Primum non nocere is Latin for “First, do no harm.” I’m sure most are familiar with the phrase. It’s one of the foundations of medical ethics. But what does it have to do with professional service marketing? You don’t have to be around the accounting profession very long to realize that our industry would do quite well to borrow this idea from our friends in the medical profession and apply it to our marketing efforts. Too many firms have ignored marketing for so long, that an honest evaluation of their efforts would fail to satisfy primum non nocere.
Marketing has long been a foreign subject to CPAs. Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the investment in and focus on marketing at the largest firms. The Big 4 have led the way with marketing and advertising. Regional firms have quickly adapted in order to compete with the big boys and to distance themselves from their local competitors. But many local firms seem to be stuck in neutral. They might occasionally rev their engine (often manifested in a rapid concentration of internal meetings, committees, and short term objectives), but all too often it seems they don’t have the car in gear – all the engine revving often gets them nowhere. Too many firms don’t know where to start, so they over analyze before, during, and after attempting to put initiatives in place. This over analysis can lead to a lack of activity and stifle momentum and results.
At Catalyst, we are very consistent in how we define the role of marketing at a CPA firm. Marketing should create and support opportunities for business development. But at many firms, before marketing efforts can achieve these goals, they need to stop hurting business development. At too many firms, the state of their marketing efforts actually makes business development more difficult. I’ve been a part of many conversations where professionals tell me that they NEVER point clients or prospects to their website. Why? Because they know it will hinder their efforts. The same goes for collateral materials. Not having materials to facilitate the sales process is bad. Having materials that professionals won’t use is equally bad if not worse.
Often times, partners at local firms ask what they should do first. In many instances, they are thinking of investing in sales training, hiring a marketing director, or bringing in a business development director. In some cases that’s exactly what the firm needs to facilitate growth. But just as often, firms need to take a look at their existing marketing efforts and make sure they aren’t holding back the business development process. A website that was developed in 2006 and hasn’t been updated in three years is probably making business development harder. Dated materials date your expertise and are a limiting factor in your ability to convince clients and prospects that you are the best choice to serve them.
Everything that is in the public domain about a firm says something about that firm. Are the foundations of your marketing causing harm? If they are, don’t fret. You aren’t alone. And the solution isn’t difficult. Don’t over analyze the situation. Don’t try to determine the ROI on bringing your image into the 21st century. If you recognize the problem, take quick decisive action to fix it. Common sense and bold action should win the day here. Fix the basics first, and everything else you do will be easier, less expensive, and much more effective.