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The State of Accounting Marketing: 2015 AAM Summit Wrap-Up

Here at Hinge, it’s become something of a tradition to take the annual Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) conference as an opportunity to reflect on where accounting marketing stands today – and where it might go in the future.

This year’s conference was particularly eventful for us, as it saw the release of our second accounting marketing budget benchmark study with AAM. And with this data fresh in hand, now is a particularly good time to pause and take stock.

As we near the mid-point of the year, here are our five top observations on accounting marketing in 2015.

1. Content marketing is rapidly becoming the approach of choice.

At this year’s AAM Summit, I presented our benchmarking research to a roomful of marketers and partners from accounting firms around the country. As a small experiment, I asked for a show of hands – how many firms were using educational content in their marketing efforts?

About 80% of the audience raised their hands, a percentage that would have been unheard of only a few years ago. As accounting marketers, we used to talk about how the age of content marketing was nearly upon. Well, now it’s here.

Today, the industry conversation has grown more sophisticated. We’re discussing how to actually implement content marketing programs effectively, encouraging involvement from subject matter experts and achieving measurable results. The question is no longer whether or not you should engage in content marketing, but how robust your content marketing program needs to be to help you keep up.

2. Online marketing is more important than ever before – and firms know it.

If you browse around firms’ websites lately, or talk to marketers in the industry, it seems like everyone is revamping their websites. Free Marketing Budget Benchmark Study: Executive Summary

The evidence isn’t just anecdotal – our 2015 marketing priorities study showed that website updates were one of firms’ top marketing efforts for the year, and the 2015 budgeting data from our study with AAM bore that conclusion out.

Why so much focus on websites? The industry as a whole has come to understand that a firm’s website is a major source of new business – and the number one way that buyers gather more information about potential service providers. An outdated or underpowered website can cost you both credibility and business, and as a result traditional marketing approaches must be balanced and coordinated with a robust online strategy.

The good news is that this work pays off. Our research shows that high-growth tends to be associated with higher spending on websites and SEO.

3. The mobile revolution has arrived.

There’s another reason for website revamps that deserves its own topic – updates for mobile-friendliness.

A mobile-friendly website was already important prior to 2015. After all, more and more folks use mobile devices as their primary method of browsing the web, and as a result, more site traffic is coming from mobile sources. Firms want to ensure that these mobile visitors have a positive, intuitive experience on their sites rather than squinting at tiny text and pecking around for the information they need.

Now, in the wake of Google’s latest algorithm update, mobile-friendliness is absolutely essential. Since Google now considers your site’s mobile bona fides when ranking your site in search results, falling behind the times could mean quickly falling behind the competition in visibility.

If you haven’t already used Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check whether your site needs an update, I’d recommend doing so immediately.

4. A generational sea change is underway.

There are no two ways about it – a demographic wave is rocking firm cultures around the country. As baby boomers retire, new leaders are rising and millennials are reshaping the workforce, all of which requires adaptation and shifts in perspective.

It’s clear that folks throughout the industry are doing a great deal of thinking and talking about this issue. There was a lot of discussion at the conference at AAM – both formal presentations and informal conversations – about the impact of millennials.

Common topics included the challenges firms have with retention and millennials’ ease with (and preference for) leading-edge technology. As millennials become a larger part of the workforce, it will become increasingly essential for firms to understand how to market to them, and how marketing departments should be staffed. This generation approaches the workforce differently, and firms will have to approach them differently as well.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Marketing Initiatives for Accounting & Financial Services Firms 

5. There will be winners and losers.

It’s a simple truth of business, but it bears a moment of reflection here. Some folks will win, and others will lose out. But the winners won’t necessarily be the firms that are simply larger.

In fact, the data tells an encouraging story. The smaller, leaner firms that have embraced new online marketing approaches are growing faster and gaining on many larger firms that have not, as evidenced by our 2015 benchmarking study. These high-growth firms are growing at a rate of 24.15% annually, while their low-growth competitors are actually contracting.

It’s a perfect illustration of a straightforward truth – times are changing. Talent is changing. Buyers are changing. Technology is changing. And accounting marketing must change as well. This is a moment of opportunity, and the firms that seize it stand to win big.

Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Ready to update your website, develop a content marketing program, or take other steps to move your marketing forward? We don’t just research. We help you make it a reality. We can provide an in-house budgeting workshop, help you develop that website, or implement the marketing strategies you need. Contact us here.

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Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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