At the beginning of December, we ran a digital version of the PM Forum’s popular “Introduction to marketing and business development for marketing and business development personal assistants (PAs) and executive assistants (EAs)”. So here are marketing and business development insights from secretaries and PAs/EAs.
With representatives from both law firms and accountancy practices – and with an even split between those working for lawyers and accountants and those working in M&BD teams – it was a lively group with lots of discussion.
Greater visibility for marketing and business development
An interesting observation was that during the Covid19 pandemic, working from home and more video communications, many secretaries/PAs had developed a greater insight into the variety and breadth of activities undertaken by M&BD teams.
Some commented that they were surprised at the different types of M&BD experts – directories, pitches, events, digital marketing, social media, copywriting, design, planning and analysis were some of the examples mentioned.
So marketing and BD professionals need to ensure they maintain the same levels of internal communication, interaction and visibility after the Covid crisis.
Throughout the session, we explored key marketing and business development ideas and busted some jargon. Amongst the phrases that had foxed these secretaries were:
- MarComms (Marketing Communications – any content such as news releases, emails, newsletters that are sent out through the marketing team or social media)
- Digital marketing (the range of marketing and communications activities taking place through digital channels such as web sites, social media, Internet/Google advertising and search engines)
- CTA (Call To Action – prompting recipients of marketing communications to take some action in response)
- ROI (Return on Investment – how much revenue and profit we generate from a campaign compared to how much it costs) https://kimtasso.com/roi-in-professional-service-firm-marketing/
We shared our favourite brands and words that came up repeatedly included trust, quality and variety of options. We also experienced how the emotional and aspirational factors were so important – and how they created differentiation. We talked about value propositions.
We talked about how the leading brands in most sectors enjoyed superior profits – a combination of larger market share and the ability to charge higher (premium) prices.
Impact of Covid on secretarial roles
The biggest impact of the Covid pandemic was the cessation of all events – conferences, seminars, exhibitions, entertaining and networking. The delegates reflected that whilst initially there was a lot of interest in video conferencing for events – especially with supporting gifts for wine or cocktail tastings – most people were now “Zoom weary” and fed up with online communications.
On the plus side, digital events were attractive to people from further away than before and so numbers participating had increased. But ensuring that the quality of presentation and interaction was high remained a constant struggle. It was hard to produce a truly differentiated event.
Another plus for those in secretarial roles was more training to help them cope better with more and different new enquiries. Some firms were investing in Ambassador training so that secretaries, PAs, EAs and others now on the front-line were better able to represent the firm and all of its services.
There were numerous benefits for work-life balance too. Delegates enjoyed having uninterrupted lunches and evenings and the absence of commuting hassles. Most mentioned that they had been walking more during lockdown. However, we all commented on how we missed aspects of working in an office. These things will be much more appreciated when we return to the workplace.
Some commented that Covid had given impetus for firms to review their M&BD teams which often led to restructuring. There’s a case study about how law firm Clark Hill redesigned its M&BD team. In some cases this led to activities and tasks that were previously being managed in the M&BD teams being distributed out to secretarial and admin teams.
Extending the role of secretaries in M&BD
Several themes emerged as to how secretaries could extend their role and make a bigger contribution to M&BD success. For example:
- Objectives – The importance of having clear goals – and looking at how these integrated with those in other teams and offices – was now clearer. Simple questions would be asked to learn what the expected outcomes might be for M&BD activities such as webinars, roundtables and email campaigns.
- Structured approach – Some felt that their new appreciation of the entire buying and selling process (and how marketing, selling and relationship management integrated) meant that they were in a better position to suggest a more structured approach to M&BD.
- Marketing mix – Encouraging partners to look beyond the communications and promotional aspects to consider market, competition, alternatives, client perspectives, new service opportunities, pricing and internal communication.
- Research – There was clearly a major role for secretaries, PAs, LPAs and EAs to support fee-earner and marketing/BD teams with research using both the firm’s internal systems and external resources. Social media was seen as a useful tool for learning about clients and their backgrounds. Advance research could prompt existing client calls and support individual one-to-one contact sessions as well as for group events such as webinars.
- Social media support – Secretaries can help maintain up-to-date web biographies and social media profiles such as LinkedIn for partners. Often, they also play a major role in identifying which posts could be shared and in facilitating that – sometimes for multiple partner accounts.
- Data integrity – Secretaries were in an ideal position to ensure that the latest information on clients and contacts were added to the relevant systems (and compliant with GDPR requirements). They were also in a great position to check the accuracy of existing information and to add up-to-date notes about recent interactions and work. This would also improve the information and experience for clients.
- Pitch documents and presentations – Most of those at the session were already involved in preparing pitch documents and presentations. They are skilled at using the relevant templates and interrogating systems to obtain the required information. This saves time for fee-earners so that they can concentrate more on the specific needs of the client.
- Cultivation of existing clients – As fee-earners can be busy managing day-to-day work, secretaries could help with prioritising and diarising catch up calls so that the relationship was maintained with regular contact. They can also monitor what thought leadership and other content was available and help fee-earners share this with relevant clients and contacts.
- Follow up – Take time to sit with partners and review their activities so that contacts made amongst delegates at online events could be logged into central databases and follow up action prompted and supported.
- Thanking referrers – Where work was referred by third parties – within and beyond the firm – secretaries can perform a really useful role in ensuring that these people were thanked for their referrals and recommendations. Secretaries could also watch out for opportunities for reciprocal referrals as well – to strengthen referrer relationships.
These ideas were particularly useful to the senior secretaries present – some who managed teams of over 20 secretaries – and were responsible for setting out competencies and performance measures for secretarial involvement and contribution to marketing and business development within their firms.
Other articles relating to marketing and business development insights from secretaries and PAs/EAs
Developing the roles of marketing and BD secretaries, PAs and EAs | Kim Tasso November 2019
Effective marketing PA/Secretary – seven reasons | Kim Tasso October 2017
Marketing secretary and BD assistant | Kim Tasso November 2017
Secretaries on marketing and business development | Kim Tasso November 2015
There is a series of Kim Tasso’s short (10 minutes) videos introducing a variety of key marketing and business development concepts on YouTube.