It was so refreshing to attend the recent annual conference of The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) as I got to see a membership organization that really knows how to run a conference. It was markedly better than the many other conferences put on by other membership organizations and state CPA societies. Those groups would benefit if they emulated some of what was done by AAM.

First of all, the concurrent sessions were broken down into three tracks, based on the individual's experience in accounting marketing. In addition, all the speakers of the sessions that I attended either had direct accounting marketing experience in firms or sold marketing products and services to firms. That second group, unlike other conferences, did not hawk their products, but rather propelled their sessions to a high, substantive level.

A terrific feature of the conference were the more than 40 awards given to accounting firms for their marketing efforts. These were split into two groups: one for large and one for small firms (those with less than 75 professionals). Many of the efforts (brochures, event invitations, ads, logos, niche building campaigns, newsletters, recruitment packages, internal incentive programs, etc.) were displayed throughout the conference. It was a smorgasbord of best practices.

Even the exhibit hall showed remarkable thought as most of the exhibitors had products and services that were widely used by accounting firm marketers. Therefore, many attendees spent considerable time in the exhibit hall.

But what impressed me the most were the attendees. There were, of course, the AAM members who organized the conference. In talking to them you could see how careful they were in picking topics and selecting a general unified theme. You could also see how hard and effectively that they had worked as the meeting unfolded. In many of the sessions, systems and processes were explained in considerable detail, thereby allowing immediate possible use and implementation. Equally impressive was the mix and excitement of attendees--these ranged from marketers, staff from all size firms (Big Five to regional to local), and managing partners and other partners in accounting firms. All ages and sexes were well represented.

It was truly a wonderful experience attending the AAM annual conference, and most importantly, I believe the attendees felt exactly the same way. It wouldn't hurt if next year in Boston, some of those other organizations send representatives to see how effectively a conference can be run. They might also learn a heck of a lot about marketing by accounting firms.

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