The September PM Forum workshop on “Professional and Practical Skills for Marketing and Business Development (M&BD) Assistants” was attended by 18 delegates from legal, accountancy, consultancy and actuarial firms. The session comprises three elements: marketing and business development fundamentals, practical marketing communication and business development skills and growing your career. There were breakout sessions where assistants from different sectors and firms worked together to compare and share their thoughts. The ambitious, enthusiastic and hard-working delegates considered how they could shine by focusing on their personal development and increasing their contribution to their firms.
Develop knowledge and skills
There were many different areas where M&BD assistants felt that they needed to increase their knowledge and skills including:
- Aims and strategies
- Services provided and expertise
- Sector, service and campaign plans
- Fee-earner roles and responsibilities
- Client interests and needs
- Professional services market
- Sector insights
- Understanding clients
- Working with people from different cultures
Marketing and Sales technical knowledge
- Digital channels
- Marketing theory
- Sales processes
- Relationship management
- Research skills
- Measuring effectiveness
- Data analytics and dashboards
- CRM, marketing and sales support systems
- Firm-wide systems (eg finance, workflow)
There are various frameworks to help structure learning including: New CIM professional marketing qualifications – 2020 (kimtasso.com). Some observed that as the pace of change continued relentlessly, we all needed to be constantly updating our knowledge and skills.
Build personal brand
We did some exercises on identifying words that encapsulate our personal branding. There were some common threads demonstrating the huge contribution these varied individuals make to their teams. How do you measure up? What do you think is most important for a M&BD assistant? How do you stand out from your peers?
Some brand methodologies see that there are two key tasks in branding – to consider you points of similarity and also your points of difference. Differentiation is a critical aspect of professional services marketing and is no different in personal brands. A key consideration is the value a brand delivers to its customers or clients.
It was interesting to compare these lists with responses to “How do you think M&BD is perceived at your firm?”. Whilst many of the above attributes and roles were perceived, there were some differences such as:
- Under resourced
There’s more about building personal brands:
In a remote working environment, it can be hard to raise your visibility with team members and stakeholders. Some guidance is provided: Be more visible – the PVI model (kimtasso.com) and Be visible, assert and challenge and remember your goals (kimtasso.com)
Other points of interest
How to engage fee-earners?
One delegate question was “What tips to engage fee earners with investing time and data into the CRM systems?”. There was an enthusiastic response including:
- Demonstrate what good looks like
- Deploy technology to make the process easier
- Offer accessible training and support
- Provide evidence and success stories of what other fee-earner have achieved
- Show them the personal and firm benefits
- Use data cleansing systems (see Marketing technology system review – Clean contact data with Cirrom (kimtasso.com))
- Work with their PAs, EAs and other assistants to remove some of the leg work
There are many posts about engagement, buy-in and the importance of building trust and relationships with fee-earners. For example:
Insights on internal communications
One group focused on the importance of internal communications to create and sustain organisational culture. And also to support cross-selling and enhance the client experience.
They identified the need for clear and coherent messages. And the value of tapping into the “hive mind” to find solutions to common challenges and collaborate for pitches. There were also comments about the increasing importance of employer brands for retention and recruitment.
Role of PR and external communications
External communications are fundamental for raising awareness and increasing brand recognition. Key points raised here included the need to reflect client interests, to differentiate and the power of niches. Interesting points about how to integrate marketing and selling where the face of individual professionals became associated with the brand name.
Consistency was another theme as well as the need for clarity of target audiences and the use of various media outlets, preferred digital channels and modes of engagement.
Growth of digital marketing and content management
The team mentioned the need for engagement reports to show the performance of each post and fee-earner as well as for entire teams, services, sectors and campaigns. This also supplemented research into how performance could be improved.
A campaign approach ensures continuity of messaging in the run up to, during and after key events. Ensure that all information is shared at the right time through the right channel with the right engagement mechanisms.
There were also insights into the power of split A/B testing and some surprising results for content shared at weekends.
Organising events and prompting conversations
Different ways to plan and implement events were shared. There was advice to consider which personalities worked well together and how to make things relevant to topical issues yet still stand out. The need for clear aims that could be measured at different stages of the engagement and sales cycle were mentioned.
Delegate key takeaways – in their own words
Here are the delegates’ key takeaways in their own words
- Develop knowledge and skills
- Read up and develop my knowledge
- Develop research skills
- Use online resources and take advantage of available training to learn more about MBD and get to grips with some of the jargon words
- Develop my knowledge on the business’s services and how to align my work with the key strategies.
- Research more on the practice areas I support to have a better idea of their perspective on BD
- Learned that there are lots of marketing/bd functional avenues that I can develop my skills in
- Use a mentor programme (see PM Forum Mentor Match)
- Stay patient if I don’t quite understand something, I will always learn and develop
- Career and Personal Brand planning
- Build my personal brand and plan out how to act on this
- Think how I reach my next goal/level
- Work on myself and how I can build on my own brand to differentiate myself
- Methods in which can help myself develop more of a personal brand and being more ambitious
- Learn more about what opportunities lie within my role and how I can develop my skills/career
- Visibility and collaboration
- Work more closely with client development team about client relationships
- Reach out to my directors and ask for a project that I can run with from start to finish to showcase my skills and gain visibility across the team and get in front of the partners
- Put myself out there more within my team on projects and continue to build relationships with other teams and partners
- Work on relationships, personal brand and confidence
- Improve my visibility with fee-earners and colleagues within BD/Marketing
- Develop relationships outside my team
- Build relationships with fee earners
Delegate poll results
Have you formally studied marketing?
- 28% Yes
- 67% No
- 6% It’s complicated
Where is most of your time spent?
- 22% Strategic marketing
- 22% Tactical marketing/communications
- 6% Selling
- 0% Client and referrer relationships
- 44% All aspects
- 6% It’s complicated
What do you spend most of your time doing?
- 33% Supporting M&BD executives and managers
- 22% Organising events
- 11% Managing data, databases and systems
- 11% Undertaking research
- 11% Preparing pitches and tenders
- 6% Supporting internal communications
- 6% Answering queries from fee-earners
Where do you want to spend more time in the future?
- 33% Digital marketing, content management and social media
- 33% Events, seminars/webinars and contact programmes
- 17% Profile raising, PR and media relations
- 17% Something else
After reviewing those key marketing theories, how would you rate your knowledge?
- 11% Really good – I knew much more than I thought
- 44% Good – I am familiar with most ideas
- 17% OK – I’ve just learned quite a bit
- 28% Needs improvement – I have a lot of learning ahead!
How happy are you with your CRM (and integrated mailing, analytics and relationship management capabilities)?
- 6% Really unhappy
- 6% Unhappy
- 29% It’s OK
- 59% Happy
- 0% Really happy
How would you rate your firm’s digital marketing strategy?
- 0% Brilliant
- 67% Really good
- 33% Average
- 0% Needs improvement
Do you think you and your fee-earners are mostly:
How would you rate your skill/ability in selling?
- 6% Very low
- 17% Low
- 33% Average
- 44% Good
- 0% Very good
What do you think is the most important skill/attribute of an aspiring M&BD professional?
- 29% Ability to work with fee-earners and M&BD team members
- 29% Communications skills
- 24% Understanding of markets and clients
- 12% Service orientation – proactive and responsive
- 6% Strategic ability
- 0% Delivery of value and results
What percentage of your fee-earners do you think are engaged with and keen to do marketing/BD?
- 33% 10-40% of fee-earners
- 17% About 50% of fee-earners
- 50% 50% -70% of fee-earners
- 0% Over 70% of fee-earners
How do you feel about your career development prospects?
- 6% I’m confident I will be promoted in the short-medium term
- 12% There is a clear path for my promotion
- 47% My firm supports my development and progression
- 24% I have a lot to learn and do before I will be promoted
- 6% I would like to specialise in a specific area of M&BD
- 6% I doubt there will be progression for me at my firm
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