There are three major disruptors currently occurring in the evolution of professional services marketing.
- First is the acknowledgement that marketing is a revenue generator, not overhead.
- Second is the idea that marketing and business development are, if not one-in-the-same, more closely aligned than generally understood.
- And the third is the emergence of digital marketing as a strategic growth tool.
Fortunately, all three can be addressed in tandem with the right team structured and empowered to advance the firm’s visibility, credibility, and growth.
Marketing as a Revenue-Generator
Contrary to popular belief, marketing is an essential revenue-generating function in every organization. This is true even in professional services, and accounting firms are no exception. To fully derive the benefit, leadership must understand the function and invest in the team.
Chief Marketing Officer at Grassi, Sarah Cirelli, weighs in on this, saying, “Marketing teams have an opportunity to ‘get rid of the grandfathers’ every budget season and prioritize spending towards digital and other high-performing areas. ‘Just do what we did last year’ is not a strategy that will work in these disruptive times.”
Unfortunately, many partner groups are still trying to grasp the concept of marketing as a strategic partner. Not only is marketing chastised for spending, too often this function reports to somebody other than the firm managing partner. In most circumstances, this partner has as little experience with marketing as the marketer has as an accountant.
Accountability to the managing partner not only tees marketing up for accomplishment, the seamless communication between the two serves as a strong foundation for a successful partnership.
The acceptance of marketing as a contributor to the bottom line is the first step in creating a strong foundation. Aligning the appropriate professionals in strategic roles is the next.
Another major obstacle has to do with the silos of business development (sales) and marketing. Many firms do not have overlap between the two. It really boils down to how the profession has historically compensated new business. It’s often easier to track and reward through one point of contact than a team. BD was always the prospect-facing professional, while marketing has been perceived as an administrative role that ‘helps’ to secure the client. Today, both functions are integrated and integral and teams need to reflect the professional contributions of both teams to the overall success of the firm.
Finally, your firm’s ability to stand out in today’s digital-first world has everything to do with the strategies and tactics developed and advanced by the marketing function. These professionals understand how marketing and digital work together to advance growth agendas. The level of trust that must be placed in the marketers is necessary to achieve successful outcomes.
Core Marketing Roles
Taking into consideration these three elements, do you know: Who is on my team? What skills do they bring? How is the team structured? What does this team do? How do I manage the budget and measure their success?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “one-size fits all” marketing in accounting firms. In its simplest state, an ideal team would consist of a specific structure based upon its firm’s size, geography, niches, budget, and offices. In all firms, however, the roles and responsibilities are specific and overall accountability is to the firm managing partner.
These are some of the more common positions and responsibilities:
Chief Marketing Officer — The Chief Marketing Officer, or CMO, is responsible for all marketing activities in the firm. This individual excels in strategic thinking, brings an advanced skill set, and a proven ability to create strategies that produce ROI. This seasoned professional will oversee every element of marketing, communications, brand(s), and business development to lead awareness and growth. This senior-level leader reports directly to the managing partner.
Marketing Director — Most firms give the top marketing professional a Director of Marketing or Marketing Director title. In reality, for medium-size firms, the role and responsibilities are the same as a CMO but the budget and team are smaller. This professional oversees teams, develops strategies, ensures execution, and creates measurement reports. This is a senior level leader and reports to the managing partner. If in a larger firm, this individual will work with and report to the CMO.
Marketing Manager — The Marketing Manager may be the highest position in a smaller firm. This professional helps develop and implement tactics, ensures execution, and develops reports. Depending on the size of the firm and team, this professional will report to the Marketing Director, CMO, or MP.
Graphic Designer — The Graphic Designer (in larger firms, Creative Director) oversees and guides the brand identity of the firm and its professionals. This professional has a critical role in maintaining the firm’s brand standards. In firms with advanced digital marketing capabilities, there may be a team of graphic designers at varying levels such as video production, animation, and motion graphics. The graphic designer is accountable to the Marketing Director or CMO.
Writer/Copywriter/Proposal Writer — The Copywriter oversees the written word in advertising, content, communications, and proposals. This professional ensures that all content — from articles to blog posts to press releases to letters — are inclusive of the firm’s voice and consistent with approved corporate messaging. Every element produced needs to represent the firm’s brand. This role is also accountable to the Marketing Director or CMO.
Marketing Coordinator — The Marketing Coordinator(s) is typically responsible for more of the minutiae, including campaign support, content distribution and posting, social media management, completing basic website updates, tracking deadlines, and reporting on department projects. Because most departments do not have a dedicated administrative person, this individual can be important for team organization ensuring consistency, continuity, and quality control and such, reports to the Marketing Director or CMO.
Events Manager — Whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, events are another important component of a firm’s visibility that resides with marketing. This might be a key role on a large and/or mature marketing team responsible for creating, executing, and measuring successful events. This professional should be experienced in planning and logistics, and should report to the senior marketing professional. Budgets for events can become significant and results ambiguous, which is why events report to the Marketing Director or CMO.
Digital Team — Technicians are essential to digital marketing. In the marketing function, your non-IT tech professional is usually a web developer. If your team is large, you may also have coders, technical and on-page SEO specialists, CRM managers/specialists, direct mail (email) specialists, pay per click/paid ad specialists, and more. There will be ongoing collaboration needed between the team of strategists, creatives, and the team of technicians. Technology can get expensive and a Marketing Director or CMO is the most appropriate party for reporting to.
Newer Roles in Marketing
Many firms hire certain types of creative or technical professionals as contract workers for support during specific projects. For instance, if your firm is launching a new website, you will have a critical need for a variety of specialists. During that time, you may expand your creative and technical teams until the project is complete. Growing firms may want to consider adding some capabilities to their teams.
To truly accelerate growth, certain roles have emerged or been expanded in firms including:
Chief Growth Officer — Chief Growth Officer, CGO, is an identifier that is increasingly common in high-growth firms. This individual will drive planning and direction for the firm as an entity, its business units/niches, geographic locations, and professionals. This role leads the firm’s outside sales, overseeing partner and/or business development professionals, and in some firms, the marketing team. The responsibility of the CGO is in overseeing strategic approaches and activities that garner new business and measurable growth. The role reports to the managing partner.
Segment Growth Director — Reporting to the CGO, this professional
is responsible for growing individual business segments (“verticals” or “niches” in some firms). It may be advisable to hire a segment-specific marketing professional for dedicated, targeted efforts to channel growth.
Marketing Operations Manager — Marketing encompasses a lot of moving parts. As a firm grows, it is more critical to understand where you are, maintain a strategic course forward, and measure results. Some firms fill this need with a Marketing Operations Manager who tracks project status, manages time and budgets, and reports success (and the inevitable failure). This professional reports to the senior marketing professional, but also maintains consistent communication with the team, individually and as a while.
Content Marketing Manager — A move to embrace digital has meant new demands for content creation. Websites, blogs, articles, social media, white papers, lead magnets, eBooks, videos — the list is endless and pace is swift. Firms are appointing Content Marketing Managers to develop and manage all content production.
Data Scientists / Analysts — As tech-enabled processes generate troves of data, proactive marketing teams enlist data specialists (scientists, analysts) to derive the beneficial information. Data is a relevant consideration for useful decision making and direction. These professionals assess valuable data derived from CRM and analytics, build custom dashboards, and develop purposeful ways of reporting.
Your Marketing Team
Many firms are at a critical juncture. Most have a basic marketing operation with or in their firm. But the need to advance has accelerated to the point where firms without a digital presence will struggle to catch up and will most likely never be able to keep up. They know that a digital strategy is important and understand the need to prioritize it, but they aren’t sure how or when.
That’s where we come in.
At Winding River Consulting, we provide a bridge between the proven, traditional methods and the newer, digital approaches to maximizing visibility and profitability. We help you build an efficient, effective, highly skilled team of digital marketing leaders, creatives, and technicians to focus on effective strategies for long-term firm growth.
As your firm grows and you begin to assess gaps in capacity, continue to ask what you need to support growth. If you seek to identify, assemble, and structure a team of increasingly skilled professionals to support your growth, connect with us to learn more about how we can help.