounting prepare?

They need to stay focused on what’s important to their clients and always be engaged. I see a lack of emphasis in schools on the public part of our industry. They excel at teaching the technical side of our business, but the public part is what we’re in it for. Students also aren’t prepared for time management and the critical thinking involved in solving client problems.

8 Growth Strategies Winter 2022
Interview by Stacy Dreher

What is the role of print collateral today, if any, and how are you using it?

For us, print collateral has fallen to the wayside because things were virtual over the past year. As things have started to pick back up, we see less of a need for print collateral for prospect meetings and recruiting. We have adopted a hybrid approach, sharing materials virtually in advance of a meeting but bringing them with us, as well. We have really cut back on the print materials we provide for recruiting, putting the bigger incentives in print and directing students or potential hires to our website for more detail.

Print collateral is still used today for trade shows and some prospect meetings. We know these items tend to end up in the garbage, so we don’t want to use valuable financial resources on them. Therefore, we design and print our collateral pieces in-house. Print collateral is something you need for when you are in person, as it can support your overall brand, but you should also have them available in digital format for virtual meetings and conferences.

While the volume of printed material has gone down overall, one of the groups I represent recently attended an in-person conference and I supplied them with service overview single-sheets. We’ll see how often they will want physical copies going forward as more events are switching back to virtual. Some team members who meet prospects in person request printed materials as a ‘leave behind’ for their meetings. We’re also thinking about mailing printed content as a workaround to emails since inboxes are inundated these days.

Most professionals use print as a prop. They pull together different pieces of collateral so they can show up with something for a meeting, but often the collateral is left behind or thrown away. It’s a distraction from the conversation; it’s better to prepare for our meetings so we can focus on the client’s or prospect’s business needs. Print collateral can still serve a purpose if it has staying power — something a client or prospect can reference frequently. Collateral that adds value becomes a resource that can build brand awareness and loyalty.

Despite the technology and digital tools we use daily, print collateral is still a valuable way to communicate information and connect with audiences. We recently created a firm brochure and school-specific postcards for college recruitment efforts. We plan on attending some in-person events this year, and it’s great to have a visual takeaway to share with professors, college students and new hires. People are inundated with emails and other virtual communications, so it’s nice to offer print collateral to mix things up.

Interviews by Janet Berry-Johnson

Metrics That Matter

database and collaboration tool, as well as Excel and PowerPoint to create a dashboard to communicate results. She tracks average conversion rate, the number of leads per period, new client appointments conducted, proposals sent, win/loss results, the average value of a new client, client churn, lifetime value of client, year-over-year revenue results and one-time vs. recurring revenue engagements.

Another challenge accounting marketers face is how the client or customer journey differs between business-to-consumer (B2C) buyers and business-to-business (B2B) buyers, said Shawn Busse, CEO at Kinesis, a marketing and business strategy consulting firm based in Portland, OR.

Many of these historical practice development activities are being replaced by digital marketing and web-based activities as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of change.

The digital world has thrust accounting marketers into the world of metrics, analytics, data analysis, key performance indicators and reporting dashboards. Accounting marketers now can use cuttingedge marketing science and data analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing programs and related resource allocation, providing unprecedented value to their firms’ management teams.

What Are Marketers Measuring?

“I report on a wide variety of digital metrics including social media, website, keyword research, email and lead generation,” said Samantha Dittloff, marketing director at Chortek LLP, based in Waukesha, WI. “I meet with our managing partner on a monthly basis to report trends and results.”

To pull data together, Dittloff uses Airtable, a cloud-based relational

But Dittloff said her firm faces a challenge that affects many firms.

“Much of our practice development data resides in multiple databases, which equates to repetitive data entry and makes reporting challenging,” she said. “We are working to integrate our time and billing application with our marketing and CRM applications to create a more effective data management model.”

“The B2B path that a potential client takes is more complex and more challenging for a marketing team to track,” Busse said. “B2B marketing must connect all channels to be effective.”

When Busse and his firm work with professional services firms, they gauge clients’ success by main metrics — revenue trend, profit margin growth and customer happiness.

“The key to measuring these macro metrics is to get close to the point of purchase,” Busse said. “When working with a new client, we start by implementing a simple CRM

Focus Article 10 Growth Strategies Winter 2022
Accounting and advisory firms have been moving away from traditional marketing tactics such as sponsorships, networking and firm events for the past decade.

application. We have to be able to understand and manage the sales cycle effectively to craft a successful marketing strategy.”

Busse advises accounting marketing professionals to align their perspectives with their firm’s owners.

“Learn to read a profit and loss (P&L) statement and understand your company’s financial picture. Your marketing results must make you indispensable to your firm.”

More Than Numbers

Petrinovich Pugh & Company in San Jose, CA, is ramping up its use of measurement and reporting. Marketing Director Saralyn Winslow said the firm plans to launch a service line to offer data and analytics services to clients. The firm is starting by applying many of the methodologies to its own marketing and business development initiatives.

“Currently, we are trying to measure the effectiveness of the brand,” Winslow said. “Is our brand messaging being perceived the way that we intend it to be? Some of that is difficult to measure digitally; we have to accept some anecdotal evidence. This might be a client saying something like ‘we received your email blast’ or ‘a colleague passed this on to me.’”

Winslow also emphasized the importance of biweekly pipeline meetings.

“We talk about the length of time a prospect is in the sales pipeline, the conversion to client rates, pipeline analysis between industries, type of engagement and other dynamics,” she said. “We also track our referral sources and specific individual contacts so we can allocate more time and attention to them. We look at the number of referrals that come into our firm vs. referrals coming out by contact. We know that if we are not reciprocating, we will lose the relationship and the referrals may dry up.”

Winslow’s team, along with partners, directors and managers — those most active in practice development activities — use Microsoft Dynamics to collect and report the data in dashboards.

Which Metrics Matter

As accounting and advisory firm marketers develop more robust measurement and reporting capabilities, are firm decision-makers finding value in these new data?

“The most important metrics are those that help us understand what prospects are looking for and where new clients come from, such as Google search console performance and site search keywords,” said Paul Doty, managing partner at The Doty Group in Tacoma, WA. “We also use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to measure the client experience, which can then be translated into a financial impact. NPS reports create a language that helps professional staff identify opportunities to collaborate with marketing on activities that affect the client experience, which leads to increased efficiency.”

Doty said both quantitative and qualitative data are valuable to his decision-makers.

“Quantitative data is important to help us budget and benchmark, detect weaknesses or system failures and identify areas where our marketing mix can be strengthened,” Doty said. “When it comes to decision-making and marketing planning relative to strategic growth, we find that qualitative data carries more value in that it is generally easier to communicate across job functions and seniority levels. It contextualizes marketing efforts within the big picture of the firm and its growth goals.”

Jeremy Prickel, co-managing partner at Jones & Roth in Eugene, OR, said his firm’s marketing and practice development team has been instrumental in helping their industry niche teams increase client referrals

and improve workflow, systems and client delivery processes.

“Our marketing team is learning about the client delivery process and helping us document our methodology so that we can provide more consistent client service,” Prickel said. “I believe consistency is one of the most important factors in client retention and client referrals. We have developed some great deliverables for our clients that outline our service plan methodology, so it’s easily communicated to our clients during the marketing and practice development process.”

Measuring and reporting marketing activities is a work in progress, with new technologies providing new insights for better decision-making. As marketers develop systems and methodologies, they must continue to evaluate whether the information they are reporting is relevant and valuable to stakeholders within their firms.

Robert Adrian, practice growth advisor, Jones & Roth CPAs and Business Advisors. Contact at


Jody Padar

Benchmark Cloud Accounting was in the news recently for buying Botkeeper's accounting and advisory firm customers. What does that say about the industry?

Benchmark Cloud Accounting essentially is a private equity or venture capital-based fund going out and buying accounting firms. That’s important for people to know. It’s really disruptive. The private equity buyers want to automate as much as possible. Accounting firms are not automating fast enough, and now all this money is coming into the space and automating faster.

Why are accounting firms slow to automate and adapt to digital transformation?

I don’t think accountants are afraid of technology. I just don’t think they’re aware this new business model is coming. They’re busy doing tax returns, but they have to evolve. If they’re not thinking about being future-ready, will they be relevant in a few years?

Are other private equity or venture capital funds buying accounting firms?

Benchmark is not the only company doing this. Other private equity firms are going out and buying clients, because they see the opportunity for cloud-based accounting or CAS to become a very profitable business. This is very different from how traditional firms acquire and operate. Private equity firms work like companies. They have a CEO and the accountants aren’t really partners; they’re really employees and they don’t have traditional ownership. So, it’s a whole new interesting perspective of what old school firms are competing with.

What will be the next tech wrinkle?

I’m starting to see some pretty cool tech come out and it is all based on artificial intelligence. There’s a company called Trullion, and they automate lease accounting. Their bots read the lease and can tell you how it updates every year, and they have automated the solution for the new lease accounting standard. Another company, Blue J, is killing it in Canada by applying AI and machine learning to tax research. They are

entering the U.S. market now. Their software reads a set of facts and circumstances you enter and gives a probability of whether you’d win a tax case. It puts context around research through machine learning. It allows a professional to get to the answer faster.

Will AI and machine learning disrupt the accounting world, much like Uber did in the taxicab industry?

You could never read or consume all the data that accountants need to know quickly, but the computer can. The models can read it fast, organize it, pop to the top what’s important and write an algorithm on top of it that shows probability. Is it going to be perfect? No, you’re still going to have to put your professional judgment on top of it, but instead of taking two to three days to figure out, it’ll only take an hour and a half.

Will technology transform how we look at accounting and consulting?

It’s cool because it’s finally coming to our space. There’s this automation in every other area of our lives; it’s just never been in tax and accounting. We’ve always dealt with clunky tax software, and now we’re getting apps and programs that are similar to the way we live in our real life like with Uber. Yes, we need to know this technical knowledge, but for the tool itself, I don’t have to spend an extra two days learning how to use the tool before I can actually do something with it. It’s intuitive and simple enough that we can do things much quicker. The technology that’s coming is so simplified it won’t be a big problem to implement, but rather easy to use.

How will technology affect the way accounting firms grow?

That comes back to competition. If you are a brand new CPA and not part of a legacy firm that has long-established processes to change, you can buy these tools rather inexpensively, start your own firm and grow quickly. It’s new competition and firms aren’t used to planning for this kind of threat.

Interview by Brittany Olsen 12 Growth Strategies Winter 2022
Jody Padar is a member of the advisory board at Botkeeper, a technology company that offers a platform that automates bookkeeping and accounting tasks using machine learning and artificial intelligence. She is the author of From Success to Significance: The Radical CPA Guide and The Radial CPA: New Rules for the Future-Ready Firm. Padar has been named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting by Accounting Today.

As remote work becomes more commonplace, team collaboration can be a challenge with numerous conversations happening at once, spread across dozens of inboxes or lumped together in a group chat. By using workplace communication platforms and technologies, firms and businesses of all sizes can collaborate in real time to help teams stay organized and aligned. When information is shared with everyone at once, more efficient decision-making usually follows. These tools offer everything from cloud document storage for managing daily tasks to videoconferencing for online meetings, and most work just as well on mobile devices as on desktops and laptops. While Slack and Microsoft Teams are well known tools in this space, there are other high-quality options available.

Paid Option

HighSide is an option for organizational communication with advanced security features. HighSide offers end-toend encryption (E2EE), authentication and secure cloud storage. Its infrastructure can even help ensure compliance with HIPAA, GDPR and other regulations. Pricing starts at $6.67 per month/per user, with discounts available if paying annually. Its highlights include E2EE 1-to-1 and group messaging, voice and video calls, screen sharing, up to 100GB of message and attachment storage.

Another paid option is Ryver, which costs $49 per month for up to 12 users. Ryver is known for its built-in task manager, allowing users to turn messages into tasks and manage them with Kanban boards that help visualize work.

Free Option

Chanty is a collaboration tool for small and medium-sized teams that doesn’t limit its searchable message history, which is rare for a free option. Similar to Slack, Chanty enables you to communicate in public and private channels and through one-to-one conversations. Chanty also organizes all your files, links, tasks and conversations into folders using a feature called Teambook. Moreover, you may activate “conversation actions” when in conversations that allow users to pin or rename messages. Its free plan is for teams with up to 10 members and includes public and private conversations, searchable history, voice messages, up to 10 app integrations and 20GB per team file storage. Chanty also offers a paid plan, which starts at $3 per user, per month, and delivers additional features and unlimited members.

Another free option is Twist, whose model moves away from real-time conversations into “deeper, structured communication“ via its Threads feature. Instead of a group chat, users must designate a specific ”thread“ for conversations related to that topic. Its main drawback is that it offers only one month of access for messages/comments.

Geoff Jones

Productive Pipelines: Tips and Tools for Building an Effective Lead Funnel

Lead generation and management is essential for practice growth at any accounting firm, and marketing professionals play key roles as doers or facilitators to ensure leads move effectively through the firm’s internal funnel.

Marketers usually assume a little of both roles, taking personal responsibility for some tasks while collaborating with in-house business development leads who vet and nurture opportunities. Additionally, since the first contact a lead has often is through a phone or web inquiry, front-line team members also must be mobilized, a responsibility that typically falls to the marketer. In other words, marketing professionals must wear several hats. So, what else is new?

The lead management process also has evolved amid a whirlwind of new technologies which provide robust information, automation and real-time dashboard reporting. This has the potential to shift team priorities from manual data entry to managementlevel analysis. While not every firm has made the investment in such technologies yet, the digital revolution has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic so the conversation about

this next step in lead management is familiar to most accounting marketers.

Team Structure

An effective lead development system requires intentional and well-coordinated participation. Jack Kolmansberger of Reading, PA-based Herbein & Co. shies away from the term “lead funnel,” preferring to refer to a “lead pipeline.”

“A funnel implies gravity as a force that naturally draws leads to their goal,” Kolmansberger said. “Whereas a pipeline requires hands-on work to bring leads to conversion.”

A similar level of intention motivates Nicole Sterling, director of communications at Montreal-based RSA. Niche leaders at RSA develop and manage opportunities that come in through referrals and industry partnerships while Sterling manages leads coming in through website, social media and other channels including phone queries. She developed a new client information sheet for front-line staff to record prospect details when queries come in. Sterling records the details in her pipeline report to add to the list of current opportunities.


While intentional behaviors can effectively move leads through a firm’s funnel, new technologies such as CRM and data aggregators have taken on growing importance. By automating time-consuming, administrative processes otherwise driven by team members, these technologies can synthesize data from internal and external sources into organized and reliable profiles

of current and prospective clients and provide a real-time glimpse into the firm’s sales pipeline via top-level dashboards. Technologies also can help distribute responsibilities so multiple team members can contribute new or updated data, thus removing the burden of maintaining the firm’s funnel from a single person and making the busines development process truly a firm effort.

Before adopting CRM within the past three years, Heather SantiagoMacDonald at Crowe Soberman in Toronto said pipeline meetings were often spent making updates and corrections to existing lead data, and her team struggled to prioritize the strategic and forward-thinking elements of landing new opportunities. Crowe Soberman’s ultimate shift to CRM was accompanied by an investment in the data aggregator Introhive which integrates with the firm’s CRM, as well as a new finance and operations system, and a new human resources system.

“We also made a huge investment in communication and training,” SantiagoMacDonald said. “We understood CRM adoption could be challenging and we wanted to do everything we could to manage it effectively.”

Megan Hiles, chief growth officer of Corrigan Krause in Cleveland works closely with her team of 15 industry and service leaders (she calls them “business developers” because their role is more than simply technical) to ensure all leads are entered into their CRM. Corrigan Krause uses ABLE, a CRM developed by The Growth Partnership for accounting firms, to record leads

Business Development
14 Growth Strategies Winter 2022

that come into the funnel through the website and other marketing channels, as well as from her team of business developers.

“You can grow into the technology,” she said. “Our team does a good job of entering their lead data and they have gotten to the point where they recognize they are not even using all the features available to them. Once you have gotten to where you are using CRM to manage basic lead data, you begin to see the opportunities for more advanced reporting based on additional features.”

Firms that have not yet invested in CRM should not despair. As Sterling demonstrates, a well-managed Excel spreadsheet can still organize and track leads quite well. Sterling reviews the firm’s client intake forms and passes the information along to a partner or person in charge of a particular niche for them to follow up.

The data then gets entered into a large pipeline worksheet and includes information such as the lead source, contact information, primary and secondary work, potential billings, original date, whether the lead was qualified and if it will lead to a proposal.

“We’re looking at CRM but right now an Excel spreadsheet is doing the work well enough,” Sterling said. Her Excel-based system is robust enough to manage inconsistencies between actual leads and less qualified opportunities that make it into the spreadsheet.

“Occasionally, proposals generated by our marketing team do not match opportunities recorded in the firm’s pipeline report,” she said. “When that happens, we review where the communication breakdown took place and ensure the report is as up-to-date and accurate as possible.”

Communication and Reporting

Communicating a firm’s leads is another essential step in a wellmanaged sales funnel. Before a lead

advances through the funnel at Crowe Soberman, details about any new opportunity are announced via a firmwide email to ensure no conflict exists for team members or existing clients. Assuming no such conflict exists, the managing partner will assign the lead pursuit to a team member.

Leads recorded in Herbein’s pipeline report are formally reviewed once a month. The firm’s marcomm team manages three such regional pipeline meetings, Kolmansberger said attendance by partners and managers isn’t quite as important as having something to report.

“I’m not as interested in checking off a box to make sure someone is there. I’m more interested in ensuring the next step in the sales process has been taken to advance a lead to the next stage.”

Santiago-MacDonald echoes the importance of keeping an eye on leads that appear to stagnate. Crowe Soberman’s CRM provides a realtime dashboard that shows not only the owners of opportunities and a forecasted revenue value, but also which leads haven’t moved in the funnel recently.

Since CRM allows updates to be made at any time, the formality of a pipeline meeting can serve simply as a reminder to a business development team that lead pursuit is an essential part of growth.

Pipeline Meetings

Monthly pipeline meetings at Sterling’s firm occur late in the afternoon when client calls and other demands have ebbed, so her management team can more easily focus on tracking lead flow. Pipeline reporting at SantiagoMacDonald’s firm includes incoming work as recurring or non-recurring, a data point relevant for setting revenue goals in future years (i.e., new work will ultimately need to replace nonrecurring work).

During Corrigan Krause’s pipeline meetings, Hiles invests time providing

business development and sales education on topics such as effective social media marketing or strategic sales conversation — areas with which accountants may not feel skillful or comfortable.

“Sales is not always the most natural instinct for accountants and coaching support from the firm’s marketing or growth leader can facilitate the movement of leads through the sales funnel,” she said.

Kolmansberger points out another benefit of pipeline meetings — providing a glimpse into the state of the market.

“This past summer, business valuations trended upward,” he said. “The impending new tax legislation has led to several owners valuing their business for potential sales.”

With insight gained in pipeline meetings, Herbein’s marcomm team and valuation specialist worked together to develop website communications detailing the process and timeline to conduct a valuation in support of future queries.


Facilitating lead flow to improve conversion rates is a responsibility every marketer must take seriously. A firm should ensure sufficient leads are filling the funnel to attain desired growth goals and maintain a healthy practice.

Regardless of the size of your accounting firm or which technologies are in place, everything from streamlining the lead intake process to managing effective pipeline meetings, and from tracking the right metrics to sharing marketing knowledge, is crucial.

Joe Kovacs, APR, director of marketing and business development, Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell (CBM) CPAs. Contact at


How Firms With Small Marketing Departments Can Be Successful

status, upcoming events, etc. to make sure we are all on the same page and they know what the marketing team is working on.”

Heather Kunz, manager of marketing and business development at Williams Benator & Libby in Atlanta is familiar with the challenges of a small team.

other marketing efforts can feel like a Sisyphean task at some firms.

Block said the partners at his firm are willing to try new ideas, but like business leaders anywhere, it takes some convincing if the cost will be significant.

Larger firms often have the budget and staff necessary to design and implement the latest trends in marketing and business development. But what about firms with marketing departments of one? While the resources are probably quite limited, partners’ expectations likely are not scaled to the same degree.

It may seem impossible, but these marketers can achieve much of the same success as their larger counterparts with a little strategic effort.

Set Expectations

Keith Block is a marketing manager trying to juggle a lot of projects on a small team; he’s the sole fulltime marketing employee at RINA (Rooney, Ida, Nolt, Ahern), a California firm with three offices. Block said communication is key for managing expectations, given the small size of the marketing department.

“One of the things that helps me manage the partners’ expectations is our weekly marketing meeting,” he said. “We discuss priorities, lead

“As a department of one at a mid-size firm, I am often, OK always, envious of my peers at larger firms who seem to have the budget and staff to implement all the marketing and BD best practices simultaneously,” she said. “Not only are my resources limited, but so are my partners’ attention spans because they are all busy serving clients, running departments and maintaining their relationships.”

She’s not alone. Encouraging partners to try new ideas, help drive the strategy and commit the time to participate in thought leadership and

“There are some who are just not into it,” he said. “I think you lead by example and focus on the partners who want to be part of the marketing process, to show them how valuable it can be. Eventually, hopefully, they will understand what marketing can do for them.”

Doing More With Less

To get things done as a solo or small department, marketers must identify key tasks and prioritize activities so they can ensure optimal return on investment.

“I have to be patient and figure out how to do first things first without beating myself up for not being able

In just a few decades since accounting firms started marketing their services, marketing has become a key business development strategy at almost every accounting and advisory firm.
Focus Article 16 Growth Strategies Winter 2022

to keep up with what some of our larger peer firms are doing,” Kunz said. “For example, taking on rebranding, our milestone anniversary, a muchneeded website update and a CRM system implementation in one calendar year won’t work. If I try to take on too much, nothing ends up succeeding. I focus on what’s doable in a given year — in our case we tackled rebranding this year with the help of a consultant, and next year we’ll focus on the anniversary and the website. We celebrate each success as it comes.”

Even with full partner buy-in and a carefully curated task list, limited resources are the reality for small teams. Doing more with less is a skill solo marketers hone as they attempt to further their firm’s growth objectives. At RINA, Block taps multiple resources to get big results for his firm.

“I have a great person who works with me part-time, and I also have a business coach, Accountants Advisory Group, to discuss issues with and help guide me,” Block said. “I have a list of the top projects with ‘hard’ due dates to help prioritize activities.”

AAM Circles is how Tara Davis leverages her resources as the

marketing manager at Harris CPAs in Idaho. With four offices, 74 people and a marketing department composed of one marketing manager plus one part-time intern, the firm welcomes fresh marketing strategies.

“We have a very progressive partner group that is always willing to try new ideas. It doesn’t take much encouragement,” she said.

Still, as a department of one, Davis said it can be challenging to generate and implement new ideas and stay on the cutting edge of the field.

“Joining an AAM Circle connected me with other professionals and departments of one in similarly sized firms,” Davis said. “Once a month we each talk about what we are working on and get feedback, with real takeaways we can begin working on. We are all mentors to each other and have a sounding board for new ideas; it has been a great experience.”

The Upside of Small

Being the only marketer or part of a small team isn’t all bad news. A micro-department presents unique opportunities and offers certain benefits not always possible at firms with more substantial staffing.

“One of the greatest benefits is being able to offer a different perspective to the CPAs and have your voice heard,” Davis said. “It’s also a great opportunity to push yourself to grow professionally. I find myself constantly developing new skills in emerging trends so that I can save our firm money by not having to outsource.”

Block agreed becoming an integral part of the team is a prime advantage of a small marketing department, along with the ability to set his own agenda and priorities. And without the many layers present in bigger departments, he said, it’s easier to provide quick approval and turnaround on projects.

In the end, the ideal size for a marketing department is a matter of personal preference. But whether the team is large or small, marketers can create a positive impact by focusing on first priorities, drawing on a solid professional support network and continually working to expand and refine their individual skill set.

Katie Cauley, senior marketing associate, Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC. Contact at



Comemeetyourpeopleandseewhy hundredsofwinningprofessionalsare part oftheAAMcommunity.


•Anorganizationofpeoplewhodowhatyoudo— accounting marketers,businessdevelopers,partnersandconsultants.





• Conferences offercareer-specificeducationopportunitiesfound nowhereelseandarediscountedformembers.

• AAMConnect,anonlinemembers-onlycommunity, withhundreds ofindustryprofessionals.


•AAM’squarterlyjournal, GrowthStrategies,andmonthlyelectronic newsletter, TheAAMMinute, providein-deptharticlesonavariety ofmarketingandbusinessdevelopment-relatedtopics.

•Industry-related surveysandresources offerkeeninsightsand marketdatatosupportfirmgrowth.

“AAMhashelpedmeinnumerouswaysthroughoutmynearly20-yearcareer inaccountingmarketing–fromthebeginning,whenIwastheDirectorof Marketingforasmalllocal firm,totodayinmyBusinessDevelopmentroleat aTopTenNational firm.I’vebenefitedfromvisibilityAAMoffersmewith firms ofallsizesthroughoutthecountry,accesstothecollectiveknowledgeofits membersthroughdiscussionlists,webinarsandconferencesessions,aswell asconnectionstoleadershipwithindustryassociationssuchastheAICPA, whichareinstrumentaltotheaccountingprofession.”

CompiledbyHeatherKunz Differencebetween pre-pandemicandcurrent contentmarketingstrategy Technologyadoptionamongsmalland medium-sizedaccountingfirms 33% PercentageofB2Bdecisionmakers whousedLinkedIntoresearcha purchase. Source: Hootsuite Videowillaccount for 82% ofallonlinetrafficin2022. Inaddition, 84% ofusers saytheyaremorelikely toinvestinaserviceafter watchingavideo. Source: Cisco Source: LinkedIn Source: Sage2020 Source: WorldEconomicForum By2022, 62% ofanorganization’s informationanddataprocessing (whichiswhatmanyaccountingfirms currentlydo)willbehandledby machines,comparedto 46% in2018. Small-sizedfirmsthatare earlyadoptersof technology 33% Small-sizedfirmsthatwill investintechnologyto keepupwiththemarket Medium-sizedfirmsthat willinvestintechnologyto keepupwiththemarket Medium-sizedfirmsthat areearlyadoptersof technology 44% 76% 85% Extremelydifferent 4% 3% 6% 15% 36% 22% 14% Verydifferent Moderatelydifferent Slightlydifferent Notdifferentatall Unsure Wedidn'thavea contentmarketing strategyoneyear ago by the Numbers 19

Consultants’ Corner

Existing Clients: Upsell advisory or consulting services to existing clients or introduce industry, service or other niche specialty offerings. These will create stickiness with your clients.

Strategic Relationships: Word-ofmouth and referrals will always be stronger lead sources than cold calls. Associations and complementary service providers are huge referral sources for new business.

Social Media: I have been pontificating on the power of LinkedIn as a lead-gen tool since 2007. You can identify new prospects, build relationships and start conversations all through the power of social media. These are simple but effective lead generation best practices your firm should be adopting. If you are not doing it, your competitors are!

effective lead generation practices?

Client retention — and asking clients for leads — has always been an excellent way to grow your firm’s client base and it became even more important with the onset of COVID. This is an opportunity to focus on your clients and the ways you can help them overcome their current business challenges.

There are many ways to network these days, including face-to-face and virtually. Rate your referral sources to be sure you are spending your networking time with the best people. Pick the best networking strategy for you: organizations, firm mixers, small group meals, one-to-one. The goal is to get in front of your referral sources, build your network and ask for leads.

Demonstrate your firm’s thought leadership — white papers, ebooks, or webinars — via gated content. Those who complete the form are added to your prospect database and can be nurtured with marketing automation.

The number one, two and three top lead generation practices are spending time with your top clients, spending time with your top clients and spending time with your top clients.

Client development time has a huge ROI, yet so many firms don’t do nearly enough of it. In fact, 60% to 70% of your total pipeline revenue opportunities should be additional work for existing clients (account growth), cross-selling new services and referrals from thrilled clients.

Bottom line, if you are not out there measuring the pulse of your top clients, somebody else is.

Kuesel Consulting

What are the top 3 most
20 Growth Strategies Winter 2022
Interviews by Jacqueline Harnevious
BeccaJohns,Directorof PracticeGrowth,Rea& Associates,Inc. AAMmembers: •Downloadthe executivesummary FREE! •Purchasethe completereport offeringbudgetbreakdownandspendingdataby firmsize andmarketsize,forjust$300($600fornon-members). UseThisValuable ResourcetoHelp PrepareYour MarketingBudget Thepandemicusheredinaneraofinnovation creatingamajorimpactonmarketingbudgets. Learnwherehigh-growth firmsspenttheir moneyandwillcontinuetospendtheirmoney. Gettheanswersyouneedandmuchmoreas youprepareyourbudget,inthenewlyreleased 2021-2022AAMMarketingBudget BenchmarkStudy conductedbythe AssociationforAccountingMarketing(AAM) andtheHingeResearchInstitute. •Whatwerethetop5mostsuccessful COVID-19marketingstrategies? •Howhavemarketingbudgetschanged duringthepandemic?
“The findingsrevealthecentral rolemarketingteamsplayedin helpingtheir firmsadjustto newclientneedsand priorities,launchnewservice lines,andkeeptheir firmson buyers’mindsinthedigital marketplace.Thisyear’sresults provethat firmscanreinvent themselvesandbebetter preparedforwhatevercomes nextwiththerightmarketing investments.”
sameastheiraveragegrowthpeers,what aretheyspendingtheirmarketingdollars ontoachievehigherratesofgrowth? •Doestheratioofmarketingstaff to employeesinhigh-growth firmsdiffer fromtheratioinaverage-growth firms? •Whatnon-traditionalservicesarehighgrowth

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