CPA Growth Trends, Marketing

Seasoned Marketer: KPIs Your Partners Actually Care About

Marketers have access to more knowledge and data than ever before, but collecting data, tracking trends, and reporting on marketing activities for the sake of reporting are not sufficient to gain the respect of our partners. No marketer wants to waste time and resources collecting and presenting data that goes unused, misunderstood, and unvalued; especially when this may adversely affect the department’s reputation within the organization. So, how do we get our partners to truly see the value in what we do through our reporting?

As AAM members, we all know that accountants dig in whenever we show them reports based on numbers. We also know they value good data and can quickly find fault with inaccurate or useless data. As a previous AAM article on key performance indicators (KPIs) confirms, that means we need to make sure that the reports we present to them serve as indicators of likely outcomes they actually care about — whether that’s new clients, more applicants for jobs, or revenue growth. The bottom line is that for our partners to understand the value of our efforts, we must show them our direct impact on attaining their goals.

I don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution for your marketing KPIs, and won’t be adding to the mountain of existing online literature listing “top” KPIs for marketers. Instead, let’s rethink the concept and purpose of marketing KPIs for the accounting profession. If a KPI is the trend of a measurement over time, then let’s be sure we’re measuring the right things now so we can show our improvement when we repeat those initiatives in the future.

Help the partners get clear on their goals 

Before delving into KPIs, we need to get to the crux of what firm goals our partners want to achieve and what successful results will look like to them. This step is pivotal in deciding what KPIs will make your partners see how marketing directly affects their bottom line and make them more willing to invest in future marketing.

Say your partners say they want to “grow by 10%.” First, we need to drill down on exactly what that means. Do they want to increase overall revenue by 10%, increase new clients by 10%, or cross-sell services to 10% of existing clients? Does the type of client matter? What about the service or niche? Is that before or after fee increases? Converting a percentage to a dollar value creates an ideal roadmap for selecting the data that best supports the goals we want to achieve.

Example: 

Partner stated goal: “Grow by 10%”

Clearly articulated goal: Increase revenue by 10% after fee increases, which is equivalent to $1 million

  • 20% growth for the auto dealership niche (meeting ideal client definitions) which will lead to $600,000 in new billings
  • 30% increase in outsourced accounting services (cross-sell to existing clients) which will lead to $400,000 in new billings

With this information, we can now develop marketing plans to achieve these goals and determine what KPIs will best measure progress along the way.

Reporting on an external new client initiative

While the strategies we use to achieve our goals will vary from firm to firm, it’s important to remember that the ultimate KPI is the attainment of a goal or progress toward that objective. Showing partners that the auto dealership industry page has 18% more traffic year-over-year may feel like a win in your book, but it likely has the partners thinking, “Uh huh, that’s nice, but so what?” Instead, we want to show them the marketing plan and outline the metrics that will best measure success. This is the point that we want to look beyond traditional marketing metrics (like webpage traffic) and get creative with how we build our case.

Continuing from the example above, say you have historical proposal data depicting a client win rate of 70% when speaking with prospective dealership clients. That means you’ll need a pipeline of about $850,000 to reach your goal of $600,000. Therefore, a KPI that reports an improvement on “proposal win rate” is one that your partners will likely value because it directly impacts their goal. (Just be sure you don’t start winning more by undervaluing the work!)

As you build your marketing plan, illustrate how you plan to build a pipeline of $850,000 in prospective new dealership clients. One tactic may be to run online/social ads to promote a mid-year Dealership Update webinar. These are some of the numbers you could report:

→ Ad views

→ Landing page views

→ Event registrations

→ Cost per registration

→ Follow-up material engagement

→ Proposals issued

→ Prospect conversations (proposal win rate)

→ New client wins (revenue progress toward the goal and initiative ROI)

→ 3-month follow-up outreach response rate

This type of funnel reporting demonstrates the campaign’s efficacy through start-to-finish results. It will help them follow your logic, appreciate your efforts, and better understand the outcomes. If there were lessons learned along the way and plans for improvement next time (or improvement over last year’s efforts), that is also worth reporting. If the program fell short of or exceeded expectations, share that too. Marketing is a mix of art and science, so there must be room to make mistakes and improve our processes through experimentation. It’s also important to draw the line between marketing and sales.  It’s not actually fully your job to secure this new revenue, so your reports need to show them where you are passing the baton.

Reporting on a cross-selling new client initiative

Now let’s move toward the partners’ goal of cross-selling to existing clients. You could run a report in your tax software to identify businesses that either experienced a loss or grew by more than 25% in 2022, indicating an opportunity or need for additional support. You could even search your billing software for companies who filed for an extension and experienced higher fees than initially estimated, which might indicate that their bookkeeping required a certain level of clean-up before filing. If the average bookkeeping client engagement is $3,000 per month ($36,000 per year), our reporting should outline our success in cross-selling to 10-12 clients to reach the revenue goal of $400,000.

While it would be ideal for your partners to have one-on-one conversations with the companies identified in your software search, most partners aren’t currently prioritizing their time toward this type of activity because of their workload. However, this is an excellent opportunity for the marketing department to send those clients a series of educational articles on the importance of timely bookkeeping and financial reporting for fostering company growth. When a user opens two or more articles in the series, your CRM tool can automatically email a follow-up checklist. Then if the client opens that email, they can officially be considered a marketing qualified lead and it’s time to get a partner involved.

Utilizing your CRM (like HubSpot) and Google Analytics 4, here are some of the metrics you could report to demonstrate progress and success:

Clients from each report and the total in the campaign

→ Open rates for each article (by list)

→ Traffic to the service page on the website

→ Sends for the checklist

→ Opens of the checklist (MQLs)

→ Partner outreach to clients

→ Proposals issued

→ New client wins (their ROI and progress toward the goal)

→ 3-month follow-up outreach response rate

Reporting for a recruiting initiative

Since marketers today are involved in recruiting, it makes sense that you would help HR and the partners see the performance metrics. If the partners want to hire a new Tax Manager and three new Staff Accountants to better serve the $1 million in new revenue, and you get involved, report on that too! For example, if you use account-based marketing tactics to target candidates with the ideal experience, show your funnel. If your team attends career fairs, use the resumes to add candidates to your CRM and track and measure how many people visited your careers page, applied, and where hired. If you do outreach to express your recruiting brand to recruiters, measure any increase in the number of candidates you choose to interview from their introductions. All of these metrics make for compelling KPIs and excellent reporting opportunities to show how our marketing plans directly lead to the firm’s desired results.

Always bring it back to their goals

By rethinking the basic and traditional marketing metrics, we can strengthen marketing’s role in revenue planning and earn our rightful seat as a strategic player within the firm. Just remember, impactful marketing plans and KPIs must, first and foremost, loop back to the agreed-upon goals and the results your partners want to see. Doing this year over year will help you show how you are building on your own momentum, and that’s what KPIs are all about.

About Alison Simons


For seven great years, I was the head of marketing for a regional CPA firm where I would joke "if it's not a tax return or an audit, it crosses my desk." I was responsible for branding and online marketing, recruiting and firm culture, M&A vetting and communications, business development and proposals, and more. Even though I had a job, I was getting requests from firms to help with their marketing; which is, supposedly, how you know you're onto something good. In 2013 I became an entrepreneur. In order to serve more clients, I attracted a team of really amazing people who focus on specialty areas within marketing because (get ready for one of her catch phrases) "Marketing is one word that means a lot of things" and it's all too much for any one person to be good at. So, now I'm focused on working directly with clients on strategies to help them reach their goals while overseeing more of the activities. I've presented multiple times a the MassCPAs annual conference, and have been featured on the Marketing Mistakes (and how to avoid them), and Stop the Noise podcasts. I've also served as a judge for LMA.

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