By: Christina Camara
Being a traditionalist just doesn’t work anymore. The accounting profession is changing too fast to continue with the same old skills and services, and marketers are well positioned to drive the transformation.
So said IPA Publisher Michael Platt, marketers Jennifer Moore and Karen Coviello, and consultant Jennifer Wilson, of ConvergenceCoaching, in a Jan. 16 AAM High webinar on leading change in 2019. They also discussed ‘what’s hot’ and ‘what’s not’ in accounting firm marketing.
Considering the impending retirement of baby boomer leaders, the rise of new technologies and business models, and a range of other fast-moving trends, Wilson, Platt and the other panelists discussed initiatives that reflect new ways of approaching their work to ensure their organizations remain relevant and competitive.
Indianapolis-based Katz Sapper & Miller embarked on an ambitious project to update the firm’s vision, mission and values – an exercise that helped drive a new five-year growth strategy and formed the basis for a deliberative re-brand process that “wasn’t a quick, fluffy exercise,” said panelist and marketing director Jennifer Moore.
The up-front work included creating a New Vision Formation Group of future leaders, surveying employees and researching marketing trends. Moore says the vision planning process led to increased support, helped firm professionals better understand how the firm is different from others, and refined messages on “how we talk about ourselves that resonates with others.”
Moore says the strategic planning, and involvement of young professionals, is well worth the investment of time. “Branding is not a one and done thing.”
Michael Platt predicts that 2019 is the year when firm culture will take center stage and that marketers will play a pivotal role in defining, shaping, nurturing, measuring and improving it.
Over the last decade, he says, firms have focused on increased employee engagement while ignoring the bigger issue of how culture can drive business results. While the formula appears elusive, research shows that tying culture to results involves a three-pronged approach.
While employee engagement is important, their energies must be aligned with firm goals. The firm must also be agile and adaptive to change, and the firm must be strategic about developing a culture that supports implementation of the firm’s objectives. These, and other aspects of culture, can be measured objectively and used as bench-marking tools.
He says firm marketers can take the lead by helping define culture that aligns with firm goals, creating initiatives that develop culture, measuring progress and analyzing results. IPA will be unveiling tools to help firms do just that.
Karen Coviello, marketing director at East Brunswick, N.J.-based WilkinGuttenplan, believes developing emotional intelligence – or the awareness and expression of emotions in an empathetic and judicious way – is becoming more and more important. Clients are looking for an emotional connection.
“Customers are more engaged in learning about the stories behind the brands,” Coviello says. “We have to figure out how to tell our story in a compelling and interesting way.” Client testimonials, images of young professionals in casual work settings, and positioning accountants as good listeners and problem-solvers are a few ways firms can create tighter connections with their customers.
“In the end it’s all about how well you’ve management your relationships. Embracing emotional intelligence will allow your brand to connect with clients and prospects in a deeper, more authentic way.”
Here’s a look at the panel’s insights into ‘what’s hot’ and ‘what’s not’ in accounting firm marketing: