Q. "I was recently hired as a marketing director for a public accounting firm. This firm has never had a marketing person so I'm not sure where to begin."
A. Interviewing each member of your firm's team (every level) is a perfect first thing to do.
1) Introduce yourself and describe a little bit about the firm's marketing initiatives and your role (represent yourself as high-level as possible--avoid painting yourself as a task person or you'll find it hard to get out of that "box").
2) Obtain and review the person's bio before the meeting. If bios don't exist, look in proposal documents or ask personnel if they will share a copy of the person's resume so you can learn about them before you meet. They will be flattered and appreciative that you've taken the time to know a little about who they are. This also sets a good example because they should be doing this before meeting with a client or prospect.
3) Conduct the meeting as an interview. If you take good notes, you could use the info you learn not just to gauge the person's potential role in future marketing plans, but if you take good notes, you could also have a good draft of a new bio! (2 birds, 1 stone = bonus points)
Things to ask:
- Use the opportunity to learn what each person likes and doesn't like about their practice. This way you can help them more aggressively market what they like to do versus what they don't enjoy.
- Find out what he or she is most and least comfortable doing both socially and from a sales/communication standpoint so you can best determine where they will fit into your next step (marketing plans) and if sales or other training might be needed or wanted.
- Discuss how they would envision participating (i.e. meeting with prospects or helping behind the scenes with articles, research, etc).
- Ask them to describe what they think management expects, and to tell what leads them to those conclusions. Ask also what they believe needs to be done that may be in addition to management expectations or perhaps in contrast to it. Simply addressing this with them -- letting them know you understand there is probably a variance between the two -- will help create a sense of trust and understanding between you and the people you speak with.
I strongly recommend interviewing the staff people first, especially if you are new to the accounting industry because you can usually feel more comfortable asking them to explain things (e.g. "do you mind helping me to understand the difference between an audit and a review?"). This way you'll be better equipped for your conversations with the partners.
Take great notes and transcribe them so you can quickly review from time to time. This also allows you to search your notes for keywords so you can quickly find a fact -- for instance, you may later wonder "who was it that told me they've always wanted to do fraud work?" when a partner mentions there doesn't seem to be anybody interested in expanding into new practice areas.