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Title: Barriers to marketing within professional service firms : a study of the understanding and application of marketing within accountancy and law firms
Author: Cohen, Geraldine T.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2725 2988
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2006
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We live in a world of rapid change. Nowadays, there are virtually no organisations that haven’t been affected in one form or another by changes in their environment. The professions, which have for centuries been sheltered against change, are under increasing and complex environmental pressures and as a consequence are experiencing considerable change and uncertainty. The overall pressures have been increased competition, more demanding and sophisticated clients, succession issues, deregulation, technological advancement and globalisation. These have acted upon sectors, which are encumbered with conflicts of interests caused by the nature of the partnership organisational structure and a compromised self-regulation based on the traditional professional culture. Marketing has an important role to play as the organisation’s interface with the environment. It is a “boundary-spanning organisational function through its constant interface with the external environment at large and with customers, competitors and channel members in particular” (Varadarajan, 1992, p.340), as well as with the various groups within the organisation. The key role attributed to the marketing function is as a tool designed to maximise efficiency. Marketing has been very reluctantly adopted as a management tool by the professions. This thesis addresses the barriers to acceptance and implementation of marketing within professional service firms, given the intensity and complexity of environmental pressures they have been subjected. The research has focused on two of the traditional liberal professions, accountancy and law, through the study of the way marketing is perceived, understood and practiced within the organisation of seven accountancy and seven law firms. A theoretical model has been developed and refined providing the explanation for the barriers to marketing within the professional service organisation. The findings based on analysis of the professionals’ perceptions have demonstrated that these barriers can be seen as a result of an organisational conflict between the need for response to contingency pressures and the internal and external institutional isomorphic pressures of maintaining professional legitimacy with the implications of forfeiting organisational efficiency. The findings indicate that change within the professional organisation only takes place if subjected to contingency pressures and, in general, it is slowed down due to the institutional barriers of the professional partnership. The study has revealed that professionals are torn between the pressures of change and the need for respectability and maintenance of the status quo, which is evidence of the conflicting contingency and institutional pressures at play. The Marketing Champion has been proven to be a powerful driver for change in terms of initiating and leading the process. The review of perceptions of the concept and role of marketing within professional service firms has revealed generational differences, misconceptions and outright conflict leading to resistance in its introduction and application, although professionals have individually practiced a wide variety of marketing activities in their pursuit of gaining and maintaining clients. There has been conspicuous resistance to the acceptance of marketing as a management tool across the professional organisation. The main barriers to implementation have been identified as the professional partnership structure and the professional culture. Understanding on how marketing has being practiced within the professional organisation researched has been considered important in establishing the nature of the response to contingency and institutional forces. The research has been focused on the level of importance given to marketing as a strategic tool as opposed to the traditional tactical, communications mainly tool. The research has again shown that those firms who had a Marketing Champion, used marketing in a far more strategic manner.
Supervisor: Sims, D. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Humanities ; Psychology and social sciences ; Management ; Administration ; Business studies ; Internal and EU commerce ; Domestic marketing ; Consumer affairs