Networking and referral marketing reign at or near the top of business development strategies for CPA firms and other professional service organizations. In the digital age, Social Media platforms provide additional networking options for professionals to attract and retain clients. In this post, I recap the first in a series of conversations I’ve had with CPA firm marketing leaders regarding Social Selling, which might be defined as using social platforms to develop and promote a brand, provide thought leadership to the marketplace, and drive business to a firm. Thank you to Rhonda Maraziti, the Director of Marketing and Practice Growth at WithumSmith+Brown for agreeing to share her thoughts on professional service Social Selling in the digital age.
Social Selling in the Digital Age
CPAs and other professionals have always engaged in and excelled at Social Selling through real world social activities and events designed to connect firms with prospective clients. Of course this still works; however, the process can now begin online with Social Media and then carry over to face-to-face meetings. Social Selling in the age of Social Media uses various digital social platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to build a personal and business brand, share content designed to establish thought leadership, and attract prospective clients that ultimately drive business to the firm. Social Selling success requires knowing a target demographic and understanding in which platform’s context that demographic participates. “We find that LinkedIn users are far different from Instagram users,” says Rhonda, adding, “Facebook and Instagram we keep light with culture. Twitter we use for news and to promote thought leadership. LinkedIn we use for connections in thought leadership.”
Rhonda insists that, regardless of the platform on which one publishes, driving traffic to a firm’s website must remain strategically top of mind. “Developing and implementing an effective content marketing strategy is likely the most important thing professional service firms can do today, using the power of Google and the many social platforms out there to drive traffic to their website. Most everything we post or share has a link leading back to our website.” Increased traffic results in better SEO (search engine optimization), meaning a site will garner increased visibility to users searching the web.
Online Relationship Building Doesn’t Replace Offline
Rhonda reminds us of the enduring importance of in-person relationship building: “We still need to have those personal relationships and meet face-to-face, and go to lunch, and take your client to the golf course.” However, with the younger generation immersed in mobile technology, relationship building with younger generations may have to start online. In certain cases, she emphasizes, some prospects want to find a professional first through Social Media. They want to take part in conversations happening around their business and interests. So, it’s important to meet them where they are.
Assessing return on investment in marketing and advertising challenges all marketers, but Rhonda says it’s getting easier with Social Media. Social platforms constantly develop new ways to track analytics, such as measuring likes on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. She recommends and her firm uses Google Analytics, which tracks users who visit a site after spending time on social platforms. In addition, a CRM “opportunities pipeline”, which collects data on how clients and prospects find the firm, helps gauge the effectiveness of social platforms.
Importance of Executive Sponsorship
When asked about WithumSmith+Brown’s route to becoming an industry leader in Social Selling, Rhonda credits the executive sponsorship and example her firm enjoys from their Managing Partner and CEO, Bill Hagaman. Bill participates with his own blog on the company website, and he actively publishes shorter snippets of news and thought leadership via Twitter. In addition, Withum produces video blogs, informational videos on their services, and an annual video celebrating the firm’s yearly State of the Firm event spotlighting the firm's culture, repurposing that content across various Social Media channels. The culture videos prove to be particularly effective recruiting tools and have landed the firm on the cover of Accounting Today in addition to contributing to other interview and public relations opportunities. With this and other video content, Rhonda says, “Not only are we perceived in the profession as smart leaders and as a good accounting firm, but we also have a nice balance of having some fun, too.”
Congratulations to Rhonda Maraziti and WithumSmith+Brown for using digital platforms to propel brand building, thought leadership and business development. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and best practices so that other professionals may better prepare to enjoy the opportunities that digital Social Selling provides! Please check back next week for my article on a recent discussion with Jason Blumer, Chief Innovation Officer of Blumer & Associates, CPAs, PC, who is yet another thought leader willing to share his expertise on this important topic!
WithumSmith+Brown is well versed in the disciplines relevant to doing business in today’s world. Since 1974, the Firm has continued to grow in breadth and depth of experience and expertise, providing an elite level of service and quality to private and publicly held companies. As the Director of Marketing and Practice Growth, Rhonda Maraziti directs a team of 10 marketing professionals assisting 80 partners and 250 CPAs in 12 offices with building their books of business. Please follow Rhonda on Twitter (@RhondaMaraziti) and then visit withum.com to watch their State of the Firm videos, view Bill Hagaman’s blog, and learn more about the firm.