Strategy silos – is marketing guilty too? Align, integrate, focus, educate and champion

A short while ago, I travelled to Birmingham for a West Midlands Professional Marketing Forum  meeting to talk about “Towards strategic marketing”. Yesterday, I presented at a professional services conference in Sussex (organised by Consortium  and supported by CIM) and presented on a similar topic. Whereas we often consider our lawyers, accountants and surveyors to work in silos I wondered whether, when it comes to strategy silos – is marketing guilty too?

Without exception, marketing and business development people are always busy getting through torrents of activities such as events, digital marketing initiatives, thought leadership campaigns, PR, web sites, social media, sales and targeting initiatives and pitches and tenders. Not to mention strategic projects such as branding, Client Relationship Management (CRM), Key Account Management (KAM) or Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Client Experience Management (CEM or CX).

It is no wonder that the poor fee-earners sometimes push back and resist pressures on their already busy schedules to engage with yet another new marketing or business development initiative. So here are some thoughts about overcoming marketing silos.

Align with the big picture

Marketers and business development professionals need to step back and take a look at the big picture. We need to move away from tactical day-to-day details and consider the overall objectives and positioning of the firm in its competitive environment. We must think hard about how we can make the most valuable contribution towards the firm’s goals and strategy.

Aligning with the firm’s aims – which are naturally focused on fee income and profits but often include positioning and client satisfaction – makes things more palatable to everyone. So there’s the need to jump into that metaphorical helicopter and look at the big picture – to see where the firm is in its competitive, geographic and external environment. It’s easier to join the dots from a higher and more strategic perspective. And the marketing planning process can guide us

It is from that helicopter perspective that we complete our marketing audit, achieve alignment and develop appropriate strategies

Integrate multiple strategies

As well as being mindful of the firm’s strategy we need to understand that each sector group and practice group or department or location may have its own strategy. We need to help them step out of their silos, connect with their markets and clients and see how they can best collaborate with their colleagues in other teams. That’s where sectors and cross-selling comes into play.

But we also need to see the big picture from each fee-earner’s perspective. How does a young fee-earner play his or her part in their practice group’s aims and strategy? How do we help him or her identify and reach their targets? What’s the best approach to business development for a junior fee-earner compared to one who already is an expert in his or her market? How can we help a team transition from a “rock star” to a “constellation of stars” model? Campaigns that allow teams of fee-earners to work together and play to their individual strengths is one solution.

We also need to think about the firm’s top level marketing strategies and present programmes like CRM, KAM and CEM as an integrated whole.

Focus – Do less and go big

Some of the most successful professional service firms have adopted a “do less but go big” strategy (e.g. They select just a few key markets or initiatives and concentrate resources and focus effort.

The danger with marketing becoming increasingly sophisticated is that fee-earners are faced with a raft of specialists – for example, in digital marketing, in social media, in public relations and in selling – and don’t understand how these elements might combine into an integrated campaign. Fee-earners need marketing generalists (like a GP) before they talk to a specialist (such as a surgeon).

Larger professional service firms often have BD people responsible for a particular group and that person acts as an account handler – providing an interface between fee-earners and other marketing and BD specialists.

Educate beyond marketing communications

Being perhaps the most tangible and visible output of marketing, it is no surprise that much of the demand for marketing and business development’s support are directed towards marketing communications.

But strategic marketing means taking a lead on topics as diverse as analysis, market research, planning, channel management, product and service development, service excellence, innovation and pricing.

Too often these vital activities are down-played or hidden in silos in other parts of the firm. Our job is to ensure that the full marketing mix – including internal communications and employee engagement and referrer management – is addressed effectively. And we must integrate marketing, selling and relationship management activities – whether aimed at clients or targets or referrers and intermediaries.

Introducing a structured approach to marketing planning isn’t easy – it usually involves a fundamental shift in internal attitude and culture

Be the client champion

The silos we see in many of our firms are often the result of an inward-looking approach to the expertise and specialist services that technical experts provide. It’s a product focus. When we, as marketers, relish our role as the clients’ champion we take a more holistic view. That’s a market or client focus and segmentation rules.

The market or client focus overcomes the inward silos between products and services and even beyond professional constraints where multi-disciplinary practices (for example, at Gateley plc where legal and property and accountancy services are combined) are formed as a result of recruitment or merger. And we are seeing more demand from clients for firms to move beyond the narrow boundaries of legal, accountancy, surveying and other disciplines into the multi-disciplinary world – recent research shows that consumers want an integrated home purchase service where agency, conveyancing and financial advice are provided seamlessly (see, for example,