Should you join ABC organization? How about purchase an ad in XYZ publication? Or set up a table at the upcoming 123 event? If you find yourself contemplating these types of questions and not having clear answers, it’s likely because you don’t have a growth strategy. When you strategically know where your growth is going to come from, it’s easier to know what you have to do tactically to get there.
What is a Growth Strategy?
If you have a strategic plan, how you’ll grow and by how much is hopefully detailed in that plan. If your strategic plan is in your head, you likely need to spend some time documenting how you’ll grow. Your growth plan should:
- Be a multi-year plan that spells out where future growth will come from
- Set revenue goals for each year
- Identify industries and/or services that will drive growth goals
- Explain what has to happen internally for this type of growth to occur
- Allow you to identify external expansion opportunities, if applicable, that will help drive your strategy
Your growth plan, and everything in it, needs to be agreed upon by your partnership. It will be your guiding direction for the next few years. If you have the right strategy, it may still change slightly, but you should see no reason today why it would radically change. All further marketing and sales resources should be focused on moving your firm closer to this plan.
Isn’t This a Marketing Plan?
Not exactly. It’s a precursor to a marketing plan. A marketing plan is a one-year plan that covers the incremental steps that will help you achieve your growth strategy. Marketing plans are typically updated annually to build upon what was achieved the previous year. They also go into details like who will own each step in the plan, when it will be completed and budget dollars needed.
Depending on firm size, you may have one comprehensive marketing plan. Larger firms often have multiple plans; one for the firm and additional plans for each specialty/niche the firm is driving. Regardless of what your plan looks like, it details your efforts in the short term.
Strategy Keeps You Focused
As humans, it’s easy to be distracted by shiny new objects. A competitor just launched a podcast so you think you should too. Or a client just sent you a catchy new video so maybe you need a video. What you’re falling into here is a case of GMOOT — give me one of those (a term coined by Scott Donaton of Advertising Age.) When you act to keep up with the Joneses, you’re focusing on tactics and not the strategy that’s right for your firm.
When you have a documented growth strategy, deciding if you need a video is easy. Why? Because if it doesn’t support how you are driving growth, forget about it and bring your focus back to what will. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some tactics, like hole sponsorships and walks/runs, that you choose to do to support your community or your team, but recognize these aren’t strategic marketing tactics that will produce any significant result.
Strategy Before Tactics
Too many times people focus on individual tactics. Why? Because tactics are easier to see and picture. They are actionable. They are what get us excited. But they need to come after the strategy that drives them. It’s “why” before “how.”
Let’s explore what this could look like. A solid growth strategy today is to develop a niche specialty, either for a service line or industry. You settled on dentists after exploring your current clients, researching your competitors and understanding the dental landscape. You know there is sizable potential and you have something unique to offer dentists. That’s the “why.”
When it comes to the “how,” you detail out what services you’re selling to whom specifically through what channels of distribution. Rather than targeting one buyer at a time, a channel of distribution strategy puts you in front of many buyers all at the same time. So, you are going to sell tax services to dental practices with two to five locations through your involvement with the state dental society. You then get to explore the best way to work with the dental society. It could be golfing in the summer outing, speaking at the annual conference or writing for their magazine — you have to vet all opportunities and pick what works best for you.
When you put strategy before tactics, you aren’t finding dentists by attending monthly chamber of commerce meetings or buying ads on the local radio station. Fielding these marketing requests suddenly becomes easier when you stick to your strategy.
Smarter Decision Making
You have limited dollars and time to spend marketing your firm. While you may be tempted to skip the strategy because of tight resources, it’s actually how you’ll make smarter decisions in the long term. Driving the growth of your firm becomes clearer when you know you’re doing the right things to drive the desired results you want. So go ahead and join ABC organization because you know membership will put you in front of people you are uniquely positioned to serve. Then, get involved in the best way to help you meet prospective clients. You know it’s the right thing to do — your growth strategy tells you so.
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Katie Tolin is president of CPA Growth Guides where she helps firms and other businesses in the accounting industry connect the dots between strategy and action to ensure they receive a positive ROI for their growth efforts.READ MORE BY Katie
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