I just returned from another Association for Accounting Marketing Summit and once again what I saw and heard impressed me. The turnout was quite good, especially with so many new to accounting marketing. Also refreshing was the vitality of the attendees and the sharing and mentoring.

I didn't just interact with accounting marketers, but I met a number of managing partners of accounting firms who were attending the conference for the first time. I really commend these individuals. They decided that they should branch out of their normal state society, association, and AICPA-sponsored meetings. In talking to them, they indicated that they were glad they did. It was evident they were beginning to understand both the substance and importance of accounting marketing.

I asked one of those managing partners to describe his firm in two sentences and he answered giving me the location of the firm and its annual revenue.  After talking to him further, he exclaimed that he had never been asked to give an elevator description of his firm and the next time that we meet he would be ready with a much better description. I am sure by the end of the conference he had one.

This discussion as well as other observations at the conferences indicate to me that a partner disconnect continues to exist with regard to accounting marketing. Many partners seem to know that accounting marketing exists and successful regional firms are embracing it but that's where it stops. There seems to be no real understanding by many partners of the role of a marketer, the infrastructure and budget needed to integrate a marketing component into the firm, the importance of firm buy-in, how it could be implemented at a small firm, as well as the intricacies of marketing.

Understanding the differences between relationship buying and expertise buying, how to select prospects to focus on, the benefit of maintaining a pipeline, and the follow-up that increases a firm's chances of getting the engagement, are central to business development for an accounting firm.

The Association for Accounting Marketing Summit has three tracks designed for beginning, intermediate, and advanced marketers. I wonder if next year AAM should have another track for partners entitled Bridging the Disconnect. It could be a concentrated study of marketing for partners who think in terms of billable time and return on investment. Of course, marketers would be sharing but it should also include partners describing their experiences with the introduction of marketing at their firms.

Marketing should be a team and firm-wide effort and that can only be accomplished if the disconnect with individual and managing partners is bridged.  Although it is commonly referred to as a disconnect, it probably would be better to refer to it as making the marketing connection to business development as many accountants still believe in the rainmaker and protect-your-book-of-business approach to accounting. 

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