"We're a marketing firm that does accounting"

Here's the secret to successful marketing, as expressed by Rita A. Keller, Director and Partner of Brady Ware in Dayton, OH:  "We're a marketing firm that does accounting."

Rita_kellerMarketing is embedded into the culture of the firm, a regional firm with 90 professionals in Indiana and Ohio.  "You need to start with young people.  They're told that to make partner they've got to bring in business.  Part of our initial orientation program is spent with the marketing director, who goes through all our marketing efforts and opportunities."  She spoke at the Association for Accounting Marketing conference going on right now in Orlando

The firm marketing budget is between 2 and 3 percent of gross revenues.  IMHO, that's the minimum a firm must spend to do marketing right.  The challenge is showing ROI, because the CPA mentality is "show me the numbers."  Rita said that the problem with marketing is that much of it is intangible -- such as firm reputation and market awareness.  "It's impossible to tie it down," she said. "It's about a long term branding process and how are viewed in community, do young people want to work for you or your competition, etc.  We know that clients come to our firm because of our Web site, our collateral and everything that we're doing to get noticed.   It's hard to put an ROI on that, but you can't stop marketing."

She offered several tips for marketers to succeed in professional firms:

  • Learn all that you can what a CPA (or other professional) does, what they do day to say, and will help you devise the best tactics to promote the firm. 
  • Make sure the partner see your face all the time.  Be certain to have face-time with all the partners and know what they're doing.
  • Your office must be in a visible spot next to the professionals.  This way can drop in when they're walking down the hallways.
  • You must be personally visible.  If there is a partner meeting coming up, ask to be a speaker. Speak out in meetings -- don't wait to be invited to speak.  Speak up and take credit for your ideas.  Don't sit back and defer to others.

And, because most professional firm marketers are women working in a predominantly male office, she offered six warnings for female marketers.  "There are six things men can do that you can't," she cautioned.

1. Men can cry, you can't.
2. Men can have sex, you can't.
3. Men can fidget, you can't.
4. Men can yell, you can't
5. Men can have bad manners, you can't
6. Men can be ugly, you can't.

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