AAM Minute - Meet a Member

Katie Tolin

Name: Katie Tolin

Title: President/Chief Growth Guide

Years of Experience: 18

College Name & Degree(s): M.A. degree in Political Communications, Emerson College; B.S.B.A. degrees in Management & Public Relations, Ohio Northern University

Company Name: CPA Growth Guides

Company City & State: Canton, Ohio

Email Address: katie@cpagrowthguides.com

Professional Memberships: Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM)

Community Involvement: Board Chair, Junior Achievement of East Central Ohio; Marketing Volunteer, Stark Parks & Friends of Stark Parks; Annual Participant, March for Babies

Twitter Handle: @KatieTolin

LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/katietolin/


What are your thoughts on outsourcing marketing efforts?

There is definitely a role for outsourced marketing efforts in all firms, although usage may depend on firm size, goals, and resources as well as the skillset of the marketing staff. We probably all outsource website development because it is outside our abilities. If you are not a solid writer, do not know how to optimize web copy, or are struggling to get your pipeline up and running, you should not hesitate to bring in help as needed. There are a variety of skills required to drive the marketing function. Know what you are good at and get help in the areas where you are not as strong. You owe that to your firm. Now, getting the buy-in to do that is another issue altogether.


What is your proudest career accomplishment?

Wow, when I think about it, there are many. While my smartest career move was to leave legal marketing for accounting marketing, I think my proudest accomplishments are:


  • The day I gave my two-week notice at BDO USA, LLP and then completed paperwork that night to start my own business. I think that also is the scariest thing I have ever done.


  • Being inducted into the AAM Hall of Fame. I always strive to do what is best for my employer, team, profession, and those who seek my advice. It was shocking to receive recognition for simply doing the right thing.


  • When I left Rea & Associates, Inc. and looked back at the cultural transition that I had helped create over a decade and looked at Becca Davis who was taking over the reins. I was proud that she earned that role, and if I played any part in helping her develop into a top-notch marketer and leader, that was just icing on the cake.

What have you learned the hard way?

When you do not know what to do, seek help immediately. I like to see the best in people and do whatever I can to make them successful. However, there are times when people turn negative about their job, a project, or another person, and you are unable to change that. If you do not act quickly, the morale of an entire team can disintegrate. Fixing the problem then becomes more complicated than it needed to be had you nipped it in the bud from the start.


What is a ‘must know’ for new accounting marketers?

Not only do you have to stay abreast of marketing concepts, you have to understand the entire accounting industry. Spend time each day or week reading the same things your partners read. Yes, you need to understand what impact or opportunity a new regulation can present and why succession is impacting our industry. Do not count on an accountant to share this information with you. While they may read about it, they will not look at it with your same perspective and consider how it could affect market strategy.


What are your special skills or what is something people may know about you?

I have to laugh when I am called the data person. I guess it is because I embraced data-driven marketing before it was all the rage, and I openly share how it should be used in strategic marketing.


What is the biggest benefit you receive from your AAM membership or what affect has AAM had on your career?

I would not be where I am today without AAM. From practical advice to best practices and new ideas, I have learned so much from my fellow AAMers that I have put into use. If you are willing to get involved, network, and ask questions, you will find answers for virtually any question or problem you have.


An added benefit is the friendships I have built. During both happy and sad times in my life, my AAM friends have reached out via emails, texts, and phone calls, and they have sent cards and gifts. I do the same because I truly care about them as people. AAM is full of amazing people, and I am proud to call so many of them friends.


Share one marketing tip.

Understand that marketing today is more scientific than ever before. Marketing technology and the data it produces come together to paint a better picture of your target buyers and how to best reach them. You still need to be creative, but building your technological knowledge and analytical skills are imperative to future success. As marketers, we need to adapt to remain relevant.


What do you feel is the biggest issue facing accounting marketers today?

From a marketing perspective, it is how technology is changing everything we do. From a practice perspective, it is educating partners on this change and getting the support and dollars to make the shift. Too many marketers are still being relegated to party planners and trinket keepers when marketing is a strategic business function. This makes it harder for them to advocate for radical new ideas.

What would you be doing if you had not become a marketer?

If I had not become a marketer, I would be in politics and government. My master’s degree is in political communications, and my dream was to give daily press updates from the White House. I was searching for a job on The Hill while also preparing for the Foreign Service Officer Test when I took my first marketing position instead.


What is the biggest project that you are working on right now?

The biggest project I am currently working on is analyzing the revenue data of a firm and comparing it to competitive data and market potential to develop a three-year growth strategy that can be supported by a firmwide marketing plan and individual niche plans. I am helping set (or maybe just solidifying) and document a strategy that will lead to measureable growth.


If you had an unlimited budget, what is one thing you would implement immediately?

I would implement a fully integrated marketing technology stack that includes a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, marketing automation, data visualization, and a business intelligence tool, to name a few. This is the future of marketing, but it requires a BIG investment.


What books have you read recently that you feel would be beneficial to other AAM members?

Last year, I reread Big Data Marketing by Lisa Arthur. She explains how to leverage data in marketing efforts, which we all need to understand. She also talks about the problems that arise when there is too much data and that it may not even include the right data from which to draw insights. In addition, a must read for all marketers is Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. In the first chapter alone, you quickly grasp why innovation is imperative to business today. We all need to be searching for our own blue ocean in this mature, crowded, and competitive accounting industry.