Wisdom from Seasoned Marketers

Words of Wisdom from Seasoned Marketers

As a beginning accounting marketer, it can be daunting walking into work on your first day. There is so much to learn about your firm, its services and its professionals. Where do you start? And how can you set yourself up for a successful career?

To help, we met with three seasoned marketers to discuss tips on topics ranging from change management and overcoming challenges to outsourcing and working as a one-person or small marketing team.

JACK KOLMANSBERGER – CMO, HERBEIN CPAS + ADVISORS

What did you learn the hard way?
Early on in my career, I learned a great lesson from Erin McClafferty, the Director of Practice Development for BBD, who was recently promoted to Partner. At the time, I had blinders on, thinking that if a project didn’t generate revenue, then marketing shouldn’t touch it. I ran into Erin, who was doing recruiting for her firm, and she was saying that recruiting was a lifeline. If you don’t have good people coming in, nothing else really matters. I walked away from that conversation with a new sense of marketing’s role. It’s not just revenue generation. It is supporting your firm’s broader strategic initiatives and looking at the bigger picture.

What advice would you give those with a one-person or small marketing team?
One of the unique things about working in professional services is the chain of command. Depending on the number of partners in your firm, you could have upwards of 50 different opinions on a specific project. As a solo marketer or small department, you really have to prioritize and align your projects with the firm’s goals. For example, you could develop a $10,000 campaign to get tons of leads, but it is important to ask if generating leads is the right thing for your firm right now. If your staff can’t take on more clients, more leads probably won’t be beneficial.

Is there anything you want to share about your career or experiences that would help beginning marketers?
As an accounting marketer, it is important to tap into connections and resources, whether through AAM, attending conferences or other channels. You can really learn a lot from people who have been there and done that. From my experience, AAM has been a great way to meet people, and I’ve made lifelong connections with many AAM members.

JEAN CARAGHER – PRESIDENT, CAPSTONE MARKETING

What did you learn the hard way?
My first accounting marketing role was as a marketing coordinator for a firm in Long Island, New York. I was the first person to fill the position and spent my first six months trying to convince the partners who didn’t want to work with me why they should, rather than focusing on the partners who appreciated the skills I brought to the firm. Over time, I learned to surround myself with people who understood and valued the contributions marketing makes.

How has the field changed over your career?
Before, the focus was on mass marketing, trying to reach as many people as possible. Now, the focus is on a more niche marketing strategy. The data available today enables marketers to create more sophisticated, planned marketing campaigns.

What advice would you give those with a one-person or small marketing team?
Be clear on your role and partner expectations. Focus on your strengths. Tie your marketing activities to your firm’s overall strategic plan. Make your case to hire team members or outsource services when necessary. And, of course, build your network within AAM and take advantage of the resources available.

Is there anything you want to share about your career or experiences that would help beginning marketers?
Be your own advocate. Know your worth. Set personal goals. In 1991, the AAM conference was held in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and I was a new board member. My managing partner told me it wasn’t in the budget for me to attend. I told him I would pay my own way, and we negotiated that I wouldn’t need to claim vacation time. Fortunately, I could drive to Hilton Head from Atlanta, and I stayed in a less expensive hotel. Three years later, I was AAM’s president, and the firm sent three additional firm marketers to the 1994 conference. The investment I made in myself impacted not only my career, but the overall perception firm leadership had about marketing.

SARAH DOBEK – PRESIDENT, INOVAUTUS CONSULTING

What are a few tips you can share with new accounting marketers?

  • Learn as much as you can about your firm: how they do what they do, how they operate and what their services are. The best thing I did early in my career was dive deep into understanding how an accounting firm works to make me more effective.
  • Find out what makes your people tick. As growth professionals, a lot of what we do isn’t just about marketing and sales tactics. It’s about change management. And that requires knowing our people really well. Take the time to do it right, build relationships and have conversations that will create buy-in and help facilitate change.
  • Your career isn’t a linear progression. When I started, all I knew was I wanted to help people. We think our career paths are supposed to be linear, but they aren’t. Look instead at your experiences and how you can build upon those to create as much value as possible.

How has the field changed over your career?
It’s been amazing to see the new marketing technology and the pace at which technology has changed and been adopted. It’s essential as a beginning accounting marketer to make sure you are keeping up with the changes, and more importantly, translating how new technologies can work in an accounting firm.

What advice do you have for those interested in outsourcing?
The more you understand the role you want an outsourced partner to play, the more successful outsourcing will be. The right outsourcing can augment your staff and bring skills and expertise that complement your work. I always chose to outsource things I wasn’t as gifted at doing or things I didn’t have time to do because of capacity constraints. Today, we operate in many of those relationships, and the most successful ones have clear communication and expectations. It’s a true partnership, just like you would have with an in-house employee.

Finding Your Way

As a beginning accounting marketer, you will learn that marketers wear many hats. No two days are ever the same. The professionals in your firm are your clients…and your biggest critics. Technology is constantly evolving, and change is the only thing you can truly count on. That’s why we love what we do!

Looking for more advice as you start your career? Check out this month’s Meet a Member with long-time accounting marketer Jolene Colant as well as future “Beginner’s Guide” articles in our monthly AAM Minute Newsletter.

1 Comment

  1. Susan Ross Wells Susan Ross Wells on August 17, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    I really enjoyed this article, Taylor. Thanks!

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