Developing the Accountancy Profession

IFAC & cloudThing's PAO Digital Assessment Tool Part 6: How To Empower Your Sales & Marketing With New Technologies

cloudThing | April 21, 2021

IFAC recently teamed up with cloudThing to offer our membership a free Digital Readiness Assessment Tool that would assess an organization's digital readiness ahead of a digital transformation project. The Digital Readiness Assessment Tool has been designed to measure how digitally 'mature' an organization is, or where they already are on their individual digital transformation journey.

The Tool will be open for PAOs to complete from November 12, 2020, to April 30, 2021. During this time, IFAC's main objective is to help PAOs complete the tool and understand, interpret, and prioritize their results. The results, (after being thoroughly anonymized) will allow IFAC, working in conjunction with cloudThing, to assess the digital readiness of the accountancy profession as a whole and strategize future support.

The Digital Readiness Assessment Tool is broken down into 11 different pillars. So far, we have blogs covering the following sections:

  1. Culture & Capability;
  2. Vision & Strategy;
  3. Business Systems & Automation;
  4. Talent Management; and
  5. Product & Service Developing

We recommend reading the previous articles before proceeding to Part 6 on Sales & Marketing.

PAO Digital Assessment Tool Part 6 – Sales & Marketing

This article explores an organization's ability to take advantage of modern, technology-led marketing and sales techniques. While most Professional Accountancy Organizations (PAOs) have at least one function or department that focuses on membership attraction and retention, there is considerable variety in the ways to do this. Additionally, many PAOs will have diversified sales to include physical products, such as events and training.

There is no 'correct' way to accomplish sales, marketing, and communications, as culture, technology, and economic factors can mean what works for one PAO may not work for another. There are, however, many universal 'key' aspects of sales and marketing that can be improved through technology. For example, adapting your communications in response to changing market conditions, member behavior, and interactions, or analyzing trends and automating processes.  

Technology can help PAOs ensure the cost to attract new members is as low as possible, and retaining that member will be made simpler through their digital experiences with the organization.  

The technology and processes this article will cover can help an organization:

  • Adapt, pivot, and change to shifting market conditions.
  • Ensure long-term revenue streams.
  • Grow both subscription and non-subscription revenue.
  • Develop new revenue streams through better membership base understandings.
  • Automate communications.
  • Nurture preferred behaviors and interactions.
  • Enhance membership retention.
  • Improve organizational reputation.

How Advanced are your Digital Asset Creation & Management Systems and Processes?

Digital asset management involves creating, managing, organizing, distributing, and potentially monetizing digital media across accounting, tax and business news, industry trends, insights, training, and surveys. 

Digital asset management solutions are designed to support internal product & service development teams, sales & marketing activity, and membership engagement by providing access to digital assets that can be flexibly re-used, in whole or in their parts, as part of an organization's online and offline strategy.

Doing this well, with the right technology, leads to:

  • Reduced duplication by providing a centralized asset repository. 
  • Effective media organization as a result of associated taxonomy.
  • Efficient searches where users can locate assets more quickly.  
  • Disaggregated and re-usable assets. 
  • Improved efficiency in digital marketing production activities. 
  • Intelligent, automated generation of assets. 
  • Simplified secure distribution of media. 
  • Ability to embed content in external applications and services.

Omni-Channel Campaign Management: Are You Talking Where Your Members Are Listening?

For effective, omni-channel marketing, a PAO needs a database and processes to manage marketing communications across their multiple digital channels. It needs to manage personalized communications to both potential and active members based on their specific preferences.  

It also needs to be able to process outgoing communications, such as, press releases, mobile, web, social media, direct mail, in-person events, or more, that are delivered across multiple channels to both targeting both PAO individual members, industry influencers, potential members, and other groups. Meanwhile, the system also needs to measure and assess the various channels for their effectiveness.

Organizing this in its most efficient format means all communications should be managed through one process and one system to ensure accurate reporting and personalization based on member preferences. 

Good, omni-channel management then needs to include all the above, plus:

  • A consistent experience for all recipients, between and across channels. 
  • An experience individually tailored to the recipient.
  • Be capable of accurately measuring membership engagement with the PAO. 
  • Comply with all local data protection and marketing laws. 
  • Efficiently measure content and campaign ROI's across channels and be capable of making improvements in real time.

How Frequent Is Your Outward Content Communications?

Sales & marketing can't exist in isolation. A commitment is also needed from the organization to regularly write and publish articles, guides, and blogs for their membership base. These are usually produced by various contributing individuals across the organization to covers multiple topics relevant to the membership base.  

This content should be published either on the PAO website and/or be shared across the member network, as well as any relevant social media platforms.

Doing this helps both the sales & marketing strategy by:

  • Enabling the organization to demonstrate value as a subject matter expert in their field.  
  • Attracting potential new members by using the content shared across a PAO's network as a 'lure'. 
  • Providing paying members with more in-depth content offers them additional value. 
  • Promoting discussion of best practices internally and amongst wider networks. 
  • Improving the PAO website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and visibility of the organization. 

Improving your PAO's Lead Generation & Management with Modern Systems

A lead generation and management system is any system that supports the ongoing activity by the PAO to attract new members.

Once an individual registers interest, marketing, sales, and communication teams should be able to track the progress and relevant information of an interested potential member, segment them and nurture the engagement automatically until they either convert into a paid member or another type of sales such as an event, training, or other product.  

The system should also measure and forecast the likelihood of the lead converting based on historical interactions with the PAO across multiple channels using an appropriate predictive intelligence software.

Any such software introduced as part of a digital transformation should be capable of:

  • Ensuring consistent and accurate future revenue forecasting.
  • Enabling the measurement of ROI for any sales & marketing activity. 
  • Ensuring a consistent experience is had by all potential new members. 
  • Improving the likelihood of leads converting into dues-paying members.

How Well Does Your PAO Track its Adverting and Paid Search Costs?

PAOs, no matter their size, will likely engage in some form of advertising, with the media, reach, and activity varying depending on budget.  

Using digital advertising, organizations can now reach a larger audience much faster and for far less money by using the technology to focus the advertising spend on websites that will most likely convert visitors into members. This allows marketing departments to keep improving online ads and communications based on real-time feedback. 

These same technologies can aid with the measurement and reporting on individual ads’ and ad campaigns' effectiveness, meaning that marketing departments spend more time creating new campaigns rather than manually bidding for advertising space.  

Therefore, a system and processes that can track the spend, lifecycle, and business generated from every paid-for communication will ensure maximum value from a PAO's marketing budget. By optimizing text length, image size, and advertisement location on a page, campaigns can better achieve various business goals such as increasing ad impressions for maximum awareness or increasing engagement to gain more members.

These strategies all require automated testing, bidding, and reporting, which can only be achieved with the right data and technology. Any such platform then needs to be able to:

  • Enable the forecasting of future advertising spend. 
  • Measure the ROI of advertising activity. 
  • Improve advertising content on underperforming channels. 
  • Increase awareness of the PAO. 
  • Improve the overall reputation of the PAO. 
  • Ensure existing members see only advertisements relevant to them for a more personalized experience. 
  • Improve the likelihood of leads converting into dues-paying members.

Automating Your Sales & Opportunity Management

Automating your sales and opportunity management, for many, is the biggest reason to undertake a digital transformation. To do so effectively, all opportunity management and sales processes across the membership base, events, training, and physical product sales, need to be defined and modeled to be set up as automated tasks using the relevant software.

This will then enable efficient management of the entire pipeline and provide data insight using artificial intelligence-backed business intelligence reports to aid sales representatives and managers with up-to-date cross-sell opportunities.  

Automating a PAO's sales & opportunity management leads to:

  • An increase in sales and a shortening of the sales cycle while maximizing up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. 
  • Improved efficiency and customer experiences throughout the sales process by allowing sales teams to focus on the most critical tasks, thereby streamlining the sales process so that the most effective strategy is always used. 
  • Tailored customer engagement through segmentation and sales funnel management and automated nudging. 
  • Improved management reporting and improved sales forecasting. 
  • Actionable insights for sales representatives on their customer base through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Gaining Deeper Insights Into Your Membership Base

PAOs should always be looking for deeper relationship insights into their membership base. A well-planned out digital transformation means capturing and analyzing a deeper level of data of a PAO's interactions with its members to gain better insight into the structure and condition of the relationship, thereby maximizing audience targeting capabilities. Automated tracking of business processes and interactions with members also provides additional checks on communication speed and quality.  

This process is crucial to maintaining relationships with high-profile partners and providers as a fully integrated relationship insight process enables individuals to understand appropriate connections on-demand, while also allowing company relationship knowledge to be distributed to those who need it.

It also ensures communications are optimized to nurture healthy business relationships and efficient interactions. Automated processes allow organizations to quickly understand the best internal contact to support the member or partner and then obtain additional information and context around the best approach. This also minimizes process delays and creates regular reminders of actions promised to ensure that all tasks are completed promptly.

Setting Up a Membership Directory

In improving a PAO's sales & marketing, it is helpful to set up a public-facing membership directory to help potential customers of your members find the right firm for their inquiry.

Preferably, the directory should be online. It should be searchable for licensed individuals and member firms, while offering contact details to the public who require accountancy services. 

To provide the best experience, a membership directory needs to quickly search through a large amount of member information, which must be kept secure and up to date with the right technology.  

Setting this up as part of a digital transformation will:

  • Provide value to member organizations as they will see a direct ROI through customer enquiries. 
  • Showcase the breadth and credibility of both member firms and individuals.  
  • Generate traffic to the PAO's website from individuals looking for accountancy services. 
  • Foster members' connection with the organization.

Facilitate Membership Sales More Efficiently Through eCommerce

eCommerce platforms provide a solution to managing online experiences and transactions for Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) , and Consumer to Business (C2B). eCommerce can help facilitate the sales of virtual products such as membership, events, and training as well as other products.

eCommerce systems can (and should) also be integrated with fulfillment solutions for an end-to-end automated approach as well as deeper insights into what your membership base is looking for. Improving your eCommerce as part of your digital transformation is important as modern consumers don't just 'want' but will expect to transact all their consumer needs online.

In addition to meeting membership expectations, it will also:

  • Reduce overheads and costs compared to offline purchasing models.
  • Improve brand reputation through better user experiences.
  • Enable revenue growth for products & services. 
  • Simplify and improve a PAO's customer service. 
  • Improve conversion rates through guided checkout. 
  • Provide powerful behavioral insights to support sales and marketing. 
  • Provide opportunities to reach new audiences and marketing channels. 

How To Safely Secure Online Transactions

Today’s online payment solutions enable consumers of products and services to pay for them securely via the internet, using multiple payment methods on a one-off or recurring basis. Any digital transformation project you start should consider this as part of a 'Security-by-Design' approach.

Taking that Security-by-Design approach not only simplifies the purchasing experience for your members while reducing overheads for the PAO, but it also has a significant effect on your brands' reputation, by making your members feel secure using your site(s) or portal(s).

Creating your online transaction processes with a Security-by-Design approach also means:

  • Fund collections can be safely automated to happen on a reoccurring basis.
  • Risks associated with cardholder information using PCI-compliant services are reduced.
  • Incremental revenue can be easily generated by offering additional payment methods. 
  • Member satisfaction levels can be improved through self-service. 
  • The PAO can control access to products and services through integrated billing.

Automating Gifts & Sponsorship as Part of a PAO Digital Transformation

Ideally, the processes and tools to facilitate identification and engagement with various organizational sponsors and members should incorporate an automated mechanism for acknowledgment, appreciation, and thanks. This creates a structured framework for sponsor and member engagement activities, which will enable tracking the effectiveness of gifts and sponsorship and engagement endeavors.

That will also allow for managing corporate relationships in an ethical manner, having the additional effect of increasing the PAO's brand reputation. It also provides a framework for the planning and budgeting of gifts and sponsorship with complete provenance of actions for compliance. 

Integrating Digital Fulfilment and Finance Automation into your Sales & Marketing

Finally, the last step that should be considered for your sales & marketing as part of your transformation plan is integrated finance, membership management, and digital service delivery. 

This should be accomplished with both Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI to automate manual finance processes and integrate them with the PAO's fulfillment systems.  This can then provide real-time information to businesses and customers, aligned with accurate billing and accounting, and should also be a component of an organization's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for optimal efficiency.

Other benefits include:

  • Better and accelerated decision making for the PAO through the availability of real-time data visualization and advanced analytics. 
  • Reduction in errors and improved fraud detection. 
  • Improved customer experience through real-time stock availability and digital service fulfillment with accurate, timely billing and accounting. 
  • Improved supplier management.

Complete Your Assessment!

Locate the email sent on behalf of IFAC Membership, with the subject line, "IFAC PAO Digital Readiness Assessment Tool Launch." Your organization's unique access link will be located within.

If you have any issues with registration, please contact support@baselined.app for assistance. 
If you cannot locate the email, please contact
membership@ifac.org.

Check out IFAC’s PAO Digital Transformation Series webpage which houses helpful resources, articles and videos on Digital Transformation and is regularly updated!

cloudThing, based in the UK, is a technology company that help organizations such as the British Red Cross, The South African Institute of Accountants, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England & Wales) to name but a few, digitally transform by taking advantage of the automation technology available to them on the cloud. 

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