Campaigns, thought leadership and project management – 18 ways to stretch MBD resources

At this month’s PM Forum – PM Forum online workshop on “Campaigns, thought leadership and project management” we explored the three topics from a strategic (why) rather than a tactical (how) perspective. 50% of the delegates were from law firms with others from accountancy and consulting practices. There was an equal split between managers and executives. From the polls, break out exercises and discussions (see below) three core issues emerged: Senior management support, fee-earner engagement and marketing and business development (MBD) team resources. It is this last issue – stretching and squeezing the limited resources of the MBD team – where this article focuses. Campaigns, thought leadership and project management – 18 ways to stretch and squeeze MBD resources.

How to stretch MBD team resources?

Many MBD teams struggle to meet all the demands for support they receive. This fire-fighting and “hamster wheel syndrome” limits the ability of teams to drive the strategic agenda and achieve performance improvements.

In part, MBD teams are victims of their own success. The more we do, achieve, produce and impact – the more demand there is for our support and services. Which, in turn, makes the transition from reactive service provider to proactive advisors even more difficult.

Squeezing until the pips squeak” is one approach – getting team members to produce more and more. But this isn’t sustainable in the long term as often teams are already “stretched to breaking point”.

We must be alert to the mental health and well-being of MBD professionals. Sadly, relentless pressure, chronic stress and burnout is alive and kicking in MBD teams. Leaders have a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of MBD members just the same as with their fee-earners. (This book takes an interesting look at the problems of toxic cultures, overwork, stress and burnout in the legal profession – and much relates to other professional service firms Book review: The Thriving Lawyer by Traci Cipriano (resilience) (

Ways to stretch MBD team resources

So how can we safely stretch and squeeze MBD team resources? We considered both the obvious and the obscure:

  1. Review the strategic priorities – In an ideal world there will be a business plan and a strategic marketing and business development plan that sets out the priorities. Each division or team will also have a plan that shows their priorities. Hopefully, these all align. Reviewing these strategic priorities regularly is one option to maintain focus and limit additional requests. Having a senior leadership team support you in enforcing those priorities is another challenge altogether.
  1. Reduce the workload – Many senior professional services marketers have a mantra of “Do less, but do better” (sometimes quoted as “Go large or go home”). They avoid spreading themselves too thinly by concentrating on a few key programmes and focusing resources where they will have the biggest impact. This relates to the point above about strategic priorities. But it means that the MBD team can jettison the smaller, day-to-day stuff and concentrate on the big projects.
  1. Grow the team – Adding extra team members will help in the medium and long term but will increase pressure in the short term as these people are inducted, bedded in and get into their stride. Furthermore, a bigger team means that there is then increased complexity and the risk of silos. So additional management time might is needed to support collaboration. Also there is also the risk that once partners have approved additional resources their expectations increase – thus fuelling the resources problem.
  1. Improve project management processes – We “walked through” the five steps of the traditional “waterfall” project management process (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and closing). We looked at an example Work Breakdown Structure and its component tasks being built into a network diagram and GANTT chart. And considered some alternatives.
  1. Agile – Enables quick reaction to project feedback. The priority is adaptability, collaboration and incremental delivery. Projects are broken down into small, manageable iterations called sprints and rely on constant feedback from stakeholders to make quick changes
  2. Kanban – Focuses on continuous improvement through visualising and managing the flow of work. The project management board is divided into columns representing different stage of work – and tasks move across the board as the project unfolds. It is ideal for teams that have many incoming requests
  3.  Scrum – A popular way to implement agile projects. It divides larger projects into shorter, one-to-four week sprints that adapt to demands as the project evolves. It sets out rules for team size, team roles, planning, meeting and deliverables

PDCA cycle – Plan (identify and analyse the problem), Do (develop and test solutions), Check (measure effectiveness of preferred solutions), Act (implement the solution)

PERT – Program Valuation and Review Technique is for very large-scale projects to consider the critical tasks (critical path analysis) and their dependencies to learn the proper sequence

Action Priority Matrix – A familiar matrix comparing the impact of the activity vs the effort involved. The resulting classifications are: quick wins, major projects, hard slogs and fill ins

  1. Restructure the team – Review the strategic aims of the firm and identify the priorities. Then audit the team’s activities, outputs and impacts to see if there is alignment. Several firms have restructured their MBD teams. Other restructuring solutions include: using account managers, creating separate operations teams and deploying specialist project managers who can be “parachuted” into high demand areas.
  1. Train, upskill and coach the team – This is a win:win strategy. With more skills, the team members can tackle a broader range of tasks. This reduces pressure on MBD team leaders who can then attend to more strategic tasks and process improvement. Team members feel appreciated and value the efforts to help them develop and progress their careers.
  1. Train and coach the fee-earners – Rather than expecting the MBD team to do all the leg work, you can reposition the services so that the MBD experts invest their time in upskilling the fee-earners through training and coaching so that they are empowered to do things for themselves. As systems become more sophisticated (and incorporate AI) we should be able to put more power in the fee-earners’ hands to do the work themselves. The use of THE thought leadership platform for professional service firms ( to create and distribute content is a standout example of this.
  1. Provide toolkits and templates – Most marketing and business development campaigns will come with a toolkit and templates so that fee-earners are empowered to tailor and implement activities to the needs of their particular market or clients. This might mean diverting some MBD team resources in the short term from “doing” to system analysis and packaging but it reduces demand for support at a later date.
  1. Keep meetings short – We discussed the strong results from just a 15 minute brainstorm. And concluded that meetings with fee-earners should be kept short to reduce resistance and encourage participation. 
  1. Offer the fee-earners alternatives – This relates to education and training. If fee-earners’ knowledge of what they can do is limited, they will keep returning to the MBD team to help them repeat the activities they have done in the past. Talk to the fee-earners to really get to grips with what they are trying to achieve – and then offer alternatives to a centrally designed and implemented campaign. For example, explain that personal LinkedIn profiles have 10 times more followers and eight times more engagement than their company pages – this might reduce demands for the team to post on the firm’s account. Another good example was the Mills & Reeve tech sector campaign – rather than investing time in producing content upfront, the campaign was designed so that the content was developed as part of the campaign events. Marketing and BD case studies in legal, accountancy, consultancy (
  1. Implement a go/no go campaign process – Enlist the senior leadership team in establishing and honouring a go/no campaign process. At a recent event in Ireland, a leading accountancy firm explained that they had a process – fully supported by the CEO and CMO – that prioritised planned requests and declined those that were outside of the strategic scope or assigned responsibilities.
  1. Learn from past campaigns – One of the byproducts of being constantly busy is that we lack the time to revisit past campaigns to see which were most effective in generating the desired clients, fees and profits. But looking at past campaigns – with both digital analytics and sales conversion data – to see what was most effective means that we bring hard data to the table when people request support for campaigns and projects that have been proven ineffective.
  1. Improve infrastructure and data – An informal poll revealed that the average rating for a robust CRM system amongst delegates was 4 out of 10. Whilst implementing and embedding a new CRM or improving the current system is a major project in itself, it significantly improves the ability to manage future projects more effectively and efficiently. Good CRM systems allow fee-earners to be more self-sufficient in managing lists and maintaining good habits in client relationships – reducing the pressure on the MBD team.
  1. Increase efficiency – Marketing automation can increase efficiency and allow more to be done with less resources. Naturally, we talked about time savings from artificial intelligence (AI) to support routine tasks. With AI, time has to be invested upfront to understand your processes, upskill your people, invest in the tech and train your AI system and develop the relevant prompts.
  1. Use external agencies and freelancers – There are numerous resources to help with peaks in workload. External agencies (both general and specialist), contract staff and freelance consultants present opportunities to increase capacity in the short term. There are recruitment agencies who specialise in marketing and business development staff in professional services (see the list Recruiting and retaining marketing and business development (
  1. Build better internal relationships – Having better relationships with internal stakeholders means that there is more room to negotiate requests for support and assistance. Several delegates commented on the power of face-to-face contact with fee-earners for more productive meetings and stronger relationships.
  1. Integrate marketing with the sales process – This was a theme throughout the session. Delegates shared their experiences of preparing in advance how they will help fee-earners to respond to and nurture leads generated by marketing campaigns. By improving integration, more conversions will be achieved and thus less future demand on the MBD team.
  1. Consider what to stop doing – Often, the MBD team will continue to take on new campaigns and tasks without stepping back to consider what they might also stop doing. Some routine tasks can be automated and some can be delegated to other teams.

Delegate views

Delegate aims at the outset of the session

  • Get back to basics!
  • Just a refresher
  • Gain insights into campaign and project processes
  • Be more strategic in campaigns and projects
  • Develop a campaign routine
  • Cultivate strategic thinking
  • Finesse my campaign and project skills
  • Develop my campaign knowledge
  • Be more purposeful in my planning
  • Obtain new ideas
  • Improve my juggling with a busy team
  • Support my campaign executives
  • Learn from others on their experiences and best practice
  • Tips for better project management
  • Help with dealing with multiple priorities
  • Address ROI on campaigns

Delegate great campaign criteria

  • Within budget (enough resources)
  • Senior stakeholder approval and commitment
  • Clear purpose (if thought leadership)
  • Clear objectives and KPIs
  • Differentiation – Stand out in the market
  • Market clarity and relevance
  • Responds to client needs
  • Clear benefit to end user
  • Multi-channel
  • Timelines
  • Trackable results
  • Wow! Factor

Delegate creative ideas for thought leadership campaigns

  • “Finance Director insomnia”
  • “Hackathon” for general counsel in the tech sector
  • “Surf the algorithm wave” for CEO in tech businesses

Delegate key takeaways on campaigns, thought leadership and projects at the end of the session

  • Early engagement of fee-earners and team
  • Conduct more research
  • Work on the needs and preferences of the target audience
  • Develop bespoke research as a thought leadership vehicle
  • Include a risk assessment (and disaster planning) when planning a campaign.
  • “Communication. Communication. Communication” is key
  • Identify more visual ways to engage stakeholders
  • Produce a campaign visual to achieve buy in
  • Arrange a kickstarting meeting – using tools described in the session

Delegate poll results

Delegates like to benchmark their views against their peers. It’s also interesting to compare the results against those in previous sessions:

  1. What is your MAIN role?
  • 55% Marketing
  • 18% Business development
  • 18% Events
  • 9%      PR/Communications
  1. How confident are you about developing and implementing campaigns?
  1. 10%
  2. 10%
  3. 20%
  4. 10%
  5. 30%
  6. 10%
  7. 10%
  1. Which aspect of the session is of most interest?
  • 0% Context – Strategy and marketing/BD
  • 8% Campaigns – benefits and developing communications campaigns
  • 8% Thought leadership campaigns
  • 8% Overcoming barriers, implementation and project management
  • 75% Everything – I am a sponge today!
  1. What’s the MAIN focus for your campaigns?
  • 33% Whole firm
  • 0% Particular territory/office
  • 42% Sector
  • 17% Service line
  • 8%      Key clients/ABM
  •            Something else
  1. Where are you weakest in campaigns?
  • 33% Objectives
  • 42% Clarity on markets and services
  •  8%  Planning and execution
  • 17% Effectiveness
  1. Having seen the definition of thought leadership, do you think your campaigns are mostly:
  • 25% Communications campaigns
  • 67% Thought leadership campaigns
  • 8%      Something else (e.g. events)
  1. Are your campaigns integrated with your sales/relationship management plans?
  • 91% Yes – but we could do better
  • 9%      No integration
  1. Which research methods have you used? (multiple choice)
  • 70% Roundtables and panels
  • 70% Collaboration with a third party
  • 50% Case studies
  • 40% Email surveys
  • 30% Benchmarks
  • 20% Delphi method (expert panel)
  • 10% Face-to-face interviews
  • 0% Telephone surveys
  • 0% Monthly or quarterly polls
  1. During campaigns you collaborate with (multiple choice)
  • 82% (International) network
  • 64% Referrers
  • 55% Trade, business and professional associations
  • 45% Existing clients
  • 36% Key clients
  • 36% Media organisations
  • 18% Educational establishments
  1. Which objectives are there in your campaigns (multiple choice)
  • 73% Social media engagement
  • 64% Web site visits
  • 64% Strategic positioning
  • 55% Number of enquiries/new clients
  • 36% Revenue/fees/profits
  • 36% Internal engagement/amplification
  • 27% Interactions/meetings generated
  • 27% Reputation, awards and league tables
  • 18% Return on investment (ROI)
  1. Which tools do you use for campaign/project management (multiple choice)
  • 57% GANTT charts
  • 29% Project management software
  • 29% Mailing list/specialist software/apps
  • 14% Resource/budget planning
  • 14% Team project management tools
  • 14% Other
  • 0% Agile
  • 0% Project management methodology
  • 0% Task breakdowns and network diagrams

Project and team management systems used:

  1. View of biggest problem with campaigns now?
  • 50% Lack of fee-earner engagement
  • 30% Lack of M&BD time/resource
  • 20% Lack of senior support
  • 0% Integration with other aims/projects/campaigns
  • 0% Culture (politics, lack of rewards)
  • 0% Unclear or unrealistic aims/expectations
  • 0% Scope creep
  • 0% Poor internal communications/silo mentality
  • 0% Project management processes/systems

Related campaigns, thought leadership and project management articles

Build your brand advantage with PM Forum and Sholto ( June 2024

Highlights of social media best practice – with Chloe Christine ( April 2024

Future Marketing Manager – New product development ( March 2024

Cross-selling and referrer management – Data, focus ( March 2024

Email marketing and automation with TBD and PM Forum ( March 2024

System review: CogniClick for instant, personalised research ( October 2023

marketing and business development (M&BD) team structures ( September 2023

campaign, thought leadership and project management ( June 2022 Buy in, momentum, online vs in-person, limited M&BD resources, measurement, follow up

themes on campaign development and thought leadership ( July 2021 Education, integration, measurement

Video in the marketing mix ( April 2021

25th Professional Marketing Forum Conference Report ( November 2020

ROI, BDO case study on winning awards

nine reflections on thought leadership (2019) professional services ( September 2019

Thought leadership, campaigns and project management ( January 2018

Thought leadership campaigns and project management Eight Essentials ( September 2018 Entrepreneurship, Engage, Educate, Expectations, Empathy, Essence, Edge, Engineer, Execute, Equip, Extract, Evangelism, Evaluation, Evolution

Project vs campaign management ( October 2016

Thought leadership manual by Tim Prizeman ( June 2016

Why fee-earners should let marketing help develop campaigns ( December 2015

10 steps to create a business development campaign ( November 2015

Campaign management in the professions ( June 2015

Delegation and project management – Kim Tasso January 2014

Improve marketing campaign management in professional service firms ( October 2013

Project Management in Marketing – Kim Tasso May 2013

5 top tips for time, project and campaign management – Kim Tasso April 2011

Professional services campaign (and thought leadership and project management) case studies 

(And remember that PM Forum members can access all 5,500 past articles from PM Magazine here: Skills Development – PM Forum) 

Marketing and BD case studies in legal, accountancy, consultancy ( April 2024 

Law firm media relations and integrated campaigns (Kysen) ( December 2023

Case studies: Marketing and Business Development at law ( November 2023

Professional services marketing/BD case studies ( August 2023

Major survey of investors and developers reveals growth opportunities in evolving industrial real estate market | Forsters LLP | Leading Mayfair law firm May 2023 (with FTI)

2023 financial benchmarks for law firms ( April 2023 (Hazelwoods and Crowe) 

The Drum | How Addleshaw Goddard Increased Brand Awareness By Combining Poetry And Law December 2022

Thought leadership campaigns: Arcadia, JLL and Remit ( December 2022

Legal marketing case study – Thought leadership campaigns ( November 2022 (Howard Kennedy)

World Shaping Wealth: the impact of affluence on the next economy ( May 2022

Law firm thought leadership update ( June 2021 Davitt Jones Boult, Howard Kennedy, DLA Piper, Moreton Fraser, Stephens Scown, Passle legal thought leadership league table

Professional Services Thought leadership update – ( November 2020 FTI, Bidwells, Grist, FieldFisher

Accountancy marketing case study – MHA ( June 2018