AAM and Hinge Research Institute Release 2017 Marketing Budget Benchmark Study

By Jessica Kiser posted 07-26-2017 10:42

Collaborative Research Analyzes Marketing Strategy of High-Growth Accounting Firms

June 30, 2017 (Forest Hill, MD) - Advertising, once the largest marketing expenditure by accounting firms, has been overtaken by other marketing tactics, according to a research study examining marketing spending for accounting firms.

The study, conducted jointly by The Association for Accounting Marketing and Hinge Research Institute, analyzed data from 84 firms across the U.S. and examined differences in spending for high-growth and low-growth firms.

Sponsorships now command a larger proportion of marketing dollars among firms studied than traditional advertising, which commanded top spend honors in the 2013 study. Yet despite this, the 2017 study indicates that such sponsorships actually yielded an overall negative return on effort (i.e., they required more effort than the market impact they delivered). This suggests that, while many firms are actively pursuing different strategies and tactics than in years past, they have yet to find the right mix that achieves the results they desire.
"Drawing on the success of our previous Marketing Budget Benchmark Studies, AAM again partnered with Hinge researchers to learn more about how our industry's fastest-growing firms are marketing themselves," said AAM Executive Director Lauren Clemmer. "In a competitive industry, we learned which marketing strategies are really contributing to growth-and which aren't."

"In drawing distinctions between high-growth and low-growth firms, the most striking difference came not in the size of the marketing budget, but in how differently budgets were allocated," explained Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner at Hinge. "High-growth firms were much more likely to prioritize online and content marketing, and to call on outside and external resources. They were less likely to focus on traditional areas like advertising and sponsorships."

The Marketing Budget Benchmark Study compared marketing spending against organic growth in 84 firms. Researchers focused on contrasting the marketing strategies of high-growth firms (i.e., the fastest-growing 20% among the sample) and low-growth firms (i.e., the slowest-growing 20%).

The results represent an analysis of participants' marketing budget compositions and budgeting processes, as well as perspectives from respondents on changing marketing spending priorities. This data is further contextualized by comparisons of firms' marketing spending according to growth rate, size and market reach. Various other indexes, such as the ratio of marketing staff to overall employees, were also calculated. A special worksheet is also included to help readers compare their own firms against these industry benchmarks.

Other notable takeaways include:
  • Many firms studied find that focusing on some level of specialization delivers most effective marketing return for dollars spent
  • High-growth firms split their marketing spends approximately 50/50 between digital and traditional advertising, while low-growth firms spend 83% of their marketing dollars on traditional advertising vehicles.
"Although our participating firms were tremendously diverse in their size and scope, this unique methodology creates research that's comparable, relatable and extremely valuable for any firm in the industry," continued Clemmer. "We encourage AAM's members and all accounting marketers to take advantage of this critically important resource."

The report is available now for download at http://www.accountingmarketing.org/cpa-marketing-budgets. An executive summary is free and available to all. A more detailed summary, including the benchmarking worksheet, is open to AAM members.

The full report unveils the research data in its entirety. It offers full spending data for high and low growth firms, spending by firm size, spending by market size and a detailed budget breakdown. The full report can be purchased from AAM at a member rate of $300 and a non-member rate of $600.

Both organizations plan to continue similar research work in the future. Companies interested in participating in future benchmarking studies may contact info@hingemarketing.com. All participants receive complimentary access to the full report.