By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
Being the sole right brain in a sea of left brains is challenging, but this is just the situation in which many accounting and legal marketing people find themselves. It is very common that all marketing functions are handled by one person at firms; I did just this myself at one time. So to get a bit of insight into the challenges and joys, as well as gain some advice for anyone in a similar role, I interviewed Cindy Hagemann, Marketing Director at Wall, Einhorn & Chemitzer P.C. in Norfolk, Virginia. She offers some great insight and advice!
How long have you been in your current role? Since October 2008.
Was this the first time you a) worked for an accounting firm and b) was the sole person in a marketing department? a) Yes b) No
What was the most surprising thing you learned when you first started this job? How demanding the job would be and how marketing is not taken seriously in the accounting world. You have to prove yourself and earn credibility among the accountants, and it takes time.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face being the sole marketing person in an accounting firm? Time management and prioritizing. I have so many projects and want to take everything on, but I have to step back and choose what needs to get done now, today, tomorrow, next week and next month. I used to work for a financial institution as the sole marketing person, and I was able to make a list and finish everything on that list by the end of the day – that is not possible in the accounting marketing world. No matter what is on your calendar or what you think you will be doing each day, you get so many interruptions and urgent requests that it is not possible to complete your list each day!
How do you address or overcome these challenges? It took me a full year to truly learn this position. I had to learn the industry, the firm philosophy and then the personalities of the partners and other staff. Once I started to get a handle on all of that, the other things fell in to place. Knowing the personalities of different partners is vital to this position – knowing when you can push back, learning their needs and what they will expect out of you. I have become very deadline driven because it helps me stay organized and keep up with all that is going on. I put everything on my Outlook calendar – everything, even small reminders that are just for me.
What are some of the upsides of running your own department? I can get things done quickly without a lot of input from others (can also be a negative). I tend to move quickly from one task to another, and there is no one to slow me down. I can organize things the way I want and therefore find things more easily.
How do you stay abreast of what is going on in the industry? I read industry blogs, articles and news online and in print. I am a member of several organizations that feed me industry news. I also charge my niche managers with letting me know what I should be aware of in their industries.
What exciting new marketing initiatives are you implementing at your firm? There is so much going on – we are redoing our website, constantly improving our proposal process, improving our exposure to social media, developing new niches, implementing new firm newsletters and this is just first quarter of 2011!
What advice do you have for those that may be new to this type of role? It takes time to learn the industry and even if you are fortunate enough to be familiar with it, you will need time to learn the firm culture, partners and staff. Get out of your office, get involved with the staff and let them get to know you. Be proactive in everything you do with the firm. Stay ahead of the trends and if you see something that needs to be done – do it! Join industry-related organizations. Communicate often with the marketing shareholder, managing partner and other shareholders. Become such a valuable resource to your firm that they cannot do without you!
Great insight and advice, Cindy. What do you think? I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas from other accounting and legal marketers, whether you are on your own or have staff. What is your biggest challenge and piece of advice? Inquiring minds want to know!