Ideally, marketing and business development work hand in hand, but it is important for accounting firm leaders to understand the distinctions between the two functions and to seek alignment between them to accelerate firm growth.
While the specific tasks of each role vary among firms, depending on firm size and niche markets, marketing generally creates and deploys thought leadership content and communications efforts (PR, advertising, etc.) that strengthen brand image, while business development (BD) converts potential new client relationships uncovered by various lead generation efforts into new sales and mines the existing ones.
Marketing and BD professionals agree that client and revenue growth hinges to a great extent on how well the two functions align — the alignment depends on how well marketers, business developers, and firm management communicate with each other.
Clarity of Marketing and Business Development Roles
By avoiding duplication of effort, eliminating misunderstandings, and sticking to a strategy, marketing, and BD professionals are able to better use their time to put firm growth first.
In successful larger firms, marketing and BD roles are distinct yet complementary functions. For example, marketing provides coordination and promotion of events, while business development pursues personal contacts following the events. These two roles working together provide a greater advantage to the firm; there are fewer chances for prospects to fall through the cracks if each person knows and follows through with his or her responsibilities.
But no matter the size of the firm, it is imperative that marketing and BD work toward measurable goals that have been set and budgeted for by senior management.
At mid-size or smaller firms, the marketing and BD roles can overlap but still operate efficiently when there is strong communication among all the players, including partners.
Focus on Growth
While alignment between marketing and BD is the hope, it’s not always the reality.
Brian Falony, director of marketing at Columbus, Ohio-based Brady Ware & Company, has more than 25 years of experience helping firms grow their practices.
“I’ve seen where there was some friction between marketing and BD,” said Falony, who works from his firm’s Alpharetta, Georgia, office. “What helped me at my previous firm, Aprio, is that my BD colleague and I focused first on the firm’s growth objectives and how what we were doing contributed to achieving them. I think this focus helped us minimize any conflicts and quickly resolve those that came up. When we had trouble resolving an issue, we would work together to come up with our options and agree on them before approaching the managing partner for a resolution.”
Click here to read the full story in the Fall 2020 issue of Growth Strategies (https://issuu.com/aamgrowthstrategies/docs/gsfa20_final)
About Kim Cooley
Kim Cooley is the communications director of HHM CPAs.
About Katie Cauley
Katie Cauley is a marketing/HR coordinator for Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC.
About Richard Shippee
Richard is an independent consultant working with the Whitman Business Advisors team who provides Marketing and Corporate Communication services to accounting firms and other professional services companies.