The challenges of developing and executing marketing plans are many and wide-ranging. For marketing managers who work at smaller firms—usually as a one-person department—the effort is a constant battle of choosing what is achievable versus what is best for the firm. Marketing managers at smaller firms are often given little resources and are expected to deliver big. And, though it can be done without the help of technology, sometimes the juice is not worth the squeeze.
With marketing technology such as automation tools, email and text marketing, social media, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, choosing the right combination of solutions can turn your one-person department into a synchronized orchestra of promotional excellence. So, where do you begin?
After you have assessed your situation, done your research, and narrowed down precisely where you need the most help and what tools may accomplish your goals, it is now time to present to the managing partner or executive committee and tell them the dreaded costs. Here is when most of our quests for a more robust marketing department fall short…price. It is also when we should take a page from the partners’ own handbook when pitching the advantages of using these tools.
Here, we will talk about five ways you can accomplish this by engaging decision makers in your firm in the same manner they engage clients:
Sell value, not cost
A great quote from Warren Buffett is “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” The partners in our firms know this and are adept at delivering this message. Often faced with justifying their hourly billing rates when on a sales call, they effortlessly pivot the conversation to value. For the marketing manager, this entails creating a vision of the benefits the firm will experience because of the decision to purchase the technology tool(s). Talk about and quantify return on investment (ROI), increased website traffic, better tracking and conversion of leads, and higher search engine optimization (SEO) rankings – all the things they expect from a full-fledged marketing department. This is selling value, and it is a language they understand.
Focus on how it helps them, not how it helps you
Let’s use email marketing tools as an example. According to McKinsey & Co., email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new clients than Facebook or Twitter. What would that mean to the partners of your firm to have an automated email marketing solution? A 4,000% ROI would be a good place to start, and it would also likely drive down the cost to acquire a new client. Yes, automating the email marketing process would be easier for you and allow more time to devote to other priorities, but do not sell it on those merits. Focus on how it helps them do their job better by targeting and reaching more prospects, increasing the number of leads, and hence, the firm’s revenue.
Use competitors as a benchmark
Do not let their mild manner fool you. Accountants are extremely You can use this characteristic, along with your data-driven approach, to justify technology purchases. Look at similarly-sized accounting firms in your area. Focus on those using marketing technology and let your partners know what they are doing and what they are using. Point out things they are doing well, and link it to the technology driving that process.
I once had a partner ask, “Eric, why aren’t we quoted as much as ABC Firm in the media?” My response was, “Because we have not made it a priority. We haven’t engaged a public relations (PR) agency to help; they did, and it’s yielding great results.” That spoke volumes, and soon the partners were discussing making PR a priority on their own. Though not a technology analogy, I believe it is still relevant. Competition is a powerful driver, and when leveraged correctly, it can be the ally you need.
Present a technology spectrum
I have found this to be useful, but few marketing managers do it. I learned it from my days at a big-four firm. It was used in the strategy consulting selling process. On the left side of the technology spectrum was zero; on the right side was 100. At various points along the spectrum, we placed progressively effective and necessary technology tools specific to their industry. Finally, we placed the prospect on the spectrum where we thought they were today (based on the level of technology used), and where we thought they would be in five years if they did not change and embrace certain technologies. We backed it up with accurate and compelling data. It was eye opening. No one likes to see proof they are lagging and that it is leading to underperforming.
Ask more than once
“No” is a relative term, and it is a snapshot in time. It rarely means “never.” If you are steadfast in your belief to introduce marketing technology into your firm, keep at it—even after you are denied the funds. Each year around budget planning time, bring it up again. Demonstrate how much things have changed since they said no last year. Help them realize just how fast technology changes and how fast and far they can be left behind if they are persistent in saying no.
All these steps in concert can paint a powerful picture of how technology can help your firm transform and increase its marketing output, making things easier for the partners and yielding tremendous ROI.
Marketing technology tools and the insights they bring will continue to give you the information you need and the results you desire years after the initial investment. Securing these tools for your firm can make you invaluable because your one-person department will perform like a big firm’s multi-person team.
About Eric Elmore
Eric R. Elmore is the marketing and brand manager for Drucker & Scaccetti, a tax-focused accounting firm, in Philadelphia. He has more than 20 years of experience working with professional service firms helping them communicate to the world who they are, what they do and why it is of value to targeted audiences.