Most firms rely on an informal approach to partner networking and ad hoc client referral to grow their practices, according to the survey, carried out by Accountancy Age and Iris Software.
Just 20% of the 120 small to medium-sized practices polled said they actively marketed in order to win new business while 69% rated referral as the most common way to gain new clients.
And only 20% admitted to using customer relationship management systems as part of their customer development programmes with 52% of respondents dismissing CRM systems and databases as ‘unnecessary’. The rejection comes despite their widespread usage of database management systems in other service industry sectors such as banking, retailing and telecommunications.
Few practices currently invest in new generation telemarketing, email marketing or web development, nor do they attempt to measure the responses to their activities, the survey found.
And firms are also shunning less technology-driven marketing solutions. Over 85% of the practices questioned said they would not be investing in dedicated professional marketing staff in 2003.
Instead when it comes to practice promotional activity and customer development, most firms continue to invest their time and money in traditional methods of promotion: such as adverts in business directories, partner networking and referral reward schemes.
But there is limited progress on web-based marketing which is becoming more prevalent.
When asked what areas they planned to invest in over the next 12 months, website development topped the list with a new practice brochure a close second.
Few firms support marketing with dedicated personnel. Some 85% of accountancy practices do not employ a full or part-time marketing person, while 86% do not plan to invest in marketing personnel during 2003. A surprising 75% said they did not market to develop new business.
‘Understanding the specific individual needs of current and prospective clients to provide tailored service offerings is essential – particularly so in challenging economic climates,’ said Iris Software group chief executive Martin Leuw.
‘This survey has shown that many practices could benefit from a more proactive approach to both their marketing and customer development programmes.’