Make Marketing An Investment…Not Overhead

If your firm has more than five partners, the likelihood is that you have an administrative person serving in the role of marketing coordinator or marketing director.

Marketing is an investment activity, not a bottom line profit center, and hiring a good marketing director is part of a long term investment strategy. Well managed investments increase firm value and partner income. The marketing investment, and the marketing director's role, need to be maintained in both good times and bad times if the firm is ultimately to profit from them.

Your firm can benefit from the following insights on how to make your marketing an investment:

  1. Make a solid commitment to marketing. Get a commitment from the partners to make an investment in a coordinated marketing effort. Establish a marketing budget for overall marketing efforts (2-5% of gross revenues is average in most firms). Assign an energetic and forward-thinking partner to be in charge of the marketing budget. Let this person guide the partnership in rethinking all of its current marketing activities in terms of effectiveness and return on investment.

  2. Set realistic expectations for the marketing director. Are they an administrative coordinator or a visionary team member? Should they be proactive or simply implement explicit instructions? How committed are you to giving the marketing director decision-making authority and in what areas? Know the answers before you begin the marketing process.

  3. Define the marketing role clearly to everyone. Spend time creating a detailed job description before you begin marketing your firm and services. Is the person in the marketing position on the partner-track? Make sure all the partners in the office have a chance to buy in on the responsibilities of the position to avoid future misunderstandings. You can contact the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and request copies of job descriptions other firms have shared. How you define the job determines the skill set your firm will need and will determine the compensation level of that position.

  4. Look for experience and professionalism. A marketing director can come from any background and succeed. The most important skills to look for are, project management skills, ability to juggle competing and conflicting interests successfully, understanding of how a partnership is different from a corporation, strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to manage details.

Remember that, not all skills are found in the same person, and no matter how willing and enthusiastic your marketing director is, partners should not expect one person to be all things to all partners in the firm. The marketing investment, and the marketing director's role, need to be maintained in both good times and bad times if the firm is ultimately to profit from them.

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