Marketing

How to Focus Your Marketing and Business Development Through Market Segmentation and Personalization

Mockup of Accounting Marketing Persona

By Jean Marie Caragher

A market segmentation strategy organizes your client base into smaller, more manageable groups. Your clients can be segmented by:

  • Demographics: Grouping clients by age, income level, gender, family size, nationality, language, etc.
  • Psychographics: Grouping your clients into cultural clusters, social status, and lifestyle, e.g., high net worth individuals.
  • Behavior: Grouping clients by the number of services purchased, engagement with your firm’s social media, website visits, articles read, participation in events, how they want to hear from you, etc. This stage also factors in brand loyalty.
  • Geography: Grouping clients by a specific area, such as regions of the country or state and urban or rural.
  • Decision Makers: Grouping your clients based on who decides to purchase accounting and consulting services within the company structure, e.g., by title.
  • Industry: Grouping clients based upon the industry in which they operate. If this sounds like niche marketing – a common marketing strategy among CPA firms – you’re right.

Market segmentation can help you gain a competitive advantage by understanding the needs of a specific client base.

Steps for Market Segmentation

It is important to prepare and do your research upfront to determine your segments/niches and then align with marketing and business development efforts.

1. It’s all about the data.

Market segmentation begins with data collection. Determine the types of information you’d like to collect based upon the categories above. Keep it simple to start. Then, continue to add information over time.

Using industry segmentation as an example, segment your clients by SIC or NAICS codes. Then, for each industry, calculate the gross fees, net fees, realization, average fees billed, average hours billed, average billing rate, and number of clients. Also, analyze your client base by sales volume, geographic location, and services provided.

Graph this information to give an accurate picture of your client base. This will show you in which industries you are spending the most time, earning high fees, experiencing high collection rates, offering a variety of services – all opportunities for niche market development. It will also show unprofitable industries, those you should avoid.

Talk with experts and clients in the industry to understand its service needs and hot buttons. Trends that influence an industry niche can create opportunities for additional firm services, expand the scope of services to existing clients, and provide services to new clients experiencing the same trends.

Then, gather information about your chosen niche industries. Resources include First Research, VerticalIQ, IBISWorld, GuideStar, Census Bureau Economic Statistics, and Bureau of Labor Statistics by Industry.

Collaboration with your firm’s partners and team members is critical during the data collection phase. Talk to them about their clients, the challenges their clients have, and potential solutions your firm can provide.

How to track the data? While many firms use sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) software, e.g., HubSpot, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, the majority of firms use Excel spreadsheets.

2. Demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your clients by creating personas.

According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client based on market research and real data about your existing clients. Buyer personas help you understand your clients better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, and services to meet the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of the members of your target market.

Here are some questions to consider when creating your personas:

  • What is their demographic information?
  • What is their job and level of seniority?
  • What does a day in their life look like?
  • What are their pain points? What do you help them solve?
  • What do they value most? What are their goals?
  • Where do they go for information?
  • What are their most common objections to your service?

Check out HubSpot’s free Buyer Persona Templates and Make My Persona tool for help.

3. Create content by segment.

Your buyer personas help you understand their needs and challenges. Expand on these to create a clear roadmap of how your firm can meet the needs of each persona. This will feed directly into the content creation.

Then, you need to produce a library of content to meet the personal needs of each market segment. Your content can include:

  • Blog posts/Articles
  • eBooks
  • Events
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Templates/Checklists
  • How-to Guides

Your content can then be shared on your website, blog, social media, and via email.

Again, start slowly. Select the content that is realistic and timely to produce. Then, build on it over time.

What is Market Personalization?

According to Instapage marketing personalization, also known as personalized marketing or one-to-one marketing, is the practice of using data to deliver brand messages targeted to an individual prospect.

Tyson Quick, Founder and CEO of Instapage, identified three common strategies that every brand can build off of to ensure they create a strong personalized marketing plan:

  1. Know their needs. Every customer expects you to know their needs. When they punch a long-tail query into your search bar, they expect content that answers it.
  2. Remember who they are and what they’ve done, on any channel or device. Aim to know exactly what your prospects have done, the kind of messaging they’ve responded to, the type of content they like, their communication preferences, and more.
  3. Anticipate their future needs. If you have the advantage of knowing their personal details and browsing behavior, you have the power to predict what’s coming next.

Clearly, market personalization is more than sending your emails with “Dear <FirstName>” It requires an analytics platform like Google Analytics; a CRM; a post-click landing page platform; email marketing platform; and, a tag management platform. This discussion is beyond the scope of this article but important to consider for your firm moving forward.

Conclusion

Technology, the availability of data, and people’s desire for targeted, customized communications and service offerings will continue to make market segmentation and personalization important strategies for accounting firms. Start where you are and create a plan to deepen your firm’s market segmentation and personalization efforts.

This article was originally published in the July 2020 AAM Minute.

Marketing

Are You Ready for ADA Website Compliance?

By Jean Marie Caragher

What do Domino’s Pizza, CVS Pharmacy and Beyoncé have in common? Each has been sued for a non-ADA compliant website.

Laptop on a desk planning ADA website compliance

What is ADA Website Compliance?

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for 20 or more weeks every year is covered by the law. Under Title III, businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodation” such as hotels, banks and public transportation, are also required to comply.

There are no clear ADA regulations that explain exactly what compliant web content is, but businesses that fall under ADA Title I or ADA Title III are required to develop a website that offers “reasonable accessibility” to people with disabilities.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) with a goal of providing a shared standard for Web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. It covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.

Within WCAG 2.0, there are also “levels” of acceptability for ADA website compliance:

  • A = below acceptable
  • AA = standard
  • AAA = exceptional

WCAG 2.0 AA is the standard on which most website owners are operating and is considered acceptable. It is important to know which set of standards you should be meeting, but most of these standards are very technical. Therefore, you may want to work with a web firm that specializes in ADA website compliance and is familiar with WCAG 2.0. Also, consider a consultation with a disability attorney.

How to Develop an ADA-Compliant Website

“The United States is way behind in ADA website compliance compared to businesses in Europe and Australia,” says Jason McKee, Chief Marketing Officer of Accessibility Shield, and a speaker at the 2020 AAM Summit.

According to McKee, the first step to make your website accessible is to acknowledge the issue with an accessibility statement. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) indicates accessibility statements are important for several reasons:

  1. Show your users that you care about accessibility and about them.
  2. Provide them with information about the accessibility of your content.
  3. Demonstrate commitment to accessibility and to social responsibility.

“The next step is to identify the problems and fix them,” says McKee.

Vanessa Schaefer, Co-Founder &amp; Creative Director of Clockwork Design Group, puts ADA website compliance in two buckets. “First is the visual, what users see when they’re on your site,” says Schaefer. “The second is behind the scenes to ensure your site works with screen readers.”

While there are a variety of website accessibility checkers the folks at Clockwork use the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool to identify accessibility and WCAG errors. For example, the sight-impaired have contrast issues with websites. An orange call-to-action button with white text doesn’t meet the contrast test. “ADA website compliance could involve changing brand colors,” says Danielle Diforio, Accounts Manager at Clockwork, “or making fonts bigger.”

In his article, Is Your Website ADA Compliant?, Adam C. Uzialko lists some common ways you can address accessibility issues associated with your web content:

  • Create alt tags for all images, videos and audio files: Alt tags allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to view. Alt tags describe the object itself and, generally, the purpose it serves on the site.
  • Create text transcripts for video and audio content: Text transcripts help hearing-impaired users understand content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
  • Identify the site’s language in header code: Making it clear what language the site should be read in helps users who utilize text readers. Text readers can identify those codes and function accordingly.
  • Offer alternatives and suggestions when users encounter input errors: If a user with a disability is encountering input errors because of their need to navigate the website differently, your site should automatically offer recommendations to them as to how to better navigate toward the content they need.
  • Create a consistent, organized layout: Menus, links and buttons should be organized in such a way that they are clearly delineated from one another and are easily navigated throughout the entire site.

Bethany Silvis, Marketing Coordinator at Kerkering, Barberio & Co. saw the need to start making their website more accessible after reading articles about law firms being targeted for non-compliance. In the summer of 2019 alt tags were added to all photos. Earlier this year the UserWay widget was added to their website. The UserWay Accessibility Widget is an AI-based auto-remediation technology that measures, monitors and fixes accessibility violations without requiring changes to your website’s existing code. “We have received great feedback from clients and contacts and encourage our employees to share this feature with clients,” says Silvis.

You may also consider hiring a company to repair your website and provide more comprehensive monitoring. McKee suggests you ask potential vendors the following questions:

  1. How do you manually test for accessibility?
  2. Do you offer HTML remediation?
  3. Who are you affiliated with? For example, International Association of Accessibility Professionals.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Are accounting firms in danger of being sued over non-ADA compliant websites? We will not know until it happens and the largest firms with the deepest pockets are more likely to be impacted.

By making a concerted effort to achieve reasonable accessibility for website visitors with disabilities now, you can get ahead of the curve in developing a compliant website and avoid potential lawsuits. Also, designing a compliant website can lead to better ranking on search engines.

Making our websites more accessible is not just to avoid a lawsuit. With nearly 20 percent of people in the United States affected by a disability, accessibility is the right thing to do.

This article was originally published in the February 2020 AAM Minute.