Meet a Member

Julie Barnes


Name: Julie Barnes

Title: Director of Marketing

Years of Experience: 27 years with Smith & Howard, 21 of those in marketing

College Name: Georgia State University

Firm Name: Smith & Howard

Firm City & State: Atlanta, GA

Firm Size: 130 employees

Email Address:

Professional Memberships: AAM

LinkedIn Profile:

What strategies do you use to get a ‘seat at the table’ when launching new services?
Getting a seat at the table starts long before a new service is launched. It hinges on developing internal relationships and understanding the services already offered and the market your firm serves. In my experience, having worked well and successfully with practice leaders in their areas, bringing effective strategies to marketing existing services has gone a long way toward demonstrating my capabilities when a new service is being considered. If you have a good relationship with the leaders involved, understand the target market, the goals of the firm and the goals for a new service, it is more likely, and actually a natural outcome, that you can be part of that “table” conversation.

What is the structure of your marketing department?
I lead as the Director of Marketing and have three marketing professionals on the team: a senior events coordinator, senior communications coordinator and a business writer – our newest addition.

What have you learned the hard way?
My first response was “all of it!” because looking back, it does seem that way. I started with no direct marketing experience and our firm did not have a full-time marketing professional, so we learned so much of it together over the years. Having said that, the most important thing I think I learned the hard way was that I don’t have to know everything. I spent years stumbling through some initiatives because I thought I needed to know all the answers. Being surrounded by incredibly smart, talented people throughout our firm – marketing, business development, all service lines and our leaders – brings a wealth of knowledge and perspective that I could never have alone. I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and gained faster and solid support for future projects, if I had leaned on people who knew more than me. My advice would be to make smart, strategic hires for your team; talent that is smarter than you.

What is a “must know” for new accounting marketers?
New accounting marketers must know that no matter how deep your skills or expertise may be, strong relationships with key leaders of your firm are one of the keys to success, whether it be with marketing initiatives, strategic decisions or your career path. Remember that besides being accountants, they – as firm leaders/executives – are business owners. The insights that come from that part of their lives are as important as the accounting knowledge.

What are your special skills or what is something people may not know about you?
I am a hobby photographer and really enjoy taking candid photos of people. I like to catch them in unguarded moments and capture something about them that their friends and family will recognize. In 2019, I was accepted into a juried photography exhibition in Atlanta and received two honorable mentions. It was a hobby highlight for me and made even better by several people from my firm attending opening night with my family and me.

What is the biggest benefit you receive from your AAM membership or what affect has AAM had on your career?
My first AAM conference was at Redondo Beach, CA – I think in 1999. It was the start of many years of giving and receiving advice and ideas. AAM is a great place to learn from others who are in your shoes or have been in your shoes and lived to tell the tale. The organization does a great job of listening to its membership and providing knowledge sharing, tools and resources for all marketing professionals. There are relationships that started in my first year in AAM that continue to this day.

Share one marketing tip.
I’m going to share a tip that doesn’t have anything to do with marketing but has everything to do with leading. It came from one of our partners in a conversation about my career years ago. He said, “Always be working yourself out of a job.” Once I understood what he meant, it changed the trajectory of my career. Simply put, continuously teach, coach and mentor others who can take on the work that you are doing now. When you do this, you’re accomplishing two things: 1) You are raising the next generation of “you” – future leaders. How? By teaching them to do what you do, giving them the freedom to learn earlier and faster than they would if they had to wait until you were promoted or moved on, all while being around to guide and coach them. In all likelihood, you’re also probably creating better staff retention – people who are challenged and allowed to grow tend to stay longer. 2) You are freeing yourself up for bigger challenges and exciting growth opportunities at your firm. By leveraging your work to others, you create capacity for more strategic, valuable contributions (remember that “seat at the table” in question 1?). A side benefit of this approach is the very rich rewards of helping people grow in their careers in ways you may have never experienced otherwise. You will truly make a lasting difference.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing accounting marketers today?
Before COVID, I would have said keeping up with rapid changes in digital from a marketing perspective. That’s still a huge challenge, but with the impact of COVID, I think helping our firms’ market effectively in a very different environment with no end in sight, is today’s biggest issue.

What would you be doing if you had not become a marketer?
Roaming from city to city photographing people and historic architecture.

What is the biggest project you are working on right now?
Our firms are going through a complete rebrand as part of our very ambitious 10-year plan. We are all excited!

If you had an unlimited budget, what is one thing you would implement immediately?
If I had an unlimited budget, I would acquire my favorite video agency and implement an exciting, aggressive video strategy for our firm while offering video services to clients as well.

What books have you read recently that you feel would be beneficial to other AAM members?
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek and Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Julie Barnes was interviewed by fellow AAM Minute Committee member, Rachel Pompeani.

About Rachel Pompeani
Rachel Pompeani resides in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Ohio University with a communications degree and has been practicing marketing for over 10 years. She has experience with both B2C and B2B marketing and has worked in a variety of industries. Rachel is currently the Marketing Manager at Barnes Wendling CPAs, a regional firm with three offices, and has been in this role for three years. She has an array of responsibilities at Barnes Wendling CPAs, including digital marketing, website management, content creation, email communication, market research, and more. When Rachel is not working, she is busy being a mom to her 2 daughters Madison (3) and Mackenzie (8 months).