Marketing Focus: Potent KPIs in Marketing for Accountants

By Posted in - The Public Blog on January 24th, 2014 8 Comments In our previous post, we looked at a few Pointless KPIs that accounting firms tend to fixate on. We label them as ‘pointless’ to emphasise that they do not drive firm growth. In our view, they are practice management ‘admistrivia’. Lots of paper (or pixels!) being shuffled, without much value being added to your clients or to your own business. So rather than shuffle paper or pixels, let’s look at which measures are actually the drivers of growth in your firm when it comes to marketing for accountants. Potent Marketing KPIs For Accountants Following is a list of Potent KPIs that are directly related to the growth of your accounting firm. Depending on your firm’s context, different KPIs will be a higher priority this year, this quarter and this month, than other KPIs. And priorities will shift over time. You want them to shift, as you address and conquer different opportunities in your firm. For example, when we start working with firms often lead generation (number of enquiries) is a high growth priority and needs to be the initial focus. Once that leverage point is addressed and an online marketing machine has been built for lead generation, then the business evolves to a higher quality problem such as conversion rate of enquiries and other sales process KPIs. Which of the following Potent KPIs does your management system report on? Which Potent KPIs are your focus for this year, this quarter, this month?  
  1. Number of Clients Groups: It never ceases to amaze me that many firms do not know this number. Their tax, accounting and practice ‘management’ software can tell them how many entities (companies, trusts, etc.) they have as clients, but not the number Client Groups. Entities don’t buy services. Client Groups—families and the decision-making units within them—do. How many Client Groups do you have now? How many will you have a year from now? What are your weekly, monthly and quarterly targets for getting there? 
  2. Average Annual Fee Per Client Group Per Annum: Once you know how many Client Groups you have, you can calculate this KPI. What is your Average Annual Fee Per Client Group Per Annum? Are you happy with it? What should it be? What could it be? For your Average Annual Client Fee to be, say, double what it is today, how will you achieve that? Are you under-pricing your services? Are you providing as many services as you could and should to your clients? That question leads to… 
  3. Clientshare™: This is a term we coined. It means Number of Services Provided Per Client Group Per Annum. We got tired of hearing non-specific motherhood statement advice to the accounting profession about “being proactive”. After all, what does that actually mean? What does that look like? How do you measure it? That’s why we coined the term, to focus firms on the clearest single indicator of how proactive they are. If your firm is only providing the bog standard basic tax and compliance services and advice to clients, you have low Clientshare. If your firm also consistently provides services such as cash flow budgeting, KPI Dashboard and management accountability services, Virtual CFO services, Estate Planning, Financial Planning, Insurances and/or other services, you have higher Clientshare. Are we saying all firms should provide financial planning? No. What we are saying, is that whether you are an accounting firm, bookkeeping business, financial planning, or any type of business advisory firm, there are always additiona l services that you are already capable of providing, that you currently do with only a small percentage of your clients. This is probably because these are optional services that require the firm to sell them. 
  4. Percentage of Clients Paying Via Monthly Direct Debits: Manually creating, printing/PDFing and sending invoices is a low-value-zone. Why spend time doing that when many of your clients would be happy to spread their fee across the year and have it paid automatically each month? We have many clients with 90% to 100% of their clients on automated monthly payments. The technology is there. Use it. 
  5. Website traffic (unique visitors): How many people visited your website last month? Do you know? And from which traffic sources? How are they finding your site? What terms are they searching on? You need to know these things in modern marketing, so you can then capitalise on them and build more traffic. (Our SEO Analysis monthly service tells you these things.) 
  6. Bounce Rate: What percentage of your website visitors are viewing only one page and then leaving? Tracking this helps you improve your website and your search engine optimisation (SEO) so that you also attract more targeted traffic. 
  7. Conversion: What percentage of your website visitors are taking measurable action such as a newsletter signup, a white paper or report download, a survey and so on? (We cover this principle of growing your marketing database through your online and social media marketing activity in Module 2 – Your Hopper in our online course, the Modern Marketing Academy.) 
  8. Average Time on Site: Does your website have great content that keeps people keeps people on the site, reading? This statistic will tell you. 
  9. Landing and Exit Pages: Where are people entering your site? Which pages? And from which pages are they exiting your site? Powerful information for improving your website traffic, and keeping people on your site longer. Why do you want that? So you can grow Your Hopper (marketing database), which is a crucial component in your firm’s marketing machine. 
  10. Klout or Kred Scores: What is your reach and influence in social media? Is it significant? Is it growing? This is easily tracked. Then you can take action to grow it. Why? A higher and more influential profile in social media generates traffic to your website that, when your great website converts it, grows your marketing database. When you then communicate with your database on a regular basis it gradually creates a stream of pre-educated enquiries for your firm. Nice. Predictable. Like a machine. 
  11. Social Media Network Metrics (Followers, Connections, Likes): Across your social media networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook it is obviously fairly straightforward to measure your number of Followers, Connections and Likes. However, it is not about the size of your lists and networks, it’s about the quality of the relationships or as it’s termed these days, the ‘level of engagement’. In other words, do they care about you and your content? Are they clicking, retweeting, mentioning you? For example, you can quickly grow your number of Twitter Followers by following as many people on Twitter as you can as quickly as you can, because many will Follow you back automatically or at least out of courtesy, initially. That is a bad strategy. You’ll end up with thousands of Followers who don’t care about the content you put out into Twitter. The same applies with other social media networks. Grow with a focus quality, not just on size/numbers. 
  12. Marketing Database (List Size): How many subscribers are on your eNewsletter list? How much did it grow by last month? What will you do to grow it more next month? Recently a new member of our Modern Marketing Academy told us that they had been advised by a prominent business coaching organisation to buy email lists and marketing databases. This is wrong on so many levels. Bad advice. Don’t be a spammer. (If you email people who did not opt in to your list, you are a spammer.) Grow your own subscriber list organically with content-driven marketing and strategic use of social media. You will get better results because you will have a relationship with the list, and you’ll save money by not buying cold (rubbish!) lists. If you feel compelled to buy a list. Let me know. I’ll give you the name of some charities you can donate the money to instead. 
  13. Open Rate on Email Broadcasts: What percentage of people are opening your eNewsletters? Who is opening them? Who isn’t? Make sure you are using a proper email marketing tool such as MailChimp and not—as many accounting firms use—Outlook and PDFs to send your eNewsletters. You’ll then know this engagement data, and you’ll also improve the presentation and professionalism of your eNewsletters. (Tip: An attached PDF is amateur and old school.) 
  14. Click-Through Rate on Email Broadcasts: Are people clicking on the links in your eNewsletters, through to your blog articles and other resources you are directing them to? If not, you need to change the content and structure of your eNewsletter to lift engagement levels. 
  15. No. of Enquiries: Many of the measures above are activity or lead indicators, but what about where the rubber hits the road? How many enquiries did you get last month? How did that compare to your target? Did you have a target? How are you tracking Year-To-Date on this metric? 
  16. Sources of Enquiries: Where did the enquiries come from? Do you log and track that? You need to. Otherwise, how do you know where to direct your marketing focus and investment? 
  17. Conversion Rate of Enquiries into Clients: If you think your conversion rate is 80% or higher, you might find you are having selective memory fade and are subconsciously choosing to forget the ones you missed. (I know this from over two decades of consulting to businesses. It’s a common phenomenon.) Or perhaps colleagues in the firm have been handling enquiries and you’ve not been hearing about the ones that got away? Do you have a system for logging all enquiries so you can calculate your conversion rate? If not, your conversion rate of enquiries into clients might not be as high as you think it is. 
  18. No. of Clients Asked For A Referral: How many clients were asked for a referral last month? How do you know? Do you have a system for doing this? Do you measure and manage it? 
  19. No. of Referrals Received: How many client referrals did the firm receive? Do you have a system for promptly thanking referrals after a new client comes on board? Were referrers sent a surprise Thank You card and gift? (Note the reference to ’surprise’. This works better and is more professional than a bribe, offered in advance for referrals.) 
  20. Pipeline Value: What is the current projected dollar value of all the prospective clients who are going through your sales/engagement process? (We teach pipeline management in the Modern Marketing Academy.) Is that high enough? What do you need to consistently track at each month, to comfortably meet your new client revenue targets? 
  21. Pipeline Weighted Value: What is the weighted value of the pipeline, adjusted for which stage they are at in your sales process? Do you have a structured sales process? If not, your firm will unwittingly be bearing an opportunity cost of lower conversion rates, slower engagement processes and/or lower initial client engagement value. 
  22. Net Promoter Score or Client Heartbeat Scores: What do your clients think of you? Have you asked them? Formally? Systematically? Do you use a methodology for doing this such as Net Promoter Score? Do you use a client survey tool like Client Heartbeat? If not, start measuring client perceptions. It’s a constant source of innovation for your firm, and tools like Client Heartbeat also flag for you ‘at risk’ clients who think you have room for improvement. (As well as flagging opportunities for capturing testimonials from extremely happy clients. Neat. Useful.) You can act on this feedback, take action, save (and impress) the client, and improve your business in the process. Everyone wins.
Can you see how much more potent these KPIs are for driving the growth of your accounting firm? Think about these scenarios… What would happen if your website traffic increased by 10 times? (Or by 22 times, as it has for Otium Group since they’ve started using our Virtual Marketing Assistant Service.) What would happen if you increased your Clientshare by 50%? Or doubled it. It’s very possible. Once you start measuring it. (We cover this in The Academy.) What would happen if your marketing database had 2,000 people on it, instead of 200? Or 20,000 instead of 2,000? How many more people would you get to your next workshop or webinar? How many more enquiries would your eNewsletter generate, going out to 10 or 20 times more people? And how much more time does it take you to create and send an eNewsletter to 200 people as it does to 2,000 (or even 20,000) people? That’s correct. No extra time. That’s why modern marketing is such a powerful business tool for you. It gives you leverage. And leverage is a key to business freedom and wealth. You build your marketing machine, and it works day and night for you, by generating website traffic, converting it and then nurturing and educating your subscribers into clients. But it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes focus, measurement, investment, commitment and action. If you commit to the process, it works. Measurably.    

(8) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Drew Grosskreutz - Reply

    March 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Hi MC – I love this blog. I wonder what we did before knowing how many unique visitors went to our page. Now I cannot wait to get the stats each month. We are now focusing on point 17 – converting this leads. Got any tips for this?

    • Michael Carter - Reply

      March 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Thanks Drew. Yep, re conversion rate: (1) Measure it, (2) Make it visible to the team ongoing (‘up on the board’), (3) design a structured sales process with clear milestones/stages to move an enquiry along; (4) use a sales/opportunity pipeline management tool so you can see the number of prospective clients and the estimated future value of them that are each stage/milestone, so you can see your pipeline value and weighted pipeline value (i.e. earlier stages don’t ‘count’ as much in dollar terms, due to probability), (5) train the team in the sales process, (6) ensure the right people are involved at the right stages of the process — it does not have to be a Director/Principal-level person at each stage of the process, (7) get independent guidance on designing and structuring your sales process from an outside consultant who has deep experience in your profession, (8) get soft-skills training in sales methodology, (9) seeing as you have access, go (with your team) through modules 6 to 9 in our Modern Marketing Academy which covers sales process, sales pipeline management and sales soft skills.

      Overall, structure is key. So is velocity and momentum. Enquiries are like a loaf of bread. Fresh today, kind of fresh tomorrow, not so fresh after that. Oh, the horror stories I could share that people have shared with me of the experiences they have had when they have initially enquired and then met with various accountants and advisers when they were shopping around to decide on their new adviser. A comedy of errors often including slow initial response to the enquiry, lack of clarity on next steps, the prospect having to do the following up, the adviser constantly being distracted by notifications on the smartphone during the meeting, the adviser not asking the person enough questions about what *they* want, failure to get the proposal/engagement document to the prospect within the following month!… the list goes on.

      All up, a great opportunity for advisers who understand sales process and how to guide prospects through a great evaluation process.

      A final point to note: In addition to conversion, what also matters is the on-boarding process so that not only is a prospective client converted, their expectations are set appropriately right at the outset so they understand timeframes, best way to communicate with the firm, who they’ll be communicating with in the firm, how the fees and billing process will work etc., so that there are no surprises… other than pleasant ones!

  • Ben Walker - Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Great article MC – 22 KPI’s is a lot to focus on…

    … so what would be the top 5 that a young, growing firm should focus on to start with?

    And more interestingly, what is the single most important KPI to NOT lose sight of as we grow?

    • Michael Carter - Reply

      March 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Hi Ben. Thanks for your comment, and questions.

      The Top 5 KPIs for a young growing firm to focus on would depend on the particular context of that firm and how many existing clients they had, but 5 likely candidates are: (1) Know your Clientshare (#3) from Day 1. Track that. Build it to the optimum level for each client, based on their situation; (2) Website traffic (#5) – Firms spend money on their website, so they should track whether it is attracting traffic, and flowing on from that; (3) Conversion % of visitors into eNewsletter subscribers via download incentives/information (#7); (4) Click-Through Rate on Email Broadcasts (#14) – You want to know whether you are engaging your subscribers or not – are they reading and caring about what you are teaching (and inspiring!) them?; (5) Conversion Rate of Enquiries into Clients (#17) – Most practitioners informally track this and quote the ubiquitous “80%” when asked what their conversion rate is – they tend to forget the fish that got away, so to speak. As you experienced in recent months, getting focused on tracking conversion rate, and then addressing how to improve it, can make a huge difference, quickly.

      Some other KPIs just outside that Top 5 include tracking client referrals, pipeline value, and Net Promoter Score/Client Heartbeat measures.

      To answer your question, “what is the single most important KPI to NOT lose sight of as we grow?” it will shift over time as you get better at different aspects of marketing and selling/business development. Never drop focus away from Clientshare. It’s not just a lead measure on average fee per client, it’s also a gauge on how well you are actually serving your clients — a low Clientshare means you are a typical reactive firm that just does the basic tax and compliance level work for clients — that’s not great for revenue and, equally important, it’s not stimulating for you in terms of making a difference to clients’ lives.

      A common mistake made when higher growth rate kicks in is to lose focus on pipeline value — practitioners ‘get busy’ and allow their ‘pipeline filling’ activities, and their ‘pipeline momentum’ activities to fall away. Then they slip into the feast-then-famine cycle where new work dries up, because they let the pipeline dry up a couple of months earlier.

      And at the end of the day, Net Promoter Score/Client Heartbeat type ratings (and referral rates from existing clients) are the ultimate gauge on how well you are doing what you’re doing, in the eyes of the people that matter, your clients.

  • Kirsten Barrie - Reply

    March 31, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for posting this! Great!

    • Michael Carter - Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Hi Kirsten! Thanks for your feedback. Let us know if you have any questions about any of the KPIs we’ve referred to in the post.

  • very interesting article

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