The Marketing Director and Business Developer Challenge: Help Them Become a Power Couple!

by & filed under All Articles, Growth Leadership.

Reprinted with permission from Moore Stephens North America: The Networker 

Will it be teamwork for your marketing director and business developer? Or will there be strife between them? Read on to learn how you can lay the groundwork for a lasting and productive partnership.

Marketing directors are not new to CPA firms. Since the profession was first permitted to promote itself some years ago, marketing has evolved as a mainstay at most firms. Marketing directors made their mark identifying markets and positioning practices. Over the past few years, business developers (sometimes referred to as business development executives – or BDEs) arrived on the scene. They are professional salespeople who are more common in the corporate world.

At first blush, marketing directors and BDEs may seem worlds apart, but in fact they are highly interdependent. In corporate America, it’s not atypical for the marketing and business development departments to be disconnected at best, and at cross-purposes at worst. The greater your appreciation of the potential synergy between these functions, the more you can leverage it to benefit your firm and your clients. And with practice growth resources in short supply in most firms, it’s doubly important to “get it right” between these two functions.

How’s This Work?

The best way to understand the connection between the two is through the fourstage growth model. The first stage is segmenting, targeting and positioning. This is the professional comfort zone of most marketing directors. Properly pursued, it leads to stage two, lead generation, and stage three, opportunity development, both the traditional purview of business developers. But a BDE’s job of generating leads and developing opportunities is much more difficult unless a firm has invested in a marketing director to help the firm identify, define and segment markets, and position the firm in those markets. Fluid collaboration between your marketing director and BDE can lead effectively to stage four, delivery of services.

When these key players are working well together, the process is smooth and the pipeline has the best odds of remaining full. When they are not in harmony, the result can be time- and resource-wasting initiatives. For example, your marketing director may be seeking not-for-profit clients while your BDE is in hot pursuit of SAS 70 work. Those paths are unlikely to meet productively.

Ducks in Order

You can play a significant role in ensuring that the two create a fruitful team. First, make sure the marketing director and BDE know your firm’s expectation that they collaborate closely. Other steps:

  • As your firm moves toward hiring a business developer, consult the marketing director and take his or her feelings and reactions into account.
  • During interviews of BDE candidates, try to identify a skill set and background complementary to those of your marketing director. For example, a marketing director with sales experience, or a BDE who knows marketing, could add considerable value to the partnership.
  • Once both are on board, bring them together to strategically coordinate their tasks and functions. The managing partner should establish the tone for a harmonious, noncompetitive relationship.
  • Hold tactical discussions to ensure that everyone knows who does what. For example, at some firms pipeline management may be the role of a marketer; elsewhere it’s the business developer’s job.
  • Clarify lead generation duties. Your marketing director may feel responsible for the relationship with an external lead generation company, but the BDE may believe she should be the primary contact. Look for areas of potential overlap or conflict and encourage alternative solutions.
  • Be mindful that business developers are often very independent types, and may be unaccustomed to collaboration with marketing. Your new BDE needs to know that in your firm it’s all about teamwork.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Being aware that it’s important to keep your marketing director and business developer in sync is a savvy business decision. Smart hiring, clarifying and reinforcing expectations, and providing the tools they need to succeed will assure a lasting team.

Gale Crosley

About Gale Crosley

Gale Crosley, CPA, has been awarded The Advisory Board Hall of Fame. She was selected one of the Most Recommended Consultants in the Inside Public Accounting BEST OF THE BEST Annual Survey of Firms for fifteen years, and one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting by AccountingToday for fourteen years. She is an honors accounting graduate from the University of Akron, Ohio, winner of the Simonetti Distinguished Business Alumni Award, and an Editorial Advisor for the Journal of Accountancy. Gale is founder and principal of Crosley+Company, providing revenue growth consulting and coaching to CPA firms. She brings more than 30 years of experience, featuring a unique combination as a practicing CPA in two national accounting firms, along with significant experience in business development in the cutting edge technology environment with such firms as IBM and MCI.

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