Accounting Firm Revenue Growth Stuck? Check Your Marketing, Business Development Alignment

Marketing and business development. When these two functions work in tandem, accounting firm growth can soar; however, too often, misaligned – or unclear – goals and expectations lead these two revenue generators to work independently and become counterproductive.

Many professionals get tripped up trying to do both at the same time, so understanding the goal of each is key to a successful growth strategy for accounting firms:

  • Marketing: As a one-to-many activity, marketing amplifies your message to build brand awareness and help generate new leads. This includes, but is not limited to, creating thought leadership that feeds the website, social media, and email communications; advertising; event management; identifying potential buyer groups and understanding their personas; and researching new areas for service line and industry growthThese strategies and tactics f bring potential new clients and existing clients into your firm’s orbit, allowing you to develop and nurture those relationships into sales.
  • Business Development: As the front line of revenue generation, business developers create and foster relationships with the leads generated through marketing efforts and referral generation. Their primary role is to help create the need and guide potential clients through the buying process. While business developers often work with a few potential buyers, the sales component – the end of the sales funnel where prospects become clients – requires one-on-one attention.

(click on the image above to see how marketing and business development work together)

Find the Right Fit for Each Role

Not every professional can or needs to serve in both roles, but they should contribute to growth in a way that sets them up for success. While not every partner or manager may become a rainmaker, every professional plays a role in the marketing and business development process.

Marketing and business development successfully align and drive growth when professionals know how to contribute to the firm’s growth. Some may be wordsmiths who turn technical information into actionable content but aren’t at ease asking for the business. Others may enjoy being out of the office regularly meeting and talking with new people.

Spending time with each team member and learning their strengths can help you determine where everyone should land. Ensuring your professionals have the passion for the proper role instead of requiring everyone to do it all will provide results for the long term by allowing them to focus on and truly master one part of the process.

Set Expectations, Be Flexible

A lack of clearly defined goals and objectives is one of the main reasons marketing and business development become disjointed. Goals must be distinct, yet aligned, so marketing and business development efforts support one another to achieve CPA firm growth. Small and mid-sized firms often combine the two functions because of capacity. While marketing and business development efforts may overlap from time to time, they will independently operate more efficiently with strong communication between both roles.

Marketing and business development need to be part of a professional’s everyday process to see consistent results. Firms that commit to growth provide the proper support for professionals to achieve those objectives. Much of this starts by ensuring they have the time and training to do it and expectations are clearly defined.

Business development requires professionals to be out and about more often – usually at varying frequencies. Marketing and client service initiatives require their own time and flow. Consider each team member’s gifts and the role they should play for your firm, adjusting expectations to allow for success.

Whether marketing and business development professionals own these functions or partners take responsibility for these roles, ensure individual ambitions are tied to and support the overall accounting firm’s growth strategy.

Feed Each Other and Grow Together

Marketing and business development each require a different skill set to symbiotically drives new revenue. More importantly, professionals in both roles need to be clear on the firm’s overall plan, where they can provide value, and how they support each other.

As you can see, marketing and business development feed each other. While marketing amplifies the firm’s brand and message to attract prospects, business development nurtures those leads and converts them to new revenue.

It’s important not to duplicate efforts and always complement the activities of the other side, which is why regular communication is essential, and goals must be defined as a whole and then for each function to support one another.

Start Early

Marketing and business development training at most firms doesn’t begin until the manager or partner level when it’s critically needed. Professionals need exposure to both functions early in their career to set the foundation and understand how each supports the overall goal – and how they can contribute.

When professionals can:

  • understand why clients buy
  • develop an inquisitive mindset to better connect with clients AND prospects
  • learn how to uncover new opportunities for service with improved strategic communication skills
  • build trust and deepen relationships, and
  • assemble the right referral network to consistently generate leads in the future

they can integrate into the marketing and business development process and find the role where they’re most comfortable to drive revenue earlier and more effectively.



About the author

Ranked twice by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting is an accounting marketing growth advisor. She helps Accounting firms identify and implement strategies to help them grow their firms and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Connect with Sarah to learn more at 773-208-7170,