March 26, 2021|Kim's Blog, Marketing|
Marketing and Business Development Assistants: The impact of Covid

It was great to meet with a variety of marketing and business development assistants at the recent half day Professional Marketing Forum digital workshop on “Professional and Practical Skills for Marketing and Business Development Assistants”. All delegates were from law firms rather than other types of professional service firms. 25% had some form of marketing qualification. Delegates received the slide deck, 50 pages of supplementary material and an extensive reading list of books to deepen their knowledge. Throughout the session there were polls and break outs where the recurring theme was the impact of Covid – and these are summarised in this post. Marketing and Business Development Assistants: The impact of Covid.

Impact of Covid

In an early poll, just over half said that Covid had changed their roles “a lot” or “completely”. This was particularly so for those whose roles were focused on events before the pandemic. On the upside, most commented that they had been through steep learning curves to adapt to the social distance and working from home (WFH) restrictions – and not just on technology.
Obviously, the advent of digital and virtual events was mentioned by most delegates. As was an increase in online communication. But some mentioned that they were now involved in more data analysis (especially from online events) and had more regular catch-up meetings to stay in touch with the team and fee-earners.
A positive outcome of Covid for some assistants was a broadening of their role into other areas of marketing and business development as a result in the reduction in the number of events.

Current activities

When a poll asked where the majority of their time was spent at present, I was surprised and delighted at how many assistants were involved in strategic marketing:

  • 25% Strategic marketing
  • 38% Tactical marketing and communications
  • 25% Client relationships and referrer management
  • 12% All aspects

Looking in more detail at what our delegates are doing, this was the split of their major activities:

  • 50% Events
  • 26% Managing data and databases
  • 12% Mailings
  • 12% Supporting M&BD executives and managers

Another poll revealed that 50% felt their sales knowledge and skills were low, 38% felt their sales knowledge was average and just 12% felt it was good.

Marketing/BD vs Fee-earner personalities

In a fun poll of the different personalities and styles of those in the M&BD team compared to the fee-earners, it was thought that 88% of the delegates identified most with the “dog” personality yet they thought 75% of fee-earners were cats and 25% were bears. This explained some of the relationship challenges that had been encountered.
(This short video explains the dogs, cats and bears personality model). 

Fee-earner engagement

When asked how many of their fee-earners were engaged and interested marketing and business development, the numbers were surprising. Some firms have more of a challenge in this area than others.

  • 50% : 10 – 40% fee-earner engaged
  • 25% : About 50% fee-earners engaged
  • 25% : 50% – 70% fee-earners engaged

Delegates commented that whilst some fee-earners had transitioned well to the new environment and now needed less support from M&BD teams, other fee-earners were relying on them more for support now.
When discussing the aspects of their roles that they found challenging the risk-averse culture in firms was mentioned – which sometimes led to controlling behaviour. This had an impact on creativity.
I asked the delegates how they were perceived – what words fee-earners would use to describe the M&BD team and it was an interesting blend of activities and attributes:

Activities Attributes
Analytics Active
Branding Bossy
Communications Competent
Events Controlling
Mailings Creative
Tenders Determined

Future activities

When talking about the future and how they hoped their roles and careers would develop, most commented on how uncertain everything was at present.
When asked about what they would like to spend more time in the future, it wasn’t a surprise that 50% said digital marketing, content marketing and social media. 38% said that events, webinars and contact programmes were their preference. Just over 10% said they were interested in spending more time on internal marketing and communications. A few expressed an interest in becoming more involved in pitches and tenders.
So it wasn’t a surprise that at the second break out, the feedback was mostly on digital marketing. Comments included:

  • Digital covers a variety of approaches including: email, web site, SEO, reviews, social media and the firm’s overall digital presence
  • Be clear about the target audience and the message
  • Adapt the content to suit the particular channel being used
  • Ensure that grammar and punctuation are correct – proofread
  • Use the CMS (Content Management System) to check all the links are correct
  • Explore different software to assist with checking key words, links and hashtags
  • Analyse the analytics to refine and improve performance
  • Use the brand and tone of voice guidelines to ensure consistency
  • Monitor the subsequent actions and behaviour of event attendees
  • Make sure internal communication alerts everyone to what is happening and why

Key takeaways

At the end of the session, delegates were asked what ideas had the biggest impact and/or what actions they would be pursuing:

  • Empathy – Understanding the demands on fee-earners
  • Creativity – Look at new tools and resources
  • Goals – Check aims of all campaigns and activities (and career goals)
  • Curiosity – Keep asking questions
  • Planning – Learn more about the firm’s M&BD strategy(ies)
  • Challenge – Explore other approaches and ideas
  • Research – Find out more about markets and clients
  • Learn – Improve marketing and business development knowledge
  • Communication – Try to secure face-to-face interactions with fee-earners
  • Promotion – Work on personal brand

At one of the breaks we were joined by the delightful puppy – Bob the Chihuahua. So I introduced my two Chihuahuas – Alfie and Bertie – to everyone. We were a little disappointed that the delegate with the Husky couldn’t introduce us to her pet as he was out for a rather long walk.
Other posts relating to marketing and business development assistants: