Sally Glick is currently the president of the Association for Accounting Marketing and chief marketing officer for Roseland, N.J.-based J.H. Cohn, one of the 25 largest firms in the country.
In a candid conversation, she discussed how the role of accounting marketers has changed, how the association she now leads has evolved, and the toughest challenges faced by accounting marketing professionals today.
How did you get involved in accounting marketing?
Glick: I have been in accounting marketing for my entire career.
I began working with my father, who is a CPA (sole practitioner) in Chicago. I worked with him to build his practice using most of the same tactics that have become so common for CPA firms today, including industry surveys, newsletters, networking, client mailings, seminars and other techniques to establish our name and position. It was the perfect training ground for me.
What are your primary responsibilities as a CMO?
Glick: My responsibilities are two-fold: managing the firm’s marketing team (comprised of eight professionals) and making certain that we send a consistent message to attract and retain quality clients for our firm.
With a footprint spanning the New York and New Jersey market, it’s important to establish good communication and cooperation across all offices to ensure uniformity and a common culture, while taking into account the unique environments of each office.
How has the role of the marketing professional in an accounting firm changed over the past five or 10 years?
Glick: In many instances, marketing professionals a decade ago were reactive — helping their firms, but perhaps without taking the initiative. There was a good amount of time spent on developing collateral materials and on other tangible activities. Marketers were not consistently invited to attend partner-level meetings and often found themselves lacking credibility.
Today, the trend in the marketer’s role reflects the firm’s awareness of their enhanced capabilities and experiences.
While collateral materials are still key to the branding process, many marketers are adding value in more intangible ways. Many marketers have evolved into coaches, business developers and strategists.
CPA firms seem to be more receptive to marketing today than they were a few years ago. What do you think has moved the profession in that direction?
Glick: First, marketers are maturing and becoming more knowledgeable, able to offer more resources, insights and guidance to their firms.
Second, the firms are offering more diverse, non-traditional services that require more complex marketing communications.
It was easier to explain core services when they were solely accounting, audit and tax. Clients knew what to expect. But with the inclusion of management consulting, information technology and wealth management, marketing has become a valuable tool for communicating with the clients and prospects.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing accounting firm marketers today?
Glick: I believe the biggest challenge today is the same challenge marketers have always faced: a lack of credibility and respect within the accounting profession.
This is clearly changing, but too many firms still regard marketing with skepticism and reluctance. They do not completely understand that the marketer’s efforts really enhance their own networking and lead generation.
How has AAM evolved over the years?
Glick: In the beginning, AAM attracted a core group of dedicated members who built the association and made it successful. Those members were really the pioneers of the profession. The annual conference was the key event, but there was no listserv, no Web site, no quarterly conference calls, and a limited number of committees.
AAM is also forming strong relationships with influencers in the accounting profession, and with other professional service organizations. In short, we have really “grown up” over the last 15 years! The evolution of AAM reflects the maturation of our profession.
What do you plan to focus your efforts on during your tenure as AAM president?
Glick: I would like to leverage the momentum that my predecessors have created and also continue to attract more partners to the association, building credibility and confirming the importance of marketing within the profession.
We need to keep strengthening the alliances we have begun with others in accounting, including the American Institute of CPAs, the accounting associations and the media. I would also like to launch a mentoring program as well.
For a complete transcript of the Q&A with Sally Glick, go to WebCPA.com.
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