At last week’s campaigns workshop for PM Forum training we had a full house of delegates with a rare balance between legal, accountancy/actuarial, property/engineering and consultancy firms. This article summarises the key themes emerging and contributes to the learning resources pack of the delegates. Five questions from a campaign, thought leadership and project management workshop.
How do we gain buy-in and momentum from fee-earners?
There were numerous discussions during the workshop on buy-in and momentum during the workshop. The key appeared to be education and early involvement – so that buy-in is built-in from the outset. We also talked about the need for champions and sponsors.
The brainstorming exercise showed how – in a relatively short amount of time – you can prompt people to think about the target audience, the issues they face and a possible topic for research and/or a thought leadership campaign.
There are plenty of resources on buy-in and stakeholder engagement. See for example:
How do we choose between in-person, on-line and hybrid?
Many delegates were grappling with choosing in-person, online and hybrid methods for mailings, events and other activities.
The first determinant depends on the client and market preferences – so do your research. There are general research resources (e.g. see the information from Grist here Professional Services Thought leadership update – (kimtasso.com)). But there’s no substitute for seeking the views of those in your target market.
Some markets (e.g. global) dictate the need for digital. Some strategies (often amongst smaller or medium sized firms) focus on the locality which places more emphasis on community events within the geographic area to promote local networks.
During the pandemic, we learned many lessons about the benefits and limitations of on-line – so we should consider these against the pros and cons of in person events. And take the best from each. Some firms are harnessing new platforms and technologies such as holograms, AR, VR and XR (see (XR) and Virtual Reality (VR) could transform online events (kimtasso.com) to extend the value of digital interaction.
Personally, I dislike hybrid events which appear to compromise quality for both in person and digital delegates. But different audiences, roles, sectors and situations demand flexibility.
Some firms reserve on-line for short, technical updates and focus on in-person events where there is more social and networking focus. Delegates noted that we now need extra attractions to persuade people to attend in person – multiple guest and specialist speakers and other benefits were mentioned (for example, peer roundtables).
There were also questions about mailing items to people. On the plus side it means that what you send stands out from the plethora of digital communications. On the negative side there is the challenge of postal addresses – particularly in these times of flexible working (office or home address?).
The pandemic trend of sending food, treats, alcohol and other consumables generated some criticism of a lack of sustainability. Some firms had been creative on this front and sent “green” or “climate friendly” gifts such as wildflower seeds and plants or gadgets to help with environmental monitoring (e.g. thermometers, air quality sensors).
A related question was about how to select the “best” channel when fee-earners had different preferences. This requires balancing the potential benefits of engagement, amplification and reinforcement against the downsides of dilution and fragmentation of messages (the creation of noise in the market). A key thought here was the need to understand the channel preferences of the target market and clients and adapting the content and campaigns accordingly.
How do we manage with limited resources in M&BD?
Many firms reduced M&BD headcounts during the pandemic. Some firms were experiencing budget and recruitment challenges. Most firms were experiencing heavier workloads for M&BD teams.
The choices that M&BD teams face are:
- To do less (but have a bigger impact) – For example, by using the strategic plan to focus and prioritise or by implementing support to allow fee-earners/teams to complete certain activities themselves (with the relevant checks and approvals)
- To do more with less – For example, by looking at marketing and sales automation systems or
- Acquire more resources – Looking at ways to increase resources such as training PAs and team co-ordinators or using interns and apprentices
Some firms have different teams to provide day-to-day support (e.g. Marketing Operations team) to those focused on proactive special projects. We also talked about how we shift from a predominantly reactive mode of operation (processing the marketing activities requested by fee-earners) to a more proactive approach.
We talked about the possibility of allowing ad-hoc and one-off activities to continue for a while (perhaps by providing tools so that M&BD resources aren’t used). It was noted that often these ad-hoc alerts and mailings about new developments were part of the service to clients and expected and so they couldn’t necessarily just be “switched off”.
While continuing to support ad-hoc communications, we should work with fee-earners to take a more strategic approach to campaigns. For example, by analysing the engagement and results of the past year’s ad-hoc activities and providing evidence on what was (and wasn’t) working. And then to look at firm-wide or team plans to consider where there are common aims and audiences and designing collaborative campaigns.
How do we establish good measures?
The starting point for measuring marketing campaign effectiveness in professional services has to be to consider your objectives. To set objectives you will no doubt conduct analysis and research to establish a baseline. Your monitoring, control and reporting (and the systems and reports) will then align with your aims.
We looked at hierarchy of objectives – from strategic, brand (BSI – Brand Strength Indices), territory, team wide, campaign and individual fee-earner aims. We looked at a range of strategic, financial, positioning, client and market measures.
Most people will monitor progress along the marketing and sales funnel – looking at broad measures such as brand awareness and then as clients move through attraction, engagement, conversion and loyalty. We also looked at models for monitoring digital engagement – such as PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared Owned) and RACE (Reach, Act, Convert, Engage).
Where consumers (B2C) as opposed to businesses (B2B) are concerned you may have measures such as cost to acquire an enquiry (CPE or Cost Per Enquiry) or cost to acquire a client or transaction (CPA or Cost per Acceptance). Where established clients are concerned, NPS may be one of the key measurements.
We also considered the challenges of ROI calculations – particularly in defining the terms and criteria at the outset and ensuring the systems and data provided the required information (see ROI in professional service firm marketing (kimtasso.com))
And we considered the variety of ways in which award-winning campaigns (see below) measured marketing effectiveness.
There was a perceived need for a dashboard of measures which could be interrogated by those with different perspectives – e.g. Board on overall financial results, the fee-earners in terms of opportunities and work flows and M&BD in terms of channel and content efficiency.
How do we ensure follow up by fee-earners from campaigns?
This was a recurring theme throughout the workshop.
The simple answer is to think about, plan and embed follow up from the outset. Techniques here included the early involvement of fee-earners to discuss the client/buyer journey, objectives and “what good looks like”.
There were also some conversations around better integration of marketing, selling and relationship management activities – true business development. This topic is covered further here:
We also talked about how thought leadership provided a useful bridge and tool for fee-earners in that it provided the raw material to drive focused commercial conversations with targets and clients. This relates to the use of insight and challenger sales methodologies (see Insight selling – building on consultative selling models (kimtasso.com)). However, a lack of sales training and sales support could deter fee-earners from initiating and managing follow up sales conversations. The following article has some simple ideas for promoting follow up Practical sales tips: Reach out and Follow up (kimtasso.com)
Key takeaways from delegates
- Invest time at the outset to get it right
- Align aims between senior management, fee-earners and M&BD
- Remember the definition of thought leadership
- Manage expectations
- Involve fee-earners very early on to increase buy in and engagement
- Collaborate with fee earners to win engagement
- Engage fee earners from the start and through decision-making to keep up the momentum
- Co-create thought leadership with clients and fee-earners
- Consider the importance of the research project stage
- More time and resources for research
- Collaborate with younger fee earners to share the load
- Remember: Data – Information – Insight – Action
- Build more project management time into project plans
Delegate poll results
Key points from a breakout – Campaigns benefits and challenges
- Explain the benefits of campaigns to fee-earners (see Why fee-earners should let marketing help develop campaigns (kimtasso.com)) – including smoothing out the peaks and troughs of client work
- Differences between firm-wide, sector, territory and service line campaigns
- Focus on the needs of the clients and markets (and actions of competitors)
- Resistance to setting a limited number of the right type of objectives (especially where obtaining the data may be difficult)
- Shifting from a reactive (followship) to a forward-thinking mindset
- Aligning and balancing the needs of the brand, sector and service teams and territories
- Obtain early engagement and commitment from management and fee-earners
- Market uncertainty and remaining flexible and adaptive
- Other campaign challenges include:
- Managing lots of different viewpoints and opinions
- Agreeing (and sticking to) the brief
- Developing sufficient insight into the needs of the target audience (data and research challenges)
- Lack of understanding by fee-earners of how long each activity actually takes (ie resource constraints on both time and cash)
- Having the time to properly plan and implement (both M&BD and fee-earners)
- Maintaining momentum (especially when results may take time to emerge)
- Measuring results, effectiveness and ROI
- Ensuring effective follow-up and conversion
What’s your role?
- 44% Marketing
- 29% Business development
- 11% Content creation
- 6% Something different
How confident are you about developing/implementing campaigns?
- 2 6%
- 3 6%
- 4 17%
- 5 50%
- 6 6%
- 7 6%
- 8 11%
Which aspect is of most interest?
- 6% Context: Strategy and M&BD
- 0% Campaigns – Benefits/Challenges
- 22% Thought leadership
- 11% Action
- 61% Everything
My main focus is:
- 11% Campaigns for the whole firm
- 6% Campaigns for a territory/office
- 28% Sector campaigns
- 6% Service line campaigns
- 50% Combination
Are your campaigns integrated with content management plans?
- 24% Yes
- 65% Sort of
- 12% No
Where are you weakest in campaigns?
- 22% Objectives
- 22% Clarity on markets and services
- 17% Planning and execution
- 33% Effectiveness
- 6% Something else
Are your campaigns mostly:
- 50% Communications
- 6% Thought leadership
- 44% A mixture
Are your campaigns integrated with your sales/relationship management plans?
- 94% Yes – but we could do better
- 6% No
What research methods have you used?
- 67% Email surveys
- 67% Roundtables/panels
- 50% Collaboration with a third party
- 33% Case studies
- 28% Face-to-face interviews
- 28% Benchmarks
- 17% Monthly or quarterly polls
- 6% Telephone surveys
- 6% Rating scales (Likert)
- 0% Delphi method
A list of research agencies with experience in the professions is shown at the end of this article: Client satisfaction benchmarks – How do you measure up? (kimtasso.com)
Collaboration in campaigns with:
- 61% Existing key clients
- 61% Existing clients
- 56% Referrers
- 44% Trade, business and professional associations
- 44% Media organisations
- 39% International associates/network
- 28% Educational establishments
What is the biggest barrier to campaigns at your firm?
- 39% Lack of fee-earner buy-in/engagement
- 17% Lack of resources in M&BD
- 17% Fee-earners wont work together/stick at things
- 11% Insufficient data/information
- 6% Everyone prefers to do their own thing
- 6% Inadequate project management
- 6% Something else
Which objectives are there in your campaigns?
- 89% social media engagement
- 89% Number of web visits
- 89% Number of enquiries/new clients
- 61% Interactions/meetings generated
- 61% Internal engagement/amplification
- 39% Return on investment (ROI)
- 33% Revenue/fees
- 17% Awards/league tables
- 11% Profit
Do you address risk management in your campaigns/projects?
- 50% Yes – but not sufficiently
- 50% No
Which tools do you use for campaign/project planning?
- 78% Briefing documents/plans/reports
- 61% Mailing list software/apps
- 56% Task breakdowns
- 44% Resource/budget planning
- 33% GANTT charts
- 6% Project management methodology
- 6% Project management software
- 0% Network diagrams
Views of biggest problem with campaigns now?
- 28% Lack of M&BD time/resource
- 22% Lack of fee-earner engagement
- 17% Scope creep
- 11% Unclear or unrealistic aims/expectations
- 6% Poor internal communications/silo mentality
- 6% Integration with other aims, project and campaigns
- 6% Project management process/systems
- 0% Lack of senior support
- 0% Culture
Related campaign, thought leadership and project management articles
Project vs campaign management (kimtasso.com) October 2016
Content development (kimtasso.com) March 2016
Improve marketing campaign management in professional service firms (kimtasso.com) October 2013 – Campaign competencies
What makes a good marketing campaign? – Kim Tasso September 2008
Professional services marketing campaign case studies
(We reviewed many more up to date campaigns during the workshop)