The following article has been put together based on the highlights from our webinar: ‘Take your marketing from a cost centre to a profit centre‘ over on AccountingWEB Live: The Business of Marketing, which took place in March 2021.
Bhimal Hira, marketing and business development partner from Jeffreys Henry LLP, and Jonathan Stobart, head of marketing and partnerships for AccountancyManager joined me, MD of PracticeWeb, to talk about making marketing profitable.
How do you know if your marketing department is a cost centre?
Marketing: a drain on resources, an area scrutinised as a cost centre. Or at least, that’s what many firms think — even if they don’t admit it out loud.
During lockdown many firms cut their marketing teams, at a time when communication has never been so important.
In many firms there is little buy-in from owners and directors. The marketing department has to pay it’s way just as much as any other, but it’s often unfairly scrutinised. When did you last ask IT what their ROI was?
In firms with this attitude, marketing is seen as a costly “tick-box exercise”; something that must be carried out as cheaply and compliantly as possible, but with little vision for what it could actually achieve.
In truth, much of the work that marketing departments do within organisations is actually seen as glorified administration work — updating brochure inventory, ordering marketing materials, and so on.
These tasks really are just draining money and time out of your organisation through the marketing department, and aren’t giving any real return on investment.
If that sounds familiar, you may be running your marketing department like a cost centre.
How do you move your marketing department into a profit centre?
“I think value to most accountants is seen as revenue. This is a key metric, and shouldn’t be disregarded…but in reality I see marketing as a long-term value recognition.”
So let’s look at this another way. Linking the marketing department into company strategy centralises it within budget and in company mindset. It enables you to think more clearly about how marketing engages with the other areas of your business, and makes it much simpler to create a strategic marketing plan that incorporates every element of your organisation.
Getting into the Marketing Profit Centre mindset
What do your comms look like? Are they reactive?
Here’s an example:
Sending a regular newsletter to clients and prospective leads is essential.
The next step is to use the gathered data from each newsletter campaign to learn who is regularly opening these newsletters, what they are reading, what they are clicking on, and whether this newsletter is generating any business.
Newsletters, like a lot of marketing work, are time-consuming to get right. But if they’re used smartly by a skilled marketing team, the ROI is absolutely invaluable; as client relationship builders, as a sales tool and more broadly, central to a strategic comms strategy.
Building and Managing your Marketing function
Newsletters are just one aspect of a valuable marketing campaign, but to continue using them as our main example, think about what it takes to create a successful one.
- Engaging content writing
- Eye-catching design
- Realistic budgeting
- Valuable data
- Lead generation and a strong database of signups
These skills are where investments should be made in order to change your marketing into a profit centre — as well as SEO specialisms, social media expertise, events management, schedule planning, customer relations and PR.
Building trust both in and outside of the organisation
Enabling marketing to test, learn and iterate, explain what they’ve done, why they did it, what they got out of it, what their projections are for the future based on these findings and results, and then how all of this aligns to the vision of the overall organisation is vital for buy-in across the board.
“Marketing has to be part of the culture, and at the forefront of everybody’s minds. When someone is out there meeting people and networking, hitting those key messages and marketing goals should be at the top of their agenda alongside lead development.”
Measuring and Maximising ROI
Make sure you’re measuring what matters.
Some examples include:
- Lead generation (in numbers or combined value)
- Newsletter signups
- Social media follow numbers
- Event attendees
- Press coverage
- Efficiency savings (eg. SMT time saved by marketing team)
- Website visits/page visits/brochure downloads
Investing in the proper software will also make it easier to continue improving your campaigns, honing in on target audiences, figuring out niche opportunities and spotting gaps to exploit.
Building an empowered marketing team
Your most important marketing investment will be in your staff. Many firms choose to hire a junior member of staff to take on their marketing needs, and aim to work with them directly underneath the director.
This immediately places a time constraint on the director’s ability to give real direction and focus to the inexperienced member of staff. It also adds extra pressure onto the director to lead a marketing department where there was none before — which in turn makes maketing feel like an expensive burden rather than a valuable company asset.
If you’re ready to invest in a marketing specialist, in house or outsourced, wouldn’t it make more sense to hire an experienced marketing pro who knows the ropes, and who can head up their own team when the time comes to bring in more staff? Who won’t need to look to you for guidance and sign-off every step of the way?
To give your experienced and talented marketing professionals the opportunity to prove ROI, make sure they are free to work in the way that they need to, and that they are able to offer radical ideas to the CEOs, investors and directors.
And yes, the whole team needs to have faith in the marketing team in order for their bright ideas to come to fruition. Teamwork makes the dream work, after all.
You’ve read the article, now watch the webinar: Take your marketing from a cost centre to a profit centre.
PracticeWeb can help you if you are looking to get a better return-on-investment from your marketing activity for your accountancy firm.