Marketers Prepare to Act as Change Agents for their Firms in 2018

Marketers Prepare to Act as Change Agents for their Firms in 2018

Two chief marketing officers (CMO) and an MP recently shared how their firms remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing environment, while also discussing ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in accounting firm marketing.

The panelists, speaking at a Jan. 30 webinar for the Association for Accounting Marketing, selected three overarching trends that make their firms more adaptable to change – developing an ‘always-on’ business development culture, building a collaborative team and winning more business with content. Consultant Jennifer Wilson, the cofounder of ConvergenceCoaching who coordinates the panel for AAM every year, moderated the session.

Here’s a summary from the panelists and Wilson, followed by their lists of ‘what’s hot and what’s not.’

Developing an ‘Always On’ Business Develop Culture 

George Forsythe, MP, WellsColeman of Richmond, Va.

Forsythe, who leads a $5 million one-office firm with 35 employees, describes himself as impatient. He says he wants new business – and fast – to provide more opportunities for younger staff. Forsythe started business development training for the entire firm to generate additional work for existing clients. The effort involves setting clear goals, tracking prospects through a pipeline process, following up quickly and finding out why the firm won or lost work.

Forsythe says he’s been reluctant to pressure prospects with too much contact, but has since learned that too little contact was perceived as “ ‘you’re too busy to follow up with me and therefore you don’t want my business.’ ” The results of timely contact has been “crazy positive,” he said.

The firm’s focus is driven by a desire to remain independent, without being forced to merge. “For good or bad, I’ve become somewhat paranoid about the changes coming to our profession.”

What’s Hot? What’s Not
‘Always On’ Business Development Intermittent Selling
Results / Outputs Inputs, such as Hours of Effort
We (team-oriented) Me (individual-oriented)
Future-forward Reactive
Nimble Rigid


Building a Collaborative Team

Rhonda Maraziti, CMO, Princeton, N.J.-based WithumSmith+Brown (FY17 net revenue of $175.4 million)

Maraziti, AAM’s 2016 Marketer of the Year, has brought national attention to Withum with its annual videos, which have featured flash mobs, carpool karaoke and he like. She says that nurturing a fun, collaborative environment with frequent feedback has helped the firm bring in top talent and keep then happy, rewarded and engaged. “We work hard and we play hard, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Maraziti says.

She says the “millennial mindset” has taken hold across generations. Everyone likes the flexibility to work at remote locations and the technological tools to make it happen. Withum also offers numerous recognition programs, encourages volunteerism, and provides 360-degree evaluations after every engagement. The immediate feedback for staff and managers alike has been particularly popular and effective, Maraziti says.

Wilson pointed out that 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025, and clients will be largely millennials as well. “I think you’re leading in this area,” Wilson told Maraziti.

What’s Hot? What’s Not
Video Marketing and Social Media  Dependency on Email
Marketing Automation Not Figuring out ROI
Data-driven Marketing Strategies Doing Same-old, Same-old
Fun Social Tools to Boost Engagement Posting Articles Only
Developing Rock Stars  Depending on One Figurehead


Winning More Business With Content

Danielle Berg, chief marketing and corporate communications officer, Atlanta-based Aprio (FY16 net revenue of $76.3 million)

Berg believes that digital strategies are the most under-leveraged sales channel in the accounting profession. The firm last year decided to commit 85% of its marketing budget to digital strategies with a focus on strong content that provides insight, fresh perspective and future outlooks – not sales pitches.

She says 82% of business-to-business buyers in a recent survey say a firm’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision. “What they’re buying is what it’s like to do business with Aprio – and is it better than firm X or Firm Y – and I think through content, you can give them a glimpse of that.”

The firm produces an article every business day, but makes it easy on the partners by asking only for an outline. A writer takes over from there. The firm has adopted a publisher’s mindset with a former reporter leading a cadre of writers and a consultant overseeing search engine optimization (SEO).

“Content marketing really does work,” Berg says. One tax partner generated $750,000 in new business in 2017 through a monthly newsletter. “It’s all about having the right bait in the water.”

What’s Hot? What’s Not
Digital Fills the Pipeline ‘Feet on Street’ Fills the Pipeline
Insights, New Ideas Too Reliant on Experience, Expertise
Future-Ready Mindset What Happened Last Year
Consistent Client Experience Experience Differs by Practice Group
Advisory Mindset Mired in Compliance


Looking to Next Generation for Future

Jennifer Wilson, cofounder, ConvergenceCoaching

What’s Hot? What’s Not
Next Gen Client Experience Old, Non-responsive Websites
Digital Communication Tools Face Time Only Orientation
Rainmaker Development  Relying On Only a Few Rainmakers
Personal and Real Buttoned Up and Polished
Content That Illustrates Expertise
and Solves Problems
Static Copy