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Creating a Simple yet Effective Accounting Marketing Plan for 2014 – Part 2

Last week in Part 1 of this blog I praised the value of planned vs. unplanned marketing.   Stated directly, it will generate more revenue more quickly for your bottom line.   I laid out four basic steps to create a marketing plan for your practice or firm, beginning with Assessing Reality.

To assess reality I talked about the value of a SWOT analysis and gave some examples to illustrate how you can do one to capture the essence of your situation and circumstances.

After that you have to determine where to focus your business development efforts so that you have definable targets and goals.  With those in mind the next step is to gather more information and I pointed out that this phase is most often the differentator between success and failure.  When that’s accomplished you are ready to actually create your plan.

At the end of this post I present a simple and practical marketing plan template.  The following paragraphs address the elements contained in the template.

A Mission or Statement of Purpose is meant to be an overall statement of what you are ultimately trying to do with your practice.  For example, “[Firm name] will become the premier provider of accounting services to non-profit organizations in the St. Louis area.”  Many firms use their Mission statement internally as a means to continually remind all employees of the big picture … what the firm is about and what it is trying to accomplish in the long run.

The SWOT analysis has been discussed in Part 1 and laid out in more detail in the Template.  I think I’ve provided enough for you to fill it in properly.  If not, give me a call or email and we can noodle it around a bit.

The Strategic Objectives and Goals, at the most basic level, relate back to the Mission Statement.  In our example above, what might be your strategic goals to become the premier non-profit accounting firm in the St. Louis area?  What would you have to accomplish in the next 3 or 4 years to feel you were well on your way to achieve that distinction?  Would it be a revenue number?  The number of non-profit clients?  A percentage of market share, e.g. 20% of the non-profit organizations listed in the Chamber of Commerce membership directory?

Then you ask what short term goals must occur to achieve that 20% figure.  Would it be adding 6 new “A” or “B” non-profit clients in a year?  Should it be more?  Or less?  And then, breaking it down even further, what are the Tactical goals?  What do you have to do every week or month to ensure the short and long term goals are met?  Who has to do what?  Might it be that you and both of your partners commit to taking at least one prospective non-profit manager/executive to lunch each month?  Now, that’s an action step, not really a goal, but the goal would be that between the three of you at least one of these prospects will become a client.

Other action steps might be that each of you will attend at least one non-profit function or meeting each month, or that the firm will generate at least two blog postings related to non-profit issues each month.  Another objective might be that at least once every two months the firm will either make a presentation to a non-profit group or have an article published in a non-profit publication or newsletter.

I think you get the idea.  Look at what you are trying to accomplish through three windows: long term (2 – 4 or 5 years), short term (1 year), and monthly.  What is accomplished monthly rolls up into annual goals which in turn become a stepping stone to the long term goals.  Express the goals in hard numbers, have someone specifically responsible to accomplish the goal and define a specific due date.  Ultimately, individuals must have goals so accountability is maintained, even if it is only you looking at you in the mirror.

Financial goals are, of course, the ultimate finish line you want to cross.  Your marketing efforts are all about accomplishing these goals.  Once again, you break them down into long term strategic, short term tactical and bite-size monthly goals.

An effective and practical marketing plan for your practice does not have to be an intimidating, lengthy document.  Most of my clients wind up with a lean, to-the-point 2 – 3 page plan.  The key is to hold yourself accountable for the goals you set.  It is good to stretch yourself with goals, but I recommend they never be excessive because a great deal of experience has taught me that they won’t be achieved, even if there has been an honest effort to attain them.  Failure to achieve goals is a powerful disincentive to continue acting on the plan.

So, don’t load yourself in the boat by excessive zeal when setting goals.  Slow and steady will get it done.  Remember, you are in a compounding game.  By that I mean that assuming average client retention every client you add will be there next year in addition to any new clients added, so growth will accelerate if you consistently add, say, a new premium client every 2 or 3 months.

The following template has been used by dozens of clients to good effect.  It can be simplified even further if you are a solo practitioner or expanded if you have a 30 person firm.

If you have another marketing plan template you feel is especially good I would really like to see it.  Things can always be improved.  If you have any questions about how to use this template you are welcome to contact me.

Good luck and have a great Thanksgiving!

Accounting Firm/Practice Marketing Plan Template

–    defines the firm in terms of fundamental purpose and values – reasons for its existence
–    creates foundation for building the business plan

SWOT ANALYSIS –    critical assessment of internal and external factors affecting the firm

Strengths & Weaknesses
Internal Factors To Assess
–    vital financial results
–    product & services, customer satisfaction, quality, etc.
–    staffing – capacities & capabilities
–    systems – effectiveness & present/future capacity
–    management – strength & commitment
External Factors To Assess
–    competitive field – growth, trends
–    competition – positioning, strategic trends
–    client base – demographics, needs, trends
–    regional, national economic conditions

Opportunities & Threats
–    identify & prioritize opportunity areas to obtain more “A” level clients
–    clearly define prospective desirable client criteria
–    identify & prioritize both internal and external threats to success
–    clearly define the highest priority threat(s)

–    select primary strategies to address opportunities & threats and  determine quantifiable measurements that define success
–    key short term operating goals (1 year)
–    key longer term goals (2 – 3)  year horizon)
–    identify and prioritize obstacles you must overcome to reach your goals
–    rationale – ensure the chosen objectives and goals relate to the Mission

–    specific tactical plans with accountabilities and milestones to support strategic objectives and goals
[generally, these are abbreviated, but must include what, who, when]

–    create goals/scorecard with goal projections that cover the long and short term plan periods
–    typically, the most vital goals for accounting firms include revenue, margin, new client revenue, retention, revenue by partner or staff employee, similar breakdowns by practice areas, etc.
–    short term operating goals (1 year)
–    longer term goals (3 – 5 year horizon)

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