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| 11 minutes read

CMO Series EP143 - Nick Andrews of Knight Frank on The Changing Nature of Building Trust in Professional Services Marketing

In this episode of the CMO Series podcast, we explore the evolving dynamics of client relationships within professional services. Join us as Cam Dobinson chats with Nick Andrews, Partner and Head of UK Commercial Marketing at Knight Frank, about the profound changes in relationship-building strategies post-COVID.

Nick shares his insights on the importance of chemistry and trust, the impact of hybrid working, and how firms can effectively build and maintain strong client relationships in the modern era. He also discusses the role of marketing in fostering trust and brand engagement, and the importance of focusing on strategies that make a significant impact.

Discover practical advice on measuring relationship strength, the significance of client feedback, and the critical need for curiosity and focus in marketing efforts. Tune in for an engaging conversation packed with valuable takeaways for professional service marketers.



Cam: While firms look more to their marketing teams to drive results, a shift is happening in how service providers and their clients are building and maintaining their relationships. We're lucky today to be joined by Nick Andrews, Partner and Head of UK Commercial Marketing at Knight Frank, to discuss the shift in how firms can build trust with their clients and prospective clients.

Charlie: The CMO Series Podcast is brought to you by Passle. Passle makes thought leadership simple, scalable and effective, so professional services firms can stay front of mind with their clients and prospects when it matters most. Find out more and request a demo at Now back to the podcast.

Cam: Nick, welcome to the Passle CMO Series Podcast. 

Nick: Thanks, Cam. Pleasure to be here. 

Cam: Excellent. We'll dive straight into it, Nick. First off, how do you see the nature of the relationship building and changing in and why is that important for professional services marketeers to keep on top of?

Nick: So the nature of relationship businesses has shifted, possibly as a result of COVID, but that's likely an accelerating factor rather than a complete about-turn. In the past, relationships were built socially down the pub. That work culture has dropped off and that's really seen a big drop off in the last four or so years. But that was how you built long-term trusted relationships and I'm really interested in how we start to look at the future of relationship building in professional services given we don't have those mechanisms of the past or they're certainly changed in the way that the dynamics play out.

Cam: And diving into that a little bit when you say relationship building what are you meaning there and how does that present in the firm?

Nick: So I see it manifesting at, sort of, two or three different levels, but at the heart of it, it's chemistry and trust, right? It's answering those questions, do I or can I get on with this person? And do I trust them to do a good job, make me look good and deliver for me? So that chemistry and trust that this person will deliver. Now, this can naturally build over the course of a professional relationship when you work with your client contacts, you deliver to them time and time again, but it's supercharged when there's the opportunity to get together more informally and where people start to connect build interests and transcend the professional, and that creates you know effectively shared stories, shared experiences, anecdotes and it blurs the boundaries between the personal and the professional, and that's a really powerful thing. Because when people feel they get on a personal level they're much more likely to give opportunity at a professional level. You know if you if you ever think about some opening statement in the past this was driven by much more regular social events with clients so we'd run you know drinks, we'd run evening receptions, we'd go and do hospitality, there'd be all of these opportunities to to network and create these shared experiences, but more recently that model's been really challenged by hybrid working and this inflection to more time spent balancing work and personal so fewer of those nights out after work and more flexible working patterns has really changed very very quickly the way that you know future leaders in our professional services organizations can actually build those relationships and create that level of sort of I guess closeness that our senior leaders enjoy now.

Cam: Yeah we hear a lot of people sort of talking about meeting the client where they want to be met and where previously, as you mentioned, they might have been at the pub or the golf course with the shift in the sort of work-life balance. It's interesting to see how that's going to be replicated. And how has that changed in the way relationships are built? How do you think that's been felt at a macro level within the firm? And how can others diagnose whether the firm has an issue with this?

Nick: So I'll sort of answer that in two parts. I think, first of all, there's been a realisation that building relationships is harder. And I think that generally within this organisation has been something that is recognised and there's a recognition we need to do something about it. And that particularly sits at the more junior end of the spectrum. And there's a whole host of reasons for it, right, which is, you know, we've had cuts in entertainment budgets, markets have been challenging, we've had hybrid and homeworking patterns come in, you know, sort of brute force in the last four years, we've had this sort of perception of resetting work and personal boundaries. And actually, you know, the sort of get in early, leave late, play hard, work hard culture has definitely shifted for some of those more junior people in our firms. And then there's also the sensitivity around, you know, curation of their own social media presence and channels and not wanting to, you know, wanted to really curate their image out there and, you know, going out and doing some of these things that could be captured and shared. There's a bit of a reticence to that as well. And then when we look at the current leaders in our business, you know, those who are close to leadership, they've got some brilliant relationships, they've got some really strong relationships across a breadth of clients, and clients who, when we go into the feedback loop, clients who regularly reference these people as the reasons they want to continue to do business with us, or the reasons they do business with us, they've got strong relationships and they're trusted. But then we see a bit of a gap, and that's at that junior to mid-level, where the next generation of leaders will be coming from, and the opportunities for them to build those relationships beyond that purely business transactional professional feels quite limited. And that's the segment we're needing or we're looking to address to build those strong relationships in the future. What's really interesting, actually, Cam, is we've just released, every year we release a publication called The Wealth Report. And this year, we've just revealed that over the next 20 years, in the US alone, around $90 trillion of wealth is going to change hands from the older generations into younger generations. And that's the biggest wealth transfer to ever happen. And that's really going to impact the leaders of the future and how they work with their advisors, because, are they going to be loyal to the advisors that their parents and that their seniors are loyal to? Or are they going to be thinking about how they invest and how they use their money in the right way? And I think that's something which is at the back of our minds in terms of building that salience and building that brand engagement for the long term, for the future. And, you know, it's certainly sort of very, very much front of mind, particularly when that stat comes to light. So that's, I guess, the first part. The second part, you said, how are you looking to diagnose this? And for us, this is about we're looking at client feedback. We're not just looking at feedback from the most senior people within our clients. But we're looking at feedback from those across our organisation or their organisations and looking at those indicators of relationship strength, chemistry, versus those more prosaic measures of, say, service delivery, which are either missing or you can pick up on. So we're starting to be able to unpick and understand where maybe some of the gaps are. And I think that's the diagnosis bit. Where are the gaps? And then look at the strategies to kind of address them. 

Cam: And we've already sort of discussed the importance of building relationships and staying front of mind for professional service marketing teams. How does the shift in how firms can build trust impact the responsibilities and the position of marketing within the firm? 

Nick: So I think it's it's absolutely paramount as sort of you know marketing communications and marketing professional professionals, that our brand is doing the hard work for you. It needs to be working as hard as it possibly can and building salience when we need to be thinking about how we close that gap between the experience our clients get when they're in the room and they're working with us when they're working with our specialists and then how they're experiencing the organization when we're not in the room you know across owned channels and channels paid and the shared channels, so you know, that experience gap I think the more we can close that the better we're going to get to effectively externalizing our culture and giving that experience that one-to-one experience but in a one-to-many kind of context.  And then it's making sure that when we show up and we're thinking sort of from a Knight Frank context it's when we show up we make it count, you know, it's executed brilliantly and excites and delights our clients and it gives our people the best possible platform to manifest that brand promise. I'll give you a really good example of that actually, recently you know we've run our central London breakfast. For the last 25 years so every year covid year we went virtual but but pretty much every other year we've run it in person and that attracts the most senior people in the biggest investors and developers in London real estate and in doing that we've created this device where we're an industry catalyst for peer networking client networking and we position ourselves in the centre of that and I think that's where we need to be thinking about how we can be, catalysts and curators of brilliant experience and communities that that bring people together and you sort of insert yourself into that equation. 

Cam: Yeah, that's a great example there. And you mentioned it's paramount that the brand is working for you when you're not in the room. Are there any other tactics you have seen becoming more successful that firms could be considering?

Nick: It's a great question. I mean, I think there is a broad understanding that funnel marketing at an awareness level, down to consideration, down to preference, is the core toolkit of our trade. But actually, I think it's how we genuinely measure how people roll through that unaware to aware, aware to consider, consider to choose phase. And, you know, we definitely don't have the answers, but I think making sure that you have measurable KPIs and, you know, identify those kind of measures of success as you move people through that funnel. Whether it be clients you work with versus clients you don't yet work with versus clients that look like the clients you work with that you just want to have a perception on. And I think the research piece is often overlooked in professional services but having that regular dip into your market to understand what the perceptions are of your organization against your brand pillars I think is it is fundamental and again probably not done enough in professional services and I know we're we're very nascent with what we're doing at Knight Frank as well.

Cam: Now time for some quick fire questions, Nick, first one being what are you reading to or listening to at the moment?

Nick: So I'm a long time subscriber to Wired magazine and that's a real staple for me it's sort of you know tech future startups all of that sort of stuff but but I've also just finished Dave Trott's One Plus One Equals Three which is essentially a book of stories that demonstrate the power of being curious and seeking out those things that don't directly sit within your sphere of influence because then you're in this unique position to take those different and separate inputs and combine them into something kind of new exciting and look at things in different ways. 

Cam: Perfect, just noting down One Plus One Equals Three what is one thing that you couldn't live without in your working life?

Nick: It's got to be my Lady Gaga wireless team's earpiece,  it's practical and makes me feel like a rock star. 

Cam: And are there any habits that you think helped you in particularly in your career? 

Nick: I think it's gotta be curiosity. Being really, really interested in how things work, specifically outside my areas of influence. So what are the levers that make the business I'm working in work? What are the cycles that are driving our client-facing teams? What perceptions do friends, family, peers have about business? So it's curiosity. 

Cam: I'm hoping you're going to tell me it's listening to Lady Gaga, but what's your favorite way to unwind? 

Nick: It's my second favourite way. No, favourite way, I like to create a bit of magic in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand. Fun fact, I actually trained in France as a chef in my early career, so there's a bit of classic cooking in my house. 

Cam: Amazing. What's your go-to dish?

Nick: Do you know what? I go classic. It's a lamb Barnsley chop, so that double chop that goes through the lamb and it is sweet, it's succulent, cooked with classic herbs, bit of rosemary, bit of salt, bit of pepper, can't go wrong. 

Cam: It sounds incredible. Nick, there's been loads of great takeaways and bits of advice here. If you had one piece of advice, and I was just scribbling some of those down, whether it's being curious or making sure your brand is working for you when you're not in the room and if you had one key bit of advice for marketers looking to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to building strong client relationships what would that one piece of advice be?

Nick:  I think, at a really simplistic level it's about focus, you know, I think it was Sun Tzu in his Art of War that said was it tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat, and I think if you if you take that as you know in a business context actually having too many things that you're doing without really knowing why you're doing them is is the distraction that means you're not going to deliver anything really really well and actually the art of strategy is choosing as much what you don't do as what you do, so I would say be really focused in on the things that are going to make the biggest difference really commit to them don't be distracted, we know in partnership environments, you know, lots of different conflicting challenges come in and requests come in, but actually really sticking to that kind of North star, that central promise will really help you get a long way down the road in this.

Cam: Have a key focus and stay curious. That sounds like a good place to end it. Nick, that was a really insightful and thank you so much for featuring on the podcast.

Nick: Cam, most welcome. Absolute pleasure. 

Cam: Super. Thanks, Nick. 



e2e, marketing, professional services, cmoseries, passlepod