The Melancholy Baby Syndrome

by Bruce W. Marcus

In most law and accounting firm marketing, we take what’s given to us from the practice, and impose marketing techniques on the firm and its services.

Traditionally there is little or no input by marketers to help shape the service being promoted. This results in marketing by rote, where ultimate marketing performance is driven by factors not entirely within the control of the marketers. I’ve long called this the Melancholy Baby Syndrome – the piano player who’ll play Melancholy Baby no matter what you really want to hear.

In 1980, in what was probably the first post-Bates article on Marketing 2.0, I wrote on marketing an accounting firm for the Virginia Society of Accountants. Revisiting that article today I’m stunned to see that to a large degree virtually every word is not only still relevant today, but that little has been added to the basics outlined in the article. This, despite the rapid and vast proliferation of professional services marketers, and the extensive introduction and use of new technology. Yes, there have been refinements and embellishments, and even some ingenious and imaginative use of marketing techniques. But the techniques – and most significantly, the relationship between most accountants and most marketers who serve them, have been virtually the same as in the 1980s.

The problem is that from about 1980 to now, the practices of accounting – techniques, governance, client relationships – have changed substantially, as have the economy and the markets for these services, but the techniques of marketing professional services have remained static.

But now, accountants are becoming more sophisticated. The nature of the market for their services is changing, as is the nature of professional services practices. Marketing 2.0 has been losing its grip. Tenure for marketers continues to be short, with frequent turnover. Reading the resumes of any ten marketers today is to see a game of musical chairs.

But still, there have been exceptions – and they sowed the seeds of the next generation of marketing to serve the changing needs of the marketplace – Marketing 3.0

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