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Marketing Plan Is the Key to Prioritization

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Sep 12th 2014
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Read more articles by Sally Glick here.

While reading a recent article titled",Bondage to Busyness", by Alan Morinis, I was struck by his reminder regarding how stressed and pressured we all are today. Our professional lives, driven and enabled by technology, seem to fill up with more things to do every day. Our hand-held devices make us available 24/7 and we now connect with more people in a day than we used to interact with in a week! In short, we are bombarded, and it is not pleasant. The big question is how to decide what's really important.

For you as leaders in small- to mid-sized CPA firms, it's even more complex: you have to deal with the difficulty of juggling multiple roles, including client service, business development, mentoring, administrative jobs, and professional training, just to name a few. The smaller the firm, the less likely you are to have the necessary support and division of duties, so all too often these tasks fall to a handful at the top.

When the mix of responsibilities is overwhelming, something has to give. That is why, as a marketing professional, I caution you to learn to prioritize.

To begin with, no matter how small your firm may be, you need to make time to write a marketing plan that can guide your activities. Without a plan in place, you will find yourself marketing by happenstance rather than by intent. Why not create a blueprint that can provide consistency and structure instead of being unprepared and merely backing into exciting opportunities.

Any marketing plan would not be complete without a calendar (due dates) and assignments for implementation. You will need to specify what you expect from each of your colleagues and you should work together to track their results. If no one is expected to attend the local bar association conference, then most likely no one will. If, however, one of the professionals in your firm is responsible for developing your law firm niche, then it will be anticipated that he or she will be in attendance at a relevant program hosted by the bar association.

Without this level of commitment and accountability, most plans end up falling apart. The real world intrudes, with fires to put out and clients' emergency issues to address. As a result, other less essential and timely activities, like marketing and business development, get pushed aside.

To avoid this, be practical in your approach. Prioritize the types of marketing activities that will work well for your firm, given its level of resources. Pick those initiatives that will most likely produce results. Attend events or host events that focus on your target market.

Make a list of all the possibilities: publishing newsletters, using social media, writing a blog, presenting a series of seminars, authoring an article, or advertising in the local manufacturing trade association's journal to name a few. Then number the items on the list, identifying the most important to least important. You may find, for instance, that writing a blog, while nice, falls to #10 on your hit parade because of the amount of time needed to produce the product versus the anticipated return on the investment.

Once you have the list in order, begin assigning tasks to those who fit the job most naturally, based on experience and training. Don't try forcing certain staff members to attend retail conferences when they have a passion for serving nonprofits, for example. Rather, deploy each person's talents to get the best out of them. It will be more enjoyable for the professionals, and the firm is likely to see a greater benefit.

The key is to bite off only what you can chew. I appreciate the importance of stretch goals, but when everyone is complaining about being too busy, presenting a long list of potential activities can backfire. As a result, you may end up getting nothing accomplished. But if you prepare a reasonable list, and provide the time for your team to accomplish their goals, you will have much better results without the whirlwind that leads to stress and poor quality of life. I believe 100 percent in the power and impact of a marketing culture,  but I also know that if goals are not presented in an actionable format, the end results will be lackluster.

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].

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