How Marketing Helps with Employee Retention

Our marketing director Rachael Higginbotham recently spoke with Laurie Holt, marketing director at HHM CPAs, for an episode of AAMplify!, a podcast series hosted by the Association for Accounting Marketing. In this episode, Rachael and Laurie discuss how the marketing department can play a critical role in employee engagement and retention.

Here are some highlights:

  • Product Development – As we know in professional services, our product is our people. And since product is one of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix, it is important for marketing to be involved in the team member development because it directly affects our clients. At P&N, one of the ways our marketing team helps with this is through our leadership in the design and execution of our consolidated soft skills training program.
  • Coaching – Many people think of the marketing department as the cheerleader, helping to maintain a positive attitude and encouraging people from the sidelines. While the cheerleader is an important role, marketing departments have really started to embrace the coaching role. As a coach, marketers use their understanding of individual players’ strengths and design plays that put the right people in the right positions.
  • The Right Skillset – Everybody brings a different strength to the firm. As marketers, we think differently and have different skills than our practice folks or even than other operational areas within our firm. As it relates to employee engagement and retention, communication is a critical component and marketing professionals are generally master communicators. We can help our firm determine the appropriate frequency, manner and channel of communication with employees to receive a desired outcome.

 

For more information, check out the full episode of AAMplify!

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Not-So-Busy Season

By Rachael Higginbotham

Accounting firms are famous for “busy season.” Although workloads have begun to even out year-round in some practice areas, late January through the end of April is still the most demanding period of time for accounting firms. Because of the high focus on audit and tax deadlines, it’s oftentimes also the slowest period for accounting marketers.

With less access to client service professionals, how can marketers use their “not-so-busy” season most productively? In a word: prepare.

Researching, budgeting, and planning…oh my!

Every marketer has an “idea file.” If you don’t, it’s time to get one. We all have enough on our plates to keep us busy today, but being strategic means constantly thinking ahead. What’s next on the horizon for the industry? What are our clients’ biggest challenges? How can we help our professionals continue to help clients? Every innovation begins with a question, and busy season is the perfect time for marketers to ask themselves hard questions.

One idea to make sure you are asking the right questions is to seek feedback from your professionals, who are spending a significant amount of time with clients during this period. You might consider scheduling one lunch a week with a different manager or senior manager to pick their brains on client challenges. What are clients struggling with? Are there any trends? How is the new tax bill impacting them? What are the disruptors our clients are dealing with?

Common themes require further researching, and more questions. Essentially, ask how your firm can help:

  • Do you need a new service?
  • Do you need to educate clients?
  • Do you need make sure clients know you have resources who are able to help them?

The answers to these questions helps form the plan and the budget, which you will have ready to execute at the end of busy season.

Staged and Ready to Go

In addition to generating ideas for new ways to service clients, it’s important for marketers to continue to look inward, focusing on solutions for their firm operations. The expectation for doing things better, faster, and cheaper only increases as technology continues to evolve, and marketers have the key role in managing the efficiency and effectiveness of firm growth efforts.

Every year, hundreds of accounting marketers attend the AAM Summit, walking away with fresh ideas, new connections, and a bit more energy than they had before. Oftentimes, after having been away from the office for a week, marketers are challenged to find time to digest and prioritize ideas generated at AAM. Instead of simply looking forward to the next event, busy season can be a great time to explore and implement initiatives which have been on the backburner.

It can also be a great time to reach out to marketers at other firms to reconnect. Did you find particular inspiration from a presentation? Reach out to the presenter. Did you connect with a colleague in a session? Send an email inquiring as to whether they’ve made progress in the area you discussed. Did you hear about an amazing new technology which is highly cost effective and can make your team produce marketing materials and resumes better, faster, cheaper (ahem…POUNCE)? Schedule a demo! (Really. Schedule a demo.)

Whatever your highest priority is, do everything you can do to prepare during busy season.

If your firm is like ours, come May 1, planning is over and it’s go time. If your team can be staged and ready to go with things like training, events, materials, and any initiatives which require the participation of your people, then you are better positioned to maximize the effectiveness of your own busy season (aka everything except late January through April).

If you have ideas on how to spend marketers not-so-busy season, we’d love to hear them!

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Why Marketing Collateral [Still] Matters

In a modern business world where social media, mobile websites and video content are the new normal, does the traditional marketing brochure still matter?

The answer? A resounding YES! Marketing collateral still serves an essential purpose and is a key component of a well-rounded marketing strategy, especially in professional services. Sure, the modern channels for online marketing are important. But to disregard the value that traditional marketing collateral brings to your business development process is a huge mistake.

Here’s why marketing collateral still matters:

1. It establishes credibility.

Marketing collateral offers a tangible representation of your firm and often establishes the first impression a prospect has of you. A prospect may glance over your collateral and, within moments, decide whether you are a credible and qualified service provider.

You may have made significant investments in your website and online presence, but if you have sub-par marketing collateral—or have no marketing collateral—it could impair your chances of winning over the prospect.

2. It boosts your brand.

Marketing collateral is often the first opportunity you have to help shape a prospect’s perception of your firm. Your collateral should help to build and maintain your brand. Is a prospect going to read every word? Probably not. But good marketing collateral will make an impression and carve out real estate for your brand in the prospect’s mind, even if the prospect only looks at it for a few moments.

3. It explains your services.

In professional services, we sell something much more complex than, say, office supplies. Our “goods” require a high degree of education, training, knowledge and experience.

Marketing collateral helps to clearly communicate to prospects the key features and benefits of your services (i.e., the value of what you do) to an audience that may not know the ins and outs of what you offer. It helps to demonstrate how your services will solve a problem and/or make the prospect’s life easier.

4. It gives your sales team confidence.

Your doer-sellers need tools if they’re going to be effective. Marketing collateral gives your doer-sellers the resources—and comfort—they need to be effective in sales meetings or with follow-up activities. Printed or printable marketing materials are ideal for face-to-face networking or meetings.

5. It serves as another touch point.

We all know that the sales cycle in professional services can be lengthy, and it takes time to earn like and trust before winning business. This means your pursuit strategy should consider many different points of contact, of which your marketing collateral should be one.

Conclusion

While the sales process has changed drastically over the last decade, marketing collateral remains one of the best channels to communicate information about your firm and your services. Don’t overlook the value that marketing collateral brings to your marketing and business development efforts.

Need a tool to manage your marketing materials and make them accessible to your doer-sellers? Schedule a demo with us to see how POUNCE can help you keep your marketing materials organized and accessible in one central location.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

By Rachael Higginbotham

New year resolutions

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s just something about a clean slate, a blank chapter, and the prospect of taking a foundation I’ve worked to build for 40 years and making it a little bit better.

I’ve had enough New Years that I have no illusions that my resolutions are going to completely change my life. And that’s fine; life change is not necessary or appealing for me right now. But there are things I want to accomplish, and setting resolutions helps me establish goals and a path to move the needle in a few specific areas that are important to me.

I also believe strongly in the power of focus.

Making one or two important resolutions is much more impactful than making a bunch of smaller ones.

For example, one of my two resolutions this year is to make my health and fitness a priority. For me, this means upping my gym attendance by one time a week, adding a weekly flexibility class, and focusing on my nutrition. I have a foundation and the tools I need (a gym membership and a yoga mat), but I’ve had these things for a while and I’m still struggling. So what will be different this year? The tools are the exact same; the difference is the way I use them, and that’s completely on me. I can’t make more time in the day, and no one else can make better nutritional decisions for me. The delta is focus and consistency. I have to remove things that are taking my attention to make room for additional workouts. I have to consistently remove peanut M&Ms from my daily diet. Something has to go to make room for the things I want most.

I believe the concept of New Year’s resolutions can also be beneficial in the workplace. Instead of focusing on new personal resolutions, marketing departments can focus on new business solutions. What are your firm’s goals? How can your team help? How can you be more strategic with your time? These are the types of questions that make a marketer’s brain hum. Just like my fitness and nutrition goals, marketing departments must focus on their highest priorities, or the needle will get stuck in the noise and not move. What are you spending time on that doesn’t necessarily need to be done by you, or isn’t necessary to do at all?

For everything your team can (and should) take on, something has to go.

Sometimes, what has to go (up) is your payroll budget, meaning that your firm makes a strategic investment in additional marketing resources. Oftentimes, though, this is not the case. The best thing for many firms is to maintain the size of marketing departments, but to do that the team must become more efficient and effective in their roles. Some ideas for this include improving processes, training, leveraging, and of course technology.

At P&N, our marketing technology stack includes several off-the-shelf and customized tools. A core component of our process is POUNCE. With this tool, we have seen response time for marketing materials go from hours (sometimes days), to minutes, with little to no involvement from marketing resources. We have seen the accuracy and consistency of our professionals’ resumes (in both proposals and our website) improve through no additional effort of the marketing department. And we have seen increased usage of marketing materials simply by having them available 24/7 to our doer-sellers.

Why was this important to our firm? Before we could start being more strategic, we had to stop being as administrative. There is simply not time to do both.

What is your team going to focus on doing this year? And what are you going to stop doing in order to make it happen?

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.