Accounting Today queried a selection of firms and asked marketing leaders for their single best strategy that raised their profile -- as well as their insight into accounting marketing trends. Thalia Zetlin "It was a niche-specific strategy with a particularly timely focus. The economy is on everyone's mind. We empathize with clients and we're taking action. Leveraging the firm's brainpower and sensitivity to current and anticipated client needs, the firm is producing guidance to help clients move through a difficult time. We zero-in on the business and personal issues in each sector. The media is picking up on our timely insights and, in this interactive world, one mention leads to many others, and we're seeing a tremendous surge in media exposure -- further distinguishing us in the marketplace."

Principal and Chief Marketing Officer

Berdon LLP

New York

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "We're living in an increasingly interactive world that is affecting the ways we market. Everyone from the associate to the CEO is using the web to search for everything from the personal to vital business needs. It's no longer just a case of aggressively reaching out to your target market. More than ever, your target may be searching for you, or your competitor, and you have to present yourself in a way where there is no question that you are the one they want to turn to. The paradigm is changing. Trying to rigorously control your exposure in this age of interactivity may not only cut you off from people you want to do business with, it could even backfire. She sees the old methods of measuring ROI fading with new, and probably very different, methodologies yet to be determined."

Neil Fauerbach MBA"We are not big on advertising. We are also in a small market that includes three national and two large regional firms, so it is easy to be outspent. Instead, we collaborate with a few other organizations in the market on some high profile projects. Our firm is well known for our expertise in family businesses. We are the founding sponsor of the Family Business Center at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. It is an outreach, academic and research function of the UW business School. There are more than 60 family business members that gather on a monthly basis for networking and education -- great exposure for us. To further enhance our profile in the family business market, I started the Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Award. This gives us broad exposure in the media and links us directly to family businesses. These initiatives, along with our great client service are the reasons we have been voted the No. 1 CPA firm in the Madison, Wis., market five out of the last six years by the readers of the leading business magazine in our market."

Partner, Director of Business Development & Marketing

Smith & Gesteland LLP

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "I see marketers in firms getting more actively involved in client satisfaction monitoring, service delivery, recruiting, mentoring, and in some instances, management of their firms. Smart firms realize that strategy and communications plays a big role in today's firms, and marketers can bring that level of talent. Marketers in CPA firms are a much higher caliber than when the industry started 20 plus years ago. They are MBAs, partners, executive committee or operating committee members in their firms. In the past it was about branding, brochures, Web sites and seminars. Since the capabilities of the people are more robust, firms are relying on them to help strategize and maneuver the organizations. Look how many marketers are being made partner without the CPA license -- says a lot about the firms and the people."

Lori Jamail"I employ an educational approach to my marketing strategies. Being a good marketer is putting my technical experts out there as the experts. Usually I will write an article, post it to a knowledge institute on our Web site and do an e-blast of that article to everybody in our customer relationship management system. It then triggers them back to our Web site. A few months later, we'll do a seminar on the topic."

Director of Marketing

McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy LLP


Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "The big thing this year is the change on how you can market to tax-only clients. The big focus right now is making sure we are compliant. Also, I am fascinated by this whole blog thing. My firm is very traditional and I want to learn more about it, as well as, the utilization of MySpace and social networking sites to the market. It's sparking my interest, especially as it relates to recruiting and marketing."

Marc Busny"We produce an annual architectural survey that benchmarks our clients' financial results and identifies variances. This clearly has positioned us as an industry leader and a source for information on how to run architectural firms."

Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer

CBIZ Tofias & Mayer Hoffman McCann PC

Cambridge, Mass.

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "More focus on thought leadership and keeping clients up to date on regulatory changes."

Jamie Trayner"Our branding is very different than the other firms in our market. We make it our mission to not be viewed as the Ôtypical' CPA firm and that message comes across in all of our collateral materials, as well as through our people. The personalities of our partners are just so different, so much more laid back and not stuck in a "box". So when we went to redesign our collateral material, we used the illustrator that does the illustrations for our magazine and Web site. Our personalities come through even further via our holiday cards. We use an artist to develop caricatures of our partners and the card has a different theme each year. One year, for example, the partners were superheroes and this past year it was a jungle theme so each of them was a jungle animal. The cards have been a huge hit with our clients, who start asking in September what the theme for the current year is going to be! We just do not want to use stock photography and the typical corporate blah. I think that has made us stand out."

Director of Marketing

LBA Certified Public Accountants, PA

Jacksonville, Fla.

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "I'm seeing an increase in the business development role within firms. I see more marketing directors take on business development responsibilities and I see more business development professionals hired into firms to complement those firms' already present marketing focus."

Lori Colvin"We did a firm wide cross selling and lead generation program called "We Are More." The firm was broken down into teams and competing for cash prizes and team pride. The event kicked off with training folks on different service lines within the firm and fun training videos. Teams got points for opportunities identified, sales calls made, meetings booked and engagement letters signed. We ended up with somewhere around 500 plus opportunities identified and 73 engagement letters signed. The program raised the firm's visibility with client and prospect by direct contact Thursday meetings and sales calls and distinguished us in the marketplace by educating our clients with the multiple service lines of a full service firm."

Partner, Chief Marketing Officer

Armanino McKenna LLP

San Ramon, Calif.

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "The trends I am seeing are cutting budgets, headcount and more scrutiny over results and involvement where the dollars are spent. It makes sense as everyone tightens their belts."

Charlene Wiley"Our single best marketing strategy is the one we have followed throughout most of the 32-year history of the firm. That has been a focus in specialty services required by certain kinds of companies or those in specific industries. We intend to 'stick to our knitting' by continuing this approach during the current economic downturn. Now more than ever, clients expect real value from their professional service provider. The things that distinguish accounting firms are the professionals' ability to understand their business and offer more than just technical expertise in delivering a tax return or performing an audit. There is no short-term promotion or clever ad campaign that can deliver this message to the marketplace. It is communicated over time via a solid reputation for excellent client service. We made this the key element of our marketing message when we re-branded the firm in 2004. Our 'People Delivering Solutions' tag line promises a wide range of services to meet client needs."

Chief Marketing Officer

Hein & Associates


Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "We expect to put a greater emphasis on electronic communications in 2009. This has been part of an ongoing trend for us as we believe emailing of "news briefs" on important topics proves to be the most efficient means of communicating with clients. This methodology supports the firm's green initiative."

Karen Love"The very best concept was learning how to work with the media, such as the local business journals to leverage our brand in the marketplace. We became the presenting sponsor/founder of an event that is still going on nine years later called the 'Fast Tech 50." Everybody that is an entrepreneur in the technology-based world in Houston now anticipates the annual event. It has become a brand and we enjoy better branding with it. We use that award program and the relationship with the business journal as a base for our integrated marketing plan. It seamlessly flows into the BusinessMakers Radio show, where The PKF Texas Entrepreneurs Playbook is aired. It is preceded in script and links with blog. The Fast Tech 50 was a foundation in making us more recognizable in Houston."

Director, Practice Growth

PKF Texas


Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "I've been in accounting marketing for 15 years in two different markets -- Dallas and Houston. I am honored to act as a strategic marketing officer where it's my job to go out into the world, see what's happening there and bring it back to the accounting world. This is the place where being experienced has its advantages. The mission we began in 2000 with focus on our corporate social responsibility is paying off for us now. Our internal focus of the past now allows us to focus more outwardly and perform the Business Tune-Ups with our clients. The client-centric approach is key always and especially in our uncertain times. We're still learning on a daily basis and feel fortunate that we've got a lot of things in place."

Cassandra Cella"By finally putting a face on FMRTL after 35 years, I was able to give the firm the brand recognition they rightfully deserved. My networking and becoming more active with the media has distinguished us. I initially re-branded the firm's logo giving it an updated look. With this, I was able to create collateral materials, including a recruitment brochure that has now been seen by hundreds of candidates whereas before, we had no take away material. I expanded and gave the website a facelift which has now driven our hits 10 fold. Our "White Glove Service" theme ads in newspapers & magazines created a familiarity so when I am at network events, our name seems to come up in conversation more frequently. "

Marketing Manager

Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa LLC

Springfield, N.J.

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "Increased social networking and electronic-based communication."

Adam Wolf"We are in the process of compiling a comprehensive construction survey of the state of the New York construction market. We've partnered with the leading publication in the industry and when completed, the results will cement our place as the preeminent construction accounting firm in the New York area. Many opportunities should come from its results and presentation. Seminars, meetings and articles, and other opportunities can arise."

Director of Marketing & Business Development

Grassi & Co. CPAs & Success Consultants¨

Lake Success, NY

Best marketing strategy:

Trends: "We are seeing more firms with a larger focus on business development and growth; an increased emphasis on the tracking of marketing programs and their affect on business development; more about the brand and what how the firm presents itself in the marketplace. Companies don't always want Big Four or large firms because they don't get the service. We can incorporate that in our messages."

Austine OlsonBecause of our standing as the top accounting firm to the alternatives investment space, Rothstein Kass is a sought after source of commentary on the issues and trends impacting the industry from regulatory concerns to the outlook for fund launches. In 2007, the firm commissioned its first-ever white paper report on the industry, based on an extensive survey of hedge fund managers. Our ability to help industry participants to quantify observed trends has promoted awareness of our expertise, supporting rapid growth in our Financial Services Group and adjacent practices.

Director of Marketing

Rothstein Kass

Roseland, NJ

Best Marketing Strategy:

As we have enhanced our footprint, our independent research capabilities have expanded to reflect the diversity of our service offerings. In recent years, Rothstein Kass has produced research highlighting notable developments in the private equity, single family office and biotechnology sectors, among other initiatives. Each report draws on the skills and expertise of firm principals to provide context for statistical results. The resulting exposure has generated strong brand awareness among prospective clients while strengthening our referral network."

Trends: "Many professional services firms are significantly cutting the resources devoted to marketing functions. For some firms, this involved reduction in both staff and budgets. While we would acknowledge the need to be cost-conscious, this approach is short-sighted and leaves an organization ill-prepared to capitalize on improving business conditions in the longer-term. Many companies are adopting "Marketing 101" philosophies, loosely targeting broad-ranging communications to a vast list of potential business sources. This strategy overlooks the relationship-oriented nature of the accounting industry. Especially in this environment, clients require the security and reassurance that can only be generated through regular, direct and consistent communication."

Michael Mattia "I would say a strong commitment to niche marketing, with niches being defined as specialty service practices (pension audit, government contracting, SALT practice, etc.) or industry specialization (insurance industry, technology companies, biotech/pharmaceuticals). By really developing deep knowledge and penetration in specific niche areas, we've been able to generate significantly more opportunities with larger companies that would have traditionally looked up-market, to say the Big Four or large national firms. The cumulative time and dollars we have previously spent to get name recognition in various niche markets has a residual and lasting effect which enables you to focus on the client/prospect pains, as opposed to spending all your energy on getting your own name known. This knowledge and commitment to niches is more than "marketing spin" ... . It is fully integrated service teams, covering all aspects of the industry, the issues they have and the services they need."

Partner-in-charge, Marketing

Amper, Politziner & Mattia LLP

Edison, N.J.

Best Marketing Strategy:

Trends: "The trends I'm seeing include a wide array of things -- some which seem to contradict on the surface ... . From relying more on institutional tools to develop business ... like Web sites, professional business development people and increases in use of PR firm time, to a return to the 'personal relationship model' ... this means more accountants having face-to-face meetings their clients, prospects and referral sources, personal marketing plans with increased levels of accountability and a reinvigorated push to get everyone at the firm involved in the marketing process."

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