Friday, April 21, 2006

Alliance, Anyone?

I just returned to the office after spending the morning with our company’s CPA. By the way, I’m also a CPA myself. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me if your first reaction was “Why doesn’t he just save his money and do the CPA-stuff himself?” That’s the point of this post.

If you’re a CEO or hold a key leadership role in your company, you’d probably never think of not retaining a CPA firm to handle your financial, taxation, technological, and/or mergers and acquisition activities. You probably routinely consult with your corporate law firm with regard to any legal matter that’s complex, or involves a strategic imperative for your company. You do this because you know what you don’t know. You also recognize that anything that involves opportunities or risks merits consultation with these professionals.

So why don’t some leaders take the same approach when it comes to marketing, branding, and/or marketing communications?

Is the capacity to differentiate your products and services from your competitors’, to lower your costs of sales, to successfully launch that new product, or to quickly align your work force behind a common strategic vision for your future less important than footnotes to financial statements or employment agreements for a new plant manager?

If these marketing outcomes are important, then change the nature of your relationship with your agency.

  1. Stop thinking of your agency as your advertising or public relations firm. Start including them in the design and development of your strategic revenue-producing plans.
  2. Re-characterize your annual disbursements in marketing and sales support as investments rather than expenses.
  3. Get explicit about the return you expect on these investments, and hold people accountable for delivering.
A strategically competent marketing communications firm will welcome these actions.

The obvious counter-point here is that “we already have smart, talented people in our organization focused exclusively on marketing.” Well, part of the value of working with outside help—whether it’s a CPA, an attorney or the like—is their ability to bring fresh eyes to a situation. As we like to say in our firm, “sometimes it’s hard to see the house from inside the house.”

That’s why so many firms that already have in-house legal counsel maintain relationships with law firms. By complementing their own expertise with the fresh perspective and market knowledge of experts from outside the business, they develop strategies and tactics that are better-grounded and more effective.

If you’re not already doing so, your company would be wise to take the same tack when it comes to your branding, marketing and marketing communications.

Now, what did my CPA say about the new rules regarding the valuation of goodwill?

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