After being thoroughly drenched no less than 3 times before I had even started my day in the office yesterday, I was delighted to be able to dry out over the PSMG lunch in the lovely surroundings of our hosts Serle Court in Lincolns Inn Fields and listen to a thoroughly engaging and free-flowing presentation by Claire Farrelly and Ilka Clune of law firm Forsters and IP firm Venner Shippley respectively.
A number of topics were covered with some very handy hints and tips for the attendees but the overarching theme that all strands of the conversation seemed to gravitate back to was Brexit. Actually no it wasn't...... Refreshingly the topic wasn't murmured once and it was the two key themes below that dominated proceedings:
1. Navigating internal culture and structure
2. Covering the full marketing mix with limited resources
As a supplier and an outsider to the mainly BD and Marketing job functions that were present, it was very interesting to hear how different attendees had to navigate the choppy seas that come with the traditional partnership structure in professional services firms. Of course, if you put it in simple terms, if you have 50 partners within the firm then essentially you have 50 bosses to report to, catch up with, build relationships and trust with and importantly convince when you want to invest some marketing spend. There are also 50 different opinions and it is a wonder when it is framed in this way, that anything gets signed off and agreed! It got me thinking that professional services firms should look to mirror other structures where the C-suite all have decision making powers within the sphere of their expertise. Some law firms are cottoning on and have placed their heads of marketing on the board or have granted them the status of non-practicing partners.
The conversation around managing resource and what is expected of the Marketing and BD function stimulated some great debate and ultimately concluded with the fact that it is almost impossible to cover all bases without some outside help. Firms that have had the best success with juggling PR, SEO, digital marketing, social media, events, business development, branding and re-branding, CRM implementation and website builds have dealt with this huge remit by hiring specialists in certain fields. Others have outsourced various elements and the general consensus was that a good solution was to get a mix of both. The following article by Hinge Marketing actually explains this phenomenon of outsourcing really well in professional services and it makes absolute sense especially where there might be budget restrictions but also where the expertise just aren't available within the team- not many people know how to rebuild their website or run a data migration project for instance.
It did lead the conversation on to topics like flexible working, mental health and resilience which of course are highly important whatever your job function or title. and my colleague Freddy recently wrote a great post covering this here. However, being exposed to the remit of marketing teams in professional service companies in this way, made me conclude that these topics have never been more important and will ultimately help to drive change in a very traditional industry. Selfishly, it was also a great help in understanding the often complex and sometimes drawn out buying processes of the firms I am selling to and most importantly to keep adding value and be patient!
Outsourced marketing is an important way that professional services firms today keep up with the pace of change in the marketplace. While some firms use it to address distinct, short-term needs, others turn to outside marketing firms to deliver the sophistication, power and performance they could never attain with in-house resources alone.