Many accounting firms these days have a Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Growth Officer. Yours should too, and here’s why.
Adding a fancy title and elevating the head of your accounting firm’s marketing department to the top level might not sound like an important move, but it is. Pish tosh, you say. Function over form and all that. It’s true that an empty title with no real power won’t create effective growth momentum. Integrating the marketing function at the highest levels of the firm’s hierarchy, however, is the only way to maximize marketing’s power and achieve the top-down buy-in you need.
Some readers will be mature enough to remember a time before the Bates decision, when accountants were forbidden to promote themselves in any way. Since Bates v. State Bar of Arizona in 1977, providers of professional services have been free to market and promote their firms in all the usual ways, but remnants of that pre-Bates reticence still exist. Even in firms where no one can remember those days, there is sometimes a palpable resistance to marketing – an inherited perception that ladies and gentlemen do not engage in unseemly self-promotion. Instead, perhaps, the elite make discreet mention of quality firms to serve quality people.
That’s quaint and sweet, but it ain’t gonna cut it in today’s media-rich, internet-savvy digitized marketplace. It’s time to kill off the lingering hesitation and recognize marketing’s integral, guiding, success-controlling role in modern accounting firms.
Strong words, you may think, and probably over-dramatic. But ask yourself this question: Would you let a client in any industry at all muddle through without detailed, comprehensive growth strategies that are fully integrated into the basic business plan? Of course not! Every business demands a well thought out marketing plan.
Once firm leaders recognize that marketing drives practice growth, the wisdom of the C-Suite marketing head seems obvious. Placing a Chief Growth Officer, whether internal or outsourced, among the top layer of firm decision-makers helps emphasize how critical the marketing function is to your firm. It also virtually guarantees a seat at the decision-making table for marketing, whereas letting that important element function as an adjunct afterthought, the unloved (and underfunded) red-headed stepchild, automatically lessens its potential for helping the firm advance.
The Bates decision is a thing of the distant past; it’s high time that every firm joined the ranks of the committed firm marketers among us. Financial professionals are professionals and consultants. They are ladies and gentlemen. But they are also, in the end, business people and thus would do well always to bear in mind the business aspect of running an accounting firm.