Although Marketing and Business Development functions have begun to take a more prominent role in the strategy of professional services firms, there is still a very real need to demonstrate the value of these vital functions to the wider firm.
It is for this very reason that we looked forward to the session on communicating the value of Marketing and Business Development at last week's Marketing Leadership Summit, hosted by the lawyer.
Here are my key takeaways from the session moderated by Michelle Holford of Slaughter and May and featuring panellists:
- Jon Brewer, Chief Marketing Officer, Orrick
- Charles Thornhill, co-Chief Marketing Officer, Lewis Silkin
- Julie Stott, Chief Marketing Officer, Travers Smith
It's important to understand who you are delivering value to
As with any marketing effort, it's important to understand your audience. Charles made the point that marketing is employed by the business, and while partners are critical, the primary responsibility of marketing is to the firm as a whole.
Jon followed on from Charles, noting that marketing and BD teams are an extension of practice, industry and client teams, being able to compartmentalize your value and show these teams as a whole the contributions of marketing is important.
It was also mentioned multiple times that getting to know the different stakeholders as people and understanding how marketing impacts their roles is a fundamental part of demonstrating value as a marketer.
Value is built up over time
Again, as with any marketing effort, shaping opinions is not something that happens overnight, with a single report or even with one campaign. Julie mentioned that the foundation for people to recognise the value of marketing must be built over time in other business functions across the board.
Charles put forward the metaphor of a seed that needs to grow. Being able to plant multiple seeds to nurture is important as any one single effort or idea will be met with opposition, it is important to have alternatives.
Understand and leverage client needs
Jon Brewer made the important point that marketing strategy is built around the client. Their voice drives the strategy. Market-facing teams are relatively new for firms but Jon's opinion was that they can drive deeper relationships and unlock new opportunities for the firm.
Ultimately, Jon said, firms should aim to be the business advisors for their clients. That takes a deep and informed understanding of the client's industry.
Client listening is often the main way for marketers to gain that understanding. Julie Stott made the point that taking on client feedback actually involves following up on the suggestions from clients, closing the loop created in the feedback session.
Delivering value through projects
A great way to make an impression on your firm is to execute a project that delivers clear results and business benefit. Julie made the point that while not essential a "trophy project" can be something engaging rather than arduous and can help to make the value of marketing clear if the project can add value.
Acting as a part of the business
Ultimately the business leadership need to understand what the marketing team is doing to contribute to the firm. Julie made the interesting point that being interested in the actual workings of the business is essential to this, there is a two way understanding that marketers must have to bring value.
Charles' opinion was that marketing is the guardian of the business strategy as much as a key part of its implementation. To be effective in the role marketers need to understand the business strategy and continually return to it on an ongoing basis.
Finally, Jon left us thinking about how marketing directors / managers can be brought into the picture of what the firm is doing by joining that 'seat at the table', adding transparency to marketing operations and keeping the overall business plan front of mind always.