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Not everyone in a firm has the desire or the skills to be involved in business development and marketing initiatives, even though these are essential to the firm's success. How does the firm's leadership overcome this dilemma? By understanding that expectations will be different for each person. Yes, it is best to have everyone involved, but how they are involved, and what responsibilities they undertake will vary.
Let's start with the administrative staff. While they have an internal focus, they can be encouraged to think of themselves as ambassadors for the firm. They can have telephone etiquette training and be made more aware of the influence they have on clients when they interact, whether in person, through email, or on the phone. In some firms administrative staff are not a part of the marketing effort, but to ignore their positive impact is foolhardy. Instead of missing out, reinforce the part they play in branding the firm and building client loyalty.
Moving on to professional staff, we can begin with entry-level employees. These may be the people with the least confidence in their own marketing capabilities. However, the beginning of their careers is a great time to slowly ease them into the marketing activities. Bringing a young person along to an event and having them "shadow" a partner or senior manager at outside activities can not only raise their confidence level but it can also help them prepare for the time when they are expected to build their own network of contacts.
Senior staff and supervisors, and managers as well, should be setting some of their own marketing goals, arranging one-on-one breakfast or lunch plans with colleagues who will someday mature into their own careers and become valuable referral sources and great connections.
More mature staff may be called upon to conduct research regarding niche trends, tax changes, or new regulations affecting the business climate for specific clients. You may assess future potential in some more seasoned staff and invest in them by helping to improve their public speaking, or offering classes to enhance their business writing skills.
Everyone cannot, and should not, be expected to be a "rainmaker", but there is much to be accomplished in order for the firm to build, strengthen and expand its brand and reputation in the business community. With that in mind, partners should conduct fair and objective evaluations of all employees to determine how each one can make the best contribution, based on each employee's unique attributes.
When establishing guidelines, leadership should recognize that while stretch goals are a part of the plan, forcing employees to take on roles they are uncomfortable with, or that are outside their level of expertise, can backfire. When trying to encourage participation, it is probably easier to lead with a carrot than a stick, so find out what degree of involvement works and what type of involvement is a good place to begin. Then go—and grow—from there!
In other words, it is not only important to set out clear direction and expectations, but also to recognize efforts (at every level) and reward those who are doing their best to help your firm attain and maintain its status. Public and private recognition for new behavior goes a long way when you are building a common culture. Remember that everyone can be involved, but the kind of involvement ultimately depends on roles and responsibilities within the firm. The contribution to the marketing effort has to been in each employee's own distinctive way.
About the author:
Sally Glick is CMO and principal of Sobel & Co. LLC. She was named Accounting Marketer of the Year for 2003 and was voted into the AAM Hall of Fame in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected].