Size has always been a thing in the accounting profession, going back to the Big 8 which became the Big 6, Big 5 and are now the Big 4. Keeping with this theme AccountancyAge publishes a “Top 100 (50 + 50)” list each September.

The Top 100 is a core measurement for the profession, based on a single criterion; fee income.  To achieve a place on this list is an important acknowledgement of success in the profession, and so it should be.

The list accurately orders firms by fee income, and interestingly 16 of the Top 50+50 firms published in September 2018 were new entrants – which suggest the UK accountancy market is evolving and ever-changing.

Firms need to embrace change more than ever because of disruption driven by cloud accounting. The change includes embracing new ways of marketing, so, we did some research and thought we’d publish an alternative Top 100 based purely on “Digital Marketing Performance” – firms that appear to be ambitious to grow, improve and invest in digital marketing – with social media identified as the forum for growth.

How did we create the Top 100 Digital Marketing Performance List?

We needed data and reliable measurements; all the data we used is freely available, in the public domain and accurate on 18th April 2019.

We decided not to factor in (or ratio) performance metrics vs employee numbers, as it was feasible that big firms may employ marketing teams no larger than their much smaller peers. But, we did decide to remove the “Top 7” from the equation, as they are global entities and their digital marketing performance was in most cases a blended metric across their European or Worldwide presence.

Our criteria for assessing digital marketing performance uses five primary digital marketing platforms:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Video – YouTube & Vimeo

Also, we weighted the scores for firms who use video because the video is universally recognised (through a wide range of research and evidence) as delivering more powerful impact, a high return on (marketing) investment and significantly greater conversion rates – across all industries.

We recognise that our data is all “external” and our results could be different if approached differently, and the order could change if we included “internal” data, e.g. CRM maturity and partner engagement in marketing initiatives.

We’ve been looking at the data over the last six months and in that time; we developed a system to rank firms from which we have subsequently created “The Top 100 Digital Marketing Performance List” as at 18th April 2019. This list is fluid because it can be reviewed constantly based on its “live” criteria. 

Why have we published the list?

There are two reasons why we published the list:

First, we believe digital marketing performance should be recognised and celebrated; a lot of time, energy and money have been invested by these firms for us to identify them.

If your firm is on the list, then we urge you to celebrate and tell your colleagues. And, if you are keen to progress even more look at the firms above you and see if there are any ideas to take away and improve your ranking.

Second, we hope the list stimulates discussion in the profession. We want firms to be talking about how digital marketing can help firms cope with the disruption in the profession and the benefits for practice owners and staff of investing in digital marketing.

Our top performer is Mazuma based in Bridgend founded in June 2006 by two friends; Lucy Cohen and Sophie Hughes. Mazuma’s Twitter description says “We’ve been pushing the envelope in Accountancy for over 12 years” which plays on their “purple envelope” concept where clients post paperwork monthly.

We called Lucy to tell her the good news and asked about their view of digital marketing.  Lucy said “digital marketing aligns with our brand values of wanting to stand out, be ahead of the curve and brave. It’s the only marketing we do because we are very clear about our target market. And, we know digital marketing gives us the biggest bang for our buck”.

The success of Mazuma is a great endorsement of the marketers in other firms of accountants who are keen to demonstrate the value of digital marketing to partners who can be unsure of the value of social media. It will be interesting to track Mazuma’s progress, watch this space.

How can we enhance the list?

We plan to ensure the criteria remains appropriate and relevant, while also welcoming ideas from within the accountancy sector.

If you have any suggestions for criteria, please get in touch. And, if you feel you work in a firm that should be on the list, it could be you are just outside, or we missed you in our research – please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. 

What does the list tell us?

The first thing we noticed was that two of the top five (Mazuma and Crunch) are online only firms. Could this be the future of the profession driven by cloud accounting, Making Tax Digital and the increased use of video conferencing?

We also spotted small young brands out-performing much larger and more established firms. So, is digital marketing now the best way to launch and grow an accounting practice?

The interesting part is how the Top 100 Digital Marketing Performers shapes up in comparison to the Top 50+50?

With the big seven excluded, intriguingly only 42 of the Top 50+50 firms appear in the Top 100 Digital Marketing Performers. It will be interesting in September 2019 to see how many of these firms currently not in the Top 50+50 will progress into that list – watch this space!

The results of our Digital Marketing Performance list may suggest we are now seeing evidence of the impact digital marketing is having within the accountancy market, in comparison to more traditional marketing methods. Practices may now be looking beyond traditional marketing, and starting to really understand and buy into the fact they can leverage the latest digital marketing techniques and dramatically increase their market reach – and in turn their business growth.

Digital marketing holds distinct advantages over more traditional marketing, that all marketing focused accountancy practices should find attractive:

  • Increased audience interaction
  • Lower investment costs
  • Faster market reach
  • More control over message timing
  • Higher conversion ratios
  • Feedback is easier to obtain and analyse
  • Return on investment is easier to track

Aside from the obvious commercial benefits of digital marketing, it`s also critical to understand the receivers of marketing, i.e. prospective clients and how they prefer to consume content. Again we have to look to Millenials and Generation Z (Gen Z) for these kinds of indicators.

Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, so they are very much the target market when it comes to marketing your accountancy practice. This means you have to know how and where to engage with them – and that`s where digital marketing comes into its own. Millennials are the first “Digital Natives”, so while the constant stream of noise from social media channels may not be palatable for some of the previous generations – Millenials are effectively “trained” to manage it. They are constantly in communication and are great instantaneous responders.

Gen Z will take this to another level entirely. By 2025 the eldest Gen Z`s in the workplace will be around 25-28 years of age – which means they will be filling management positions in business, and as such will be the key decision makers you will need to engage with and embrace.

This is critical knowledge for marketers because Gen Z is very different to the Millenials. While Millenials are early adopters of new technology – most of Gen Z have used the Internet since a young age and are comfortable with technology and social media. There is no period of adaptation or change – digital is where they have always lived, and that’s how they’ll expect and want to consume your marketing message. Traditional marketing may not have a place or have an impact on these guys!

So, with all that in mind, could it be that FibreCRM has created an incredibly useful, intuitive and unique measurement for the industry – one that demonstrates what may develop in the future, as opposed to what is happening now – or what has happened in the past? Could your firm’s digital marketing performance score be a Key Performance Indicator, a leading indicator of success?

Should we look for a way to make this list “official” so firms could use this as a badge of honour? Or, has our work and thinking been a complete waste of time?  Again, let us know – we’d love to hear from you.

How does FibreCRM compare?

While carrying out this research, we reflected on our digital marketing performance. On the plus side, our Twitter performance in the past 12 months has been positive (follows have grown by 66% in the last 12-months) but we recognised that as a business we had room to improve our performance.

So, we decided to recruit a Digital Marketing Apprentice as a key resource to evolve, grow and enhance our digital marketing footprint. Georgia-Lee joined us in early March, and we have high hopes – watch this space!

Alongside recruiting Georgia-Lee, we also have a range of initiatives underway including a new website and an updated marketing plan.  What could you do to boost your digital marketing performance?

If you found this article interesting, connect to us on Twitter because we plan to share more content that you may find interesting. And, if you’d like to know more about the benefits of Integrated CRM book a discovery call or download our whitepaper “The Integrated Practice”.

1 Mazuma Accountants

2 Mazars

3 Moore Stephens

4 TaxAssist Accountants

5 Crunch

6 Whitehead & Aldrich

7 Bishop Fleming

8 HSJ Accountants

9 Haines Watts

10 Smith & Williamson

11 Kingston Smith

12 Armstrong Watson

=13 PKF Francis Clark

=13 UHY Hacker Young

14 MHA MacIntyre Hudson

15 Cooper Parry

16 Brookson One

17 Aston Shaw

18 Begbies Traynor

19 SJD

20 Fitzgerald & Law

21 360 Accountants

22 Johnston Carmichael

23 Prime Chartered Accountants

24 APH Accountants

25 Dua & Co

26 PKF FPM

27 Barber Harrison & Platt

28 Menzies

29 Baldwins Accountants

30 Harland Accountants

31 D&T Chartered Accountants

32 AAB (Anderson, Anderson & Brown)

33 Price Bailey

34 Mitten Clarke

35 Your Tax Shop

36 Crowe UK

37 Albert Goodman

38 Lovewell Blake

39 Meades Group

40 FRP Advisory

41 Smith Butler

42 Wilkins Kennedy

43 LB Group

44 Saffery Champness

45 Woods Squared

46 Hart Shaw

47 Duncan & Toplis

48 Mercer & Hole

49 Ensors Accountants

50 MJH Accountants

51 Streets Accountants

52 Frank Hirth

53 Maple Accountancy

54 MHA Moore & Smalley

55 Cornish Accounting Solutions

56 One Accounting

57 Kendall Accountancy Services

58 Nordens

59 Danbro

60 Cranleys Accountants

61 SW & A Accountants

62 Ellis & Co

63 Buzzacott

64 Glover Stanbury

65 Old Mill

66 Braceys Accountants

67 Wellers

68 Taylorcocks

69 Lubbock Fine

70 Curo Accountants

71 Wright Vigar

72 Dyke Yaxley

73 Bevan & Buckland

74 Haslers Chartered Accountants

75 Farnell Clarke

76 Randall & Payne

77 Hayward Wright

78 MHA Larking Gowen

79 MHA Carpenter Box

80 CBHC Ltd

81 Davenports

82 Bushells

83 ASM Accountants

84 Hillier Hopkins

85 Soaring Falcon

86 Raffingers

87 Cowgills

88 Rouse Partners

89 Plus Accounting

90 The Peloton

91 ClearSky Contractor Accounting

92 Friend & Grant

93 UWM Accountants

94 MHA Henderson Loggie

95 Chiene + Tait

96 Campbell Dallas

97 Lewis Brownlee

98 MHA Monahans

99 LBW Chartered Accountants

100 Lees