Jen Hertzig, brand leader for top 100 firm K·Coe Isom, has learned time and again about the challenges of building a successful accounting marketing team. Hertzig has worked in firms as small as 100 people to firms as large as 800, with 22 offices and several smaller firms added through acquisitions.
While she says there’s no cookie-cutter approach to implementing the best marketing team structure, she shared considerations and processes she’s used in a recent AAM High webinar.
Hertzig shared one example of a tumultuous transition. She worked for a firm that had been acquired by a larger one, and suddenly, the team structure she had created was gone. She was faced with the task of rebuilding the damaged reputation of the acquired marketing team and firing toxic team members, who “need to be eliminated immediately.”
The turning point came when she was accidentally copied on an email that said, in part, “Handle marketing with kid gloves.” Hertzig called the partner and said she welcomed his feedback. She responded with respect, not hurt feelings. “It really came down to the way I treated people.” Quoting poet Maya Angelou, she said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
Understanding the culture of the firm and the details of their vision and goals are key to building the best team. Look at the firm goals and build backward, she advises. In addition, learn about what the accounting professionals do every day and understand their expertise.
Questions to consider:
- What does the firm measure? An increase in the number of clients, more services to existing clients, smaller firm acquisitions?
- What does your firm sell? If it’s non-compliance services, your team needs to convince people to buy something they might not know they need.
- Who are your clients?
- How does the firm acquire new clients?
What are the best roles for marketing team members are how many are needed in relation to the size of the firm? Hertzig said that question is hard to answer. In polling friends in the accounting marketing field, she found an 81-member team in a 2,700-employee firm, an 11-member team in a firm with more than 500 employees, an eight-member team in a firm with about 400 employees and three marketers for a 300-employee firm. Some surveys say one marketing professional per 40 employees is about right, she said.
As for internal roles and responsibilities, common themes emerged: content creators/coordinators, digital marketers/managers, proposal writers and CRM administrators. Public relations and graphics are often outsourced.
Remember that marketing is a support role, Hertzig says. Partners don’t often understand what marketing does. She said she laminated a graphic that outlined the role of each team member, how they can help partners be successful and turnaround time for requests. “Focus on the partners who want to work with you and don’t worry about the rest.”
Understanding culture within the marketing team is important as well. Remember that there’s a lot of emotion involved for marketing professionals being merged into a larger firm. “Don’t come in and try to change things right away,” Hertzig advises. Take time to meet with each firm member. Find out what they enjoy doing and what skills they want to learn. You may be building a new team, but consider it a reset. “Don’t change it just to put your mark on it.”
To ready the team for the future, do your homework. Hertzig believes marketing will become even more targeted, with the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Look at the team’s current competencies, what will be needed in the “less is more” marketing of the future and where the gaps exist.
Future roles may be:
- Content Historian, who archives all content and categorizes it.
- Analytics Storyteller, who analyzes firm-collected data and improves messaging.
- Mobile Marketer, who navigates and optimizes messaging for the mobile experience.
- Automation Manager, who handles adoption of new tools, training, integrating automation and measuring ROI.
- Trends Specialist, who researches and reports on what’s new, what’s cool and what’s relevant to the organization’s target markets.
By: Christina Camara, INSIDE Public Accounting
The AAM High webinar, “Orchestrating Marketing in a Multi-Office Firm,” has been recorded, and is available at no cost to AAM members. The cost is $79 for nonmembers.