In case you haven't noticed, accounting firm marketing has become a hot topic. And in case you aren't convinced, I know some people who could change your mind.

I just spent three days in Las Vegas surrounded by more than 400 accounting firm marketing professionals at the Association for Accounting Marketing conference.

Let me tell you, these are the kind of people you want working in your firm. They ooze enthusiasm. They think "outside the box." And they appear to be undaunted by the fact that a lot of accountants don't want to have anything to do with marketing.

But while some individual CPAs may still be resistant to any mention of marketing, the profession as whole appears to be embracing it. And a brochure and a colorful logo aren't going to cut it these days.

For evidence of that, one only needs to look at the AAM itself. The group, which was started by a handful of marketers at a MAP conference, has grown to more than 550 members and counts professionals from 75 of the Top 100 Firms among its members. Attendance for this year's conference, which also marked the association's 15th anniversary, set a record, at well over 425. And, as was noted by AAM leaders, many marketing professionals are being named principals in their firms.

While no two firms will approach marketing in the exact same way, there seem to be some basics tenets. "Buy in" at the highest level of the firm is an absolute must, or a marketing effort will never succeed. Firm leaders must be willing to commit time and resources to marketing. And you have to have a plan -- firmwide, individual, or both. The fly-by-the-seat of-your-pants approach won't work. Marketers must hold people accountable. There are lots of ways to track progress -- time spent, number of referrals, and new business, to name a few. Decide which ones matter to your firm and hold people to their commitments. But one of the most important things marketers need to do -- and arguably the toughest -- is to help establish marketing as a part of the firm culture. If you can do that, then you'll have what Bob Bunting, former managing partner of Moss Adams and the incoming chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, refers to as "$10,000 hours" -- time spent on activities that have an impact far beyond what the person doing them is getting paid.

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