Growth Strategies For The Rise of Marketing's New Roles- Fall 2022

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For The Rise of Marketing's New Roles Gr wth Strategies

The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales Fall 2022
6 Proactive Visioning, Planning and Preparation Essential to Crafting a Marketing Career Plan A practical guide to creating the accounting marketing career you want. 10 Marketing’s Role in Post-Merger Integration: Creating a ‘One-Firm’ Culture How marketers can help create unity from chaos when firms merge. 14 Business Development Through the Client Experience Lens It's time to think about growing your business with client experience (CX)-focused development opportunities. Focus In This Issue Features Fall 2022 Growth Strategies: The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales is published four times a year by the Association for Accounting Marketing, Inc. (AAM). It is a benefit of membership in AAM. The views expressed in any article do not represent the official position of, or endorsement by, AAM or the author’s employer. Association membership for executive and affiliate members is $350 annually with a one-time $50 initiation fee. Association membership for student members is $150 annually with a one-time $50 initiation fee. Copyright © 2022 by Association for Accounting Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved. Article reprints for Growth Strategies: The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales must receive approval from the Association for Accounting Marketing. Trends and Insights 4 Partner POV 8 Take 5 9 Q&A 12 TechNOWlogy 13 Consultants’ Corner 16 By the Numbers 17
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Trends and Insights

Marketing Departments of the Future

In her “Building a Marketing Department Guide,” Katie Tolin, founder of CPA Growth Guides, outlines a vision of how accounting and advisory firm marketing departments will be structured in the future — and it may surprise you.

“While there are more roles and opportunities for accounting and advisory firm marketers than ever before, in-house marketing departments of the future may become more streamlined,” Tolin said. “The ‘we’ve always done it

this way’ mindset can be costly to organizations. Firm leaders will benefit by thinking of new creative ways to accomplish their marketing goals.”

Flexible and Agile

After conducting online research to see how others predict how marketing departments may change in the future, Tolin found an explanation by author and thought leader Steven Van Belleghem to be most applicable to accounting marketing. He suggests marketing departments of the future will be:

• Smaller

• Organized with a network of experts

“This will allow departments to be more flexible and agile,” Tolin said. “Rather than putting specialized people on the payroll and risk not needing that area of expertise in the future, you can call upon members of your network as needed. This will help as needs change over time. And these

resources won’t be from a typical marketing agency; you will find the niched expert you need for a specific project. A niched network of resources allows you to find the best resources in every aspect of marketing to be a part of your team.”

With smaller internal teams, the people on the team will need to be visionaries, according to Tolin. They will be focused on setting the long-term strategy and vision for the company. They should also be strong project managers who will manage the network of experts.

Van Belleghem shared his model in 2007, well before a worldwide pandemic had businesses everywhere rethinking how to build teams. Firms that started using a model similar to Van Belleghem’s before Covid hit were lucky. They were able to quickly adjust their strategy and pull in the resources needed to successfully market and communicate with clients in a new and uncertain environment.

4 Growth Strategies Fall 2022

When to Outsource

Tolin said it’s easier to outsource today than it ever has been, however figuring out when to do it is not as easy. She suggests starting by looking at how much of a certain type of work needs to be completed with what frequency. And then which of those work products can be completed by the same job role. If your department only needs someone for a few hours a week or someone for a year, then that role may be better suited for outsourcing.

Tolin recommends outsourcing when the work will:

• Drain your internal resources. If you have a small department, writing articles for your professionals to appear on your blog and in newsletters takes a lot of time. Taking on all this writing will be at the sacrifice of something else like developing proposals, planning events, etc. It’s a popular outsource area for many firms considering their limited resources.

• Cost more when completed internally. For example, you may have someone internally who

wants to record videos for you, but the camera, microphones, lighting, editing software, etc. makes it more costly to do inhouse.

• Require a very specialized skillset. You don’t develop a new website every day or even every year, so you don’t need a website developer on staff. You don’t need someone to do search engine optimization (SEO) or buy online ads for you every week either. Unless another role on your team also has these skillsets, outsourcing makes more sense.

Technology has made it easier to find outsourced partners. This could be through internet searches or by searching a specific website that connect you to gig contractors.

“Regardless of how you find them, be sure to vet them,” Tolin said. “You’ll want to look at the basics like years of experience, experience in the accounting or related industry, billing structure and reviews. But you also want to make sure you understand how they work. Most won’t be able to jump at your beck and call, but they can let you know what sort of

timeframe they can deliver your work on.”

Outsourcing is a great way to fill in holes in your marketing department. You can find greater expertise than you have in house, potentially cut costs, gain deeper industry experience and get the flexibility needed to adapt to changing times.

Heather Kunz, WBL CPAs + Advisors. Contact at


Proactive Visioning, Planning and Preparation Essential to Crafting a Marketing Career Plan


in accounting

The key steps to creating an actionable career plan for accounting marketers are not complex but require constant care and feeding.

Observe and Listen

“Creating and building a career path within a firm will rely on two skills — observation and listening,” said Shelly Castorino, marketing and business development director of Wouch, Maloney & Co.

A key concept in creating a career plan today is understanding advancement requires visioning, proactive planning and preparation, as well as seeking out constructive mentoring.

Accounting firms have defined career trajectories for accountants, but historically, marketing departments haven’t had that same structure. That lack can make accounting marketers feel adrift regarding career planning and advancement.

This is where proactive career planning comes in.

Sean Smith, chief marketing officer at Schneider Downs & Co., said his firm tries to prevent that “wandering the wasteland” feeling by defining a path for their marketers, in part through hierarchy and titles.

“The trend in accounting marketing is moving away from staff being generalists and toward marketing professionals having their own specialty,” Smith said. Those evolving marketing niches are much like an accountant’s career path. “You can’t be everything to everyone.”

Before deciding how to define a path, stay in a position for at least six months to observe and learn the lay of the land, she said. Learning and understanding the culture of where you’re working will be crucial to understanding what’s needed and where your strengths will add value. Additionally, find or create opportunities for yourself, particularly if you have a skill set that could add

value but is not currently being utilized by your firm, Castorino said.

Look at the bigger picture

Jennifer Cantero at Sensiba San Filippo LLP, AAM board member and equity partner candidate at her firm, believes a skill that helped her through her career plan was always taking the time to stop and see how her work fit into the firm.

“I was always thinking like an owner and not getting lost in the weeds,” Cantero said.

Choose a Niche Decide where you want your career to go. That begins with matching your strengths to a firm’s needs.

Ask yourself why you went into this field and what it was about the vocation that interested you enough to do this for the next 40 years.

Mapping a
marketing is becoming more complex and nuanced as opportunities for advancement — and even partnership — expand for marketers.
Focus Article 6 Growth Strategies Fall 2022

“Once you figure this out, you can keep the skillsets that you brought to this job in mind and never lose sight of yourself as the individual when crafting this plan,” Smith said.

“Everyone’s career plan is different,” Cantero said. “You need to listen to your inner passion. Consider your values and your life’s priorities; then consider your specific desires for your goals.”

From there, she said, start backward. Envision the end goal and consider what you’ll need to get there.

• What skills and knowledge will you need?

• Will you need additional education or a type of certification?

• What networking and relationships will you need to create?

• Does this fit into your overall life plan with your family?

Seeking continued training in your skillset will be important to differentiate yourself as the guru in your niche, Smith noted.

Name Your Objectives

Once you have identified your niche, the direction you’ll need to take to meet your objectives should become clear.

Start with setting goals and objectives and find organizational tools to help track progress. The first rule of setting goals, Cantero said, is being realistic. There’s no need to bite off too much. You’ll need to keep your current position going as you grow, and you do not want to neglect those commitments while chasing the future. Nor do you want to reach the finish line exhausted and burnt out.

Approach your career plan like a marketing plan. Create the plan, break it down into actions, consider how long each step will take, and then calendar it out. Additionally, create a budget in case you want

to pursue your MBA or specialized certification.

If you’re just starting out, map out some goals for increments of one, three and five years, Smith said.

“Ask how would my job evolve in a perfect world? How would I like it to be different? Then make sure you socialize that and explain to your supervisor and to your firm,” Smith said. “Assume responsibility for your advancement. For a person starting out, one goal may be to learn the business. Another is to be present and visible. Your technical skills won’t matter if you don’t know firm leadership, or if they don’t you.”

Assess Progress

Be strategic, said Morgan Cooper, marketing director at Wilkins Miller. Your current performance may be working right now, but how can you elevate your role?

At least twice a year, Cooper updates her goals and communicates those plans to leadership. She stressed evaluating your own performance at least once a year and making sure you’re not only putting out fires, but proactively planning strategic growth for yourself and the firm.

Find a Mentor

A critical step in your career path is to find a peer mentor who believes in you. A mentor doesn’t have to be a marketer; it could be a partner. This person ultimately is an advocate for your program, Castorino said.

A mentor should encourage you to take risks and challenge yourself to reach outside your comfort zone, said Cantero, who teaches her mentees to advocate for themselves.

“I’m completely transparent about my own journey, the wins and losses,” when working with mentees, Cantero said. “I help my mentees identify their strengths and weaknesses, ask them questions to lead them to their own answers and build their own plans, and create a safe space for them to

fail and learn. I also teach them the importance of celebrating the small wins as much as the big wins.”

Career Disruptions

If your role is upended because of a force outside of your control, such as a merger or acquisition, don’t take it personally. Reflect on what happened, then refocus on where and how you can add value, Castorino said.

Unexpected personal or professional events can derail what you thought your path would look like, Cooper said, and flexibility is key to recovering. If disruption happens, revisit your goals, growth opportunities and possible new paths.

Sometimes, plans can be derailed in a positive direction, such as an unexpected promotion or opportunity.

“I actually had to rewrite my career plan mid-career,” Cantero said. “About five years ago, my managing partner approached me with the idea of becoming an equity partner. That completely shifted my entire career plan because I didn’t even think that was a possibility.”


Creating a career plan in accounting marketing may be difficult if leadership hasn’t defined a trajectory. Still, marketers can create their own futures by engaging in proactive visioning, planning and preparation.

Jacqueline Harnevious, digital marketing manager, Windham Brannon. Contact at


Bill Hagaman, CPA, CGMA

CEO and Managing Partner


Bill Hagaman has been a member of Withum’s management for more than 40 years and specializes in merger and acquisition services and international business. He will transition from his role of Managing Partner effective June 2023. During his tenure as CEO, the firm has grown by six times in revenue and expanded into non-traditional advisory services, becoming the 25th largest accounting firm. Part of Withum’s success lies in its unique culture and team member retention rate.

Withum is well known for its out-of-thebox marketing videos, and you’ve had a large role in them. Where did the idea come from?

It actually came from our marketing team. We hold an annual State of the Firm where the entire firm attends, and it was right after I became CEO, so 2010-ish. To open the event, we were using videos that were still pictures set to music. One of our partners had seen a group lip sync to a Black Eyed Peas song on The Today Show and shared it with our Marketing Director (who is now CMO). She convinced me this would be a fresh approach to our opening video, so that was actually our first video, and we pulled it off. The second was the one that got the most attention the flash mob in New York City. How have the culture videos benefited the firm?

It’s one of those efforts that is not easily measurable. You feel it. College and university students have gotten excited about working for us because the videos certainly relay we’re a fun place to work. Our clients have enjoyed the videos, too.

Your culture videos are off the hook. What was it like being a part of all of videos as managing partner?

The way I look at these videos is I’m playing a role for the benefit of our firm, the benefit of our partners, the benefit of our team members. I have said to the marketing team from the day I took this job they should use me as they see fit. They’ve used me in ads and different places, and I’ve often had to go out of my comfort zone to do that and participate.

Public accounting is changing with the shift to advisory services, the rising role of technology and automation, and growing challenges with recruiting and retention. What do you see for the profession’s future?

I think the future is incredibly bright. There is a lot of growth in the country and a lot of new entity creation. Our advisory practice is growing at 35-40% a year, but our traditional practice is also growing in the double digits. We are definitely seeing the traditional compliance practice grow by leaps and bounds. There are huge opportunities for anyone who has ambition, is willing to work hard and has a service mindset. It’s very important we consider ourselves to be in the service business and in service to our clients. That mindset enables us to distinguish ourselves as trusted advisors, which allows us to compound growth.

What factors and traits do you believe are important for emerging leaders today?

I like to follow the servant leadership mindset. Our job as leaders of professional accounting firms is to make our team members successful; to provide that platform for their success, to be entrepreneurs, and to not create a lot of bureaucracy that’s going to slow them down. That is a key to success. The other biggest quality is the ability to see around corners, what’s coming up, what’s next. Have vision, create a strategy that will fulfill that vision, then execute that strategy. One benefit of Withum is that we’ve had a marketing person since 1989 or 1990. We were an early adopter of hiring marketing professionals. We’ve always done better than most of our competition, and I credit a lot of that to investing in our marketing team.

8 Growth Strategies Fall 2022
Interview by Katie Funderburk

What new marketing roles have you taken on in your firm?

Recruitment is a priority for all accounting firms across the country, and like other firms, we have an “all hands on deck” approach. To help with this new responsibility, I have an account with Handshake, the tool higher education uses to connect employers with students and graduates seeking internships or full-time positions after graduation. I monitor the Handshake platform for career fairs (virtual and in-person), select fairs to attend, create brochures/handouts, design custom recruitment banners, and when there isn’t a supply chain issue, I order items to give away at our table.

of marketing and business development, Wouch,

Many years ago, I was tasked with creating a workflow tool in Microsoft Access to track tax work (now we use a proprietary tool). A few years ago, I implemented a new client onboarding tool we built from scratch that integrates with some of our systems, and more recently, I worked with developers to build a new CRM that integrates with that tool. Most of my “outside marketing” projects have been IT-focused.

Huegel, marketing manager, AAFCPAs

and events, and helping with interviews. ALL. THE. THINGS. Rachael McGrew, business development director, Landmark CPAs

Like others who are part of a smaller firm, the roles expand from recruiting to being the go-to tech person for Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Other responsibilities include creating, organizing and running events and organizations like our women’s group, volunteer day and the annual firm ski trip. Also, since our firm is moving office locations, I’ve worked closely with the design team on aesthetics, logistics, furniture

Our firm is relatively small — approximately 25 year-round employees — so I also serve as the new client coordinator. This means fielding all new client calls (with referrals), determining their needs, confirming if they fit our ideal client profile and sharing their information with the appropriate accountant(s). If we are able to take them on, my role also includes gathering pertinent information, setting them up in our system and handling initial communications.

Cara Vanasdale, director of communications, Nichols & Company CPA

testing and other items. Alex Miller, marketing manager, Lanigan Ryan Interviews by Hannah Kubick Recruiting! Everything from attracting new talent via drip campaigns and landing pages, creating a firm presence on campus at new schools, staffing “Meet the Firms,” events, setting up our recruiting schedule

Marketing’s Role in Post-Merger Integration: Creating a ‘One-Firm’ Culture

to its clients through the services they offer, and they can make brands come to life.

branding and messaging is unified firmwide.

And for good reason — larger firms have a broader reach, benefit from economies of scale, diversification of services and skills, and the ability to attract talent. However, merging in firms can disrupt client relationships, service delivery and create barriers to maintaining a “one-firm” culture many firms strive to achieve.

In an industry faced with constant realignment and interruption, how do marketers create unity from chaos?

Caren Rodriguez, chief marketing officer with DMJPS, emphasized the importance of messaging.

“Firms need to understand that their brand is more than just a logo,” she said. “It’s about the perceptions of those who experience it — your services, your firm, working with your professionals.”

The more involvement marketing has with shaping the messaging and communication internally and externally, the easier it is to adopt a “one-firm” culture.

Training and Orientation

Internal communications and marketing play a pivotal role in unifying a brand and culture postacquisition. After all, a firm’s team members are the direct connection

“As soon as we sign the paperwork, we hold an orientation with the entire firm that’s merging in,” said Tara Davis, marketing manager with Harris CPAs. “We talk about who we are, our mission, our vision, our values and some of the more fun things we do.”

They also take time to discuss the elements of their brand, their industry group practices and more opportunities to get involved with marketing activities.

Merging in new firms can also uncover flaws in existing processes and create opportunities for improvement. As M&A activity increased at Harris CPAs (four firms have been merged in and they are currently working on two more), Davis realized they didn’t have a unified client onboarding process.

“I wanted to get every office on the same page because they all had different ways of doing it,” Davis said.

They now have a process that leverages the firm’s executive assistants and involves welcome emails, data collection forms, phone calls and data entry into a centralized database.

Davis also holds training on the firm’s proposal process for manager level and above in the firms they’re merging in and with their own staff. They discuss the types of proposals available and when to use marketing. She also created templates to ensure

Once initial orientation and training is complete, marketing’s job isn’t done, said Joe Kovacs, APR, director of marketing and business development for CBM CPAs and Business Advisors.

“The merger doesn’t happen on the merge date,” Kovacs said. “It happens after you’ve moved in and you start getting used to being part of a larger team with other industries and services.”

Kovacs emphasized the importance of constant reinforcement. He regularly reminds new staff about their service offerings and invites them to industry events and presentations hosted by the firm. His ongoing communication helps new team members understand “this is where you are, and this is where you belong.”

Internal Teams and Collaboration

To maintain a one-firm culture postacquisition, firms must find ways to break down silos within departments and offices.

“After a recent merger that brought in close to 20 team members, we gave them workspaces throughout the office to ensure they had exposure to CBM team members who had been around for a while,” Kovacs said.

CBM also hosts happy hours, client receptions and holds other social events throughout the year. These events give their clients and staff the opportunity to meet their new team

Focus Article 10 Growth Strategies Fall 2022
Over the past 30 years, merger and acquisition activity has reshaped the landscape of public accounting.

members and get to know each other.

DMJPS holds monthly GOALs (growth, opportunities and leads) meetings via Zoom to build accountability around their sales pipeline.

“What I did not expect as we were going through all of our M&A activity is what a fantastic educational tool these meetings have been,” Rodriguez said. “The meetings are a conversation tool for people from multiple offices to come together on a monthly basis.”

They use these meetings as storytelling sessions to highlight the depth of services they provide, their industry specialties and how they collaborate. It also puts faces to names and showcases their lively personality and culture.

Harris CPAs also finds ways to blur department lines and office boundaries.

“We have numerous committees and groups firmwide that help us create a unifying culture,” Davis said. For

example, the firm has a “thematic goal group” that includes people in all offices and departments. Annually, three or four teams develop and implement initiatives around one of their core values to help keep it topof-mind.

and smoother for the professionals performing service delivery.

Lewis also said it’s important to segment clients by industry and service area to ensure they receive appropriate communication and uncover cross-selling opportunities.

“When merging in smaller firms, crossselling opportunities can be massive because the acquired firm likely had minimal resources and didn’t data mine their clientele,” Lewis said.

Marketers also need to ensure referral sources from both firms receive clear and concise communication regarding the merger and what it means to them.

When Kovacs obtains referral source lists from firms merging in, he tags them in the firm’s email platform to ensure they receive timely and relevant communication. He also meets with firm owners to explain the type and frequency of communications their referral sources (and clients) will receive.


Communication Marketing’s biggest role postmerger is increased communication internally and externally, paying close attention to referral sources and clients, said Bob Lewis, CEO of Visionary Group.

“Marketing should be looking at the types of clients that are coming in to determine if client experience and communication styles need to be adapted,” Lewis said. “They can help their firms embrace a 'white glove' service with high-end clients, for example. Don’t email them, call. Talk to them and get to know them.”

But client experience isn’t just about client interactions, Lewis said. It’s about creating an internal process (before interfacing with the client) that makes the workflow easier

The M&A process can be disruptive and complex for marketing departments and their firms, especially when culture is so important to staff. So one last piece of advice for marketers is not to be afraid to step on toes, Davis said. “If you see something, say something.”

She recommended listening to what’s being said by incoming partners and staff and asking about their experiences. Always stay involved and help ensure communication internally and externally is clear and unified.

Stacy Dreher, marketing director, James Moore & Co. Contact at


Brenda Sleeper

Brenda Sleeper is the relationship director for BDO Alliance’s Business Resource Network (BRN). Before joining BDO, Sleeper served the accounting profession in several capacities, including as a marketing director and business development consultant. She also has become a well-recognized name among AAM members since she joined the association in 2001. Sleeper served on the AAM Board of Directors from 2012 to 2016 as well as the Business Development and Member Growth committees. She was named Volunteer of the Year in 2010 and was inducted into the AAM Hall of Fame at the 2022 Summit. The Hall of Fame award is presented to the best of the best in the accounting marketing profession and the association.

What did it mean to you to be inducted into the AAM Hall of Fame?

I am incredibly honored to be part of this elite group of individuals, many of whom I have respected and looked up to throughout my career. They are my mentors and friends. From the first AAM Summit I attended in Toronto in 2001, I knew that an investment in the association was an investment in my career.

What would you advise AAM members who are new to their role or the industry?

My advice to AAM members at any stage in their career is to get involved. Step into a leadership position both in AAM and at your firm. Take the time to understand the accounting business — how firms operate, important deadlines (April, September, and October 15), accounting lingo and service offerings. Learn the culture of your firm — what is important and why. Contribute beyond your job description to the success of the firm. Network and join organizations like AAM that will help advance your career and grow your firm. Develop relationships with people you can collaborate with and advance through the ranks together.

Why is it important to become involved in AAM?

Actively participating in AAM allows you to share ideas and network with people who understand accounting marketing and the challenges you encounter daily. When I joined AAM, I was the sole marketer at my firm (7 partners/40 employees), but I knew I was not alone. I had AAM.

How did AAM help your career development?

I met fabulous professionals through AAM who have become some of my closest friends. The people I met have helped shape my career. It takes a team to succeed in accounting marketing. For me, AAM is that team.

Can you describe an instance when you used something you learned through AAM or a member to help your firm?

Through AAM I met a marketing director at a firm in Chicago. We shared our marketing plans and collaborated on ideas for our firms. Sharing and collaborating was a huge plus for both of us. We were no longer on an island.

What are you looking forward to (professionally) in 2023?

Next year, I'm looking forward to continuing to grow in my new role with the BDO Alliance, to give back to AAM and help the membership grow, and to always be a mentor to AAM members.

Interview by Eileen Monesson 12 Growth Strategies Fall 2022

The Role of Client Intelligence for Effective Retention and Growth

Marketers are the great connectors. They are often the key “messengers” between a firm and its clients and prospects. As owners of the client’s experience with the firm, they play an important role in strategic retention of portfolios.

In this age of increased competition, with firms vying to keep the attention and loyalty of their clients, actionable client intelligence and effective customization at scale is essential for sustainability and growth. It is even more important to the bottom line than the acquisition of new clients.

According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. So, take it a step further to reference the value of a retention strategy that uses the data to explore an additional level of customization for the high billable clients.

Bain & Company found increasing customer retention rates by just 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. A tiered personalization designed to improve retention could greatly affect a firm’s bottom line for high billable clients.

Here are five things to consider when developing a richer customization and tiered approach to communicating with high billable clients:

1. Be #TeamGoliath. Prioritize employing automated processes to stay on top of engagement throughout the firm.

2. Step outside your box. Use tools to gain visibility of the client journey that extends beyond the marketing team into business development and client support, and discover creative solutions for bringing greater value to clients.

3. Read the room for each client. Create campaigns that are compelling to targeted clients by using interaction and relationship data to determine the totality of their touchpoints and experience with the firm.

4. Deputize the strongest relationships in the firm. Create personalized communication strategies that leverage the relationship capital of top performers. Communication authored by trusted advisors drives higher client engagement and increases client satisfaction levels.

5. Don’t forget the human element. Develop an analog/ digital plan for clients to provide feedback on their experiences with communications, products, and overall engagement with the firm with a system in place to synthesize the collection of qualitative and quantitative data.

Accounting and advisory firms are uniquely positioned to execute on this strategy because the industry has the greatest depth and breadth of historical data. Client intelligence can take insights to the next level and reveal a client’s full range of touchpoints within the firm, gaps in service and opportunities to best position the firm for cross — and upselling within this priority segment.

Dan Dowling, Introhive

Business Development Through the Client Experience Lens

In our business development (BD) processes, it’s easy to get mechanical. It’s time to get out of that rut and think about growing your business with client experience (CX)focused development opportunities.

BD efforts can fail when we lack authenticity, ignore the emotional reasons behind a client acquisition, or fall back on the routine. Approaching

revenue generation as an act of service, instead of an act of selling, can help transform the sales process.

Emotions and Buying

We like to think of ourselves as rational human beings, but in fact, we buy based on emotion and then use logic to justify it. While our emotional influence is often subconscious, it helps our conscious mind make decisions. Neuromarketing follows this same idea. The practice captures the true emotional responses of the audience, which may run counter to what they say in an interview. Brands that engage emotions effectively also tap into basic human needs. To move beyond surface-level, solely service-based relationships think about what you can do to connect

with your clients and prospects on an emotional level.

Connect Through Storytelling

Storytelling helps to forge strong connections. The stories you tell must be authentic and even “small talk” conversations offer opportunities to tell stories. For example, you can answer “How are you?” by saying, “Oh, I’m doing great. It’s the first snowstorm of the year and I love it. We got to build a snowman with the kids.” Your conversation partner is likely to come up with other questions from there — Where do you live? How many kids do you have? How big was the snowman? People may hear something about that small story and think, “Me, too!”

14 Growth Strategies Fall 2022 Focus Article

Strategic Questions, Active Listening

Before you offer a solution to a prospect, seek to understand the nature of their needs. It’s easy to jump to a solution or the next question you want to ask, but it’s important to be present and listen intently. You must ask great probing questions so you know exactly what your clients want to achieve. The more you let the prospect or client talk, the more they will reveal about what they need. Jot down notes in the meantime.

A few client experience-focused questions you could ask to dig deeper into your prospect's needs include:

• Tell me your back story. How did you get to your current position?

• What are your top priorities for the coming year?

• Describe the best experience you’ve had working with accountants and advisors.

• What are some of the most pressing issues facing your business?

Align Expectations, Pricing and Outcomes

No one wants to talk about money, but it’s an inevitable conversation. Be transparent and flexible around the different fee arrangements available and make sure new clients understand what they’re signing up for when they work with you. Ask them if it aligns with their expectations. If it takes them a moment to collect their thoughts, you may be out of alignment.

Onboarding for Success

Once your new client comes on board, or your current client adds that big new project, use onboarding to offer reassurance, align expectations, minimize friction and strengthen trust to formalize a rich, successful relationship.

Onboarding should include a formal welcome meeting or kick-off call plus a new client questionnaire that can

help uncover goals, preferences and pet peeves. To make sure you’re all on the same page, ask questions such as:

• What is your preferred mode of communication?

• How frequently would you like to receive status updates?

• Are there key events at your company that we should be aware of?

• Do you have personal pet peeves when it comes to working with accounting firms? If so, what are they?

With these tips, you’ll create longterm, strong relationships through the client experience lens in no time.

Guest column by Christine Camara, based on webinar content created for AAM High by Jennifer Carro and Alyson Fieldman, Marcum LLP. Excerpt re-published with permission from the author.


Consultants’ Corner

There’s no “right” answer. Every firm will need to consider its own unique context, goals, needs and culture when deciding between hiring full-time or outsourcing. But here are a few guidelines:

1. Is the need long-term? If not, hiring a full-time person may result in confusion with their role down the road (if not downsizing).

2. Does your budget align with your needs? If your needs require multiple specialties but your budget isn’t high enough, you may get a better deal outsourcing to an agency with multiple specialists than trying to find a full-time unicorn.

3. What fits your culture? A full-time marketer may be a better fit if your leadership prefers things high-touch (e.g., in-person).

Clear expectations from the start are critical. Is the primary goal to increase tactical bandwidth or adopt a more strategic approach? Is the focus more on brand awareness or generating leads? Partner perceptions can vary widely. Without some level-setting, the function will suffer.

Expectations should include a strategic plan to guide the right initiatives to produce desired results. Then, as strategies are developed, the need for implementation support will increase.

A hybrid model works for many firms — hire an in-house marketer with strategic skills and initially build the team with outsourced providers in various tactical areas.

Advantages of in-house include having a dedicated focus on firm culture and operations. Advantages of outsourcing include the ability to scale easily and access to a variety of capabilities.

The Rainmaker Companies

The top factor to consider is the strategic growth plan. How does the firm plan to execute its marketing, and who is in place to help accomplish its goals?

If the firm hires a full-time marketer, it will have an internal resource who can drive the marketing strategy, be in tune with the culture of recruitment marketing and assist with tactical items like events and proposals.

If a firm outsources, it will need someone in a leadership position who can manage the relationship with an outsourced agency and act as the firm’s liaison. Outsourcing requires significant up-front time to understand the firm’s marketing strategy, goals and culture. The firm liaison will need to make strategic and tactical decisions frequently and have base marketing knowledge and capacity to manage this outsourced relationship.

Jill Winter Rootworks
What should firms consider when deciding whether to hire a full-time marketer or outsource the role?
16 Growth Strategies Fall 2022
Interviews by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
CompiledbyHeatherKunz 80% Percentageofworkerswhoare lookingtoleave theircurrent jobsbecausetheyare concernedabouttheircareer advancement. Source: PulseofAmericanWorkerSurvey,2021 47% Percentageof CFOswhosay theirtoppriorityisbuilding predictivemodelsandscenario analysiscapabilities. Source: PwCPulseSurvey2022 40% Percentage ofnewstaff whojoinanaccountingfirm overitscompetitors becauseofitsreputation. Source:Sage 57% Percentageof CEOswhosaid theCFOrolewouldbethemost crucialC-suiteroleoverthe nextthreeyears. Source: IBMInstituteofBusinessValue CFOsby Gender Source: Zippia Male Female 28% 72% by the Numbers 17


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