People do business with those they like, know, and trust. CPA firm partners are no different. You can be following the yellow brick road to a marketing project success at your firm – with everything going right – only for a partner to poke their head out at the Emerald City of Budget Approval and say, “Not approved.” That is, if you have yet to gain their trust and confidence.
Partners hold the keys to greenlighting everything for accounting marketing. And as the economy changes, and we navigate this strange and uncertain time, as marketers, we are challenged to illustrate our worth. This requires gaining the trust of our partners that we can deliver meaningful results for the firm.
Below are some strategies you can employ to win over your partners’ trust and confidence.
Small Wins Now Help with Big Wins Later
When a partner asks for help on a small project, even something you consider mundane, do not view it as a waste of your time. Try to think of it as an investment in gaining your partner’s trust.
Casey Blake, Director of Marketing at Edelstein in Boston, MA offered, “Look at any project or interaction with a partner as a way to build your credibility within your firm or with the partner group. Even though a project may seem minor on the scale, it can go a long way in building trust and credibility over time.”
If you help your partners with several small projects, and deliver outstanding results, you will be able to build up your credibility over time. You can parlay it into support on larger projects, making sure to deliver the same positive results on the bigger stage.
However, if a partner only gives you busy work, even after you have established yourself within the firm as a strong performer, it may be helpful to have a conversation with them about how you can add more value. Be careful to frame the conversation in a positive manner. You will most likely have better results saying “I appreciate that you have let me help you with these projects in the past, but I can also be more valuable helping you with x, y, and z.” Rather than saying, “Entering business cards in a spreadsheet for you is a waste of my time.”
Consider the Partner’s Point of View
Nicholas Greenfield, Partner and VP of Marketing at MNP in Calgary, Canada has over 20 years of experience in accounting marketing. As a partner, he now finds himself on the other side of the table, and offers this advice on gaining partner support for marketing:
“Before coming to a partner with a request, try understanding their decision-making process and what motivates them. A partner is responsible for managing risk and profit for the firm. They will not be swayed by telling them, “Hey, other firms are doing more digital ads I think we should too.” Instead pitch your project in a way that speaks to their motivations like, “By increasing our targeted online ads, we can increase our leads by x, and ultimately increase profits by y.”
Greenfield leads a national team of accounting marketers and often has conversations with his team about influencing the right outcome with partners. He reiterates to his team to walk in their partners’ shoes and frame conversations in firm operational goals.
It can also be helpful to reconsider how you view your partners. ”It can be a helpful perspective to think of your partners as they think of their clients. I work with my partners collaboratively, creatively, and strategically which mirrors how our partners connect with their clients,” added Blake of Edelstein.
This is even more important, when times are tough. It is our job to consider the partners’ perspectives, and speak their language when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars. New business is essential, but learning how to position your strategies and speak their language can make all of the difference.
Get the Right Partners on Board for the Right Projects
Jaclyn Braga, Director of Marketing at Morse in Boston, has cultivated strong support for marketing in her firm (*Braga was also set to present Marketing the Marketer at AAM Summit this year, prior to the pandemic). Braga offers the following advice on how to gain support and trust within your firm:
“It goes without saying that doing good work should ultimately build trust within your firm, but today good work is just expected – from service professionals and administrative professionals alike. However, we can all use an assist now and then. As such, if you find yourself about to embark upon a significant project, begin by finding a cheerleader. Getting the right partner onboard to help champion a project can mean the difference between success or failure. Remember: the right partner for one project might not be the right one for another. Then find the naysayers. These are the partners who are most likely to punch holes in your plan. It is best to tackle the challenges right from the start. If you get out in front of those obstacles, you will have a smoother run to the finish line and a better chance of building your reputation within the firm. Also consider that everyone handles change better when they feel as though their voice has been heard. Great customer service, excellent listening skills and strategic communication can go a long way.”
As Braga points out, it is smart to win over “naysayer” partners at the beginning of a marketing project. It can save you time in the long run by avoiding roadblocks or a project shutdown when you are closer to completion.
Partners are not one size fits all. While one partner might be perfect for presenting at conferences, another might be better suited for writing technical blogs. It is up to you to gain their confidence by helping them maximize their strengths.
Blake of Edelstein adds, “Recognize that each person has their own unique set of skills and strengths. As marketing professionals, we get to work with people to identify their goals and ultimately help them achieve those goals. When you listen and understand each partner’s skill set, and then align strategy and opportunity, you are bound to build trust within the relationship.”
Become Their Trusted Ally
To communicate the importance of marketing, and recession-proof your department, you will have to gain the trust, confidence, and support of your partners. It may take a while, but if you focus on small wins, put yourself in your partners’ shoes, and help them to maximize their strengths, you will soon become their trusted ally.
About Chris O'Day
Christopher O’Day is the Director of Marketing at ALL CPAs, a 50 person firm in Chestnut Hill, MA. As the Director of Marketing, he is responsible for business development, strategic marketing, digital marketing, social media, communications, recruiting, event management, and other growth efforts for the firm.