Some firms can afford to hire an in-house marketing person(s). There are numerous variants of this form, some of which include:
- A highly qualified Chief Marketing Officer/Marketing Director with an array of staff and outside experts
- A moderately-qualified Marketing Manager with minimal staff support and substantial outside assistance
- A Marketing Coordinator, implementing tasks as directed by the Marketing Committee and an outside marketing consultant
By far the majority of small- to mid-size firms do not have the resources or need to hire a full staff of in-house marketing professionals. These firms either (a) do not have a formal marketing function, (b) utilize a staff person who is not a marketing professional to implement their marketing functions, or (c) outsource the marketing efforts to a qualified marketing professional.
Staff as Marketing Personnel
Administrative staff are typically selected when the firm does not wish to commit much in the way of financial or human resources to marketing. If these staff have considerable unbillable/free time to devote to marketing, especially on a consistent basis, the firm may be able to accomplish selected marketing goals. Obviously, the person must have the skills and the appropriate amount of training/education for the given tasks. Since this person does not have marketing expertise, he/she should be directed in terms of strategies and selection of specific tasks by a knowledgeable marketing professional. If the firm relies upon a partner to direct such staff, keep in mind that this a use of valuable billable time. Further, since the partner is not a marketing expert it will take a considerable amount of time spent in research and day-to-day management (vs. management by a true marketing professional).
At the other end of the spectrum is utilization of an outside marketing professional. A highly qualified marketing consultant, with education and experience in a broad range of marketing components, can make a tremendous impact on a firm’s marketing success. The major advantages to this approach include:
- A “virtual marketing department” at your disposal. Some consulting firms bring with them the ability to service virtually all of a firm’s marketing needs, including strategic planning, advertising, public relations, coaching, client relations, and business development programs.
- Availability of a high-level professional that a smaller firm could not otherwise afford or fully utilize as an in-house person.
- Substantial cost-effectiveness, based upon the individual’s ability to avoid wasteful activities and quickly implement appropriate programs (“low learning curve”).
- Expert direction and implementation of marketing programs.
- Flexibility in increasing or decreasing marketing efforts, which would result in regular hiring/firing of internal personnel if the same fluctuating approach was utilized with an internal marketing department.
You may want a consultant to help guide your strategic planning. Or you may want a more complete “marketing management” firm that can handle all aspects of your marketing needs, including strategic planning, client relations, digital marketing, advertising, public relations, marketing materials, marketing research, coaching/training and targeted sales programs. Either way, your firm will benefit from consultants who specialize in designing and implementing marketing services tailored to your firm’s specific needs. Watch out for any firm that tells you “only (fill in the blank) works in marketing.” Such a statement is an immediate red-flag that points out such individuals’ lack of knowledge and expertise – avoid them at all costs.
Five Tips to Select Qualified Marketers
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to select a qualified marketing firm to help you. Some “marketing consultants” don’t even have a degree in marketing! PR firms and advertising agencies are notorious for offering “Marketing Plan” services when they can’t even define the word “marketing,” much less have taken more than one class (if any) in marketing – IF they even completed an education related to marketing. So how can you sort out the real marketing professionals from the frauds? Here are five tips:
(1) Ask them to define marketing. Many people call themselves marketing consultants but cannot even properly explain the term. What is marketing? Marketing, in its simplest form, is actually everything your organization does in order to identify and satisfy the needs and wants of your “market” (actual and potential buyers of your product or service). Subsets of marketing include strategic planning, marketing research, public relations, advertising, sales, etc. If you need help in more than one area of marketing, especially in strategy development, you should consider hiring a true marketing consultant.
(2) Ask about their credentials and experience. Are they truly marketing consultants or are they no more than a public relations firm or advertising agency? Most qualified marketing consultants have degrees in marketing, not communications, and many have graduate degrees such as an M.B.A. They should also have experience in all areas of marketing, which enables them to select and integrate those marketing components that will work best for your needs.
(3) Choose a specialist in CPA marketing. Why pay for a generalist when you can have someone who truly understands your market and how to motivate buyers? Ask them what they have done for similar firms, including strategies and results. Then check with these clients and ask for their impressions.
(4) Seek someone with a business background. Business professionals understand the need for cost-effectiveness and return on investment. They also understand the dynamics of business and market forces. Many of the best marketing consultants have a base education and experience in business, supplementing it with an excellent understanding of marketing management and how to generate name recognition and sales.
(5) Ask whether they create strategies, implement them, or both. Singular marketing activities are most effective when they are part of an overall strategic plan. Yet a great plan is less useful unless a knowledgeable person actively implements it. The most valuable consultants are able to properly analyze your business and market, develop an appropriate plan with objectives and strategies, and work with you to its successful completion.
For any profession, perceived competence is due to a combination of elements, which typically include education, breadth of experience, technical capabilities, work habits, client service skills, business and administrative structure. The bottom-line is whether they were able to complete the job satisfactorily. Use the above criteria to help screen out consultants who may not be the best match for your firm’s marketing needs.
A Strategy for Success
Whatever structure you select, do the following and you will have a greater chance of making your marketing efforts more productive:
- Have realistic goals,
- support your marketing person,
- allow some creative freedom,
- and be patient in waiting for results.
The Specialists in CPA MarketingTM helps clients in outsourcing of marketing needs (one-time projects or regular assistance as Part-Time Director of MarketingTM) and in hiring and training internal personnel. Contact us if you have any questions.
About the author:
Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A. is president and founder of The Specialists in CPA MarketingTM. He has over 25 years of experience in marketing for CPA firms and is the former Director of Marketing at Deloitte in Orange County, California. Mr. Brown is author of dozens of articles published nationwide and is a frequent speaker to CPA associations. He specializes in strategic planning and implementation of marketing programs for small to mid-size firms. Copyright 2018.