When I first enrolled in college, I opted for a marketing course as an elective. At first, there was some trepidation on my part, because to me, marketing was a term my grandmother used when she intended to go grocery shopping. During my first day in class, I soon learned that the process of marketing had nothing to do with a visit to Grand Union or Safeway.

Nearly 30 years later -- including a five-year stint covering the marketing and advertising beat for another publication -- I’d like to think that I’ve accumulated a modicum of authority on the subject.

But not everyone has.

One of the more disheartening constants in corporate America is that in times of financial downturns, the marketing department is usually the first one to feel the brunt of the layoff ax.

No matter what precipitates a company’s plunge -- economic conditions, new regulations, or changing consumer tastes -- marketing is, more often than not, perceived by management as an expendable cost center in times of austerity.

And therein lies one of the great corporate fallacies.

A strong marketing plan should be as important in an accounting firm as fielding strong audit and tax teams.

Marketing, in fact, is your accounting firm’s façade, the initial impression potential recruits and clients receive when they walk through the door. The appearance of your reception area as well as the persona of the receptionist, are all part of the marketing “cube.”

Again, I’m not telling many of you anything you don’t already know. And if you don’t by now, you should.
Marketing as a strategy has evolved to encompass such areas as the quality of a firm’s Web site, or receiving outside accolades and recognition as being a great place to work. Marketing can help in generating client leads, or attracting new blood to the firm as a result of positive press or heavy involvement in charitable community events.

Marketing is not something that should be parted down or rendered complacent even when business is booming. Nor is implementing a marketing strategy a guarantee for unbridled success. Running a successful firm requires far too many other ancillary operations to remain competitive than rely on marketing alone.

Nevertheless, a marketing strategy -- whether expansive or basic -- should be one of the foundations of your firm. Take a look around. Most successful firms have implemented successful marketing strategies.

That cannot be a coincidence.

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