Emerging marketing and business development roles – taking responsibility for future-proofing your career

At the start of 2020, I talked to Totum Partners – specialists in the recruitment of professional service marketers. A version of this article appeared in the February 2020 edition of Professional Marketing Magazine. Marketing and professional services are changing fast – and technology even faster. I was keen to learn what new roles and skills professional services firms were seeking from their marketing and business development (BD) teams – and how marketers can future-proof their careers. I spoke to leading professional services recruiters who focus on marketing and technology Rebecca Ellis and Julius Reeves at Totum Partners about emerging marketing and business development roles – taking responsibility for future-proofing your career .

Future of sales and marketing jobs

In January 2020, the World Economic Forum’s Report “Jobs of Tomorrow – Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy” stated:

Demand for both “digital” and “human” factors is driving growth in the professions of the future. Seven key professional clusters are emerging in tandem. On the one hand, these reflect the adoption of new technologies—giving rise to greater demand for green economy jobs, roles at the forefront of the data and AI economy as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing and product development. On the other hand, emerging professions also reflect the continuing importance of human interaction in the new economy, giving rise to greater demand for care economy jobs; roles in marketing, sales and content production; as well as roles at the forefront of people and culture”.

Dimitriadis, Dimitriadis and Ney in their 2019 book Advanced Marketing Management: Principles, skills and tools” suggest that future marketing professionals will need to develop skills in four key areas: neuroscience, predictive analytics, innovation and adaptability.

In January 2020, Marketo’s ‘Marketing 2025: The future of skills and technology” reported that top marketing priorities and tools will be:

  • customer lifetime value (CLT) priority number one
  • lead generation will be much less of a focus
  • marketing will become a technology hub
  • general marketing skills will fall almost entirely out of fashion.

So what are the new skills and roles being sought by professional service firms? People skills or technology skills? And what opportunities might exist in the future for professional services marketers?

Supporting sales

Rebecca commented: “Whilst actual salespeople are few and far between within the legal profession, business development people play an important role in sales support. This might be in strategy, value proposition development, research, pricing or new product creation”. 

Whilst fee-earners may still own the client relationship, business development people are increasingly involved in front line client interactions and negotiations. So their relationship management, consulting, problem-solving and sales skills will need to be highly developed.

Following the popularity of Key Account Management (KAM) programmes in the past, there is likely to be more interest in Account Based Marketing (ABM) in the future – where a marketing element is added to predominantly business and sales plans for major clients. ITSMA, which offers certification in ABM, suggests that those best placed for these careers are experienced generalists with high level technology skills.

Marketing Technology

She continued: “Firm’s systems are producing more data and allowing more analysis of markets and clients. As in the broader marketing arena, increasingly marketers are developing more skills in analytics and data-driven targeting and personalisation”.

The rapid growth of MarTech and sophisticated client life cycle management (CLM) systems show that stronger digital skills are needed across the board. Many system developers organise free conferences and events where marketers can see the technology in use. Some firms are investing in digital upskilling programmes to ensure that their marketing professionals remain up-to-date.

There is also perhaps even the prospect of the emergence of professional services marketing technologists to design and operate sophisticated data systems to drive both personalised client acquisition and client development programmes.

Legal technology

“In the legal sector” observed Julius “There is a greater need for marketers and business development professionals to maintain an up-to-date understanding of the latest technology and how this might affect the future delivery of legal services. Armed with such knowledge, marketers can contribute to the new ways of delivering legal services, formulating new value propositions and driving legal product development where most of the larger firms are investing”.

Julius anticipates significant changes in operational infrastructure and advanced delivery platforms. He notes that there are many conferences in the legal and sectors showing how technology might transform the production and delivery of professional services. Marketers must extend themselves beyond the narrow confines of business development to obtain this broader perspective of the changes ahead within the market, their firm’s future products and services and emerging client needs. Foresight, innovation and commercial skills will be in demand.

He continued: “There are increasing examples of the need to explore the use of new technology within practice groups – understanding how to work with the technology, conduct impact analyses, organise workshops for client engagement, adopt new technology operationally and plan change management”.

This would, of course, open up opportunities for marketers to become an integral part of packaging or new product development initiatives whereas in the past they have often only been pulled in at the end of the process when it is time for promotional strategies.

The prospect of digital legal services – on a licence fee or subscription basis – does challenge many of the established models of advisory services pricing and promotion. Here, marketers can learn valuable lessons from the technology sectors.

Working with other professionals in business services

Julius noted: “There’s a greater morphing of roles across business services. Increasingly, marketing and business development professionals are working with colleagues in finance, technology, knowledge management and human resources”.

Rebecca observed that some specialist business development functions – such as business analysis and research – were now in separate shared units requiring marketers to adapt to work in an integrated way with these teams. A topical example is in Client Experience Management (CEM) where client journey mapping may lead analysis into all aspects of a firm’s systems – not just the marketing ones.

Marketing professionals will need to develop a greater awareness and familiarity with the way that other functions operate and become adept at collaborative working and resource sharing. An enterprise-level perspective is needed.

New roles for marketers

Julius was positive about the future: “Marketers with skills in project management, design, technology, finance, procurement, pricing and product development will find that these things can be a spring board into other areas of the firm where there are fantastic opportunities”.

The changing markets and structure within law firms provides opportunities for marketers to move beyond their functional boundaries provided they have the latest skills. The starting point has to be stronger peer relationships with those in other functions. It’s suggested that marketers seek internal and external secondments to accelerate the process.

Being curious and proactive is also important – although this remains a challenge when work-loads remain so demanding.

Change management is part and parcel of the marketing and business development arena. And there are opportunities for those with change management expertise and experience to become part of strategic, cultural, behavioural and technology transformation projects – most of which have a significant internal communications and employee engagement element.

Joining the conversation

These developments suggest that the idea of T-shaped people – those with in-depth expertise in one specialist area but an understanding of a wider range of functional areas – will apply to marketing and business development professionals.

Rebecca concluded: “Business development professionals need to stay relevant and take part in the conversation rather than being subservient to lawyers. They must constantly update their knowledge and upskill so that they can seize the opportunities when they arise to join cross-firm projects and initiatives”.

So the message seems to be that whilst there are huge opportunities for those in marketing and business development roles, there is a need to constantly update knowledge and acquire new skills in order to remain relevant. Both technology and human skills will be in demand.