[IMGCAP(1)] For the first time in many years, new clients, practice growth, and marketing and business development are among the top MAP survey issues keeping managing partners awake at night.  For many firms this translates into the question – should we hire a marketing director, a marketing consultant, someone administrative to “get the letters out,” a lead generator or a salesperson?

Because of the significant variety of responsibilities that fall under the marketing and business development umbrella, and the often varying needs of the partners and various practice groups,  most accounting firms struggle with hiring their first marketing professional.  Not only does it take time to find the right person, once they are in the door, it can be a struggle to retain them. So how do you do it right the first time? It comes down to effectively defining the role and expectations, championing and prioritizing marketing firmwide, and providing your marketer with the tools and resources to succeed.

Clearly define the role, responsibilities, and expectations
Successful firms have spent the time discussing what they expect and want the role of marketing to play. The marketing functions in most firms can encompass so many different things. For example: some firms need a solid marketing infrastructure built, which include collateral, proposal processes, and an effective website.While others may have the basics in place and need someone that can move beyond the basics to help them develop lead generation campaigns that will generate new business opportunities. While the previous should lead to the latter, where your firm is at should drive your needs and expectations.

Champion and Prioritize
Marketing directors often struggle to be as effective as they could be because there isn’t a partner-level individual carrying the marketing flag – or “championing” the effort. In order for marketing to be successful within a firm it must be supported from the top. In addition to being championed, firm leadership needs to be  willing to hold partners accountable for making marketing a priority.  And finally, if marketing has been clearly defined and prioritized at the firmwide level, it needs to be treated as a growth driver, not and administrative function.

Provide access to tools and resources
Good firms know that in order for marketing to be successful, it will need to make investments into tools, resources and technology. What does that mean? It means proving your marketing professionals with memberships in industry associations such as the Association for Accounting Marketing that will support their growth and development, investing in technology that will help the firm market effectively and giving your marketing professional access to people that can help them succeed.

Embrace the unknown
Marketing is new for most firms. Embracing the unknown can be challenging and test our comfort zones. Trust the people you have hired to do what you weren’t trained to do. Successful firms embrace the ideas their marketing professionals present and allow themselves to be pushed to explore new ways of doing things or representing your firm in the marketplace.

If this all seems like it is way out of reach and quite a few steps beyond where you sit today, don’t worry.  For many firms, realization and acceptance of these basics for hiring a marketing director don’t happen overnight. It often takes many conversations and often years before you are ready to make the leap. However, once you are there, your work has only just begun, because now you have to find the right person

Stay tuned for part two of this post to find out how to determine what you need and where to find the right person.

Sarah Johnson is the director of marketing consulting services for PDI Global and works exclusively with CPA, law, and financial services firms across the country to help them grow more effectively. When she’s not working, Sarah spends time cooking and completing triathlons. Sarah can be reached at sjohnson@pdiglobal.com or 312-245-1681 .