It was another power lunch here in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday at the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit as a panel of business development, marketing and sales discussed tangible ways that marketers could add greater value to their firms.

The panel, moderated by Russ Molinar, director of global markets at Ernst & Young, included Gale Crosley, a practice growth consultant and president of Crosley + Company in Atlanta; Scott Jensen, director of sales at Moss Adams in Seattle; Suzanne Lowe, president of Expertise Marketing in Concord, Mass. and Randy Thorne, national executive director of marketing at Grant Thornton.

Molinar kicked off the discussion by acknowledging how “adding value” has become a “burning platform” and asked the panelists what’s happening in the marketplace.
Lowe said marketers are becoming more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to sharing ideas to their centers of influence or “COIs.”

“Marketers are desiring to bring more value,” she said. “Marketers are definitely maturing in their willingness to step up to the plate and increasingly becoming more skilled in the business of business.”

Thorne said marketing is linked more to growth now than ever before and that the chief marketing officer is often playing a dual role as the chief strategy officer. He said the current and upcoming generation of accounting leaders — those who have grown up on McDonald’s and Apple — understand the power and value of a brand to drive results.
Molinar asked the speakers to define “value.”

“We have a definition of value at Moss Adams,” Jensen said, “A mixture of the quality of what we deliver, how we deliver it, considering the price of what you deliver. I don’t think you can export things you don’t possess.”

“It’s bringing ideas and recommendations that are sound and demonstrate an understanding of the business and opportunity in the marketplace,” Thorne added. “It’s the spark that ignites the brainstorming that might take an idea into a new direction.”

Crosley said marketers should view their partners as their clients, look at how partners treat their clients and do the same.

“They don’t argue with them, they aren’t huffy,” she said. “The relationship is critical, and if you don’t have that point of view, you will be in trouble soon. That has to be the foundation of how you approach your job.”

Molinar added that partners look for two things: to help serve clients and save them time.
Marketers can add value by helping partners find more appropriate clients, according to Lowe, which is different from the past when marketers were charged with just bringing any potential client into the firm.

“Marketers are helping to define the strategically appropriate client,” she said.

Jensen said he wants the marketing department to bring in leads. “The closer you are to the client, the better off you are going to be,” he said. “It’s easier to generate leaders from events in your office than through advertising. If you have leads from marketing, it’s so much easier for the organization to tie it back to the ROI. That will put power into your budget. You will get more money when you show we are getting something out of it.”

Molinar read a list of the top unresolved business development and marketing issues at the firms of those participating in the summit’s executive track — and nearly all of them pointed to developing a business development and marketing culture and getting buy-in around that effort.

Those executives pointed to two issues: the concept of integrating marketing and sales, and how marketers can add more value to their firms by innovating and building out niche and practice areas.

“Every professional services industry is growing up,” Lowe said. “Social media and the Internet have almost leveled the playing field. Competitors are getting more competitive. The bottom line is that we must be more effective.”

“Partners are worried about efficiency,” Jensen added. “But the right word is effectiveness. This is a relationship business. You worry about effectiveness when you work with people. The other challenge is that people tend to lump sales and marketing together, and the truth is sales is closer to service than it is to marketing. Service is a one-on-one proposition. Very few of you have processes to transition marketing to sales.”

Thorne said business developers and marketers are dependent upon each other and should create more collaboration.

“The best way to do that is to make sure your firm adopts a common vocabulary,” he said. “You have to adopt that common vocabulary so everybody in the firm knows what things are.”

“How do you equip and enable your partners to sell?” asked Molinar. “When you talk about things like pipeline, are they looking at you like you are talking about oil and gas?”