By Patrick McLoughlin
Ask your team what marketing means to them you’ll likely hear a range of different answers. The website will get a mention, no doubt Social Media and branding will too. Somewhere further down the list you might just find attracting new clients.
That’s the problem with marketing.
There was a discussion in an online marketing group recently where half a dozen partners congratulated themselves on their natural talent for marketing. Whilst they awarded themselves full marks for marketing the majority commented that sales was not their forte.
It begs the question: Just what do they think marketing is? Marketing without lead generation and conversion will not grow your client list. You might win awards but you won’t win new business.
Gale Crossley and Debbie Stover point out in their excellent book, At the Crossroads: ‘A few years ago Inside Public Accounting’s Benchmarking Report noted that the average fee growth in the survey was approximately the same, whether the firm had marketing professionals on board or not.’
A while back I interviewed an experienced marketing manager for a client. I asked her to tell me about the work she was most proud of. She dipped into her briefcase and pulled out a form she had designed.
More recently I asked the regional head of marketing from a Top 10 firm to describe their ideal client. He walked out of the room and returned with a part-qualified accountant: “she can tell you.” He had absolutely no idea, worse still it was clearly a question he had never considered!
Strategic business development beats tactical marketing
From my experience the vast majority of marketing staff employed by UK accountancy firms focus on marketing communications, not growing your client list. Fast growth firms focus on winning quality new business, not marketing their services.
This is called the Practice Growth blog for a reason. The ‘Accountancy Marketing Blog’ would attract more visitors, accountancy marketing is a far more popular search term, but it would send out the wrong message.
Like all your employees, your marketing staff take the lead from the firm’s senior management. You, the leaders, must give them the opportunity to deliver growth. Give them the authority and status to help your senior team to build a pipeline of quality new clients.
As Gale Crossley suggests in the book, changing the job title from Marketing to Practice Growth is a good start: ‘Next include him or her in all partner meetings of strategic content, even if only as an observer.’ She continues: “Ask your renamed director of practice growth to rewrite the job description, including goals and compensation scheme. Tie the person’s goals and compensation directly to practice growth. This will get rid of the nice-to-have marketing initiatives that don’t contribute to increasing revenue.’
Questions to ask yourself
Are your marketing people involved in strategic planning? Do they have a seat at the head table?
Do you measure the effectiveness of your marketing by Return On Investment?
Do you judge your website by how attractive or ‘professional’ it looks or the leads and revenue it’s delivered?
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Do it now before you get distracted.