08 May May ’20
Building a larger-scale communications strategy represents our new normal
It’s become a tradition in the accounting profession to put off change as long as possible. But I think we can all agree that this tactic is no longer an option. In just a matter of days, we were hit fast and we were hit hard with change—forcing firm owners to implement massive operational changes on the fly.
I know that our members were a big step ahead of many others in the profession in terms of technology and communications—able to adapt quickly and keep staff working and clients calm. I also know that we all felt the tremendous weight of staying on top of COVID-19 relief efforts and creating and delivering the content required to keep our clients informed and assured.
If the current health and economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that communications (both planned and on-demand) is at the heart of a strong operation. Just keeping up with the changing economic relief initiatives proved a full-time job. Pile on developing clear and timely content to efficiently communicate, educate and advise clients, and it proved a nearly impossible task for many in the profession.
With all of this in mind, 2020 is the year to think bigger—specifically in the area of communications. The goal should be to continue a strong communications strategy throughout the year…not just during a crisis. This means that you need to be equipped with relevant, timely and educational content that you can push out via a dynamic website platform. Consistent, frequent communications help power a successful and modern firm.
The products to support your communications strategy
We understand what firms need to be successful, and we’ve been working hard to deliver products that support you. That said, I have some exciting updates to share, including our 2020 website and content products.
Websites: Supporting a new look and now offered at subscription pricing
Not only is our 2020 website product beautifully modern in look and feel, but this year we are also moving to a subscription model. This makes it even easier to manage and keep your site updated. It’s a true set-it-and-forget-it model because design and functionality updates are automatic. Your website will always be current!
Content Package: Bi-monthly content to support a modern communications strategy
I know that I introduced our new Content Package to you last month, but in case you missed it, here it is again. This product offers a bi-monthly content “kit” of timely, relevant and education-based collateral that is automatically pushed out to your website (only available with the subscription website model). The package includes an eBook, concise business-related articles (what we’ve termed QuickReads), and the client magazine. Posting new content every other month serves to keep your site fresh and support a consistent communications strategy—one where you are offering clients and prospects engaging, professional content that will keep them coming back to your site.
Combined, these products support a sound communications strategy that requires little to no effort on the firm’s part. Because our website product serves as an advanced platform, integrated with a CMS (Content Management System), content can be seamlessly pumped out to your site on a scheduled basis. And all of this means that you can put a larger-scale communications strategy in place with minimal effort.
Our new normal demands that we level up in the area of communications. It’s what our clients (and our prospects) need and expect from us…and what we must do to stay closely connected to them. Our 2020 website subscription and content products fulfill this need for member firms. We know this is the year to think bigger…and we did!
At this time of year, we are usually taking moments to breathe and relax, set goals, and plan for the rest of the year ahead. Usually at this time, life slows down a bit and we look through a clear lens. But this year, as we all know, is different. We are navigating an extended tax deadline, working remotely and trying to figure out what happens next.
We are all looking for the moment when the fog clears from our lens and we are driven to move forward intentionally. Why not make that moment right now? Use this month as an ideal time to evaluate the current state of your firm, prepare for changes, set goals, and plan for the second half of the year.
The tips below will guide you toward more clarity in your firm’s needs and help you drive success in 2020.
Start by creating a plan using the four steps to planning: celebrate, identify, evaluate, plan. Using worksheets as an outline is a great way to get a clear vision. Ensure your planning meetings involve all staff members by setting a meeting date that works for everyone.
- Celebrate what has happened so far and recognize the reason for the successes. Did you finish all of the 1099s or the majority of your 1040s, before the deadline? Who do you want to recognize for those accomplishments? Acknowledging the good things will kick-off goal setting on a positive note.
- Identify what needs to happen based on your current status. Do you now have clients with loan tracking needs? Are there 1040s that need to be collected? Set intermediate goals, then work backwards. It is easier to work in smaller chunks than run a marathon to the very end.
- Evaluate and analyze the identified issues by answering these questions:
- What is the issue, and what do you want to accomplish based on that problem?
- What is the most desirable outcome? Who has the capacity to help?
- What are the specific criteria for successful completion, and what has to happen for the project to be successful? Set a due date to ensure you are staying the course. But be flexible! You will inevitably need to adjust your goal dates and account for the changes we are experiencing.
- Plan, organize and prioritize the projects you’ve identified. Tackle the first planning cycle by listing the most pressing projects. Then, delegate action items to staff members, and schedule check-ins to be sure everyone is on track.
A successful plan involves the entire firm adjusting to inevitable changes. Be realistic and flexible. Remember to celebrate successes and meet regularly to stay the course.
Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas! Now is the time to continue moving forward with a fresh, clearer lens.
A group of security researchers at Group-iB have discovered a very sophisticated phishing campaign that targeted more than 150 high-profile executives at companies in the United States and Europe since 2019. These highly targeted attacks, which they have named PerSwaysion, have been incredibly effective at getting these executives to take the bait. In many cases, it has caused an escalating security breach within their organizations.
More than 50% of the victims worked in the financial services industry, demonstrating that the top-level leaders in the industry are some of the most susceptible to these types of targeted attacks.
Therefore, it is important for all firm owners to understand that they are the most likely individual to be targeted in their organization…and also have proven to be the most vulnerable.
Active awareness and training cannot be understated, particularly in the working environment in which we are currently operating. Always remember these key points when working through your email inbox:
- Don’t trust any email.
- Verify the authenticity of any request.
- Go directly to a web application to update security settings—never click on a link in an email.
- When in doubt, delete.
This month, we switch gears and take your questions about any and all things marketing
Q: How much money should my firm budget for marketing?
A: This is a tricky question. Partly because no two firms are alike, and partly because there’s more than one way to approach the budgeting puzzle.
One quick (and rather crude) method for ballparking your marketing budget is to set it as a percentage of gross revenue. That percentage will vary by firm according to the type of clientele and markets served. Broadly speaking, marketers in the professional services category see diminishing returns on marketing dollars at and above 12 percent of gross revenue. In other words, if you have $1 million in top line revenue, you wouldn’t want your total marketing budget to exceed $120,000.
Sound like a heart-stopper? For sure. Keep in mind that this rule of thumb represents both the upper end of the budgeting scale and a cross-section of the whole professional services category (not just accounting firms). A good approach for an accounting firm using this method is to pick a modest starting point (say 2 to 5 percent of gross revenue) and incrementally increase that percentage each year until you begin to see diminishing returns.
A more sophisticated alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach above would be to design your marketing budget around your specific goals. This type of “jobs to be done” approach is used by savvier marketers. (And it’s one that’s better-advised in the current economic climate we’re operating in today.)
Start by listing all the firm’s marketing goals and then reverse engineer a budget for each, based on what you decide to be an acceptable R.O.I., which you can determine either by analyzing your historical data or by consensus if you don’t have data to point the way.
For example, if one of your goals is to generate an additional $100,000 in recurring revenue this year through payroll, and your acceptable R.O.I. is 1,000% (10 dollars earned for each spent), then your budget for this goal would be $10,000. Your total budget, then, is the sum of your budgets for all the individual goals in your plan.
Whatever budgeting method you choose, keep in mind that there’s also a qualitative aspect to it. In other words, you could squander a well-conceived budget by making unwise choices when it comes to how you spend the money. That’s a whole other line of Q&A for another issue of ThoughtLeader.
Ask me anything! Have a marketing question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll select a question to tackle in each of our upcoming editions.
Onvio Lesson and Webinar Series
Thomson Reuters Onvio is a web-based online platform that includes document management, time and billing, project management, and client document delivery tools. Additional functionality is in development, including the tax preparation software (which Rootworks is following). Rootworks expects a significant number of firms to begin making the transition to Onvio in 2020.
Therefore, we have created an Onvio lesson and complementary webinar series.
- The Onvio Implementation: Conversion, Setup and Use Lesson is available in Rootworks.com here: https://rootworks.com/online-learning/17586cf4-0755-4f53-a12f-5053c9043924. The lesson is comprised of 19 modules, from considerations around implementing the platform, to setup and use.
- Complementing the lesson, we are hosting a series of Onvio training webinars. We are doing 10 webinars from May 13 through June 19.
- We are including built-in Q&A time in each session to do our best to answer as many questions from firms as we can.
- Each webinar will be recorded and placed into the appropriate module in the Onvio lesson as we go.
- We will offer more Onvio guidance as we proceed through the year, so if you are not ready yet, that is okay.
- Please note that we are not offering CPE for the Onvio Series webinars. We are keeping our focus on the system and Q&A. We will continue to offer CPE for the great majority of our webinar schedule, so there will still be plenty of opportunities for those who need CPE.
- May 12 – Vendor Hosted: E-Sign form 8879 & Electronic K-1 Distribution. Shannon Jencks of cPaperless will review how K-1s have historically been distributed and the related issues with those methods, cover the IRS requirements for electronic K-1 distribution, and provide a brief demonstration of SafeSend Returns, the only solution offering automated electronic K-1 distribution.
- May 13 – Onvio Series: Considerations for Implementing Onvio. A twist on our “Status of Onvio” class! In this staff training, we will cover the status of Onvio, planning an implementation timeline, recommended conversion options, and review possible clean-up procedures within your existing applications. The first 30 minutes of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
- May 14 – Spring Rootworks.com Update Webinar. We will explain updates and enhancements to Rootworks.com, including new capabilities in ClientView.
- May 19 – Onvio Series: Setup – Global Settings, Clients & Contacts. There are global settings required, regardless of which applications your firm will be using in Onvio. We will cover setting up staff and defining permission groups, and talk through folder structure, notification and site settings. These settings will set the foundation for your firm’s use of Onvio. The first hour of this staff training will be instruction, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A and practice.
- May 20 – Spring Technology Update Webinar. Rootworks will educate participants on new software and improvements to existing software. Participants will learn how these technologies and processes can support their business model, improve relationships with clients and elevate their service levels.
- May 21 – Member Led: Using the DISC Assessment in Your Firm. DISC stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. DISC is a personality and behavioral assessment tool. In this member-led webinar, Joe Montgomery, III, CPA, CPBC of Montgomery & Company CPAs in Greenville, S.C., will discuss his experience with DISC. Joe will discuss using the DISC profile inside his own firm as well as how to use DISC to help consult with clients when it comes to hiring and staffing.
- May 22 – Onvio Series: Setup – Time Entry. This webinar will review how to configure your firm’s Time Entry settings in Onvio. If you are licensed to use Onvio Time Entry, join us for 30 minutes of instruction followed by a 30-minute Q&A and practice session. We will cover the setup steps for Activities, Services, Staff Levels and Rate Descriptions.
- May 26 – Onvio Series: Setup – Billing & A/R. If your firm is licensed to use Billing & A/R within Onvio, join us for a 30-minute instruction followed by a 30-minute Q&A session to configure the necessary settings to use Onvio for billing and A/R purposes.
- May 29 – Onvio Series: Setup – Projects. If your firm is preparing to implement Onvio for Project or Task Management, this session is for you. During the 30 minutes of instruction, followed by a 30-minute Q&A session, we will cover the Rootworks best practices for setting up Projects and Tasks, as well as other items that are part of these applications.
Register in Rootworks.com under Membership > Events > Webinars.