As a marketer, if you truly want to make an impact on your firm, you need to think strategically. It is too easy to get caught up in daily marketing tactics and checking items off your to-do list, but if you don’t take time to step back and take in the big picture, you’re shortchanging your firm – and yourself.
What does it mean to think strategically? How does someone actually do it? Start by reading about strategic thinking and planning. Read more about what’s happening in the accounting industry. Talk to seasoned accounting marketers to find out what they do, where they have had success and how they guide the growth of their firms. It’s amazing how much knowledge can be gathered, and this is great foundational information on which to take action.
When marketers understand the firms’ strategic direction, they can make the biggest impact. Marketers and firm management should discuss where the firm is going and obstacles to getting there. The managing partner should share with marketing things like the firm’s criteria for merger candidates, partner succession plans and how the firm holds partners accountable in its compensation structure. And most importantly, marketers need to be involved in developing the firm’s strategic plan.
Count on marketers to meet regularly with industry and service-line teams to help them establish a strategic direction and then push them down the right path. Expect them to oversee the firm’s business development efforts and coach partners through opportunity pursuit to increase the firm’s odds of winning. And recognize a marketer’s role in helping the firm launch new service offerings and innovate existing ones.
Firm and Personal Benefits
A marketer’s ability to think strategically will have a big impact on the firm and partners will respect their efforts. Marketers who think strategically will participate in exciting and challenging projects. Perhaps they help launch a new division of the firm. Or they provide input for partner evaluations and new partner hires. Or they assist in identifying potential merger candidates. The firm will benefit from having a strategic thinker with the ability to see the firm from an outsider’s viewpoint involved in decisions that directly impact the firm, which leads to overall smarter decision making.
However, it’s also personally rewarding. As an individual, the marketer will grow, too. From learning to trust to helping others develop needed skills to learning new things themselves, the personal benefits are rewarding. When a marketing professional has a solid picture of where they firm is going, the fun part of the job becomes finding creative and different ways to get there.
Marketers as Leaders
First and foremost, all marketers need to have a copy of their firm’s strategic plan. Those who don’t have it should go ask for one immediately, and partners need to give a copy to marketers who have not yet seen it. When marketers fully understand where the firm wants to be in the future, they can develop the right strategies and tactics to lead the firm in that direction.
Marketing professionals who want to illustrate that they are capable of leading the firm need to:
- Keep learning. Spend time reading and talking with others. There are no stupid questions so keep asking. Then find ways to use that knowledge when making decisions.
- Talk to partners. The marketer needs to find out what the firm’s partners are working on and explain how a specific strategy will help achieve the goal. Marketers shouldn’t wait to be invited to participate, but rather insert themselves into the process.
- Embrace change. Change isn’t necessarily good or bad, just different. Realize there is uncertainty, but keep working toward that end goal – and stay on the right track.
- Utilize the team. Hire smart people and empower them to grow. Remember, the whole is only as good as the sum of the parts. And work with the best vendors who want to help make the firm and the marketer successful.
- Be Visible. Be Verbal. Be Fearless. And don’t hesitate! Take advantage of opportunities as they appear.
When a marketer transitions from a position where they are responsible for producing products like advertisements and sales collateral into one where they provide strategic direction and advice, it can be a bit of a challenge. Once they understand that they are adding value through participation, it becomes easier for the marketer to see how they are making a difference.
By focusing on the big picture, a marketer can get firm management and partners to look at the big picture, too. Together, the firm will move one step closer to its identified goals – the most important measure of success.