At the 2018 Professional Marketing Conference, there was the usual client panel where clients of legal, accountancy and property professional services firms gave their views on marketing and client service. Continuing the series of Client Feedback – From the horse’s mouth: The Crown Estate, Surrey County Cricket Club and JUUL Laboratories provide their views.

Answering questions on topics as varied as creativity, what drives them, what firms make a difference, the balance of emotion and rationality when pitching and whether to use the terms client or customer were:

  • Rob Booth, General Counsel for The Crown Estate
  • Elaine Hutton, General Counsel for JUUL Lab (e-cigarettes) and
  • Andrew Lane, the Finance Director for Surrey County Cricket Club

Rob Booth, GC for The Crown Estate

Rob is a former City lawyer and now general counsel for The Crown Estate which manages a £13bn property portfolio including buildings in the West End. He is a vocal advocate for innovation. He is driven by making a sustained competitive advantage for the business in how the £15m pa legal budget is spent and he wants to get on with his advisers who he wishes would call him a customer.

“The professional services firms that stand out are the ones who know and clearly articulate their ‘Why’ and their purpose”.

His security folk were unimpressed when he was sent a tea bag with the message “Let’s brew up a great solution together”. He argued that professional services marketing was not about “blasting us with information” but learning their language and creating a conscious commercial conversation.

He wants firms to align with his aims by listening at the first meeting and returning at a second meeting having adsorbed and addressed their purpose and values. Whilst brand in an organisation that has thousands of people across multiple jurisdictions is very difficult, having a shared sense of purpose should be more straightforward. The purpose is not to make money for the partners but to be great in their chosen space.

“Fundamentally it’s about human interaction – people want to trust someone”. Whilst some GCs want rationality with expertise, others are concerned with making a connection in the first few seconds. With regards to strategy, he said that if a firm is going into a new space they need to show “what you plan to do, how you will go there and why” – and he sked why are accountants going into legal services? He said that his organisation had “fired our procurement people”.

He was passionate about being called a customer rather than a client: “Client feels a bit dark and seedy – prostitutes have clients. We talk about customers as a business. There’s an issue with the tonality of client – like Dickensian times where lawyers were parasitic. My C-suite asks ‘why do they use a different language to us?’. Client feels clumsy – they should align with our language”.

He argued that patience is important. He wants advisers who invest in a long term relationship “where they may be talking to us for some time before they receive an instruction”. He urged firms to think long term, be clear about purpose and focus on the customer. 

Elaine Hutton, General Counsel for JUUL Lab (e-cigarettes)

Formerly at Clifford Change, Elaine worked at Channel 4, Freemantle Media, Paramount Pictures, Apple and Shiseido before joining £16 billion ecigarette company JUUL Labs as General Counsel EMEA. She argued that there was real purpose in her work as her father had died as a result of smoking. She likes working with high calibre people and constantly learning in what is an exciting place to work.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is important to her and she said firms were terrible at pitching – one firm turned up 20 minutes late. Another firm had made an unbelievable effort to do a detailed market study and another just kept mentioning a long list of awards where they only needed to say it once. She added “It is not sensible to use procurement for legal services”.

She observed that smaller and medium sized firms which have grown by acquiring other firms sometimes had a quality control issue which wasn’t apparent in firms which had grown organically. She reported that some firms in London say that they “wouldn’t touch with a bargepole” their colleagues in other offices.

She said that she had lunch with a senior partner who admitted that his firm wasn’t a property firm and referred her to someone else at a better place – she said it was powerfully honest and demonstrated integrity.

She added “What stands out is kindness – firms who treat their staff well”. She commented “I love it if an adviser asks us about charges before they submit an invoice” and “I want advisers who don’t see us a piece of meat”. She added@ “Ideally, I want a professional relationship with people I like and who, in time, become friends”.

When asked about one thing to improve she said “If you are going to do it, do it well. Don’t serve cheap wine. If you’re doing an event, do it well. We are busy people and want good quality seminars and speakers – make it different”.

Andrew Lane, the Finance Director for Surrey CCC

Previously working at London Wasps rugby club, Warner Music and Universal Music, Andrew joined Surrey County Cricket Club 10 years ago. He says it is a fantastic place to work and he aims to leave it better than how he found it.

He said that he felt brands weren’t reflected in individuals. He isn’t interested in firms explaining how passionate they are about cricket when he wants an audit firm. What he really wants are advisers who read the brief properly and understand what the client really wants. He said that price comes into the decision but he would advise that firms read the questions and listen to the client.

When asked what stands out he joked about taking hospitality at their ground but then mentioned ability, being good human beings and being yourself – genuine individuals.

Brand isn’t necessarily important as he looks for firms where they have a specific skill set but reflected that firms have got bigger and bigger under the same brand to offer a “one stop shop”. He said that was not how they selected advisers and suggested different brands that are each known for their niche specialism.

He said he was not bothered whether he is referred to as a client or a customer and that they don’t use procurement. When asked about one thing he would like done differently it was to listen to the client and what they want rather than advisers being driven by their own perceptions and trying to sell.

Professional Marketing Forum