White Paper: Professional Services Marketing is Dead; Long Live Professional Services Marketing

Part 3: Redefining the Role of Marketing in a Professional Services Firm

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A ‘Consultant’ to the Partner/Fee-earner Group

It’s time to redefine the role of marketing in a professional services firm:

1. To ensure marketing teams work on those activities that really add value to the firm and

2. To challenge the attitudes of those Partners who may see marketing people just as operational functionaries.

As we have previously outlined, the success of professional services firms relies on the ability of technical specialists to both create new and nurture existing client relationships and then leverage these relationships in order to apply their specialist knowledge.

It should follow that the objective for marketing at its highest level is to carry out activities that support technical specialists (fee-earners) in these endeavours.

We are not suggesting that ‘traditional’ marketing toolkit activities outlined previously should be dropped entirely as there is still an important role for them to play in building and strengthening the firm’s brand, its reputation for expertise and its visibility in the marketplace.

We would argue, however, that these ‘traditional’ marketing tactics should be applied by marketing executives/assistants/co-ordinators under the guidance of more senior marketing colleagues.

Once marketing manager level is reached, the role of marketing needs to be re-defined because the activities that will truly increase the success of the firm are those that help individual Partners and fee-earners to create new and strengthen existing client relationships.

It is still true in professional services that clients like to ‘try before they buy’ and meet the actual person (or team) who will be delivering the service. As such, it is unlikely that marketing individuals will get to a position where they undertake client[1] meetings themselves.

The fact that marketing individuals are not usually present at client meetings does not mean they cannot play a crucial role in helping the partner in advance of key client meetings and in developing a strategic approach to a Partner’s account management.

In effect, a marketing manager in a professional services firm can assume the role of a coach/consultant to Partners. The marketing/Partner relationship should mirror the Partner/client relationship.

The new roles of Professional Services Marketers

Under this new marketing/partner relationship we would expect to see marketing teams:

– Offering strategic advice based on a deep understanding of the client’s context, objectives, relevant stakeholders and marketplace

Proactively offering opportunities to the partner that he could introduce to the client – “Here’s what you (the partner) need to know about changes to the industry/client’s situation” – rather than reactive – “What can I do to help you with this client?”

Generating unique points of view and thought-leadership that fee-earners could deliver to the client. Clients are more inclined to trust and buy from people who have educated them

Coaching partners before critical client conversations and rehearsing client presentations

Building their status and credibility by challenging partners on their approaches and offering alternative strategies

Communicating their ideas with clarity and impact – and coaching Partners in the same

Effectively managing difficult conversations with more senior partners – particularly if their traditional approach is being challenged

Helping partners to turn complex concepts into easy to understand language for the client

Suggesting additional expertise/services from within the firm which the partner could introduce to add value to the client

Providing competitor intelligence to help the partner differentiate their approach

Critically reflecting with partners on how they could improve their performances and success rates at recent client meetings

Helping partners illustrate relevant expertise in the specific client context

Knowing how and why clients buy their firm’s services and clearly understanding what clients value in their relationships with their professional advisers

[1] Please note where we say ‘client’ this can also be replaced by ‘prospect’

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