The latest moniker I’ve heard from Managing Partners is “ROI Marketing”. I believe it is an attempt to cost justify the ongoing salary of the Marketing Director and related expenses. The problem is, marketing in and of itself was never traditionally intended to be a discipline to drive revenue. It promises to target, build awareness, position, brand, and perhaps identify leads that need developing. A comprehensive practice growth approach – converting appropriate activities into revenue growth – requires a different definition from the classic job description of a Director of Marketing. Many Directors of Marketing are stuck, for a number of reasons, in the tactical quagmire of marketing communications such as brochures, advertising and direct mail. These might occasionally expand into related tactical activities such as events, lead generation and training. Directors of Marketing who are early in their career still need to get the basics under their belt. However, more experienced Directors might be stuck for a number of reasons.
Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Are Marketing Directors stuck in tactical execution because they are not asked to the table during the firm’s strategic growth contemplations, or are they not asked to participate in strategic growth activities because they are perceived as not experienced enough to contribute? It makes no difference. The end result is that many Directors of Marketing are shackled and relegated to sub-optimization – of their own efforts, as well as their potential impact on the firm. And an unfortunate result is a self-awareness that their discipline is perceived as fluffy, immaterial, of secondary importance, a necessary evil – and they have this uncomfortable feeling that they are perceived as “second class” citizens. Many directors have their hands tied – in administrative work, a lack of support staff, insufficient budgets and a general inability to get their hands on needed financial information which is deemed confidential and inaccessible by the very Director who is supposed to be supporting revenue growth! More often than not I hear, under their breath and with the door closed – that the CPAs just don’t “get it”. I remember when a network engineer accused me of not “getting it”, several years ago when I was in the telecommunications business. Ouch! That hurt!
Let’s face it. We don’t have that many examples of senior-level professionals in the practice growth discipline within the CPA firm environment. You can pretty much count them on one hand. The result is a lack of understanding on the part of managing partners of what a senior level professional in this discipline looks like – someone that would be on a par with the level of expertise of a senior or managing partner in their own discipline. And since there are few role models, many Directors of Marketing are equally unclear on what they should be doing to enhance their career. For those of you who saw the movie “The Jerk” with Steve Martin, you might remember that after he became rich he went back home and built the same cabin he grew up in, except many times larger. This analogy reminds me of the Directors of Marketing who build the better brochure or more attractive logo.
So, let me create a vision of what a very senior practice growth expert looks like. This person creates and understands the strategy behind what grows the practice. He/she understands intimately the appropriate roles of marketing, lead generation, opportunity development and service line management – the disciplines which make up practice growth. He/she can advise the firm on the appropriate resource deployment alternatives to optimally grow revenue. This person is compensated based upon overall firm growth – not tactical efforts. The person might have come up through any one of a number of sub-disciplines associated with practice growth, but has been able to stretch horizontally and add understanding and experience in related disciplines. As a result he/she has touched (performed, managed, or been responsible for) virtually all areas of the following: marketing strategy; marketing communications – including public relations and advertising; lead generation; opportunity development – including lead qualification, as well as developing and closing opportunities; and product management.
If your Director of Marketing doesn’t sound like this person, there is plenty of room for career development, and there are many opportunities to develop these competencies within the typical mid-sized CPA firm – especially in today’s turbulent environment which requires a sharpened competitive axe.
My suggestion is that you first change the title from Director of Marketing to Director of Practice Growth, which is reflective of the more enhanced role and expectation of the next generation of Directors of Marketing. Next, include them in all partner meetings of strategic content, even if it is only as an observer. Marketing Directors who have the potential will rise to the strategic level – but only if they are proactively included in strategic matters. Linking practice growth strategy to your invested practice growth resource is critical to getting the bang for your Marketing-Director buck. Ask your newly re-named Director of Practice Growth to re-write their job description, goals and compensation scheme. Tie their goals and compensation directly to practice growth. This will get rid of the “nice to have” marketing initiatives which don’t contribute eventually to growing revenue.
A Director at a mid-sized CPA firm comments, “Making the Director of Practice Growth position effective and successful requires support of the managing partner. After all, if it comes to a point a firm is willing to tie growth to a director’s salary, there are some hard core requirements on both sides of the fence. I personally like the idea, and hope my managing partner will do this with me – it offers a greater incentive on a personal level.”
There are those Directors of Marketing who are not yet ready to take their career to the next level. However for those who are, the result is a Director of Practice Growth who will be a more potent, valuable and motivated individual directly contributing to practice growth. And that’s what it’s about – getting the most out of this valuable investment in practice growth.