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Positive strides ahead for accounting

A year ago as the pandemic took hold, the world was thrown into the unknown. This disruption was felt most keenly in the workplace. 

The end of the pandemic is in sight, but the effect of those workplace disruptions will continue to echo for a long time. Introhive hosted a roundtable with marketing leaders from LMBC, Plante Moran, and Kaufman Rossin to discuss how accounting firms need to navigate such a disruptive time. 

An esteemed accounting panel

Twelve months down the line, as the world begins to re-open, we were delighted to have these distinguished guests re-join us for another panel discussion. This time around, no longer in the midst of the unknown, but looking to more positive times ahead for accounting. 

Our very own Tim Keith, Accounting Industry Director here at Introhive moderated the event, with the panel featuring: 

  • Suzanne Read, CMO at LBMC
  • Janet Altman, Chief Principal at Kaufman Rossin 
  • Marten Van Pelt, CMO at Plane Moran

The discussion highlighted several key areas, including what are the key marketing strategies being taken forward, what new services and business lines have developed as a result of the last 12 months, and what the firm of the future looks like to the panel. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there for it, fear not: you can still enjoy a recording.

Creativity comes out of necessity

As Tim stated at the opening, ‘‘creativity comes out of necessity’’, and the first question posed to the panel was “what did they see continuing as things open up and what do they see going away?”

There were so many things that happened in the pandemic that no one expected. Janet went on to explain how Kaufman Rossin was very much a social company, which all ended when the pandemic hit. This led to the firm doing much more thought leadership webinars with Kaufman Rossin focusing on a much more targeted approach. 

‘‘Inviting the right people, presenting the right content, doing the right kind of follow up and having the right people flow into our other programs,’’ was key. This concept has led the firm to continue with this approach as part of their content marketing strategy going forwards, whilst still mixing in those fun social events at the same time. 

Agreeing with Janet, Suzanne highlighted that LMBC also very much relied on those face-to-face opportunities such as breakfast, lunches, and business development events. When everyone went home, there was a certain amount of apprehensiveness on even picking up the phone. 

LBMC needed to figure out ways to get their experts out there so they were still visible, a challenge when many were not comfortable presenting on webinars. To help with this challenge they targeted particular industries, allowing their experts to feel more comfortable presenting on something that was directly in their wheelhouse. 

The firm now focuses on much more mid to bottom-funnel rather than top of funnel. Key lessons learned as Suzanne explained were, “to have more targeting with that industry expertise. It also gave us great examples to show our experts you can do this, it’s pretty successful and it’s actually a little easier. We now have several that are really good at it and have shown an agreement in doing those kinds of things so we can leverage our content as we move forwards.”

Positive times ahead for accounting

Big changes in marketing strategy were felt across all industries. As mentioned earlier by Suzanne, face-to-face events were now having to evolve in the virtual world with webinars. But what marketing strategies should firms take forwards based on the last 18 months? 

By the nature of the working environment we found ourselves in, marketing strategies now have a huge focus on digital marketing. However, something LBMC got back to was the foundational basics. If you know your targets, you know your audiences, and you have the experts, then you can put those three things together. There are so many great ways to do so, with webinars, events, content strategy, and event direct mail, Suzanne explained. “It’s not always a one and done and not always one option, it depends on your audience and what you are trying to achieve.” The key thing when it comes to marketing strategies is ‘‘there is no one answer.”

Martech has understandably been thrust to the forefront for many accounting firms over the last 18 months. Marten highlighted the need for having a clear Martech strategy in his answer. Building a roadmap of what your firm’s marketing tech stack is going to look like over the next 3 to 5 years is vital. Taking CRM, for example, Marten said, ‘‘if firms didn’t think that their CRM is a critical foundation to what they do I hope they learned from this that it is.” 

But it doesn’t stop at CRM. There is the need for really good data and analytics tools and not just try to hobble things together. Marten went on to explain how Plante Moran spent a lot of time over the last 9 months, “ensuring not just that we knew what we wanted to do but as a firm there was an investment commitment and strategic commitment to this road map.”

Knowledge is power

Many lessons have undoubtedly been learned but how can you then utilize this knowledge? What can you establish as an infrastructure to take to the next level going forwards? 

Technology came into play again here as Janet commented, “technology lessons that we learned are a good foundation for what we need to do in the future.” Kaufman Rossin learned a lot on their own database, being able to drill down, learning about different response rates, click-through rates in different industries on different types of content. 

They were able to get deep down into it in a very positive way. ‘‘All the things we have learned along the way, looking into the data, into the technology are really going to help us going forwards. So I think that’s a roll-over lesson.’’

Suzanne highlighted how all major activity is now being questioned through a different lens at LBMC as they have a much more creative lens that they didn’t have 18 months ago. 

Marten concluded by adding people to the mix. There were a lot more star players on the team than we realized. By having the opportunity to develop themselves in this new virtual world, individuals began to shine in different ways. Not only internally with the marketing team, but also in the wider team as there was a much larger number of thought leaders who loved getting engaged and providing really great content.

The firm of the future

Tim then switched gears to the idea of those forward-thinking firms, The Firm of the Future. In accounting, this is heard now more than ever before—no longer preparing for the firm in the future, but experiencing that firm of the future right now. So what does that firm look like to the panel? 

Marten kicked off, how for him and Plante Moran it was around what client-centricity really means, ‘‘how do I get to know the entire scale of a client’s business, all their business issues and recognize and look at how we can help them across the board?” 

Using the client insights to actually have a proactive approach is key. For accounting firms, it’s ‘‘shifting the mindset from ‘it’s a client’ to ‘it’s a whole series of potential customers there.’ If we do the right engagement with them, understand their business issues and their engagement with us, we have far greater opportunities there.’’ 

The Firms of the Future, both due to pandemic reasons and the way the world is moving now, are going to be very different. Janet went on to explain there were 2 key parts to this: 

  1. Firms have to be more diverse and more inclusive. Millennials are the most diverse generation we have ever had. As people leave school they are looking for firms where they are comfortable, they feel they belong, and where they feel everyone is treated fairly. This will change how firms in the future hire, how the culture works, and some change to the idea of remote working.
  2. The idea of remote working will be seen as an advantage by The Firm of the Future. Working from anywhere with flexibility is an advantage to firms that want to hire the best talent. 

‘‘The Firm of the Future has to think about hiring, serving clients, and taking care of its people as a bigger landscape and a bigger canvas to work with, which I think is really exciting.’’

Suzanne rounded off with seeing the future firms as advisors. Tying in from what Marten had said around seeing clients as a whole, having partnerships with clients, understanding all a client’s needs, ‘‘not just tax, audit, risk… we want to understand what is your culture? Where are you going? What are the true business challenges that you have that we maybe have never touched before? And how can we be an advisor in that role? Very much partnership versus transactional…and all of this works off great talent.”

Show me the money

Tim went on to discuss revenue with the panel, something all firms are driven by. What service and business lines were developed during this time that they saw as great potential for 2021 and beyond, and what industries they saw had the greatest potential. 

Rounding off the webinar, we heard advice from the panel. The advice they would give to themselves and peers from a business perspective and also on a personal level, what are they most looking forward to? 

Travel! This was the resounding response across the panel, something felt by many of us and missed during the last 18 months. 

Watch the webinar in full to hear more insights and discussion from this incredible panel to learn what excites them with this newfound hybrid approach, and what firms not only should but also just as importantly shouldn’t be doing in 2021 to achieve those positive strides ahead for accounting!

By Richard Lewis, Account Executive 

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