In early December (and despite the train strike), we gathered at the offices of London | Simmons & Simmons (simmons-simmons.com) for a workshop on “Future Marketing and Business Development Manager”.Training – PM Forum. It was an energetic and exciting day where everyone took away different ideas and actions. Future Marketing and Business Development Manager: Connections, Collaboration, Context, Creativity, Cause and Continuous learning.
From all the lessons, exercises and discussions some themes emerged:
Connections allow collaboration
Marketers and business developers are connectors – we need to forge a network of relationships within and beyond the firm.
Functional specialists – Within the firm we must understand and be able to work with different specialists within the marketing team. And in external agencies. For complex projects we must collaborate with those in other functional specialisms such as finance, technology, people and innovation.
Internal clients – Naturally we need to build strong working relationships with our fee-earners. Both those in leadership positions who are driving the firm forward. And those who wish to deliver a great service and generate more work. Without those relationships, we are unable to have the conversations that help us to translate their goals into appropriate marketing and business development activities.
Industry specialists – Beyond our firm we need to connect with industry and sector experts, government bodies and regulators. And see what we can learn from those in other sectors. Being aware of the external environment – the opportunities and threats – is a vital role for marketing and business development.
External clients – Then of course we need to build networks amongst potential clients, existing clients and referrers. Marketing is the client’s representative within the firm. Keeping their needs uppermost in our minds to protect against a purely internal focus. Our client relationships keeps us in touch with market changes and perceptions. And enables us to detect weak signals in the market and anticipate changing client needs.
Peers – We need to connect with our peers from other firms and industries. Our personal network is both an asset and a currency. We learn how they interpret the world and how they apply marketing and business development techniques to their challenges. We obtain inspiration and support from our peers.
To forge and sustain connections requires a variety of personal attributes and a toolbox of soft skills – like those we strive to help our fee-earners develop. It’s a parallel process. Amongst those attributes and skills we identified:
Confidence – Requiring self-belief, qualifications, knowledge, experience and track record
Personal brand – Knowing what you stand for, your values and managing how you are perceived and differentiated
Communication – Empathy/emotional intelligence, conversation, presentation, persuasion and negotiation to name a few
Focus – particularly with regard to aims and goals
Strategic – Analysing, synthesising, deciding, planning and implementing
Context supports creativity
Marketing is essentially a matching process – a starting point is to look internally at what the firm hopes to achieve with its skills and resource. Then we shift to the external environment. Externally we need to understand and observe political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legislative changes as well as competitor activity. And how these things impact current and future client needs.
Having analysed a problem, we can use diagnostic and problem-solving skills to frame the issue and see alternative ways to resolve them. That’s where creativity, bold thinking and persuasion skills come into play.
The further ahead we can see – or anticipate – those changes, the greater the likelihood that we can align internal aims with external challenges and create a strategy that moves us effectively and efficiently towards achieving our goals.
With all firms and marketers essentially having access to the same information, what sets us apart is the ability to be creative in both framing the issues and deciding how best to solve the problems and seize the opportunities. We also need to be creative in how to engage people in the process and lead them to success. And to be creative in how we use resources and technology to achieve efficiencies.
Cause reveals assumptions
Assumptions can hamper progress. We need to challenge the status quo. Asking “Why?” is a superpower that reveals assumptions and prevents bad habits.
I shared a story where a group of fee-earners were convinced that they needed to adopt a particular course of action. There was a standoff between them and their marketing advisors. So I asked the fee-earners why they had decided on their particular course of action. They explained what they wanted to achieve. I listened. Then I asked “Why?” again. Eventually we uncovered the assumptions and real reasons they had suggested their chosen course of action. But having uncovered what they really wanted to achieve we could then explore alternative – and better – strategies to achieve the outcome they desired.
Learn what people want to achieve. And why. Dig deeper. Then you can analyse the assumptions and research the challenges with more accuracy. And be more creative and effective in identifying the best course of action to achieve the goal.
Throughout the day we saw that everything changes all the time – our firms, the market, our fee-earners, marketing, technology and clients.
Some of those who were due to join us from Leeds and Manchester had to postpone their involvement. But some had travelled (with a rather early start) from the Midlands and others had battled in from the London suburbs.
Delegates represented a variety of roles – many were MBD generalists covering a range of activities (planning, marketing communications, client listening, account management, campaigns, pitches etc). Others specialised in subjects such as events and internal communications. Some were in secondments which provided valuable insights into other functions. Legal, accountancy and consulting firms (especially in risk) were represented.
Sectors supported by delegates included: consumer goods, energy, food and drink, health care, hospitality, life sciences, media, private client, retail and technology.
Delegate aims varied but were broadly within three themes:
Development – Becoming more confident, proactive, strategic and advisory. Adding more value to the team and the firm
Progression – Positioning for promotion and taking the next steps
Management – Taking on management responsibilities and developing the team
It was an experiential session with much interaction and discussion with peers. We covered a variety of hard skills (vision, strategy, finance, MBD planning) and soft skills (leadership, buy-in and influencing, personal brand, managing a team and motivation).
What resonated with MBD Future Managers?
Throughout the day and in between the many exercises, we took time to ask questions and reflect on what we had learned. Here are some of the key points mentioned by the delegates
Evidence – The use of data as evidence to explain the situation, frame possible responses and support recommendations. We also explored the many sources of information that allowed benchmarking to know what minimum and best performance might be
Use minimalist plans – As marketers we assume we need plans. But is this a fair assumption? Whilst we recognise the need for and value of a plan – to analyse the environment, set goals, choose strategies, plan (and cost) the proposed activities and monitor progress and results – fee-earners might not see things that way. So let’s not impose our way of thinking on others. Prepare plans – but involve fee-earners in their creation so that there is joint ownership. And find a way to share the bare essentials of the plan to support engagement and adoption.
Engagement – From the exercises we saw that creativity, fun, challenge, out of the ordinary, freedom, safe environment, permission and time generated energy and higher levels of engagement
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.