Maximize Your Marketing and Business Development Impact: Making the Most of Precious Non-billable Hours

For five years I worked very closely with a managing partner who would regularly quote John Wannamaker’s famous line, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”  This partner shared these words not only in reference to the firm’s marketing budget but also out of frustration over the true impact of marketing done during non-billable hours. Many firms have ongoing discussions about how to make the most of precious, non-billable hours.  Here are a few ideas for maximizing your marketing and business development impact.


Save Your Strongest Time of Day for Marketing and Business Development

This may seem counter-intuitive.  Shouldn’t you save your strongest time of day for client work?  Think of it this way: people with a high level of technical training – athletes, doctors, accountants – typically practice their “skill” at the point when they can perform these tasks by instinct.  It’s the activities that fall outside of their expertise that require more focus and attention.  By completing marketing and business development activities during your strongest time of the day, you are more likely to perform well and accomplish your tasks.

Commit to a Fixed Number of Hours

On average, we recommend partners or managers with significant marketing responsibilities spend about 30 to 50% of their non-billable time on marketing and business development efforts, including lead generation, prospect nurturing, proposal generation, content creation, and niche development.  Based on an estimate of about 520 to 780 non-billable hours, that averages to about 3 to 7 hours per week.  This estimate might be a little high for newer partners or for certain times of the year.  For those just starting out or with less responsibility for marketing, it is reasonable to expect them to spend about 1 to 2 hours per week on marketing.  Practice professionals that have the most success at marketing and business development block a number of hours on their calendar.  They treat these “appointments” with the same importance as client meetings.

Focus Your Time on Service or Industry Niche Marketing

Whether it is marketing toward a firm niche or your own specialized service, you will gain more success through focused, strategic use of your time.  Imagine being able to reduce the number of networking events, articles and prospect calls in order to focus on a strategic, concentrated audience.  It will be easier to say “yes” to strategic marketing efforts and “no” to those that don’t fit this strategy, saving you time and energy and leading to more rewarding growth.


While the number of non-billable hours likely won’t change any time soon, at least now you are more likely to have a greater impact from the time you do spend on marketing and business development.  For more ideas on how to focus and leverage your marketing time, see our other related articles below.

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