Our profession is a diverse one, which is evidenced by the myriad of activities in which our members are engaged; activities that include audit, accounting, taxation, financial management, general management, human resources, consulting, internal audit, operations … and the list goes on. And within each of these spheres, our members operate across industries and in organisations that vary in size and complexity.
Our objective, as your Institute, has always been to attempt to find a balance of offerings and activity that meet the requirements of members, regardless of the field in which they find themselves. This can be a difficult exercise, and is dependent on member involvement in the activities of the Institute and the profession.
Members in practice, which constitute one of our larger constituency groupings, include members engaged in, amongst others things, auditing, accounting and tax related activities. We engage with members in this constituency on a regular basis and have, through those consultations, recognized a number of areas that members in practice have identified as being of importance to their businesses.
One of the areas in which members have consistently requested assistance is that of marketing. In response to that request, we recently introduced a marketing manual designed to assist members to improve their business development opportunities through improved marketing consulting and business strategy practices.
Marketing of accounting practices was frowned on historically. However, I am a firm believer that ethical marketing is a must for any business in the modern economy. Conventional wisdom suggests that marketing is all about advertising. It is not. Effective marketing is a combination of factors that include:
• Effective segmentation and understanding of market needs – any business worth its salt must understand intimately the markets it serves. A clear understanding of the business of your clients will position you to respond proactively to the needs of that market segment;
• formalising a marketing strategy based on products or services, placement, promotion, people, processes, physical evidence and business partnerships;
• consistent high quality delivery – referrals will always remain your most effective form of marketing – in order to create a customer-centric organisation;
• regular meetings with key stakeholders and clients to demonstrate genuine interest in their client’s business and to understand the direction in which the business is heading;
• key account management and networking – service businesses are especially dependent on the strength of networks. Networking with prospective and existing clients, with competitors and potential partners, is key to their continued growth and sustainability of the business, as well as the continued growth of the intellectual capacity of the business; and;
• effective public relations – having an independent outsider, in print or other medium, mention your brand or business in the context of a particular area of expertise is an invaluable reputation builder. Indeed, the Harvard Business Review has estimated that the value of such editorial coverage is worth between three and 12 times the equivalent value paid-for advertisements in the same medium.
Marketing requires consistent focus. Rather than being an annual event with the occasional advertisement, it is a journey that every business must travel as part of its daily work. Some 90% of new businesses in South Africa fail in the first 18 months of establishment. Often this is a result of a failure to consider and manage solid marketing fundamentals. For a business to succeed, it is important to invest appropriately in a sound infrastructure that encompasses the factors of marketing outlined above.
A focus on these areas translates into what I earlier referred to above as ethical marketing. Marketing in our industry is not about false promises. Marketing is about firm value propositions, and delivery against those value propositions. The SAICA ‘Marketing Manual’ is an excellent tool, one that I believe will assist practitioners as well as other members to develop and enhance their advertising marketing capability.
This is an exciting time for the Institute. We have consciously focused some of our resources on further identifying and delivering valuable service lines and products to our members.
Another area where members have requested assistance is that of Information Technology. SAICA will launch an IT governance toolkit, which will position members to advise their clients on issues surrounding IT governance.
We have every intention of further exploring and delivering additional services that are intended to be of value to members. I urge members to contact us should any of you have ideas or suggestions on alternative areas we could explore.
The 21st century is all about collaboration and effective sharing of knowledge. Nobody demonstrates the success of that concept better than companies such as Google. I believe that effective collaboration between members, and between members and SAICA, can only help the individuals as well as the profession to better position CAs(SA) as thought leaders in the South African and the global economy. I look forward to continued effective engagements with members on this and related issues.
Nazeer Wadee CA(SA), is Chief Operations Officer, SAICA.