Creating the rainmaking champions of tomorrow
At some point in the future, hopefully in a galaxy that’s not too far away, the Managing Partner of a CPA, consulting, staffing, or other type of professional service firm will gather the rising stars of the firm for a serious talk about marketing.
Using the combined power of their iPhone 84 brain implants, they’ll create a hologram that turns the conference room into a virtual clearing in a forest where sitting alone at a blazing campfire, the firm’s MP is waiting.
On a massive log stump sits a set of (virtual) long stem Waterford wine glasses, and a case of (virtual) 2016 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, worth nearly 176,000 true-bitcoins in the currency of the time.
She bids them to fill their glasses and take a seat on one of the plush cushions around the roaring fire, and begins.
“Listen up …”
Way, Way Back When …
As a young professional just starting on her career, the MP of the future’s mentor held strong convictions that the path to new business was laid exclusively in referrals, networking, schmoozing, and showing up at trade association meetings. The idea of spending firm resources on branding and websites, and salaries for a marketing department were considered to be necessary evils, with little to no return on investment.
Then, some subtle and not so subtle shifts began to appear. Baby boomer partners and their baby boomer clients began to fade away, replaced by younger partners and younger owners whose comfort level and literacy with all things digital made traditional marketing increasingly obsolete. Online search became the first point of contact most prospects had with a firm, and websites became the hub of marketing activities. Firms not only competed on the basis of who they knew, but how much they knew and how effectively their conveyed and promoted their thought leadership through multiple digital media channels.
But the one constant that did not and would not go away was the need for that Managing-Partner-to-be to build a network of contacts and referral sources, and to do good work that generated word of mouth referrals.
If that Managing Partner of the future could reach back in time and communicate with the professionals of now, I’m sure she would tell them that today, and well into the future, marketing in CPA, consulting, staffing, and other professional services firms is going to be a function of integration and balance between referral and digital marketing, with a smidgeon of traditional marketing (print advertising, telemarketing, direct mail, etc.) thrown in for good measure.
But, she would say, that’s not the only way to build a firm.
12 Marketing Tactics Rising Stars of Today Can Use Now to Become Rainmaking Champions of the Future
Based on her keen observation, experience, and strong leadership skills, here’s what I expect that Managing Partner of the Future would say to those rising stars sitting around the (virtual) campfire:
- Set realistic, quantifiable, and measurable marketing goals, and make sure the firm has invested in the right technology for producing the metrics you’ll want to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing initiatives.
- Build a niche practice that’s bold and differentiated in terms of its products and services. Marketing on a niche practice level is critical for identifying targets and focusing resources. Make sure you fight for the budget you need.
- Do the training necessary to sharpen your interpersonal relationship and soft sales skills.
- Never stop building your network of referrals or doing 1:1 marketing, as it’s likely that 70% or more of your book of business will come though this channel.
- Get involved in the trade associations your clients and prospects belong to, because you want to fish where the fish are.
- Build a strong presence on LinkedIn by maintaining your profile and participating in LinkedIn group conversations in those groups where your clients and prospects belong, because of that fishing thing I said above. (Note: I am uncertain as to whether Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, or any the other social media channels of today will survive as a marketing tool for the professional services firm of the future.)
- Never be afraid or risk adverse when it comes to exploring new digital marketing technologies or approaches. You don’t want to be last to the table, as many professional services firms are wont to do, when it comes to new and compelling ways to get more visibility, generate more leads, or accelerate the sales pipeline process.
- As painful as it might be, always, always, always be building, maintaining, and cleaning a comprehensive marketing database. Regardless of whatever new forms of digital marketing come down the pike, they’ll still need to be anchored by contact records that will give you the ability to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.
- Write blog posts—lot and lots of blog posts—because they will be a showcase for your thought leadership, build your personal brand, and lead to first page rankings on search engines. Go for at least one post per week.
- Develop and publish long form content like articles, whitepapers, eBooks, and even webinars because they will be anchor pieces for lead generation campaigns, fundamental for contextual marketing strategies, and key components of marketing automation activities.
- Work closely with the marketing department and the business development team to create lead generation campaigns based upon offers crafted out of your thought leadership, like an offer for the white papers you’ve written. Being a leader that can create alignment between you the professional, your marketing team, and your business developers will be a critical leadership skill rising stars must master.
- Stay marketing literate and marketing relevant. Join an organization like the Association for Accounting Marketing, download some whitepapers, or even subscribe to a blog like the Professional Service Marketing Digest for a weekly dose of marketing observations and tips.
“… and last but not least.”
“Take responsibility and make yourself accountable for your own marketing success,” said the Managing Partner as she poked at the virtual campfire with a virtual stick, stirring the virtual embers. “The days of ‘set it and forget it’ marketing are long over, and what I’ve observed is that marketing is not a necessarily evil—it’s the way that great firms become legendary, that good firms become great, and that firms with mediocre or poor marketing fade into obscurity.”
“And last but not least,” she said with a hint of anticipation in her voice, “Let’s raise our (virtual) glasses and may I propose a toast? Here’s to your success. May you all make more money to meet obligations you wouldn't have if you didn't make so much money!”