Accounting Marketers Give Incentives to Market

Aam_logo_1I'm in Orlando at the Association for Accounting Marketing conference, along with a record-setting 425 accounting marketers from across the continent.  Attendance is up 50 people this year, and the marketing ideas are flowing from every corner.  Having worked myself in law marketing for 8 years, it's a treat to come here, because the number-crunchers have totally new and progressive ideas on marketing.

The event started with a round table discussion.  Did you know that accounting firms offer incentives for their staff and partners to market? This is a totally alien concept in law firms.  Typical law firms expect their employees and partners to market, even though there's no bonus for doing it. 

Interestingly, it turns out that money is not a good incentive.  You give someone $1,000 for achieving a marketing goal and they'll just pay off their car loan and forget about it.  But if you send them on a cruise, give them a free vacation at a resort or give them a basket of gift certificates -- they will remember it.  And they'll market to get the prizes.

Occasionally, marketers run into cynicism from the non-partners.  Some employee professionals say "why should I market? I'm just lining the pockets of the partners." There are many answers -- if you have your own clients, you have power and independence, and you have a better chance of becoming a partner.  But basically you have to get rid of the cynics; they're a bad influence.

Incentives work: one accounting firm ran a 12-week marketing program and brought in $900,000 in new business.  First, the firm formed teams -- including the admin staff!  Teams were picked by draft, just as in pro sports, so there couldn't be a team of all rainmakers competing against first year employees.

The targets were, in order, current clients, referral sources and new clients.  The program was to increase marketing activity, not only results.  Accordingly, partners and associates worked from personalized to-do lists, and could check off a marketing activity once they did it.  Charts were posted around the firm so each person could see where their firms were in the standings.

Accounting firms also use lead-generation companies to set up meetings for them.  One firm, for example, hired Whetstone Consulting to target 100 companies in specific industries.  The marketing director identified the hot buttons and pain points for each industry.  The company mailed two direct mail pieces to the targets, followed up by phone and set up 6 appointments and the firm closed 3 as new clients.  The cost of the program was $3,000 and generated $100,000 in new business.  Why use a lead generation program?  Because the partners don't want to make the initial calls themselves.  Sounds just like law firms, doesn't it?

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