Finding Opportunities in a Crisis: A Conversation with Two CMOs

Man at the top of a ladder Finding Opportunities in a Crisis: A Conversation with Accounting CMOs

The global COVID-19 tragedy has created a unanimous response from accounting firms: help client businesses – and fast. It’s an environment in which marketers can shine, said Plante Moran CMO Jeff Antaya and Armanino CMO Lori Colvin. Antaya and Colvin, who both led their firms’ marketing efforts through the 2008 recession, shared their experiences on finding opportunities in a crisis on May 27 with nearly 200 registrants of the most popular AAM High webinar of the year.

You need it? We’ve got it. Accounting professionals rarely see clients as hungry for their guidance as they are now. Clients are viewing CPAs as qualified and trusted helpmates, and CPAs are focused like never before on providing the services needed, with energy, experience and empathy.

“All of us, as marketers, should be loving this time period because we’ve got everyone aligned and focused,” said Colvin, adding that the crisis has transformed Armanino’s practice leaders. “Their mindsets have changed. They’re really pulling together across practice and service lines to deliver real-time solutions for the market.”

Antaya noted that since so many of the traditional marketing methods are prohibited – trade shows, conferences and face-to-face client meetings – firm leaders are much more open to new ideas. Additionally, marketing’s technology tools, which reveal higher-than-ever webinar attendance, downloads and inquiries, are proving the power of marketing.

Here are some highlights from their conversation on finding opportunities in crisis, which was moderated by Dawn Wagenaar of Ingenuity Marketing.

Did you pivot your brand strategy, and if so why?

Lori Colvin – Armanino immediately pulled together a COVID-19 resource center, held webinars and sent out tax alerts. About three weeks into the crisis, the marketing team conducted research into which brands thrive, or not, during a crisis. They learned customer loyalty is key. “If you really help a client in a time of need, they’re not going to forget that.” A couple of weeks later, the firm started a corporate blog “to humanize Armanino and walk them through the crisis in a different way.”

What are the transformative things we should be considering today, to help drive new business?

Jeff Antaya – Marketers now have the opportunity to provide concierge services to the partners. For example, marketers can identify three clients of particular partners who attended a webinar or three businesses that fit the profile of desirable potential clients. “I think we can really prove that we’ve got 21st century tools to help them deliver new leads and new business, and if nothing else, subscriptions.”

Here are other questions posed by Wagenaar in the recorded conversation, which is available for AAM members at no cost:

  • How can we use this situation to increase the stature of marketing in our organizations?
  • What are some long-term marketing impacts you see from the pandemic and slowing economy?
  • Do you find that firm leaders are more open-minded about different marketing strategies and tools to use during a crisis? Do you have any examples?
  • How can we strengthen our referral source networks to help our firms now?
  • Any advice for those who are the only marketer at their firm? How about marketers in small firms with small budgets?
  • You both advocate marketers show ‘bold leadership’ now. Can you tell us more about that?

Antaya and Colvin also took questions from the audience. To listen to the May 27 webinar, access a recording of “Weathering A Recession, Proving Value and Helping Your Firm Recover.” The cost is free for members and $79 for nonmembers.

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About Christina Camara

Christina Camara is the managing editor of INSIDE Public Accounting, which publishes two award-winning publications: the IPA newsletter and the annual IPA National Benchmarking Report, along with in-depth reports focused on IT, HR, and firm administration.

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