How to Get Partners to Write – 3.5 Tips to Help Marketers
Ten years ago, my firm changed its strategic approach to marketing. The partners wanted to become cutting-edge inbound marketers and fill the internet with our insightful and informative blog content. This, however, meant someone had to do the writing – and therein was the dilemma. With billable hours (the nemesis of every accounting marketer) looming in the background, how would we get this done and achieve our strategic objectives? In this article, I’ll share my approach to achieving this near-impossible feat.
Partners at my firm do not like to write, and I know I’m not alone in this experience. Over the years, peers have also expressed frustration getting partners to embrace writing. Partners have approached them with quips like, “Hey, I see whitepapers from ABC Accounting everywhere; how come we aren’t doing that?” The answer is simple. ABC Accounting has made it a priority to become thought leaders through their writing. And though I am not saying it is easy, I do have some pointers to share that helped transform our firm into a writing machine. I hope these tips and guidance can help you, too.
Convey That ROI is Broader Just Than Revenue
I’ll start with one of the hardest things to get accountants to understand. Return on Investment (ROI) has long been directly associated with revenue. For example, $100 invested in a marketing effort should yield $200 in revenue. While this is how the concept of ROI was born (and how accountants generally gauge it), it has evolved over the years with the growth of social media. Data is now captured in other areas of value like brand recognition, recruiting success, likes, shares, open rates, impressions, etc. Writing blogs, whitepapers, social content, and newsletter articles all help drive these “other” ROI value areas and, in the end, do drive revenue.
Educating partners on these other ROI values is a great foundation for setting the framework for writing. Once you get buy-in on the expanded view of ROI, you can move to the next phase…what I have dubbed the “Three Rs of Engaging Partners.”
The Three Rs of Engaging Partners
Since my days at a Big Four firm some 25 years ago, I’ve learned to approach partners in a certain way. When trying to get them to write and understand the benefits of their writing efforts, this approach I have used becomes even more important.
- Reason: You’ve already spent time educating the partners on the broader view of ROI, so there is no need to discuss this ad nauseam. But you do need to give concrete, non-ROI reasons for asking them to write. It can be anything from expanding their knowledge on a subject they already know to helping increase their credibility within their circle of influence. You have to present how having the smartest, most-experienced people at the firm (partners) write is linked to firm growth. A phrase I often say to partners in my firm is “you cannot be a thought leader if you don’t tell people your thoughts.” Writing is the gateway to becoming a true thought leader and conveying their expert thoughts. This is one reason I give for writing more.
- Respect: Our partners are extremely smart and astute businesspeople. They have taken the entrepreneurial leap to create something from nothing and now pay our salaries. They deserve the respect due for this. Also, I’ll reference something I mentioned in the opening of this article: billable hours. Billable hours are the lifeblood of all accounting firms. As marketers, we must respect these hours and ensure partners that nothing comes before client work. Whether you are asking them to write a quick blog or a more in-depth whitepaper, respect their time and the client focus. It will go a long way.
- Realistic: Be realistic in what are you are expecting from partners. For example, whitepapers are often a result of hours and hours of research coupled with the time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, in today’s lexicon). You cannot ask a partner to have a white paper written in 30 days, or to write a blog post in three days; it is simply not realistic. Agree on what is comfortable from a time and effort perspective for the partner and flexible if client work suddenly becomes a priority.
Writing is Part of Practice Development: When writing and becoming thought leaders is a priority for a firm, time is made for it. Additionally, the leadership will make partners accountable for it by making it part of their overall review process. Whether a partner contributed to the firm’s practice development efforts by creating thought leadership content is fast becoming the norm in many firms’ review processes. As marketers, we have little say in this. But it is a way to ensure more writing is done.
Much of what has been discussed here is about managing expectations. Writing does not come naturally to everyone and is a burden to many. Certainly, it is a huge time commitment. Explain the benefits, the not-so-apparent ROI values, and pay heed to the three Rs. These steps should help partners to be more receptive to writing to build brand recognition and firm growth.
About Eric Elmore
Eric R. Elmore is the marketing and brand manager for Drucker & Scaccetti, a tax-focused accounting firm, in Philadelphia. He has more than 20 years of experience working with professional service firms helping them communicate to the world who they are, what they do and why it is of value to targeted audiences.
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