My conference report for the Professional Marketing Forum’s 21st Conference “All about the journey” which focused on Client Experience Management (CEM) was published in this month’s edition of Professional Marketing magazine . It’s hard trying to tease out the most important insights from what proved to be a jam-packed day of useful and important presentations from leading practitioners and consultants into a short article – so here are some additional thoughts. 

Future of the professions

Richard Susskind was one of the keynote speakers and his powerful presentation pulled no punches on the impact of technology on the legal sector and other professional services. Most of the points covered by Richard I have written about before (see, for example,

On reflection, it occurred to me that whilst artificial intelligence (AI) and automation might modify the legal product and some on-line delivery, the client experience remains at the core of professional services. Thus its importance in terms of not just differentiating but protecting firms really becomes apparent. 

Golden age of marketing

I was not alone in considering the highlight of the conference to be the presentation by Paul English at Grant Thornton. I was impressed when I worked with Grant Thornton a few years ago but his presentation showed just how far and fast the firm has progressed – it must surely be one of the pioneering leaders in professional services marketing.

He based his presentation around last year’s article by McKinsey on the golden age of marketing ( – how marketing automation is pushing marketing to lead organisational change:

  • Science – Advances in data, modelling and automated analysis yielding deeper client insights, creating more refined ways to target and measure the return on marketing investment and providing opportunities for real-time operating decisions.
  • Substance – Marketers are able to move beyond messaging to lead cross-functional teams to shape the substance of businesses, particularly with regard to the digital client experience.
  • Story – Video, mobile communications and richer digital interaction through social media provide powerful ways to tell stories creatively and with emotion.
  • Speed – The culture of urgency means that marketers need a new agility plus management skills and influence to bring all of an organisation’s functions to bear on client challenges and opportunities.
  • Simplicity – Simplifying organisational structures, processes and relationships to promote collaboration and support faster responses.

He touched on content management strategy (hero, hub, hygiene) and talked about cognitive marketing and automation. On automation, some of the systems he mentioned included:  and  On brand, he reminded us of Millward Brown’s definition of being “meaningfully different” (different, meaningful, salient) and the latest campaigns that are engaging and provide an emotional connection.

I enjoyed his insights into Grant Thornton initiatives such as the internal engagement Global Jam and the Spanish office’s cartoon video (

He also shared the firm’s client lifecycle model (start up, survival, lifestyle, growth and hyper-growth) against the various issues they face at each stage and how this links to the client experience (awareness and client interest, qualify and select a provider, service delivery, post-service relationship).

Creating a client journey

Ian Golding – one of the first people to have a qualification in customer experience – talked about achieving client-centricity by testing every decision with “how does this impact the client experience?”. He offered a model looking at the functional, emotional and accessibility aspects of every client experience and reminded us that clients remember good and bad experiences – or nothing.

He touched on Simon Sinek’s golden circle (What, How and Why?) and explored random, intentional and differentiated client experiences. He talked about an experience on Etihad airline which had a big impact simply because the staff noticed his situation and demonstrated that they cared in a simple but powerful way. Professional services firms should be concerned with his warning that there was no space for silos – they need to be united by a common purpose.

His customer experience framework was delightfully simple: Strategy (or proposition), People (engagement and advocacy) and Measurement. And broken down by pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase – obviously it will be somewhat more complex in PSFs were ongoing relationship management is so critical.

On mapping the client journey he offered a simple model: the customer journey, the business processes and the technology. He talked of the need for both competence and clarity to achieve loyalty. He mentioned research from Watermark Consulting that customer experience leaders outperform the market.

Creating an effective client experience framework

There were break-out sessions on brand propositions, digital client journeys, content marketing and brand, I stayed in the main hall for Lee Grunnell’s talk on creating a client experience framework.

He started with the three steps to distinctiveness: Articulate, Communicate and Demonstrate before using a four stage model of the client experience (Choosing, Using, Paying and Staying). He then talked through his simple and elegant approach to listing the touchpoints, identifying the buyers and agreeing the priorities (personal, commercial and technical) in client experience management.

In terms of the elements of the client experience he explored empathy, expectations, integrity, personalities, resolution and time/effectiveness.

Like the other speakers he referred to the KPMG Nunwood research showing the superior growth enjoyed by those companies who were customer experience champions. He then shared some simple toolkits for analysing the client journey in professional service firms – this included simple questions such as “When clients are…” and identifying what great looks like, what has to be done to achieve it and how the brand proposition influences both the activity and the experience. He finished with the Three Es of superior client experience (Expectation, Ease and Emotion),

Reshaping the traditional law firm business model (Radiant Law)

Alex Hamilton, putting on a brilliant performance despite suffering from a heavy cold, told the compelling story of why and how he co-founded Radiant Law. He talked about the original vision of creating a new type of law firm by looking at where law firms, LPOs and tech companies intersected and inspired in part by the views of Richard Susskind.

His three key ideas – which raised a few wry smiles in the audience – was for firms to a) make decisions, b) loose the billable hour and c) stop taking all the money out of the business. With catchy phrases such as “tacking away from the fleet”, “deprogram new recruits”, “think like a magpie” (steal other people’s ideas) and “failure is how you learn” he shared his journey and candidly admitted that they got a lot wrong. His key messages were around the need to focus on client needs, innovation and technology, working with an NED from a different sector, value pricing and taking a long term view.

During the questions, he talked about the things that haunted him about the future strategy (maintaining the culture and legal technology) and explained how they had really pushed decision- making down into the firm.

Managing your key accounts better

There was another breakout session at this point so I joined around 30 others to hear what Fiona McCambridge of Redstone Consultants had to say about KAM. After explaining the three critical success factors of KAM programmes – engaging senior leadership, client listening and accountability she set us to work in three groups to discuss the issues and solutions.

It was interesting to hear that some firms were on their third iteration of KAM programme and that many achieved 6-9% growth in key clients over a 12 month period but it usually took three or four years for the real benefits to be realised. Some participants talked about how their CRM kept track of the task list and escalated matters when action wasn’t taken. Some firms had buddy systems and most had performance reviews at Board level.

Sadly, the workshop element meant that Fiona didn’t have much time to talk through her fascinating insights obtained from research with over 20 firms about KAM. One insight was that the average for partners was to spend 10 hours a week on KAM – with some spending 20 hours.

Procurement and supplier relationships

Whereas in previous years the final panel comprised clients talking about their experiences, this year the panel contained procurement experts – from Standard Chartered Bank and AXA insurance as well as experts Stacey Coote and Alan Gotto (Constellia).

There was an animated discussion about what “adding value” meant in reality. The importance of firms measuring value – even if it means that they have strong experience of doing similar work elsewhere – was a focus point. Demonstrating savings and providing a clear sourcing strategy (“Kill my tender”) were also mentioned. Yet everyone agreed that communication and relationship were key.


Graham did an excellent job of summarising the highlights of the day:

  1. The importance of storytelling
  2. Focus on what clients will remember
  3. Start at what matters to the client
  4. By 2020, most professional service providers will be working in systems
  5. Every client touch leaves a trace

I suppose my thoughts were similar. The onward march of automation will provide us with a wealth of data about clients on which to base our decisions. But what about the impact of Data Protection and Privacy? And will we have the time to use all of the “big data”?

I was also struck about the potential divide in the future between the need for a rational, analytical and systems-based approach to future marketing and the emotional, tailored and relationship based approach to business development and client experience management.

Last year’s conference blog is here: