I had the pleasure of attending my first ever PM Forum event on Wednesday evening set in the grandiose Clyde & Co Offices near Aldgate. 

The first thing I noticed was that very few attendees raised their hands when asked the question 'is 2019 going to be better than 2018 for you and your company'.  I even got a whisper of admiration from a senior business development director of a law firm at my raised hand 'that's great that you are a glass half full type of guy'.  I put it down to naivety on my part at first but it turned out that caution was the reason behind the lack of optimism.

The evening was built around the findings of Meridian West's 'Marketing Leaders Benchmarking Report' with panellists Jess Gowar (BDO & soon to be Moore Stephens), Stephen Arnold (Clyde & Co) and Virginia Cook (Coffin Mew), wrapping their insights and thoughts around the most interesting stats.  

In brief, these are the 10 things we learnt from the research:

1/ Growth is the top priority for the majority of Professional Services firms for 2019 and this will come mainly from (in this order) Technology, new hires, the offering of new services, new firm-wide strategy and expansion to new markets

2/ The top priorities specifically for Marketing and BD functions were as follows: Improving client experience, increasing skills training for fee earners, improving social and digital presence, improving thought leadership.

3/ Events and Sponsorship are less of a priority with cuts predicted in both.  Whereas website makeovers and online marketing will receive an increase in funds.

4/ Marketing Budgets are up on average 2.4% in 2019 

5/ 58% of respondents  agreed that their job and unit function is understood

6/ 73% of respondents feel that they have sufficient authority within their firm

7/ 58% of respondents have regular direct interaction with existing clients

8/ Only 28% of respondents agreed that it was easy to demonstrate ROI against spend

9/ Recruitment is a huge problem with only 21% suggesting that recruitment for the right talent was easy.

10/ The main skills gap that needs addressing is client listening

Some interesting stuff right?  Of course, Brexit was mentioned but refreshingly not dwelt upon.  

The common point that was stressed again and again by the panel, was the fact that the main focus is on growing existing accounts and that everyone's glass should be half full because there were so many opportunities to do it.  

We have seen this time and time again with our clients.  Once they start becoming the go-to trusted adviser and can add real insight and value, then the relationship and ultimately the revenue attached starts to take off for both parties.

Whatever 2019 brings, it should be remembered that the professional services industry is pretty robust and who doesn't need advice on how Brexit will affect them?