[IMGCAP(1)]Marketing is many things, but one thing it’s not is one dimensional.

Marketing can mean and represent many different things to many different people. Some people have developed their own definition or perception of marketing based on their own work and life experiences. Yet other people will harken back to their school days and define marketing from what they learned in textbooks and the classroom. In either case they are all pretty much walking down the same street, albeit a little differently, but looking for the same thing: new business.

Marketing in and for accounting firms can be daunting, but never dull. Given the economy over the last four years, more accounting firms are hitting the pavement looking for business rather than waiting for it to come in the door. All firms, as well as all businesses in general, are becoming more marketing minded. And that’s good to bring vitality to your business. There is a huge difference in having new business come in through the front unannounced (thank you, referral sources) versus having to go out the same door into the marketplace and develop opportunities that may lead to new business. 

I think most people in any business have found themselves at one time or another in a meeting with their fellow employees discussing ways to get their product or service into the hands of more end users. But how many of you have ever witnessed a transformation of a person in a meeting who had no prior interest in marketing but magically becomes an instant expert on marketing right before your very eyes? Wow, that many, huh?

But that’s the tolerant nature of marketing. Marketing is welcoming to all. Marketing is like the Statute of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Isn’t it refreshing when in a meeting you are asked the magical questions, “What do you think? What is your opinion?” We all have opinions based on our beliefs, education, training and past experiences, both good and bad. Marketing can only flourish and blossom when it is sprinkled with opinions. Our opinions.

There is a good feeling that comes out when asking people for their opinion. Yes, even those people who transformed in front of your eyes when they were asked for their “marketing” opinions. It brings more to the table to select from and shows how differently things fit with other things. The tricky part comes when you have to start narrowing down and sort out some really less than memorable thoughts, ideas and opinions without alienating your colleagues.

No matter how you define marketing or the road it travels down, marketing should accomplish a few things, in my opinion. You may want to visualize marketing as a chain reaction starting with:

1. A Plan: Firm members need to agree on what they want to do and be. That may be easier said than done, but a roadmap is needed to get them there. Make the plan understandable for all and review it regularly, not just once a year.

2. Employees: The employees should be the catalyst to accomplish any new goals or the plan that the firm wants to enhance or change to. Without the support of the employees, all marketing efforts—no matter how good they are—will go down the drain for the most part.

3. Culture: Once the employees embrace the change or enhancement, it begins to work its way into the business fiber and becomes part of the culture. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can and does happen. It is not a one-and-done meeting, but a firm commitment to consistency.

4. External Awareness: Once a new culture takes hold, that message or awareness of your firm begins to filter out into the market that you serve via the employees and their efforts and activities in that market. Your message will never be heard in the market if you don’t have people cultivating that market. It sounds simplistic, but you need to be seen and heard in order to be successful in a market. Perception sells.

5. New Business Opportunities: Once the market that the firm is targeting becomes aware of or recognizes the firm, new business opportunities can then be developed by the employees. Without external awareness of that business, new opportunities may be harder to come by.

6. New Revenues/Growth: Finally the finish line. New revenues occur from new business opportunities when the firm converts prospects into new clients.

So there is your chain reaction in marketing, in my opinion. One step follows another. If you like, work the scenario backwards. If you end up with (6) new revenues, it’s because of (5) new opportunities developed, created by the (4) external awareness of your firm in a marketplace, stemming from a (3) culture within a firm, driven by the (2) employees, from the (1) plan that was developed by the firm.   

Marketing. One word with many dimensions, but again, it’s just my opinion!!!!

Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. is the director of Practice Growth & Marketing with MPS, a Chicago-area middle-market CPA firm and can be reached at Keseric@mpscpa.com. You can also follow Nick on Twitter at @NickKeseric.