Marketing and BD planning – Segmentation, Rock Stars and Engagement (Feb 2021)

Last week, delegates from large and small law firms and an engineering consultancy joined me for a “Marketing and Business Development Planning in a Nutshell” half day training workshop through the  Professional Marketing Forum. We covered a huge amount of material from marketing and business development basics, progressed step-by-step through the M&BD planning process and explored the specific challenges of M&BD planning in a professional services firm. The key themes of interest to delegates on Marketing and BD planning: Segmentation, Rock Stars and Engagement.

Segmentation in professional services firms

Segmentation (and persona) basics are in this article: Back to basics – importance of segmentation and personas | Kim Tasso

Consumer segmentation

Professional service firms that provide services to individuals (private clients) can draw on B2C segmentation methods such as demographics (age, income, occupation, religion, marital status, education, gender etc), geographic data, purchase patterns (how, when and what they buy), behavioural patterns (interrogate your analytics and CRM systems to understand R F M – Recency Frequency Monetary) and psychographic data (focusing on values and beliefs).

I am a fan of ACORN (A Classification of Residential Neighbourhoods) from CACI that combines Census demographic data with location to create six categories and 62 different types although only the largest firms will have the resources to invest in this system. I wrote previously about all the different types of segmentation for high net worth clients.

Business segmentation

In B2B markets, segmentation also groups clients according to shared qualities. Often used is the concept of “firmographics” – using company data such as revenue, number of employees, industry, type of product and longevity. More sophisticated segmentation practices include portfolio management where you might consider things such as client lifetime value (CLV). B2B segmentation is, of course, reliant on reliable data. And many professional service firms do not have systems that provide the required information.

Most segmentation approaches make the assumption that because individuals or companies have similar attributes they will have the same needs – which is not always the case. The digital revolution has moved many on from segmentation to personalisation strategies.

A poll at the session showed that the most common method of segmentation in delegates’ firms was by sector.  We also talked about segmentation approaches based on: size and rate of growth, size of transaction/project, ownership structure, geography, style of decision-making (e.g. centralised, sophistication), relationship type, satisfaction levels, tiering (matching the goals of your firm as common in Account Based Marketing), asset class, objectives and needs/issue based. We looked at a large law firm which segmented globally by complexity and the numbers of jurisdictions.

I was asked what segmentation approaches I admired. I admit that this took me off guard – I am most impressed by what is effective! However, I had witnessed smaller firms being creative in identifying and even creating very specific niches in sub-sectors. And there was an accountancy firm that had developed five personas of small business owners. I admired the work of Accenture in its Money Mindset consumer personas for the financial sector – Achievers, Balancers, Experiencers and Explorers.

Personal branding – Rock Stars and Constellations

It is both a blessing and a curse that the Rock Star approach works so well in professional services firms. This is where the personal brand of one particular individual eclipses the firm’s brand.

While, in the short term, being known as the go-to expert has significant benefits it can cause problems when growing the team and succession planning.
Rock Stars are naturally protective of their rock star status – so you need to avoid action that might appear to threaten their internal and external leadership position. Maintaining a Rock Star personal brand will be important in the overall market and for clients too.

We talked about developing others in the team as Supporting Stars in specialist and focussed areas that do not challenge the Rock Star but work in a constellation around him or her. This has the advantage of developing new and more specialist areas of expertise that complement the established Rock Star.

The constellation approach also encourages people to work collaboratively within campaigns that promote all of their brands, services and bolster the firm’s reputation as well. It spreads the load and enables individuals to play to their strengths – and to allocate them to particular channels. Sometimes Rock Stars are hesitate to allow younger fee-earners to become involved in M&BD initiatives – and to start to build their personal brand and profile. This requires building the relationship and trust with the current Rock Stars. Initial involvement might be in behind-the-scenes activities to support analysis or promotional campaigns or in internal marketing programmes.

As I said in this article about Rock Stars and Constellations  in April 2010: “A Rock Star lasts a life-time, a constellation lasts forever”.
Passle for content creation and distribution – Grow your experts | Kim Tasso talks about building Rock Stars using Passle to distribute social media content.

Engagement in M&BD planning

Not surprisingly, most delegates identified engagement as a key challenge for M&BD planning.

There are numerous cultural issues here. Some cultures and reward systems support silo activity and/or “lone wolf” partner entrepreneurialism. This opportunism is important in agile environments and crystallising and capitalising on emergent strategies. Then there is the perennial problem of fee-earners being “too busy” focusing on immediate client needs and/or personal fee-targets.

We also talked about the need for marketing and business development professionals to play an active role in educating fee-earners about strategic marketing and business development. And in facilitating initial small campaigns where success can be easily measured and reported to encourage others. The need to reposition M&BD from being a reactive service department to proactive strategic advisers was mentioned.

This article offers an approach to introduce a M&BD planning process into a professional services firm.

This article summarises the benefits of a campaign approach to fee-earners.

These articles look at engagement from a buy-in perspective:
Achieving buy-in – Oranges, elephants and dancing – Kim Tasso | Kim Tasso
Animal magic of buy-in and stakeholder engagement (Video) | Kim Tasso
all about buy-in in professional services (Manchester and Dublin 2019) | Kim Tasso
Stakeholder management and buy-in session | Kim Tasso

Other issues highlighted by delegates

Other ideas of particular interest by the delegates included:

Mark Ritson on presenting marketing plans

There was an interesting and timely article posted by Mark Ritson on 11 Feb 2021 on how to present marketing plans. He suggests (but note that he is not focused on professional services marketing):

  1. Marketing plan or brand plan?
  2. 12 month increments
  3. 20 slides and 60 minutes
  4. The marketing triptych (situation, strategy, tactics)
  5. Start before the beginning (close the loop on the previous year)
  6. Research without the detailed insight (a single slide that lists all the research)
  7. Segmentation is the end of the diagnosis (name based on behaviour, population size, a value and estimated market share)
  8. Where will you play? (“If segmentation is the map of the market, targeting is the time to plan how you will traverse it”)
  9. Miserable portrait (a realistic persona)
  10. Onion-free positioning
  11. Pointy objectives (SMART)
  12. Tactics
  13. Budget
  14. Hyperlinks to detailed information in the appendix

Related articles on marketing planning

marketing planning process into a professional service firm | Kim Tasso March 2018
Marketing planning in a nutshell – simple and complex plans | Kim Tasso June 2017
Effective marketing – a discussion with managing partners | Kim Tasso January 2019
Marketing basics – What are the 4Ps and why are they still useful? | Kim Tasso May 2020
Marketing basics – Marketing audits with onions and pestles | Kim Tasso August 2020
Back to basics – importance of segmentation and personas | Kim Tasso November 2014
Marketing planning – Selecting a strategy | Kim Tasso February 2016
Environmental analysis and planning – Future of Jobs Report 2018 | Kim Tasso February 2019
Marketing in a time of Coronavirus – Pragmatic ideas | Kim Tasso May 2020
Strategic thinking – Audits, assumptions and alignment | Kim Tasso March 2018
marketing planning – stepping stones, persuasion, motivation | Kim Tasso September 2015
ROI in professional service firm marketing | Kim Tasso October 2013
10 steps to create a business development campaign | Kim Tasso November 2015
Why fee-earners should let marketing help develop campaigns | Kim Tasso December 2015
Book – Chaotics – marketing in turbulence (scenario planning) | Kim Tasso July 2011
Marketing planning – Are you seaweed or a limpet? – Kim Tasso | Kim Tasso September 2012
Using Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard in a PSF | Kim Tasso May 2011
What makes a good marketing campaign? – Kim Tasso | Kim Tasso September 2008