Over at David Maister's blog is a conversation about PSF marketing people and their sophistication (novice versus expert) called Who Are the Marketing Experts in Professional Businesses?
I have some pretty strong feelings about the topic of in-house marketers, having been one, and from being in very close contact to hundreds of colleagues in my present business and 11 years with Association for Accounting Marketing. Maybe it's just me, but the conversation seemed to be missing a large part of the picture of the world in which in-house marketers work. I added a very long comment that I am posting here (with some additions). And I'm very interested in the feedback of other marketers.
Also, if you're a leader of a firm, see if you can spot some of these problems in your firm...
Where to begin...as a former in-house marketer in both accounting and law firms, and as a member (and leader) of Association for Accounting Marketing since 1995, I think I have some perspective on this that hasn't yet been shared.
- Most firms don't know what to look for (skill wise) when they hire marketing professionals. Most are hiring one because their competitors did. Most marketers weren't hired for a particular job description. Many don't even have job descriptions. Some don't even know to whom they actually report (a committee). And many report to people who have no idea how to utilize or measure their efforts, evaluate their recommendations, and no authority to approve their initiatives until the "next partner meeting"...whenever that might be.
- Firms (since the early 1990s at least) tended to hire over-qualified people given the low complexity level of (approved) projects and budget they gave these people to work with. In other words, they hired people with very creative ideas and they proceeded to stifle them by rejecting the most innovative ideas, failing to provide dollars to fund the initiatives, and not allocating support persons to help the pros--then they were surprised when these people left...
- Then firms began replacing those "first" directors--more experienced persons--with less expensive new marketing grads or hiring folks from the other low paying industry: non-profits. To this day, the marketing salaries in accounting firms lag $30-40K/yr behind comparable positions in law firms. In fact, avg salaries for marketing people are still between $45-75K for both professions. These numbers are way behind corporate marketing positions.
- Now firms are again hiring more experienced people, and paying a little better (not much), and even approving some slightly more creative ideas. But veteran PSF marketers are presently leaving firms in record numbers and going to more progressive industries.
- Budgets for the marketers to work with (if they are even formalized) are ridiculously low compared to all other industries. The average firm allocates only 1.5-2.5% of PY gross revenues for the subsequent marketing year. This amount includes many items that the marketer tells the firm will have little or no ROMI such as obligatory sponsorships, sporting tickets used mostly by employees and friends, etc. -- usually expenses over which the marketer has little or no control or input. And many marketers don't even have access to their firm's financial information including revenues by sector and historical or projected marketing expenditures.
- Marketers get sucked into non-client activities in the firm such as party-planning, morale building, and recruiting (not that marketers shouldn't be involved in marketing the firm to new employees, too, but it is a distraction from new biz development).
- Marketers in law firms are less micromanaged, less required, on a daily basis, to "prove your worth" than in CPA firms, but both positions operate in environments in which feedback of any sort is scarce, written marketing plans and budgets are the exception and not the rule, and getting "face time" with decision-makers is not easy or timely.
- Most firms consider and approve marketing initiatives as they arise rather than planning them in advance. But these approval processes are often long and tedious. In many cases, the optimal timing for the initiative is long passed by the time partners get around to approving them.
- Partners, managers and key team members have little or no incentive or motivation to participate in marketing efforts because they are rewarded for production over all else. I don't care how good a marketing professional is, he or she can only do so much on his or her own to market IN LIEU OF the firm's practitioners. Many of the initiatives approved that involve partner/manager time (such as those great suggestions in Trusted Advisor) fall flat due to capacity constraints and other organizational barriers including lack of prioritization of, and accountability for, these things.
- Firms stop listening to their in-house marketers and will celebrate the same advice from an "outsider" that they snubbed from their own marketer. I see this often and experienced it from the inside, too. It is astounding.
I could go on and on. Basically, there is little alignment between (or forethought about) what a firm wants versus what it needs both with regard to marketing talent. And it's just as great a problem when firms hire high level people and hamper their abilities as it is when they hire newbies and expect them to be Coca-Cola level marketers (without the budget, of course).
Those are my thoughts...what are your thoughts?
For resources on how to identify what type and skill level of marketer to hire, and what to expect from him or her, see my website for Top 10 Marketing & Sales FAQs.