marketing and operations

When marketing meets operations: an accountancy firm love story

Once upon a time, a marketing strategist and an operations lead were working in an accountancy firm.  These two people represented divisions which were very different from one another, and yet they shared a common goal: to make the company profitable. Marketing was like a proud peacock, always strutting around and attracting attention with its colourful feathers. Operations, who we will refer to as ‘Ops’, was more like an ox, strong and dependable, providing the foundation for everything the company did. Due to their differences the two departments often worked independently of one another and had challenges in achieving the results they wanted for the firm. Then one day a chance meeting changed everything…

I’m going to tell you a love story about these two people. As you read, you’ll have a better understanding of:

1. The importance of having a marketing strategy: What are your marketing goals? How are you going to get leads? How can you ensure these leads are your ideal clients?

2. How aligning your marketing and operational strategies enables you to meet your business goals with more ease!

3. The encouragement that it is not difficult to align these strategies: Through data, goal setting and forward planning you can serve clients more effectively and your business can grow in line with your goals… I promise!

You’re already aware of the value an operations role delivers for your firm, in paying attention to efficiencies and profitability. And I suspect you’re aware how marketing can bring  in the type of clients you love to work with, and who you’re able to do your best work for.

What you now need to consider, and implement, is how to bring your operations and marketing activity together. As you read this love story, you’re going to learn about the powerful impact this will have on your firm, and how to go about making the match!

All marketing starts with considering your audience, so before we get into the why’s and how’s, let’s first look at the attributes you’d want from successful operations and marketing divisions. All good love stories these days start with an awkward dating profile, so not to disappoint…

Marketing Director , Age 29

“Hi there! I’m marketing, and I’m all about creativity, innovation, and making connections. I love coming up with new ideas and finding ways to promote things that people are passionate about. Whether it’s a new product, a new service, or a new idea, I’m always up for a challenge…”

Creative- strategic-communicative-adaptable-passionate

Operations Director , Age 35

“Hi! I’m the operations manager you didn’t know you needed in your life. I love solving problems, optimising processes, and making everything run like a well-oiled machine. When I’m not busy keeping the world spinning, you can find me enjoying a good cup of coffee and binge-watching my favourite TV shows. Looking for someone who’s ready to join my team and take on the world together!”

detail-oriented – problem solver- strong communicator- organised- team player

You might not be at a stage with your firm where you are ready to employ both an operations and marketing lead. Aligning your marketing and operations activity will still be valuable to you even if it’s one person who’s wearing all the hats. This is less about bringing people together, and more about integrating functions in your firm so they’re all working towards the same end goal.

When aligning these two leads, we recommend you start with data, a language they both need to be able to speak and an area that, when aligned, can have an exceptional impact on your accountancy firm.

The first date: data

One day the finance department was sitting staring at an excel spreadsheet; he analysed marketing’s data figures and separately pondered operations figures. Suddenly, BRAINWAVE! He realised if they could have each other’s numbers this could be magic! . He slammed his laptop shut and set about playing matchmaker for the two of them….”

You recognise the value in using data to drive decisions. You wouldn’t prepare next year’s financial forecast for a client without looking at their previous years numbers. The same goes for bringing together your operations and marketing activity. The first place you can look to combine their strategies is using  data.

1. Collaborate on your data analysis: When operations and marketing join forces to collaborate on data analysis they can use actual numbers to set achievable goals that serve clients and the rest of the team.  For example, operations is responsible for calculating your team capacity for each quarter (i.e. the amount of work your team can get done based on the current size of team and skills you have).  You’ll be able to identify how many clients you need in order to reach full capacity. This number can then get translated into sales and marketing goals, and your marketing strategy will focus on how to reach these goals.

2. Make time for relationship management: Marketing, is in part, responsible for delighting clients- ensuring they get the services they need and delivered to the highest standard! As marketing shares data on customer interactions and feedback, they can identify areas where improvements can be made and develop strategies to enhance the overall customer experience. For example, some qualitative data collection, such as collecting NPS scores, could be carried out and reveal that clients would like a quicker turn-around time on work. Ops can work with the team to improve the efficiency of work, uncover bottle necks and ensure processes are in place to ease workloads. Marketing can ensure clients are clear on our processes and promises to deliver high quality work and why it may take the time it does.

3. Track your performance: Aligned target setting and performance tracking has been the most powerful way for us to see results here at PF. Devoid of collaboration, marketing may work on their target of ‘ signing three leads a week’, and operations may work on ‘getting 200 billable hours completed a week’.  Whereas, when the targets are set collaboratively, ops is able to inform marketing of their targets, which may sound a little like this:

Operations: “Hey, to reach our financial target I need to give the team 200 hours of work this week”

and Marketing, with clear knowledge of their conversion rates, could know “Hey to get you that much work, I must sign 5 leads a week”.

If you do not set targets and track performance collaboratively you are at risk of over-promising and under delivering to  clients, having a pressured workforce and not meeting annual targets.

The most effective way to use data collaboratively is to communicate, use data to set out targets, capabilities and review but most importantly talk about the data to ensure that Operations can deliver on the promises that Marketing makes.

Love is blind

“Before long, Marketing and Ops realised that they were falling in love. From that day forward, the two worked closely together on every project. They collaborated on ideas, shared feedback, and worked tirelessly to produce the best possible results. They knew by working together, they could achieve greatness and take their company to new heights. Their collaboration was felt across the whole business.”

It is easy to remain in the dark of just how great collaborative working on projects can be! Most recently, here at PF, our marketing and ops lead (yes, you guessed it, I am ops!) got together to embark on a full review of our services. Historically, our marketing director would have gathered client feedback and would have set about making any changes to client services inline with the feedback. However, working in alignment, we were able to collect and analyse data on profitability, pricing, processes, team feedback and client feedback.

To start the project we set about collecting historical data, operations collecting the following data on each service:

1. Number sold in the year prior

2. % completed within budget

3. Amount billable to client

4. Hours ( and cost of hours) spent on service

Marketing then collected the following information on each service:

5. Market research- how did our services compare to the market?

6. Stage in the buyer cycle

7. What clients does it help the most?

8. What does success for the clients look like?

9. What does success for us look like?

10. What are the challenges and opportunities?

Additionally, we assigned a divisional leads to obtain feedback on the services from the client facing team. The client facing team answered a series of questions about the services they delivered; including what they needed training on, what they felt clients got most value from and timeframes for delivery.

Together, we carried out client service review interviews and collated the data, making actionable conclusions on each service. This year we have set about making positive changes to improve our services based on this review!

Having shared goals from the outset meant for a thorough review with tangible outcomes which made sense across all divisions. One of the results of the service review was a decision to make a significant change to our website offerings. Actioning any change in a business can be daunting but knowing the correct research has gone into it and everyone is on the same page, and supporting the change, has made implementation so much easier.

We highly recommend getting your operations and marketing leads to align on a project, like a service review,  for you to see the benefits for yourself!

Operation’s proposal to marketing

“I’m proposing that we work together more closely than ever before. Let’s collaborate on every project, share feedback and insights, and ensure that our operational capabilities are aligned with your marketing strategies. Together, we can achieve amazing things and take our company to new heights. So, will you accept my proposal? Will you be my partner in this great adventure?”

Once you have established these two roles within your accountancy firm, this professional relationship needs to be nurtured.  The following has worked for us at PF to encourage these roles to work successfully together:

Foster a culture of collaboration: Actively encourage collaboration between the operations and marketing departments by advocating for a culture of openness and cooperation in your accountancy firm. You can do this by sharing the company’s values, communicating your expectation for collaboration through team meetings, model it in the leadership time, regularly share company goals and encourage socialising amongst your team! This will help build trust and allow for open and honest feedback; if marketing wants to run a campaign that operations believes there is no capacity for, they can discuss this openly and productively.

Define common goals: The two  departments need to work together to define common goals that align with the overall business strategy. For example, when operations wants to improve the amount of time the team is spending on billable work, marketing can ensure that internal marketing  work is at a manageable level, and can support communicating this to the team in a positive way to get them on board.

Improve communication: Establish regular meetings between the operations and marketing departments to share information and ideas. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together effectively.

Implement shared metrics: Develop shared metrics that are relevant to both the operations and marketing departments. This will help align the efforts of both departments and provide a common language for measuring success. Setting clear financial targets such as revenue goals to both parties, and encouraging them to collaborate will result in operations improving efficiencies in line  with marketing plans. For example, you might decide a marketing event with the purpose of securing new leads is in the best interests of both parties, due to the shared revenue metric. Operations can support the planning, capacity planning and efficiency of the event and ensure client work is not impacted.

Agreeing to work alongside the four points above (being collaborative, setting common goals, communicating effectively and utilising metrics) is the foundation for exceptional service delivery! I recommend the collaboration between operations and marketing becomes a permanent feature in your business.   I say this because I often see accountancy firms with awesome systems, all over everything operational but only getting ad hoc marketing services. You may have set a marketing strategy at the start of the year and not returned or reviewed it alongside operations.

The best collaboration is not one-off, or here and there: it is consistent. Therefore we recommend a longer term plan for operations and marketing to work together; an agreement for a long standing working relationship. To get started on connecting the two, start with your company goals, look closely at the targets that marketing and ops both influence, and encourage them to set about on working on an aligned plan to reach the target.

The Vows

“I promise to always communicate openly with you, to share my ideas and strategies, and to listen to your feedback and insights. I promise to be flexible and adaptable, working with you to ensure that our marketing plans are aligned with what you can deliver in operations”

Profitability ever after

To summarise (and for those of you who skipped to the end ) here are the KEY BENEFITS & ACTIONS to take in order to align your Operations and Marketing leads in an accountancy firm:

BENEFIT: Improved leadership: Establishing clear lead roles in marketing and operations ensures you have someone to lead, and collaborate, on the two agendas.

  • ACTION: Assign an operations & marketing lead today! Please complete the PF diagnostic if you are considering outsourcing a marketing lead in your accountancy firm.

BENEFIT: Improved alignment: By working together, the operations and marketing leads can ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overall business strategy and goals.

  • ACTION: Set business goals, share them with both leaders and give them the space to work on the goals together!

BENEFIT: Better client experience: When operations and marketing work together, they can create a more seamless and cohesive client experience. This can include everything from consistent branding and messaging to efficient processes that make it easy for clients to work with the firm.

  • ACTION: See the client experience as the responsibility of both marketing and operations. Organise for the two of them to meet and analyse client feedback; what can they both do to improve the client experience?

BENEFIT: More effective marketing: By working closely with operations, the marketing team can gain a better understanding of the firm’s strengths and capabilities, as well as the needs and preferences of clients. This can help to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns that resonate with clients and drive business growth.

  • ACTION: Invite operations into weekly marketing conversations. This may seem counterintuitive as they usually think and work differently, but the two perspectives will excel your marketing efforts and results!

BENEFIT: Improved efficiency: When operations and marketing work together, they can identify areas where processes can be streamlined or automated, leading to greater efficiency and productivity.

  • ACTION: Invite marketing into weekly operations conversations! What services do clients want to see improved? What operations successes can we share with clients? What new processes do we need to teach to our team?

Bringing operations and marketing together can help to create a more integrated and effective accountancy firm that is better able to serve its clients, more proactive than reactive, and ultimately is able to reach its goals in a more efficient way!

“Operations and marketing lived happily ever after helping their company to become more competitive, innovative, and client-focused ensuring goals were met and profitability prevailed!”