Growth Strategies For Talent and Technologies- Spring 2022

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For Talent and Technologies Gr wth Strategies

The Journal of Accounting Marketing and Sales Spring 2022

Cultivate the knowledge and skills you need to revolutionize your marketing and sales plans.

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Share the energy of being around fellow attendees.


Collaborate in the Partner Experience Zone. Partners will be on-hand to share solutions to pressing issues.


Firms Elevates Marketing as Key Player

6 Marketing and HR Come Together for
for talent is fierce,
some firms are finding success in putting together marketing and human resources departments for collaborative brain
10 Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Marketing's
client list requires clear communication and agreement on the ultimate goal.
A new factor has emerged on the accounting industry M&A scene that promises to shake up marketing departments — and elevate their positions as key players in firm growth.
In This Issue Features Spring 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 Business Development 14 By the Numbers 19 Consultants’ Corner 20 AAM Headquarters 201 East Main Street, Suite 1405 Lexington, KY 40507 859-402-9769 Rhonda Clark AAM Headquarters Editorial Board Dana Bottorff Committee Co-Chair Anadon Marketing Communications 781-856-3262 Heather Kunz Committee Co-Chair Williams Benator & Libby, LLP 770-512-0500 Kim Cooley HHM CPAs Stacy Dreher James Moore & Co. Tammy Farrell Savvy White Papers Jacqueline Harnevious Windham Brannon Janet Berry-Johnson JBJ Media LLC Geoff Jones AICPA Hannah Kubik EisnerAmper Eileen Monesson PRCounts, llc Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk bbr companies, llc Richard Shippee Whitman Business Advisors Mary Yanocha Global Tax Management, Inc. Bruce Van Vreede Brady Ware Maddy Rojo, Publication Designer Christian Moises AAM Board Liaison 3
Recruiting & Retention Success Competition
Role in
Clients Culling a
16 Private Equity Investment in

Trends and Insights

Insights from the Inovautus Growth Outlook Survey for 2022

The third annual Growth Outlook for CPA Firms study by Inovautus Consulting, in collaboration with the Association for Accounting Marketing, found firms are continuing with a digital strategy, even though alternatives are once again becoming widely used.

Respondents said they expect to adjust their level of business development activities in 2022. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, firms also plan to increase spending on hosting and attending in-person events.

“I cannot wait for our firm to be able to go back to in-person events,” said Courtney Kiss, chief growth and development officer with Johnson

Lambert. “I think we’re better equipped to be successful at those events with the momentum started and sustained by our digital marketing when those in-person touchpoints weren’t possible.”

Seventy firms participated in the survey covering all size and revenue segments. The results were broken down by firm size, as well as the percentage of firm revenue from advisory and CAS services.

Marketing Spend

Across all segments, firms plan to increase their marketing budgets.

The lion’s share of the funds will be earmarked for strategic digital marketing initiatives designed to make touchpoints more personalized. This includes investing in more dynamic and interactive websites, search engine optimization (SEO), marketing automation, CRM, software tools and data.

“When COVID-19 forced us to pivot, we looked long and hard at how we were going to engage clients and prospects, and digital marketing was the obvious avenue to pursue,” Kiss said. “How much we should invest and where within the realm of digital marketing we should focus was less obvious to us. The Growth Outlook study has been an incredibly helpful tool in helping us experiment with and continually adjust our digital marketing spend.”

Growth Outlook

Nearly 78% of respondents experienced growth during the pandemic because of COVID-19 related work. Business owners needed a higher level of service to survive the pandemic.

Has the pandemic had a lasting effect on operational, business development and marketing strategies or tactics for advisory and accounting firms?
4 Growth Strategies Spring 2022

Sarah Dobek, president and founder of Inovautus, said smaller firms with revenue of less than $2 million did not experience the same growth.

“Firms under $2 million typically work with a greater number of small business owners and individuals,” Dobek said. “These smaller clients have different needs that are typically compliance-based. Smaller firms also tend to increase fees at a slower rate — in our survey, fewer than 10% of respondents anticipated increasing their fees. Larger firms are more aggressive with their pricing.”


As many marketers expected, firms are experiencing a decrease in demand from clients in the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, especially construction and hospitality. This is offset by increases in demand from industries that are benefiting from the pandemic such as real estate, professional services and individual

Source: Inovautus Consulting

clients. Nonprofit clients are also looking to buy additional services.

Job Outlook

Consistent with the findings of the previous two Growth Outlook surveys, nearly all respondents are optimistic about their firm’s long-term continuity and their own job security. Close to three quarters of respondents feel their role within their firm will not change because of the pandemic.

While hiring remains a challenge for most employers, more accounting firms are turning to outsourcing work. Less than 35% plan to hire at least one person.

Some Surprises

“The conversation is changing on business development,” Dobek said. “Firms are looking to capitalize on existing client relationships and are developing the metrics and processes to earn opportunities. The conversation has more to do with having the capacity to deliver

additional services to clients than cross-selling services. Firms are considering how to manage the growth; fewer clients with larger share of wallet is a lot more appealing.”

Even with the growing focus on digital marketing, more than 60% of firms plan to continue investing in marketing materials such as brochures. There are many reasons why, Dobek said, including the need to have collateral to support new service and niche areas, as well as the perceived need to leave something behind after a sales call.

The Growth Outlook survey revealed more than 70% of respondents will invest more in compensating marketers. It is not clear if these firms will increase current salaries or increase headcount to meet the growing need for marketing services.

Kiss said studies such as the Growth Outlook for CPA Firms help her benchmark her firm with others in the industry.

“Peer-to-peer benchmarking is critical to a strong marketing program,” Kiss said. “These surveys give me good ideas, helpful reminders and lots of sanity checks to support my hypothesis on where to invest our marketing dollars.”

You can read the executive summary and download the survey webinar at:

Eileen Monesson, CPA, MBA, principal, PRCounts. Contact her at

Source: Inovautus Consulting


Marketing and HR Come Together for Successful Recruiting & Retention

Competition for talent was fierce among accounting and advisory firms even before the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation, with college accounting school graduates choosing careers in other industries and young accountants leaving public firms in search of better work/ life balance.

While accounting and advisory firms have accelerated their adoption of flexible work arrangements such as work-from-home and hybrid schedules, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, competition for talent remains tight for firms of all sizes.

Many are tackling recruiting and retention challenges through a new team effort, moving beyond departmental silos and applying proven marketing strategies to traditional talent acquisition and management. Marketing and human resources (HR) departments are collaborating more than ever before to bring their firms’ brand messages to life for recruits and employees.

Talent Brand

“At BPM, HR and marketing have always been partners,” said Jessica Hekmatjah, chief marketing officer at BPM in San Francisco. “For example, we are launching a new brand and we’ve made a point to have HR involved in this process every step of the way, including building out a talent brand.”

The talent brand is messaging that speaks to the types of candidates a firm wants to attract. The value of having HR and marketing work together on recruiting and retention is borne out by the mar-com strength and messaging about firm values marketers bring to the table.

“People want to work for a firm that reflects their values,” said Jennifer Wilson, partner and co-founder of

ConvergenceCoaching LLC. “Next Gen talent wants to work for progressive, difference-making firms that embrace change and new business models. Marketers can help their firm attract talent with the right brand identity and messaging.”

Messaging to prospective hires and potential clients has some overlap, said Korby Boswell, senior marketing and growth specialist at Adams Brown in Great Bend, Kansas.

“When you showcase firm culture on social media, it communicates to prospective employees about who you are and what it’s like to work here,” Boswell said. “That same post may be interpreted by a prospective client as positive, too, but for a different reason. It humanizes your team.”

Focus Article 6 Growth Strategies Spring 2022

Consistent Collaboration

Hekmatjah said the working relationship between marketing and HR at BPM continually grows, strengthened by regular meetings, specific plans and coordinated calendars. The teams look at their collaboration as permanent, rather than temporary or ad hoc, and the departments don’t operate in silos. Perhaps most important is what marketing brings to the table — user experience and an understanding of audience targeting.

“While we support HR with communications and collateral, our team also offers different channels and platforms to attract recruits, such as social media, videos and interactive content,” Hekmatjah said.

Marketers also apply strategies to qualify prospects, Wilson said, developing the firm’s “why work for us” story for various candidate segments such as on-campus recruits, experienced hires, fractional employees and operational staff.

As firms reach out beyond traditional boundaries for recruits, Wilson said, it requires a targeted messaging strategy to connect with and help transition new staff into the firm.

“If an HR strategy to expand capacity includes using outsourcers, offshorers or remote working, marketing can help position these new staffing strategies internally and with clients who could potentially have objections,” she said.

Audience Targeting

Marketing’s strength in audience targeting brings more effective messaging to efforts to recruit different types of professionals.

For example, college recruits typically care about a firm’s flexible culture and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, among other valuesbased considerations, Hekmatjah said. They also care about gaining the right kind of experience to kick off their careers, and they appreciate

hearing how other graduates of their colleges have done at a particular firm. More experienced professionals look at how a firm is doing with digital transformation and innovative strategies for serving clients.

Wilson agrees.

“They often want a change from what they’ve experienced in the past,” she said. “Many mid-career hires are seeking more flexibility, a firm with more resources, better automation, clearer pathways to promotion and improved compensation.”

As with many other industries, flexible work arrangements are a factor for recruiting at all experience levels in the accounting profession. Boswell said communicating that effectively is a key part of Adams Brown’s recruiting marketing strategy. The firm has profiles of several nontraditional employees on its website.

“We have a cross country coach and a professional soccer player who are full-time teammates, as well as several professionals who take time off seasonally to help with the harvest on their families’ farms,” Boswell said. “We’re willing to work with people and we have a lot of people who don’t work traditional 8-to-5 hours given what they have to do in their personal lives.”

Changing Practices

Marketing and HR collaboration is not limited to recruiting. The two need to work effectively on retention, as well. To stem turnover, HR leaders

are conducting “stay interviews” and compensation studies, as well as employee engagement surveys to identify strategies for change.

“Last year we launched a Virtual Region to offer more flexibility to our colleagues as we expand our reach to recruit the most qualified candidates,” Hekmatjah said.

BPM is also adding resources to its marketing and HR teams to build out a listening/engagement strategy to foster retention.

Nonetheless, while marketing and HR collaboration is common among progressive firms, Wilson said it is not the norm industrywide.

“I’m not sure if marketing is stretched too thin or HR hasn’t recognized the business development aspects of recruiting,” Wilson said, “but the time has come for firms to leverage their marketing talent to assist with their most strategic priority: engaging existing talent and expanding capacity through recruiting.”

Dana Bottorff, Anadon Marketing/ Communications. Contact at dana@

Heather Kunz, manager of marketing & business development, WBL CPAs + Advisors. Contact at hkunz@wblcpa. com.


Crowe, LLP


Equity and inclusion have always been front and center for the firm. Our CEO, Jim Powers, had a vision for DEI as a key strategic initiative and needed someone to lead the firm’s equity and inclusion efforts. I’ve been involved in DEI in some capacity since I started with Crowe, and I was tapped to participate in a different capacity. My leaders recognized how passionate I was for DEI, and while we have come a long way, our goal is to be much more successful with a strategy and more focused attention.

What motivated you to take on the role?

I’ve been involved in diversity wherever I’ve worked. I’ve served as the executive leader of the African American Business Resource Group, attended diversity conferences and helped build an internship program at a historically Black college, all while I was still client-facing. I had been a consultant and a partner; I was ready for this new spark. I accepted the role before DEI had a spotlight. When I read the description, I thought, “that would be a really good fit for me.”

How can accounting firms be more inclusive in their business development?

The hardest thing to solve is inclusion. You need to make it known your organization is intentional about DEI. Talk with your people, make yourself available and survey them the right way so you can pivot toward whatever that next step is. Realize an individual’s next step may not be yours. You need to huddle up so folks can get together to understand. Sometimes one-on-one discussions can be effective as well.

Do you have a dedicated staff, a committee or both?

The Inclusive Excellence Council is comprised of key executive leaders in the firm and our business unit leaders who lead each service. We make the decisions and work together to build the DEI infrastructure. We also leverage our five business resource groups, who make up our subcommittees, and they’re responsible for our key pillars —

education, recruiting, retention, metrics, how we appear in the market, our relationships with historically Black colleges and universities and more. We have a dedicated operational lead who serves as a project manager and two coordinators, as well as a volunteer workforce. There are also councils within the other business units we align with. It’s impressive to see how many people are behind this.

Do you coordinate with marketing, business development, human resources, etc.?

I work very closely with our chief people officer (CPO). I think the CPO and CDO should work closely because the CDO is responsible for refining our culture. Marketing is the brains behind how we craft our messages, how we deliver content and how we share with the market. They helped draft the 104-page transparency report that tells our story, what our journey has been, and what our commitments and resources look like going forward.

What can firms without a diversity officer or a DEI program do to work toward DEI? Who within a firm should lead DEI?

It always starts at the top. You don’t always need a CDO when your leadership and organization understand DEI is important. If HR has to sell your CEO on it, it’s not going to work. The key is training. You have to offer materials and tools so that people can take that next step.

The expectation today is firms are not just thinking about DEI; they’re doing it and doing it well. Previously, a firm could just say, “Yes, diversity is important to us.” But now they’re being asked what commitments they’re making. What is the plan? How are they cultivating that? How are they connected to the community? Companies and people don’t want lip service. Nothing needs to happen overnight, but something needs to happen. I would encourage anyone to take a step in the direction of DEI and work toward understanding how important belonging and inclusivity is. When people don’t feel like they belong, they leave.

led Crowe to create this new role? Why now?
Chris Mitchell Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)
8 Growth Strategies Spring 2022
Chris Mitchell is the first chief diversity officer (CDO) at Crowe, LLP. Mitchell has more than 25 years of experience in technology and IT consulting, most recently serving as a consulting principal in Crowe’s technology, media and telecommunications services group. He discusses how belonging is at the heart of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and what firms should do next. Interview by Jacqueline Harnevious

How do you get partners and staff to “live the brand?”

You can get partners and staff to live the brand by making it digestible and encouraging small goals. Spend a few minutes a day or a week on something the firm has identified as important. Often, social media is a goal. So, take a break over a cup of coffee, log in, and share or post items from the firm’s feed or what you feel is important to clients. Sometimes a small change like this can go a long way in moving larger strategic initiatives forward.

We developed a Culture Code and rolled it out a little over a year ago to ensure there was synergy in our vision and mission statements and our core values. Within this, we developed five “Cultural Behaviors“ that are the manifestation of our core values. More simply, it is how everyone in the firm can and should live out the core values. To help educate and promote, we provided examples of what these behaviors look like in practice at the organizational and individual levels.

Make marketing training part of new employee onboarding. Marketing is part of day-one training at Moore Colson with a short presentation on what our marketing team does, but we also cover our style guide, brand voice and how they can play an active role in living our brand. This helps our new team members become more in tune with what is on/off brand for our firm while making them aware of the opportunities we offer to help them develop their professional brand and thought leadership.

Brunella Reid, MBA, director of marketing, Moore Colson CPAs and Advisors

To get partners and staff to live the brand, marketers need to make it easy for them to follow brand standards. Start by providing branded templates for components that they use regularly, such as PowerPoint templates with brand colors, styles and fonts built in, LinkedIn banners for personal LinkedIn pages and Zoom (or other video conferencing) branded backgrounds. Also provide them with a brand standards manual that defines the basics of your brand. It does not have to be a lengthy document, but it should outline the correct colors, fonts and logo usage, at a minimum.

I have had the most success by meeting my team members where they are rather than trying to convince them to do something that does not feel authentic to them. This means giving them options and making it easy for them. I have them share logins with me so I can share social media posts for them, set up a system where I or an admin can help update our CRM for them, or I create cross-selling information they send out based on different clients’ needs. Also, it's important to know when to let it go. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results!

Taibl, former director of marketing, Sweeney Conrad, P.S.

Courtney L. Kiss, chief growth and development officer, Johnson Lambert LLP Vanessa Schaefer, president and creative director, Clockwork Design Group, Inc. Emily Interviews by Bruce Van Vreede

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Marketing’s Role in Culling Clients

examine the highest and best use of our resources,” Johns said. “When viewed from that perspective, deciding whether we should spend time on 1040 preparation or consulting engagements made the answer much clearer.”

increases. While it affirmed the firm’s value to their clients, Johns said if a firm intends to move away from a specific type of business, then changing its prices — even significantly — may not provide the desired results.

Becca Johns, director of practice growth at Rea & Associates, Inc. in Dublin, Ohio, said in the December 2021 AAM Business Development Roundtable, reducing — rather than increasing — the number of clients often is the key to free up time to pursue and serve higher-value clients.

“Our workload and need to focus on future growth required that we

The process of pruning clients begins with acknowledging the goal is to reduce the number of clients, not just improve profitability. If profitability is the sole determinant, price increase letters can be sent to push clients toward an equitable solution that allows the firm to continue serving them, but Johns advises doing so with caution.

When Rea sent letters offering clients the choice of a price increase or terminating the relationship, Johns said 90% accepted the price

What to Prune

A firm’s mission, values, strengths and strategic goals should inform the criteria used when evaluating its client base. It’s not always about dollars and cents.

Accounting and advisory firm marketers are adept at describing their organization’s ideal clients. In addition to a keen understanding of their firms’ industry sectors, revenue and business needs, they consider ideal client personas when developing marketing events, materials and content. Therefore, marketers should play a pivotal role in identifying clients to let go, setting the tone and creating talking points for communications, then tying those decisions and discussions to future client acquisition efforts.

In looking at continuation criteria, the definition of profit must be expanded beyond conventional billable rates and annual revenue measures. Relationships are also key contributors to partner profitability, and considerable weight should be assigned to them.

Some common considerations:

• Profitability: Lifetime client value should never exclusively be the criterion to determine which client relationships should

Focus Article 10 Growth Strategies Spring 2022
Like many businesses these days, accounting and advisory firms are facing staffing challenges, shrinking capacity and struggling morale.

end, but it should always be a top consideration for any organization that needs to pay its team a competitive wage and earn a respectable profit.

• Value and vision alignment: The mission and values should be integrated into client evaluation criteria. If diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a critical initiative for a firm, then give it prominent consideration when determining the fit and future of each client.

• Capacity and expertise: Team member skills and experience shift continually over time. Evaluate whether the services each client needs match your team’s current skill set. If there is a mismatch of expertise with client requirements, it’s a good indicator the client may benefit by working with another firm.

Protecting Talent

Today’s talent shortages give marketers an even greater awareness of the need to attract and retain top professionals. The dual responsibility marketers have for attracting clients and talent to the firm provides a unique perspective that is valued during the process of refining a firm’s clients.

Katie Tolin, president of CPA Growth Guides in Canton, Ohio, advises her clients to ask their staff who they don’t want to work with.

“Accounting firms aren’t finding new talent, and the cost of retaining current talent has continued to rise,” Tolin said. “Firms can’t expect to attract and retain people if they still expect 80-hour workweeks. Reducing client volume and giving employees a voice in determining which clients remain is a powerful message that can position firms favorably in both recruiting and retention.”

Tolin also counsels clients to gain consensus on firm direction to ensure current clients and future prospects

support the firm’s mission. Nailing down the motivation to prune clients is key. Year-round work can alleviate a bottleneck but ultimately, some clients will not be an ideal fit for a firm.

“If managing the congestion of busy season is the primary issue, giving clients the option of either being released or going on extension can address the problem,” Tolin said.

Messaging Matters

Accountants and business advisors are no strangers to navigating sensitive topics. Whether imparting unexpected audit results or coaxing a young startup to formalize its accounting procedures, care and planning go into each conversation. Despite the finesse it takes to manage these situations, firm principals often need guidance of their own when breaking up with a client.

Tolin is an advocate of including marketing as part of the client pruning process. Communicating the severance of the relationship to the client must be conveyed in a clear, confident manner with no room for misinterpretation. Marketers can develop speaking points for partners to ensure consistent messaging during these sometimes difficult conversations, regardless of a partner’s personal style.

Johns shared an example of when carefully crafted messaging helped save a relationship. One of Rea’s former partners was snared — along with his mother — into the group of 1040 clients who needed to be pruned. The messaging Rea used to convey its decision helped to smooth that transition.

After expressing how the firm appreciated their business over the years, they briefly described how Rea needed to put their staff above all else and made the difficult decision to preserve its team by reducing their client volume.

Care After Pruning

After a purge, firms should intentionally curate a client base that aligns with its strategic goals and firm culture. Firms can use the evaluation criteria they created to determine which clients to prune to identify preferred client profiles, then use that criteria to assess referrals and pursue clients who align with those criteria.

Marketers can help ensure clients who are removed aren’t replaced with others with a similar profile. This is also a great time for firms to examine how they manage client relationships to ensure they are set up to succeed from the beginning.

Marketers play a key role in helping firms align personas, profiles and practices toward attracting more desirable clients and providing them with exceptional service. Better clients, not necessarily more clients, will reward firms with stronger growth and a happier workforce in the long run.

Tammy Farrell, CPA, CFE, freelance writer, Savvy White Papers. Contact at


Rhonda Clark

Rhonda Clark became the Association for Accounting Marketing’s (AAM) executive director on January 1, 2022. She had served as AAM’s association manager since 2018 as part of AMR Management Services, AAM’s association management company. Clark and her team have been managing AAM’s day-to-day operations since the previous executive director, Lauren Clemmer, retired in 2020. Clark brings more than 25 years of experience in public relations, business development, operations and management to her new role.

During my 27-year career I have worked in PR, marketing, business development, event management and association management in the accounting, healthcare, environmental and legal industries. Association management is my favorite by far because I get to work in all the areas I enjoy, especially connecting with AAM’s members and seeing how the organization is helping them reach their professional goals.

I am a born-and-raised Kentucky girl. I live in Lexington with my husband, Joey, a designer with a local architecture firm, and I have a stepdaughter, Morgan, in college. When I’m not working, my husband and I enjoy working on our home and are always doing a project. I like to travel, with Hawaii being my favorite trip to date, and I am planning a trip to the UK soon. I’m also a social bug and enjoy connecting with family friends and my community. I am a long-time member of the Junior League of Lexington where I’ve held several leadership positions over the years.

What motivated you to pursue the role of AAM’s executive director?

I have gained a profound understanding of the association’s operations and established strong relationships with AAM leaders and members during the past three years. I was passionate about what was happening in the organization and wanted to be a part of moving it forward. I was also at a point in my career where I was ready to take a step forward. My experience managing AAM and in marketing, business development and event management are a great fit for the executive director role. I am very honored to represent this organization.

What are the new Vision 2025 strategic goals for AAM?

The Board held a strategy session in November 2021 to review and strengthen Vision 2025 to make it more reflective of the current landscape. The plan’s goal is to optimize operations by refining AAM’s processes and creating a data and technology

strategy that will transform the organization. We will also identify trends that could impact the association’s success and explore membership models that will contribute to growth, engagement and deepening the member experience. We will focus on establishing and growing relationships with industry leaders and alliance partners, while strengthening our public reputation as the primary resource and leading authority on growth in the accounting profession.

What are your priorities for 2022?

We are taking AAM to the next level. We are redesigning the website, offering new training courses, creating a platform for on-demand learning and expanding our reach to accounting marketers in Canada through a supplier partnership program with CPA Canada. We will also be rolling out a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) toolkit to assist members in addressing DEI in their own firms. Other priorities include finding new ways to partner with the AICPA and redesigning our committee structure to align more directly with the strategic plan.

What trends or innovations have you seen during your time at AMR that might apply to AAM?

We have already adopted some of the most applicable innovations from other associations for AAM, including processes to help streamline work and create efficiency. We are implementing new technologies such as MemberClicks to manage membership, OpenWater to simplify our awards program and Basecamp for project management.

What can AAM members look forward to at Summit in Louisville this May?

I am so pleased to have Summit in Louisville this year and at such an exciting time! The week of the Kentucky Derby brings a lot of energy and events to the city and promises to be a fun and memorable experience with Kentucky’s hospitality, culture and local flavors (for all the foodies).

What is something even those who have worked with you over the past few years may not know?
12 Growth Strategies Spring 2022
Interview by Heather Kunz

Social media is an essential part of a comprehensive marketing strategy these days. But keeping up with posting messages to multiple platforms and collecting analytical data that shows how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn really help a firm is a challenge.

Maximizing the brand development potential of social media requires constant attention and coordination. This is where social media management software comes into play. These tools can make it simple and easy to manage social media marketing by ensuring a campaign is properly timed and targeted, while reducing the time and effort normally required for sustained success.

Paid Option

If you are looking for advanced analytics — with the ability to manage multiple platforms and accounts with enhanced tracking — free options won’t cut it. Starting at $49 per month, the Hootsuite Professional package for a single user provides access to 10 social media accounts in one place, all with one password. This platform provides a quick snapshot of your content to see what’s resonating with target audiences. Hootsuite Analytics allows you to create customizable reports, providing key data with an easy-to-use display. The “best-time-to-publish” feature gathers insights based on previous engagement, tailored to each of your Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. The messaging feature provides a single view of messages across multiple networks in your inbox. Hootsuite provides a 30-day free trial, so new users can take a test drive before making a financial commitment.

Free Option

Buffer is a robust platform that allows users to post to several social media platforms — including LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram — and then view the interaction. The free plan allows users to manage three social profiles with up to 10 posts you can store and schedule in your queue (per channel). There is no monthly or annual limit. The scheduling feature allows the user to set time slots throughout the week for content to be released and then view them all in a calendar view, with the ability to use different messages on different platforms. Buffer is simple and straightforward while also providing flexibility. You can start with the free plan, then upgrade for $5 per month to add analytics, insights and reporting tools that provide an overview of key metrics (impressions, engagements and new followers, etc.). The upgrade also allows you to see a history of your published posts, store data, analyze campaigns and audience demographics, and more.

Geoff Jones

Business Development How to Keep Business Development on Everyone’s To-Do List

The answer lies in low-effort, highimpact activities and expanding upon what you may already have at your fingertips.

Schedule BD Time

make a specific appointment and get it on your calendar. Then treat that appointment like any other — schedule other activities around it or reschedule it if you must.”

As marketers, we understand nonbillable activities are just as important as billable ones. Without new business, our firms won’t have billable work. Without effective recruiting, we won’t have the people to do the work. Without accounting and billing, we won’t get paid for our work.

With the Great Resignation affecting all professions, including accounting, how can we help rainmakers free up time for BD while being sensitive to the competing priorities on their plates?

Many accountants feel business development competes with billable time. It doesn’t. It competes with other nonbillable activities. Encourage professionals to intentionally budget how much of their nonbillable time goes to BD activities.

“Unplanned sales activity can never compete with planned project activity,” said Mel Lester, a management consultant to professional services firms who writes for LinkedIn. “To combat this tendency, treat it like a project. BD is readily converted into the core elements of project work — tasks, assignments, schedules, budgets, deliverables, reviews, metrics. A basic time management principle applies here: If it’s worth doing,

Share FAQs

Firm members likely already field and respond to client questions as part of their ongoing client service. If someone takes the time to reply to an email answering a client’s question, turn that response into a social media post. Chances are, if one person has the question, many others will benefit from hearing the answer.

Check in regularly with partners and ask them to copy you on client emails that address questions. Use their answers (edited to remove clientspecific information, of course) to create FAQ blog posts. You’ll provide visibility and shelf life to valuable content your professionals have already created.

Even as firms struggle to find staff and professionals feel overworked or overwhelmed, business development (BD) still must be on the to-do list.
14 Growth Strategies Spring 2022

Be Responsive

The people at your firm interact with clients and referral sources every day, which means every day is an opportunity for them to be brand ambassadors. Answering the phone or responding to an email should be viewed as high-impact activities because you’re addressing a need. This is one way to look at something you’re doing every day as a business development opportunity. Being a good listener, responsive and understanding can expand your brand and encourage people to refer more business your way.

Solve, Don’t Sell

Accountants are excellent problem solvers. Help emerging business developers understand their focus should be on solving, not on selling, since the term “solving” likely is more palatable than “selling.”

One way to do this is by having them analyze existing clients to identify additional services they may need and your firm can provide. Help

them create what Nicole Sterling, communications and marketing director at RSW Accounting and Consulting in Montreal, calls a Client Excellence Plan.

“These types of plans are an excellent way to mine business from your existing client base,” Sterling said. “It takes far less time and fewer resources to pursue new work from existing clients than to build new business relationships. By taking this deep dive, you may uncover new ways to provide more to those already at your fingertips.”

Cull Clients

To keep existing staff and clients feeling supported, consider taking a look at your client list and begin culling. Though not an easy or quick activity, thoughtfully pruning clients may be a source of relief.

There are many tactics to part ways with clients who are no longer the right fit. For example, you can refer them to a smaller firm that would better suit their needs.

It may feel daunting to undertake, but removing some clients may release the valve on the pressure cooker and allows you to spend the right resources on the right clients. (For more information on how to prune clients, see Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Marketing’s Role in Culling Clients on page 10.)

Cultivate Growth Culture

It’s a marketer's job to help cultivate a culture of growth from the onset of someone’s career with our firms. Make sure marketing and business development are a part of the firm’s onboarding materials to help empower new staff, regardless of their level, with the tools they need to talk about the firm.

Educate team members on how to identify a cross-serving opportunity within the firm. Encourage partners to adopt a “tag-along” policy to introduce junior team members to referral sources, prospects or a client’s team and mentor those who have expressed interest in growing the firm.

Consider these strategies to create more space to tackle BD activities and to give yourself and your teams credit for the BD activities they’re already doing.

When we’re all busy and feeling overwhelmed, sometimes a shift in our mindset can make a huge difference.

Casey Blake, director of client success, Kolibri Law Support Solutions. Contact at cblake@


Private Equity Investment in Accounting Firms Elevates Marketers as Key Players

marketing departments. Since the PE investment model aims to improve a firm’s profitability quickly, significant investments in marketing and technology are key strategies. That’s good news for marketers, but it comes with new expectations.

But a new factor has emerged on the M&A scene that promises to shake up accounting firm marketing departments — and elevate their positions as key players in firm growth.

Private equity (PE) investment in accounting and advisory firms is on the rise, with the 2021 marriage of New York-based EisnerAmper and TowerBrook Capital Partners marking the highest-profile deal so far.

PE investments in public accounting firms differ from traditional mergers in several ways, most notably in the way the new entities are structured and operated. In most deals, the attest side of a firm is retained as a partnership separate from the tax and advisory entity, in part to satisfy independence requirements. The PE investment is made in the tax and advisory entity, which is operated as a company with officers and employees rather than partners.

Impact on Marketing

The ramifications of PE investment are significant for accounting

“PE investment is a new animal,” said Allan Koltin, CPA, CGMA of Koltin Consulting Group. “Large marketing expenditures will require a business plan that justifies the spend, plus an ROI that is acceptable to the PE firm. Quantification will be required, so there will be no more, ‘Hey, let’s go to that conference.’ PE just doesn’t work that way. This will be a shock to the old marketing culture.”

The impact PE investment will have on marketing departments is a prioritization and sharper focus on using automation and technology to improve profitability. This gives rise

to career opportunities as there is more focus on specialization within marketing departments. There will be a meaningful change in the skill sets required of marketers as new and more complex products and services are promoted. Marketing departments, if they can justify it to their owners, will have the opportunity to add new talent to their ranks as they find themselves leading the drive to more profitable growth.

What Got Us Here?

Consolidation in the accounting industry is fueled by many factors, not the least of which is the aging population of firm partners. Many are ready to retire, and after years of ushering clients through the PE investment process, they have recognized the benefits for themselves.

Consolidation in the public accounting industry has accelerated in the past couple of years, with headlines about new business combinations seeming to appear weekly.
Focus Article 16 Growth Strategies Spring 2022

at the firm, reduction of succession risk and the potential for future earnings.

From the PE investors’ point of view, accounting firms represent a stable, profitable industry, but one that has been slow to adopt technology, invest in marketing and engage in innovative business practices. It’s an industry ripe for disruption, said Jody Padar, author of The Radical CPA: New Rules for the Future-Ready Firm

“PE firms see an opportunity to redeploy money tied up in partnerships, to change things, build value and then exit for a profit,” Padar said, adding that once PE firms acquire accounting firms, their priority is to automate them quickly

marketers is they are uniquely positioned to help meet the demand for revenue growth through new investments in marketing technology and practice development.

Redefining Marketing

Kristen Flasch, vice president of marketing and sales support at Quattro Business Support Services, has seen an “intense focus” on deploying new investments into marketing in the past year since an investment by Trivest Partners L.P. and VSS. Quattro is an accounting and finance outsourcing firm near Atlanta, with additional offices in India.

“In fact, the definition of marketing has completely changed from what

both sales support and marketing to capture new business in segments such as enterprise organizations and health care.

“We were able to pursue these new markets faster with our new automation platform called Spotler, which integrates with our sales CRM system, Workbooks,” Flasch said. Quattro also added more sales support solutions and invested in hours of training on new artificial intelligence tools such as ZoomInfo’s Intent Signals, as well as LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s Enterprise platform.

“This investment has really paid off,” Flasch said. “We can now pull data to identify and then target messages to decision makers, track their expressions of interest and


funnel that data to our sales team for a more personalized client-focused approach.”

Flasch’s experience is emblematic of how PE investment impacts marketing departments, said Katie Tolin, owner of CPA Growth Guides in Canton, Ohio, who has been following this trend closely.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen the full impact of PE money yet,” Tolin said, “but we will see an increase in investments in talent, practice development, tech tools, and marketing. Partnerships see these expenses as out of pocket, where outside investors know you must spend money to make money. I see PE-owned firms allocating larger budgets to these areas, and my contacts tell me the desire of PE is to invest in technology as the key to increased profit.”

Padar echoed that view.

“The need for accounting firms to focus on the customer experience and content marketing is clear to PE investors,” Padar said. “Remember, people look online first, so content

must be great, relevant and easily accessed through technology.”

Bigger firms need to hire talent to do this. Smaller firms need to farm it out to consultants to develop their brands.

“Partnerships who won’t take money out of their pockets to invest in new market-facing technologies and services won’t survive.”

The Growth Imperative

At EisnerAmper, TowerBrook’s investment in technology is already yielding results, said Michael Mattia, the firm’s partner in charge of marketing.

“EisnerAmper has always been fairly good in developing and implementing technology solutions in-house,” he said, “but TowerBrook’s investment and experience here has truly supercharged our adoption cycle.”

One example is the deployment of a new mar-com backbone called Templafy, a content enablement platform that is used firmwide to handle everything from standardizing

pitchbooks and engagement letters to automatically updating content across dozens of templates and systems. The technology investments have lit a fire under the rollout of new products and practice lines.

“We all want to grow,” Mattia said, “but PE really wants to grow! I see it as an accelerator or positive disruptor.”

PE-backed firms understand and accept launching new practices and service lines is capital intensive, as EisnerAmper is doing with its new advisory practices in cryptocurrency and environmental sustainability and governance (ESG) services. What is different now with PE ownership is the commitment to making the investment.

Mario Masrieh, principal with Trivest Partners, the PE firm that invested in Quattro, said the key to making this kind of investment work in an accounting firm is the value proposition and delivery of quality service, which supports high recurring revenues and excellent margins. Noting that Quattro’s marketing department was well positioned to put the new technology investments to work, he characterized the firm as “reinvigorated.”

“There’s no doubt that our private equity investment has re-energized the firm and the excitement results in more wins,” Masrieh said.

Richard Shippee, president, Richard Shippee Communications. Contact at

18 Growth Strategies Spring 2022
3.2% CompiledbyHeatherKunz 3.2% 72% FirmsConsiderNewBillingMethodology 72% Unemploymentrateforthe financialsector,thelowest ofanysectorintheU.S. Source: Data+TrendsfortheAccountingand FinanceHiringMarket,Vaco Percentageofmarketingbudgets goingtopurelydigitalchannels, includingowned,paidandearned digital. Unsure Nochangesplanned Valuepricing Subscription Flatfee Hourly Source: Gartner Source: InovautusGrowthOutlook2022Survey 11% 55% 25% 14% 5% 2% 277% 277% LinkedIn'seffectivenessat generatingleadsoverFacebook andTwitter. Source: Hubspot Source: Gallup 1 Significantincreasein incomeorbenefits 2 Greaterwork-lifebalance 3 Abilitytodowhattheydobest 4 Greaterstabilityandjobsecurity 5 Diverseandinclusiveorganization Things Employees WantinTheir NextJob by the Numbers 19

Consultants’ Corner

The expansion of marketing departments is a good thing. While some firms are expanding, we are generally finding there is still a high need and demand for support. What’s really changing our services is the shift in what marketing looks like. The market changes have created opportunities for us to transform existing services to meet the needs of the market — and create some new ones.

The expansion of marketing departments is exciting as it allows firms to add more creative muscle, talent and viewpoints. Our services have not changed because of this. Still, this expansion allows us additional collaboration opportunities and could easily result in expedited results and growth. Our goal is to provide guidance and support to “connect the dots” so leadership teams, marketing, growth, learning and development, and operations work together. An ideal situation is one where teams work together internally alongside our team, resulting in a shared vision with everyone’s fingerprints on it, a solid plan and motivated stakeholders all working toward the same goals.

The Rainmaker Companies

The expanded number of team members permits marketing leadership to allow team members to focus on a specific specialty. This has not changed our strategy but expanded our ability to inform, educate and work together with key department members. In our line of work, it is important for clients not only to understand what we are doing on the website, but also why. Our opportunity to transfer important knowledge on SEO, content marketing and the user experience (UX) is enhanced by additional marketing team members on the roster. In fact, many clients have hired new employees who have a foundational understanding of SEO. In these situations, we can implement more advanced tactics in partnership with internal team members.

FlashPoint Digital

Brian Swanson
As accounting firms expand their in-house marketing departments, have your services or overall consulting strategy been affected?
20 Growth Strategies Spring 2022
Interviews by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

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