The first Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) annual conference I attended was in 2001 in Toronto. Last week's gathering in San Diego was a stark contrast. Oh, sure, some things haven't changed, such as few CPAs in the mix. These conferences are outstanding opportunities for a firm's managing partner to accompany the marketing director they are sending. Hopefully, someday that will be the norm rather than the exception.
Just as marketing, business development, and public relations have grown within our industry, AAM has grown too. Back in 2001, the size of the conference was a pittance compared to today's throng of several hundred marketers. There's a deeper level of educating going on too, as the industry is well past the marketing learning curve of a decade ago. Dynamic sessions led by Sally Glick, Michelle Golden, Gale Crosley, Chris Perrino, and others provided for a hearty offering of continuing education for accounting marketers at this year's "Wild on Marketing" conference.
One of the most interesting nuggets I heard was from a panel discussion that included Neal Spencer, the managing partner of BKD, LLP. In an effort to reduce turnover, the firm successfully initiated a program that pays employees $50 per night away on business (over and above normal business expense reimbursements). Sure, it costs the firm $3 million annually, but it lowered turnover in the first year from 25% to 17% - a staggering difference for a firm of that magnitude.
This panel discussion also included Doug Galka, CEO & president of Froehling Anderson, and Michael Epstein, president and managing partner of Fuller Landau LLP. Yeh, I almost forgot...the session opened with a chimpanzee onstage. There's nothing funnier than a small monkey wearing clothing.
The industry stills seems to be miles away from accepting talented marketing people into the partnership group. However, all three of these gentlemen acknowledged the importance of having marketing directors engaged in partner meetings and on partner retreats. That's a far cry from a decade ago when so many firms were thinking "we need to hire someone to make us some brochures!"
Doug Galka commented that marketing people need to build relationships with partners in order to gain their trust and learn their individual styles. I think Neal Spencer summed it up for a lot of marketing professionals when he stated, "Not all partners will accept you, so don't burn your energy - focus on the ones who want your help." And that, loyal readers, is a statement completely without any monkey business.