The best marketing is audience focused, which comes from having a strong united brand. To have a strong united brand, everybody in your firm needs to be involved in the marketing to a degree, but it starts with the directors and founders.
This concentric circles visual below helps you see where and how to involve your team. You can read our article on how involved your team needs to be in marketing to understand more of what’s included at each level.
As directors and owners, you are the leaders at the centre of the circle – numero uno. You’re front and centre when it comes to all strategic decisions – finance (hiring a good accountant/advisor, listening to them and working together with them), Team (enlisting the help of a HR person or outsourcing as needed).
Marketing is just like any of these other areas of the business. It’s your responsibility to make sure marketing happens, it happens well, and is a true reflection of who you actually are as a firm.
It’s your job to ensure your marketing brings you the best clients, and to be involved at a strategic level – tracking the results of your marketing efforts so you and your team can spend money and time on the right things. In order to do that job, all directors need to understand how marketing works and how your buyers buy.
Once you have a strong united brand and vision, only then can you figure out how to communicate it in your marketing, confidently attract the best kind of clients for you, and share marketing responsibility with your entire team, including subcontractors.
‘United’ is the key word here.
If your directors have different ideas about your brand and marketing priorities, you have some foundational questions to revisit
For firms with multiple directors it’s difficult to know where to start (or start again) with your marketing.
Each director has their own personal goals, their own area of the business to oversee and there may be a shared marketing budget to consider. There will be multiple voices and each one is valid and needs to be heard.
To every director, their thing will be the most important. When there’s no aligned vision or strategy for your marketing, it’ll be pulled in all different directions and your intentions will come across confusing for your intended audience. And as Donald Miller says – when you confuse, you lose. People don’t buy the best products and services. They buy the ones they can understand the fastest.
When you decide the united message you want to put out into the world and the audience you want to receive it, it’s much easier to decide on the marketing actions needed to deliver it – the blogs to write, videos to record, events to run, the social presence you need to have – and to get some marketing education so the responsibility can be shared with the team.
It looks easier for new solo-owner firms, stepping out the gate with the newest tech and starting from chapter one of their brand story.
But actually the new solo-owner firm and the 20 year old firm with seven directors both need to go through the same process of answering some foundational questions:
- What are the firm’s goals and the personal goals of the directors?
- What image are we putting out about the firm? Are we representing our philosophy and values the way we want to?
- What kind of clients do we want to work with?
- Is our website communicating the right message to our ideal clients?
- Considering all the answers above, are we spending our time and money on the right marketing actions for our brand?
Our way of helping multiple director firms answer these questions is to put them through a foundations workshop.
I’m going to talk specifically about the foundations workshop because it’s so fundamental to the marketing work accountants do, and we created it to help the directors of accounting firms get clarity on what they need to prioritise.
But you can also apply this to other things you’re doing that you want to get all directors on board with first – culture changes, organisational changes, systems changes, team development.
The temptation with all of these things is for the directors and owners to delegate before it’s time. If you try to delegate too early with anything – systems, culture, scaling, marketing – the outcome can be disjointed because it hasn’t been shaped by the people with the most holistic view of the whole business.
The marketing problem you think you have is not solved by having someone else do it. It’s solved by digging into what the core problems are, which you as the directors know, and making some core decisions to move your whole team forward.
The only difference between the solo owner and the multiple director firm is the amount to which these core marketing decisions have to be shared and communicated across the board (pun intended).
Here’s the thing. You actually don’t need to bring every director (all four, all eight, all twelve) into a foundations workshop.
It’s best if one director is responsible for making the final marketing decisions, but all directors must have an input
There’s a reason we keep foundations workshops to a 1-2 director minimum, even when we’re working with a firm of up to 10. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
There’s a balance that needs to be maintained between taking everyone’s thoughts and opinions into account, and having the authority to lead the decisions.
This can (and must) be applied to any foundational strategy session you take part in with any marketing professional.
If too many people are involved in the workshop it’s not productive. It’s your opportunity to really dig deep, and our opportunity to take everything we learn about your firm, your clients and your process and tie it all together to help you make a decision on how to move forward with your marketing.
I was in a foundations workshop with two directors last week who said “It’s been great, the facilitation to get everything out of our heads, get it down and make some sense of it in writing” and “You’re asking us questions we haven’t asked of ourselves”.
The sessions are split into four deep dives – goals, brand, website and plan in order to give our clients the space and freedom in between to mull things over, and process the discoveries and learnings. With lots of directors there’s a danger of overcomplicating, losing time and getting trapped in a priority battle.
On the other hand, when only one director or marketing manager is involved in strategy and nothing is communicated back to the other leaders in the firm, you won’t be able to move forward with a shared understanding. They won’t have been on the same journey of discovery, leaving your marketing open to interpretation and misaligned communication.
They might have an idea of how they want the firm to be and no clue how to live it out in practice, how to communicate it in their marketing and how to share it with the entire team and get everyone on board. They need to be brought alongside. Having them involved from the beginning means they’ll be part of the strategy.
Here’s what we’ve learned is the best way to include multiple directors in our foundations workshops. I encourage you to apply these tips with any strategic decisions you make.
1. Decide on one or two directors who will lead the marketing strategy and make the final marketing decisions – This needs to be the same person/s in all sessions of your strategic workshop. If you have a marketing manager in house, bring them in alongside your chosen director.
2. Gain different perspectives from your directors before a workshop/strategy session. You can get so much insight into how your existing brand is perceived, how your website functions, how your company values are felt and understood (or not, as the case may be) by asking your team. Your directors need to feel they’ve had an input, and it can be helpful to see the trends and conflicts from different departments so they can be factored into the decision making.
- To send you a list of their own personal goals – what are their lifestyle goals, financial goals, client goals for the year?
- Who they believe your audience to be
- Which clients they really love working with and why
- What they believe your firm’s mission to be
- What makes your firm different from others
Getting all the thoughts and opinions first means you can be all in when it comes to making the decisions.
3. Go back and share what you’ve uncovered in the workshop/strategy session
Report on the realisations and decisions you’ve come to, and most importantly the why behind them. Show your work. You’re responsible for making decisions with authority, so you’re not asking for opinions on whether it was the right or wrong move – but you’re sharing the workings that got you to a final decision. They’ll be able to contribute important thoughts you may have left out, and they’ll have the opportunity to learn alongside you.
It can feel like a shock to ‘spring’ a big change on your directors, and your wider team. So don’t spring! We encourage our clients between each session of the workshop to take away the learnings and discuss them with the team. Share the business goals you’ve decided on, so you’re all following the same north star. Explain how you came to the decision to change your firm’s name – tell the stories and share all the background details.
We provide practical deliverables at the end of a foundations workshop which would be helpful to show, rather than tell.
- Your goals documented: personal, hiring/team, financial, clients, systems and marketing
- Your brand story: a detailed summary of your ideal audience’s character, desires, barriers and your purpose as their guide
- Core website structure: crafted by our content team, based on your goals and brand story, you can use your custom 5-page core structure to build your firm’s website
- Detailed marketing plan: identify your top 5 top priorities and we’ll build you a full list of actions you can work through to work through in your marketing, including actions for your brand, website, blogs, social media, webinars, workshops, events….
- A timeline for your priorities: a visual summary of how all your marketing fits into the next year: how long each item will take and who will be responsible for it
You may find some directors will push back against big changes in marketing, regardless of how much you involve them in the discovery process.
This is a very normal reaction. Especially if your firm is 20, 30 (sometimes 100!) years old. Some of your directors find themselves very connected to the firm they joined years ago and resistant to adopt a new way of thinking.
You may have even been a little resistant to change yourself at first. Which is why it’s important to share how you’re feeling through strategic changes.
- How might you dig into where the push back is coming from?
- What questions might you ask?
- What might you have done earlier in the process, to prepare better for this? Were you clear enough, did you involve them enough?
If you’re able to manage the directors expectations of what they might feel in the process, great. If you experience pushback, dig in, and use your own experience to help them see what changed your thinking.
United directors unite a team
Going back to the concentric circles image at the start of this article, there’s a reason directors are leaders in the centre of the circle.
Effective leaders leave a deep impact not only on the team members they oversee, but also on the firm as a whole.
If they treat marketing as something they HAVE to do, and they’re unwilling to commit any time and effort to it, the team will suffer too. Your brand won’t be felt across your firm, and people will be less willing and enthusiastic to get involved in something they don’t understand.
And remember, all of this applies to lots of core areas in your business. This could apply when you’re choosing a new CRM system and you need all directors on board. It could apply when deciding to outsource a department or responsibility. Everyone at leadership level needs to have a deep understanding first before delegating responsibility to the team.
If you want your team to have an understanding of the importance of marketing and put out great stuff to attract the best clients, directors must be involved and lead by example.
It’s business and life changing when they are.
“If I hadn’t done the foundations workshop, I’d still be coasting along with no real sense of values, culture or have a brand and a website that reflects what I’m putting out there. It’s given me a sense of who my ideal client is (and isn’t), my values and culture I want to instil when I have a team who are living and breathing my brand which I now do on a daily basis.
It was business changing and life changing, because they’re so intertwined.”
Karen Kennedy, Founder, Kennedy Accountancy