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Why Your Firm Should Consider a New Approach to Marketing


Traditionally, marketing has been ruled by the Rainmaker model. However, this approach is changing to a team-based one. Is it time for your firm to switch? Lee Frederiksen says it is.

Dec 4th 2019
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Up until recently, business development in the accounting field has been all about personal relationships. Prospective partners were expected to develop and leverage their personal and professional networks to drum up new business. We refer to this as the Rainmaker model.

But times have changed, and the old way of marketing and business development no longer fit with today’s buyers. It’s time to consider a whole new approach.

The traditional Rainmaker model relied heavily -- and in many cases, exclusively -- on the ability of a partner to build and exploit relationships in the quest for new revenue. But as technology and the Internet have evolved, the accounting buyers’ market has evolved along with them.

Today’s buyers are able to discover and research potential issues, possible solutions and potential service providers on their own. As a result, buyers’ influence on the process has increased while the relevance of Rainmakers has decreased.

In its place, a new model of marketing and business development is emerging. It’s a model that recognized the increasing complexity of the marketing challenge. No single individual can master every skill required or every expertise a prospect may desire.

At the same time, buyers are more focused on finding a resource with the specific expertise and experience to solve their business challenge. The resources of the entire organization must be brought to bear if your firm is to achieve its true potential with today’s buyers. We call this new approach the Team model.

Rainmaker vs. Team Model

Marketing and new business development for a growing number of accounting firms has now become a team sport. It relies on the diverse expertise and abilities of team members to attract and retain new business instead of on the relationships and reputation of a single individual.

The accompanying chart compares the key features of the two models:


The Team model offers a series of key benefits:

Exposure to a Greater Range of Expertise: In the Rainmaker model, whatever expertise the firm offers is largely based upon the expertise of the individual. With the Team model, the range of expertise is greatly expanded by the varied skills, knowledge, and experience of the team members. The collective expertise of the subject matter experts on the team is typically much greater than the individual expertise of a Rainmaker.

The potential value derived from the broader expertise of the team is much greater than that of the lone Rainmaker because the firm now has more to offer prospective clients. More expertise to sell to more clients offers more revenue potential.

Greater Stability: The depth and diversity of a well-structured team provide the kind of stability that no individual can. If a team member leaves the firm, the impact can be relatively minor, and the team can compensate for it by increasing service in the remaining areas of expertise until the weak spot is addressed. If the Rainmaker leaves the firm, it can be devastating, eliminating the firm’s revenue-generating asset with a single departure.

Marketing Flexibility: Positioning the firm as a trusted advisor based on experience and reputation of the Rainmaker leaves the firm with little room to move, marketing-wise. The broader expertise of the experts available on the Team enables the firm to develop visibility for that expertise and promote its value to a market eager to take advantage of it.

Likewise, gaining referrals and developing new clients historically have been based on the personal relationships of the Rainmaker. This presents relatively little value to the marketplace and relies solely upon the capabilities of that individual, which may be limited. The Team approach emphasizes the expertise that resides in the firm, which is what today’s buyer is searching for.

The Team Model builds comprehensive firm level brand value while the individual rainmaker simply provides his or her personal relationships.

The Changing Role of the Marketing Department

The trend toward the Team business development model is fundamentally changing the role of the marketing department. Historically, marketing departments have been relegated chiefly to the role of gloried administrative assistant to the Rainmaker, setting up events and scheduling meetings. Today, marketing departments in the Team model play a more strategic role, developing the team’s visible expertise and leading the team’s marketing efforts by promoting that expertise through various channels to attract and engage prospects.

This, of course, represents a significant change in how accounting firms develop new business. It is also a necessary change if firms want to stay competitive and promote themselves more effectively. The power to identify and select a service provider now resides with the buyer. The Web has enabled potential clients to seek out, research, and assess accounting firms before those firms are even aware that they are being considered.

The Team model for marketing and new business development gives accounting firms like yours a fighting chance to be on the short list for consideration by developing what we call “visible expertise” and promoting it online through targeted content that provides value to prospects based on their perceived needs. That valuable expert content invites engagement and enables you to establish a dialog with prospects that, in turn, encourages a relationship.

If your firm still employs the Rainmaker model, it’s in your best interest to consider the Team approach so that you can benefit from its proven advantages for more effective and sustainable new business development. 

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