Effective Accounting Marketing for Multi-Partner Firms

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Effective Accounting Marketing for Multi-Partner Firms

By Patrick McLoughlin

If there is more than one person involved in your firm’s marketing, this week’s blog is for you.  It looks at how you can overcome the most common reason marketing fails for multi-partner firms.

To help explain the problem I’ll tell you a story about 1950s housewives, cake mix and Freud.   

Accounting Marketing and Egg Theory

In 1950s North America, Betty Crocker Foods produced an instant cake mix.

This transformation in baking simplified the preparation process to the extent that all you had to do was add water to the powder supplied.

accounting marketing, accountants marketing cake marketing


To the company’s great surprise, their major breakthrough bombed.  Convinced they were on to a winner, they researched why the average North American ‘home-maker’  wasn’t interested in saving their time.

The research focused on the newly developing science of psychoanalysis.  The findings explained the problem perfectly and helped them identify a solution that made the product a top seller.

American housewives loved the convenience of the cake mix and appreciated the time it saved.    But, and it is a big but, they took no pride in the cakes they produced.  Worse still, they thought they had deceived their husbands and felt guilty when they praised the product of their limited labour.

In response, Betty Crocker played with the ingredients so that an egg now had to be added to the mix.  Making it necessary to add more than water was enough, for most housewives, to take pride and ownership of their cakes.  Sales went through the roof?

‘It is a great example of the importance of ‘Pride of Ownership.’      

Accounting marketing, marketing for accountants switch                                      Partners must support your marketing program

The Dangers of Pride of Ownership

Are you old enough to remember Sony Walkmans and Sony Trinitron TVs?  Both were breakthrough technology that elevated Sony above its rivals. 

However, there is an argument that the company failed to follow-up on its success for one reason: ‘Not invented here bias.’  The argument goes that Sony rejected developing projects based on technology they had not invented themselves.  Instead, they would take the process back a couple of steps and build their own foundation / architecture.   When the new technology took off, Sony was still at the drawing board.

Accounting Marketing that is Sure to Fail

If your marketing strategy is developed and dictated by one person, who then ropes in others to deliver the work, you are in trouble.

As Mike Shultz and John E. Doerr put it in their great book Professional Services Marketing:

‘Nothing turns off partners, division leaders, and other leadership types more than being handed a strategy and told to “Make it happen.” Force-feed the strategies from on high, and you’re likely to get compliance, but rarely Commitment.  Practice leaders may take the strategy and run with it, perhaps even put a bit of effort and sweat into it, yet they can and frequently do walk away at the first sign of trouble.’

My experience of working with partners and other team members, forced to execute someone else’s strategy, is much more negative.  If you don’t have ‘buy-in’ from all involved, especially partners / directors, you really are up against it.

Move too far the other way: set-up a marketing committee and get full agreement from everyone, for every step involved, and you will struggle to get anywhere.

Tips to Develop Successful Marketing 

1)      Include all stakeholders in brainstorming your options.

2)      Use the results of the brainstorming to identify your best opportunities for growth, and how to achieve them.

3)      Prepare a ‘Straw Man Plan,’ a simple draft document outlining your plans. 

4)      Gather all involved to discuss the plan.  Remember it is only a crude draft document.  It is designed only as a starting point.  Tell the team to poke holes in it, to challenge and question all assumptions.      

5)      Develop your tactics and strategies into a final plan based on the conclusions drawn from your straw man discussions.   Get approval from all involved in the plan’s implementation.

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