Measuring Success: A How-to Guide for Marketers


Partners and firm managers often underestimate the value marketing contributes to a CPA firm's bottom line. Therefore, as a firm marketing director, it is imperative that you implement steps to track your marketing programs' results and consider creative ways you can communicate those results to management. Not only is this critical to your marketing programs' continued existence but, in some instances, it also may ensure your continued existence at the firm.

So what should you be doing to measure your successes and under what circumstances should you measure program results? This article demonstrates how to help your firm's partners understand the marketing function and provides steps you can take to help your firm exceed its business goals.

Educate Up
Measuring marketing program effectiveness can be difficult, and you must convey that fact to your firm's partners. You also must show you have built appropriate measuring devices into each of the firm's marketing programs. Provide a framework for partner expectations. Explain the ways of measuring a program's effectiveness—for example, the difference between "soft" (qualitative) and "hard" (quantitative) ways to measure.

Also, be sure partners understand the difference between marketing and sales and who in your firm is responsible for each. For example, if your job is focused more on behind-the-scenes tasks, you need to clarify that their expectations should not be based on the number of direct sales you make but, rather, on the number of phone calls a direct mail piece generates. Tracking how many of those calls turn into sales leads and, ultimately, clients is one way to measure the results quantitatively. Help the partners see where your responsibility ends (tracking calls) and theirs begins (following up with prospects).

Partners also must know when certain results cannot be tracked. Ideally, every program should be monitored. Quantitative programs, such as direct mail and seminar attendance, are tracked easily; however, it is more difficult to track responses to, for example, an article placed in a trade publication.

Create and Implement Action Steps
Once you have established that your partners' expectations are properly measured, you can implement concrete action steps to measure success.

  1. Know your program goal/objective. From the start, you must have a clear understanding of the partners' desired outcome of the program. Does the firm want to create awareness of a new service, increase revenues by a dollar amount or attract a new market? Clarify desired goals in writing and keep them on hand as you develop the program and measurement steps.

  2. Build in measuring techniques. Incorporate into each new marketing program ways to help you monitor its success. The means of measurement will not always be the same. Following are some marketing techniques that can be used to track the interest generated by the marketing program:

    • Faxback forms for a client satisfaction survey or for reserving space at a seminar.

    • "Bingo," or reader service, cards so readers can circle topics on which they'd like more information.

    • Attendance records at seminars and what markets are represented: How many are clients and how many are prospects?

    • Evaluation forms that ask seminar attendees how they heard about the event.

    • Appointments seminar attendees make with your firm.

    • Phone inquiries about a newly advertised service (if possible, use a specially designated phone number or voice mail extension).

    • Coupons good for a free consultation with a firm CPA, given as a prize at a trade show.

    • A new client information form to track the source of the business.

    When possible, ask the prospect where he or she heard about your firm and services: Was it a newspaper business section advertisement, a speaking engagement or sponsorship of an event? Keep track of the responses, and remind everyone in the firm to do the same. You may be surprised at what patterns emerge.

    1. Stay on top of your firm's recent marketing projects/achievements for quick reports to partners. Keep abreast of your department's latest accomplishments so you can respond knowledgeably when a partner asks you what's new. Remember, CPAs like to know how their marketing programs are affecting firm revenues.

    For example, when surveys are being mailed or faxed back, record daily how many you've received. When you report on results, be sure to compare them with an average expected return. Our partners were more impressed with our client satisfaction survey response rate (34%) when we compared it with the average survey response of under 10%.

    1. Blow your own horn! Be your own best agent. Market yourself . Just as you advise the CPAs in your firm to remind clients how they've been helped, you have to remind your clients—CPAs—what you have done for the firm.

    An internal newsletter is an excellent way to report regularly on marketing activities and accomplishments, especially those relating directly to your programs. Depending on the size and scope of the firm, you could either photocopy or professionally design and print your newsletter or create and distribute it throughout the firm on e-mail.

    Consider adding sections for new client data, including how the client selected your firm: Is the client someone who attended a recent seminar, someone the managing partner met at an industry association event or someone who responded to an ad?

    In addition, be sure you're included on the agenda for all partner and staff meetings so you can report on recent marketing accomplishments.

    1. Perform market research on your own work. Ask people in your firm or the firm's clients if they think your programs are making a difference. Get details. For example, an employee may report to you that the firm name came up, unprompted, in a chamber of commerce conversation, or a client may congratulate a partner on an article he or she recently had printed in the newspaper. Keep track of this information and include it with reports on your activities and results.

    2. Learn good market research techniques. If you don't already know when to develop a survey, how to write a questionnaire or what tactics are available to measure marketing programs, get busy learning how. Part of your job as marketing director is understanding and using market research and its many tools effectively and appropriately.

    Use the Best Tools
    Finally, be sure you have all the equipment you need to track your achievements. There are many contact management, as well as other, software programs available to help you measure and monitor your marketing efforts. Contact database programs are not very expensive, costing as little as $100. Or you can create your own simple spreadsheet for tracking marketing contacts using Lotus or Excel.

    The task of measuring and monitoring marketing programs is one of the most challenging in your job as marketing director. Knowing the tools available and when to use them will make your job a lot easier, and having the results of your efforts at hand will help you track and improve your techniques. This not only will help you attain your firm's business goals but it also will give you concrete information you can use to show the partners and managers how you add value to the firm.

P. J. Townsend is marketing director at John M. Hanson & Co., PC, a Denver accounting firm, and a contributor to How to Hire a Marketing Director and Make It Work , published by the American Institute of CPAs in 1996.


©1998 AICPA


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