Amplify!, Business Dev/Sales

Amplify | The Symbiotic Relationship Between Business Development and Marketing

Successful accounting firms understand the importance of a well-coordinated effort between business development (BD) and marketing teams. These two essential functions must work hand in hand to drive firm success. During a recent Amplify! podcast episode with Chris Perrino, principal of business development at Barnes Dennig, Chris shared what effective collaboration looks like and the secrets behind a harmonious BD and marketing partnership.

The Overlap is Magic

Marketing is about reaching out to many through avenues like websites, videos, e-blasts and blogs, while business development is focused on the one-on-one aspect of client interaction. As Chris puts it, “marketing is one-to-many, whereas business development tends to be more one-to-one.”

Despite their differences, marketing and business development share common ground in their external focus. Both functions are dedicated to understanding clients’ needs, prospects’ desires and market trends. Chris emphasizes that both roles are looking outside the firm.

“They’re looking at the pages on the website that have the most hits, and they’re looking at other things like new tax laws coming down the pike. Many of the best marketers and business developers are trying to figure out what clients and prospects want to know right now,” he said.

This overlap is where the magic happens. When marketing and business development teams collaborate effectively, they can create a unified front, delivering consistent and tailored messages to clients and prospects. This synergy not only saves time but also enhances the firm’s credibility and trustworthiness.

The Power of Collaboration

Sadly, in many firms, marketing and business development teams operate in silos, hindering effective communication and collaboration. This separation can lead to confusion among clients and prospects when they encounter contradictory messages from the two functions.

Chris warns against this disconnect, stating that it’s crucial to avoid confusing prospects. “If the messaging is different,” he cautions, “you’re going to confuse the prospects. You’re going to make them say, ‘I don’t think this is the firm for me.'”

The solution lies in fostering collaboration between marketing and business development. When these two entities work in harmony, they can harness their collective potential, making each other more effective and efficient. Chris passionately advocates for this approach, saying, “Ultimately, if they’re not collaborating, they’re wasting the potential of those two departments.”

If you really collaborate, you can get more out of it than you put into it. When the teams don’t work together, firm resources are being wasted. This is one of those opportunities where “two plus two equals five,” he explained.

A Unified Message

Consistency is the linchpin that holds this collaborative approach together. Whether it’s a professional salesperson or a partner selling the firm’s services, they need to be aligned with marketing’s messaging. As Chris points out, even partners need to ensure they are on the same page, stating, “If there’s not consistent messaging between the website and what they’re saying, that’s going to hurt.”

To illustrate this point, Chris recounts a situation where a draft proposal he reviewed incorrectly portrayed a partner as an expert in construction when the opportunity required a different industry specialization. While the accountant knows construction, for this opportunity he was the person who had skills that were complimentary to another industry. The consistency wasn’t there, and messaging disconnects can damage a firm’s credibility and trustworthiness.

Understanding Marketing’s Role

Business developers need to have a deep understanding of marketing activities and be well-informed about what marketing is currently emphasizing. For example, Chris shares how, at his firm, if marketing is actively promoting a nonprofit compensation and benefits study, this information is vital to him. It enables him to align his conversations with clients and prospects around this relevant topic.

Furthermore, Chris believes that BD professionals should share what’s happening in the market. What are the key issues, challenges and trends? He points out that in his interactions with clients and prospects, labor-related concerns frequently dominate the conversation. By relaying these insights to the marketing team, they can ensure their messaging and content resonate with the prevailing market sentiments.

Another aspect Chris highlights is the importance of tracking website metrics. BD professionals need to know which web pages and blogs are generating the most traffic. This data can help them tailor their conversations and outreach efforts more effectively.

Moreover, staying informed about the firm’s current SEO strategies is crucial for BD professionals, as it affects their ability to attract potential clients through online channels. Chris recognizes that not every BD professional is an SEO expert, but having a general understanding of the firm’s SEO priorities is valuable.

Additionally, he suggests keeping an eye on the firm’s affiliations, such as sponsorships with banks or law firms. Being aware of these partnerships can help BD professionals identify potential collaboration opportunities with these institutions.

Mutual Communication and Support

Conversations between marketing and BD need to be ongoing, two-way communications. Scheduled meetings between the teams help facilitate this exchange of information. Chris and his marketing director have standing meetings twice a week, ensuring that they stay aligned on priorities and share valuable insights.

This consistent communication allows for transparency, ensuring that both teams have access to the information they need. Marketing needs to understand the real-time challenges and concerns BD professionals encounter when engaging with clients and prospects. Conversely, BD professionals should be aware of marketing initiatives and priorities.

Driving Leads and Qualification

One of the critical responsibilities of marketing is lead generation. However, to make this process more effective, BD professionals can play a significant role. Chris suggests that BD professionals can help refine the content and messaging on the website to ensure it resonates with the current market landscape. By sharing insights into what’s trending in client conversations, they can guide marketing efforts toward topics that are more likely to generate leads.

Moreover, BD professionals can assist in qualifying leads. By applying specific criteria, such as company size or industry focus, they can help filter out leads that are less likely to convert into clients. This collaborative approach ensures that marketing efforts are not wasted on unqualified leads.

Teamwork Yields Results

For firms that have yet to establish a strong relationship between BD and marketing, Chris emphasizes that building this relationship takes time and requires recurring meetings and transparent communication. Setting clear expectations and defining roles and responsibilities are essential steps.

However, effective collaboration between marketing and BD can drive lead generation, enhance client relationships, and ultimately, contribute to the firm’s success. By fostering open communication, setting clear expectations and working together on coordinated projects, firms can unlock the full potential of this partnership.

As Chris aptly puts it, “when marketing drags them to the door, business development drags them into the firm.” Together, they can achieve remarkable results.

This blog post was written based on content from the latest season of Amplify, the podcast of AAM – dedicated to firm growth. This article is based on Season 4, Episode 4, featuring a conversation with Chris Perrino, Principal of Barnes Dennig. Learn more about the podcast and listen first-hand at

About Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super-regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame.

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