How Marketing Spending is Changing

Accounting Innovation - Accounting Marketing

Patrick Huegel, AAFCPAs


Accounting marketing spending has been inching up the last two years, from an average of just under 4 percent up to 4.6 percent as the marketing of accounting services continues to get more competitive, especially among high growth firms.

In this AAMplify podcast, Lee Fredericksen, Ph.D., managing partner of Hinge Marketing shares results from AAM’s latest Marketing Budget Benchmark Study and discusses how marketing spending in the accounting industry is changing.

This study examined the highest return on investment (ROI) marketing techniques. When looking at return on effort (ROE), the study examined how much effort, both dollars and time, is spent on each technique the impact produced. Those making the top of the list include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO). People conduct buying research online before they make an evaluation or even talk to you. If they don’t see themselves and their issues represented on your website, they won’t talk to you. This is why firms focus dollars here.
  • Email marketing. This is still a high ROI tactic. Even though it’s been around for a long time, it remains a solid way to generate leads and interest. Of course, those with a well maintained list who use it appropriately are most successful.
  • Marketing automation and CRM software. These technologies have continued to become more impactful as there is a shift away from traditional marketing tactics used decades ago.


Tactics that have a negative return were also identified including:

  • Charitable giving. While it’s a good thing to do, it may not be a good marketing effort that produces ROI. Perhaps, it shouldn’t be part of the marketing budget.
  • Internal firm events and client parties. These are nice ways to say thank you and makes you feel good, but they don’t produce a lot of marketing results.
  • Direct mail. This still does not produce a lot of results, even in a time when less people are doing it and it should stand out more.
  • Things like tee hole sponsors, event sponsors, t-shirt sponsors, etc. are often the single largest expenditure in marketing departments but are actually the least effective thing to drive referrals. Firms spend the most amount of money here for the worst return.

There are a number of key differences between high growth firms (the fastest organically growing) and low growth firms (the slowest organically growing). When you look at the characteristics of these high growth firms, you see a log of specialization. Firms recognize that having a good strong differentiator makes a big difference. In addition, high growth firms are focusing on: online advertising, which made its first appearance in the survey this year; networking events, tradeshows and conferences; content creation; educational events to demonstrate expertise; marketing automation; and internal education that is focused on business development and content creation. Marketing departments are having a more direct impact at high growth firms when techniques are implemented in an effective way.

On the reverse, the low growth firms are focusing on memberships/dues, sponsorships, printed marketing materials and internal events and parties. A lot of these firms are investing their dollars into the same activities that don’t produce a strong return.

Marketing continues to rapidly evolve in general and accounting firms are quickly catching on to new trends and tactics. Successful firms will stay on the forefront of marketing in this competitive industry and invest heavily in smart marketing.


About AAMplify!

In this monthly podcast series by the Association for Accounting Marketing, topics that impact firm growth are discussed. This includes issues related to practice management, marketing communications and business development and sales. Subscribe to AAMplify! via iTunes, Stitcher or YouTube.

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About Patrick Huegel

As the marketing manager at AAFCPAs, Patrick Huegel focuses on inbound marketing including attracting new traffic, conversions and lead nurturing. He’s a member of AAM’s podcast committee where he interviews subject matter experts on diverse topics

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