Name: Ronelle Sellers, CMD
Title: Director of Marketing
Years of Experience: 25 total (18 in accounting marketing)
College Name & Degree: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Bachelor of Science degree with a focus in Marketing
Firm Name: HHM CPAs
Firm City & State: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professional Memberships: Association for Accounting Marketing’ Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute
As a director of marketing for an accounting firm, what made you want to venture out and start your own marketing firm, Southside Creative Group?
I chaired the ‘Small Business of the Year Awards’ for five years and spent a great deal of time with small business owners. Many of them needed guidance in marketing, others had great ideas but little time to implement them. I wanted to help by offering my time as a marketing resource. Initially, I thought it was a way to have billable time. The more I discussed it with our partners, we decided to spin off an affiliate company so I could target clients that HHM might not reach.
What creative design trends and aspects of marketing do you and your team stay current on?
Trends include typography, website design – UI/UX (user interface and user experience), branding, social media, digital marketing, and how brands are using video to tell compelling stories.
What would you say are some design challenges facing accounting marketers?
Two of the biggest challenges are brand consistency and concepting. I can’t say enough about brand consistency. It is crucial to form a unique brand voice. Many firms are still using stock photography and templates for their website or brochures. We firmly believe in custom photography, custom content, and great design. As for concepting, for any project, there needs to be a strong concept, headline, and body copy.
What kind of questions do you and your team ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost importance?
We ask lots of questions in each kick-off meeting such as: what the client is trying to accomplish? what the goals are for the project? We identify the target audience, determine who their competitors are, and what they are doing, what logos/brochures the client thinks looks good or has great information, and what they like about each piece specifically. The most important thing of everything we ask is what the client wants to accomplish with the collateral we are creating.
How do you balance managing Southside Creative and HHM?
Most days it’s like I’m doing a tightrope walk and I’m usually dangling off one side or the other! I have a great creative team and they produce work quickly. I’ve found my time spent between HHM and SCG fluctuates a great deal. Some months the accounting firm partners are extra patient because I’m in the middle of a huge project for a client (they are always happy about billable hours!) Other months I don’t feel the Southside clients are getting enough of my attention. After 10 years of juggling both, I typically know what months are going to require more of my time for HHM (except when we add a new office and then things are really out of sync for a few weeks.) We just hired an experienced and talented marketing director, Laurie Holt, for HHM’s Memphis office and brought on a couple of key people on the Southside Creative team, so I am seeing a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe the next time you ask I’ll finally be able to say I am balancing well on that tightrope!
Which marketing and creative design publications do you follow and how do they influence your work?
Our team reads Communication Arts, Branding Packaging & Opinion, Dribble, tons of design blogs, and Instagram. Instagram is a huge source of inspiration for many of us and has become a valid, visual platform. For accounting marketing, I read the AAM Newsletter, Target Marketing, Marketing Profs, blogs/articles by Hinge Marketing and Gary Vaynerchuk.
How it influences our work: I think for creatives inspiration is crucial and all of these publications are great resources.
What are your special skills or what is something people may not know about you?
I am at networking events every chance I get and very involved in our community. I love connecting people and building relationships. I love to take photos everywhere I go, client offices, events, ballgames, and then post them on social media. It helps me connect with people and promote the businesses our HHM family of companies supports. It helps us demonstrate we personally invest in our clients and local business. Of all the services Southside Creative offers, focus groups are my favorite. It is such a wonderful way to determine a direction by listening to current and past customers, as well as those who thought about using our client’s services but didn’t.
Something people might not know – I did ‘Dancing with the Chattanooga Stars’ to raise money for the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. I loved it so much, I still take weekly ballroom dance lessons, it helps keep me balanced.
What is your proudest career accomplishment?
Southside Creative is celebrating our 10th anniversary and we recently renovated and moved into a space that our art directors completely designed. I was also recently named Chair of the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, an organization of 700+ women.
What is the biggest project you are working on right now?
We recently started two large projects. We are designing the interior space of a 100-year-old company, storytelling its rich history visually. We are also rebranding a local college, followed by a complete website overhaul (including custom photography and video), advertising campaign (radio, print and billboards), and digital campaign.
If you had an unlimited budget, what is one thing you would implement immediately?
I would install a CRM / inbound marketing software with all the bells and whistles in addition to a project management software.