Wellers – case study from established firm of chartered accountants

The next level of revenue generation –

RCR helps Wellers to build its first marketing function

Successful accountancy firm Wellers wanted help in generating more revenue and building its marketing capability and culture

(This case study can also be downloaded and read as a PDF)

Wellers Accountants is one of the most successful medium size accountants in the South East. Established more than 50 years ago, the firm has four offices covering London and the Thames Valley with around 80 employees. Although Wellers felt it was weathering the recession successfully, it was looking to grow its fee income by around 16 per cent while extending its positioning as all-round business advisors, rather than pure number crunchers; an approach that it calls Business Oxygen.

Chief Executive Neil Beck approached RCR to help the firm move to the next level with its marketing and business development. Wellers knew they should be doing more proactive marketing if they were to achieve their financial goals, and they also felt the time had come to invest in a marketing function for the first time, but they were unsure as to what level of person to recruit.

Follow what happened next:

Stage 1: Winning partner support

After initial discussions about the priorities, Neil Beck and RCR agreed that the first step was to ensure that the partners were behind the initiative, and would personally get involved in implementing any marketing plan, as well as backing an increased marketing budget.

To address this, RCR ran a workshop with the 18-strong partner group entitled “Turning Marketing Intentions into Action”. Over a half day, the workshop covered partners’ understanding of marketing and business development, their views on the firm’s priorities across all areas of revenue generating activity, and what was needed to build an effective ‘marketing engine room’. RCR used the framework below to help the partners identify what capabilities they needed in this area:

The broad consensus was that the firm needed to identify clearer lines of functional reporting and responsibility, and a structured marketing plan to give focus and direction. There was recognition of the need for more skills and experience (and that these would probably need to be recruited) but that the needs should be more closely defined as part of the marketing planning phase. Finally, and possibly the greatest challenge, was the recognition that the partners themselves would need to build more of a cultural focus on marketing and business development.

Commenting on the workshop, Neil Beck says: “Although there weren’t any great surprises in the priorities that we identified, RCR helped us to see marketing in the strategic context of what we want to achieve as a business. And it was also very valuable to get all the partners to recognise the challenge of creating a marketing culture where we are all responsible for growing the firm’s revenue.”

Stage 2: Marketing planning

At the workshop the partners identified that there was a gap in fee income that would need to be filled by new kinds of activity. Although additional work from existing clients and referrals from clients and contacts would generate a certain predicted level of income there was also a need to generate new leads and business.

Using RCR’s 9 Box framework, the three broad priorities that the workshop identified were:

  • Communication: improving the way the Wellers’ position and messages were communicated to the market
  • Starting conversations: increasing the number of potential clients they were talking to
  • Client management: focusing on proactive management of existing client relationships to deliver additional revenue

RCR took these broad priorities and, over the next eight weeks, worked with Neil Beck to develop a detailed marketing strategy that would address them. This included detailed campaign plans, designed to generate new business in specific sectors, such as hospitality and the horse racing industry, a timeplan, and a budget. The plan also looked at the human resources needed for implementation, and made recommendations for engaging and supporting the partners, through the development of Personal Marketing Plans, and for recruiting a junior marketing manager.

Commenting on the planning process, Neil Beck says: “This wasn’t something we’d ever done before as a firm so we learnt a lot; for example, RCR got us to think about the potential risks and roadblocks, and how we would measure progress. “

Stage 3: Implementation

Once the strategy and budget had been agreed by the Board, and communicated to the whole firm at their annual staff day, RCR began working as Wellers’ part-time marketing director. Spending time in both the Oxford and London offices, RCR’s focus was on supporting the partners in their marketing and client development, as well as implementing a range of new activity such as social media, email marketing campaigns and trialling telemarketing.

One of RCR’s early tasks was to manage the process of recruiting a marketing manager (and then act as their line manager). Getting the right person on board has meant implementation has been able to progress even faster, with a focus on sector-specific campaigns which are already showing very strong results, particularly in the hospitality sector. The campaign has featured round table discussions, the development of a range of business guides for restaurateurs, as well as case studies, PR and a social media campaign, plus new business activity. While it’s early days in terms of sales impact, the campaign is already generating new levels of awareness and promising leads.

Neil Beck comments: “This has been one of the real new departures of the last year: we’ve developed a successful campaign blueprint which we’re now rolling out in other sectors where we have a strong presence, such as healthcare, bloodstock and start-ups.”

Measuring the impact

Over the year following the adoption of the marketing strategy, RCR and Wellers have been monitoring a range of indicators to track progress, such as numbers of mailings, digital activity and increased numbers of formal client plans.

The key measure, particularly in convincing the partners that a marketing function is a good investment, has been the firm’s increase in revenues to hit the targets set for the year.

Commenting on the firm’s progress and RCR’s role over the last year, Neil Beck says: “I feel we’ve taken some major steps forward: we now have a professional and productive marketing function and RCR have been critical to that. Their flexibility as part-time marketing directors is ideal for a business of our size, but we appreciate the experience and creativity that we get from having senior-level involvement.”