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From Marketing to Business Development – Part 1

From Marketing to Business Development
Making marketing initiatives truly impact the practices of your management

Part One – Translating marketing into practice

Within accounting firms, there is frequently a chasm between marketing and sales. Business development has traditionally been the exclusive territory of partners and directors. Marketing is often handled by non-practitioners who are one step removed from the actual sales process. The primary purpose of marketing within an accounting firm is to create and support opportunities for business development. But far too often, even the best marketing efforts fall short of this goal. The problem isn’t always the fault of marketing professionals. Good ideas often fall short because business developers don’t understand how to capitalize on the materials and opportunities provided, or they don’t recognize the value of important initiatives.” Regardless, at the end of the day, if marketing efforts and initiatives aren’t seen as value-added in the sales process, marketing professionals usually shoulder the blame.

So how can marketing professionals better understand the needs of practitioners? How can they best communicate their ideas in a way which helps them gain traction and influence within their firm? How can marketing professionals maximize their budgets in a way which creates concrete, recognized opportunity for partners? At Catalyst, bridging the gap between marketing and business development is the foundation of our practice. We work closely with marketing directors at firms across the country. In other cases, we work directly with managing partners. In all cases, we work as part of a team with a goal of maximizing the marketing efforts of the firm and bolstering the effectiveness and recognition of talented marketing professionals.

Our practice is led by current and acting practitioners–professionals who work with both CPA firms and taxpayers and build new multi-million dollar books of business on an annual basis. Our directors manage marketing professionals that include copywriters, web developers, optimization experts, strategic marketers, graphic designers, and other specialties. Our goal is to help our clients make the most of every dollar spent on marketing–to ensure that best practices are being employed so that each initiative yields clear results. Subsequently, the internal marketing professionals that we support get the recognition they have earned for their efforts.

Unfortunately, too many firms send their professionals to the job site with nothing in their hands but a shovel. They might know how to sell, they might have a great product to sell, but their effectiveness is being undermined by their image and their materials. In sales, perception is often more important than substance, yet too many firms assume perception will naturally line up with reality.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll discuss some specific ways to ensure that communication, print, and online marketing initiatives are profoundly affecting the sales process within your firm. This week our managing director, Steve Brunson will discuss some general rules of thumb that will help you gain momentum and credibility within your partner group.

Steve Brunson is the managing director at Catalyst CPA Marketing. He is an experienced tax practitioner with real-world experience selling services side by side with CPA firms across the country. He’s has developed and executed strategic marketing plans. At Catalyst, he leads a team of skilled marketers dedicated to providing client firms with the tools they need to promote and grow their firm.

One of the biggest hurdles marketing professionals face when dealing with partners is the language barrier. Quite simply, accountants and marketers speak their own languages. Marketers talk about social media, search engine optimization, leveraging content, defining and promoting a clear message, and CRM solutions. Partners talk about IC-DISC’s, general business credits, net operating losses, audit procedures, financial reporting, and realization. I’ve seen many eyes gloss over when technical partners are trying to explain tax product services to marketers. At the same time, I’ve seen many technical partners quickly lose focus when marketing directors break into marketing-speak. Unfortunately, when working together on marketing and business development initiatives, both sides frequently retreat to their comfort zone, and the conversation isn’t as effective as it should be.

So how should you convey ideas to management? First, focus on the result, not the process. As much as it might hurt to think about, most partners don’t really care how you do something. They don’t want to hear about email distribution methods, CMS platforms for websites, or graphical design. They simply want a result that brings them value and that they can use. If you feel strongly that your web platform needs to be upgraded to promote the firm and leverage the information produced by your communication program, focus on the result your solution will provide to each partner’s practice. Don’t tell them about onsite and offsite optimization. Don’t tell them too much about RSS feeds or content management systems. Focus on the value that your ideas will bring. Try not to devolve into marketing-speak. Speak the language of business development and you’ll be heard. Give each partner a clear example of how your idea will create or support opportunities for their practice.

When partners come to you for support, be sure you understand what they need, not just what they want. If you give them what they need, they’ll appreciate it and hold you in higher regard. If they need marketing support in an area that is technically out of your comfort zone, find a solution which can bridge your marketing knowledge with the required technical background. That might mean finding outside help, or it might mean telling the partner they’ll need to take an active role in co-developing the material. Again, partners want the result, so don’t let the process get in the way.

Be proactive with practice-specific ideas. Learn to identify opportunities to promote your partners and their services. When you promote larger marketing initiatives, don’t spend too much time on generalities or firm wide benefits. Develop concrete examples which explain how your initiative will benefit individual practices. Will it create new opportunities? Provide an example. Will it support opportunities? Explain how.

If you are lucky enough to have a partner with a vision for marketing, make an example out of your success. Document how you worked with them to create opportunity and make them your advocate within the firm. Once you have some success, momentum will build. Partners who previously had little use for marketing will begin to take interest. Speak the same language and promote and build on specific successes. Once you learn to speak the language of accounting, and leave the marketing speak for marketers, you’ll quickly find that your bigger ideas will get more attention and consideration, and your effectiveness within your firm will continue to grow.

Steve Brunson
About the Author
Steve is a leader in the CPA / Accountant Marketing industry, and is a well known figure and speaker throughout the US. Steve works diligently to ensure that every action Catalyst takes moves its partner accounting firms closer to reaching their business development goals. He does this through every point of the process from strategic planning to implementation to measuring results.