At a recent PM Forum training course “Introduction to marketing and BD for PAs and secretaries” the delegates – from legal, accountancy, surveying, actuarial and technology firms – asked for a summary of the ways in which PAs and secretaries could contribute to marketing and business development success. Increasingly, technology has released secretaries and PAs from typing and administration and they are taking on a bigger role in marketing and BD. The reasons why secretaries and PAs are so valuable to marketing and BD was explored here: http://kimtasso.com/effective-marketing-pasecretary-seven-reasons-secretaries-make-brilliant-marketing-bd-assistants/ There are three roles where secretaries and PAs make a contribution and impact:
Secretaries supporting fee-earners
Typically, a secretary or PA is assigned to support the work of a senior fee-earner or a team of fee-earners. As the amount of typing and administration has reduced they have taken on more of the professional client work. In the legal profession, for example, many assistants become para-legals and fee-earners themselves. But they also support their fee-earners in marketing and business development through the following activities:
- Client relationships – Secretaries contribute in two ways here. They often have strong relationships themselves with the clients and their assistants being a great Ambassador for the firm, adding value to service delivery, providing an inside track on developments and another channel of communication. They can obtain feedback and alert fee-earners when they are aware of problems or cross-selling opportunities. They also support fee-earners maintain their relationships by adding reminders, call and meeting prompts to the calendars of fee-earners so that they regularly contact clients and referrers. They then interrogate the firm’s systems and complete research so that the fee-earner is fully briefed and prepared for those calls
- Information and enquiry management – Secretaries know how to use the firm’s systems and are able to update client information and preferences in the client relationship management system (CRM). They can take charge of preparing lists of targets, key clients and referrers for mailings and events and other activities. They can field calls and enquiries – saving fee-earner time – and help to prepare first drafts of quotes, proposals and pitches using the firm’s templates. They can also drive the follow up process. As such, they can help fee-earners manage their sales and opportunity pipelines.
- Profile raising and content management – Secretaries can help fee-earners set up social media profiles and manage their personal accounts. They can use the firm’s systems to identify suitable articles and content and help prepare, adapt and distribute this material – with approval from the fee-earner – to maintain awareness. Secretaries can ensure that the relevant search terms and key words are included in content to support the firm’s SEO performance. They can monitor relevant internal social media accounts and those of key clients, referrers and targets to support relationship management activities.
- Event management – Secretaries can take a lead role in managing marketing and business development events such as lunches, dinners and seminars. They can help prepare a plan and take charge of the logistics and ensure that fee-earners attend rehearsals and de-brief meetings and are equipped with the necessary templates for presentations and handout materials. They also play an important meet and greet function at receptions.
- Internal relationships and communication – Secretaries have a good knowledge of and relationships with a wide range of fee-earners in other teams and with business support experts. So they will know how to signpost clients, who to speak to for extra help and when to “join the dots” and avoid reinventing the wheel or missing opportunities. Their knowledge of internal processes and developments mean that they can play a valuable role in educating and updating fee-earners on marketing and business development activities. And adhering to brand guidelines and policies.
Secretaries co-ordinating marketing and BD in an office or team
In larger firms, the marketing and business development team may be located in a central office meaning that some offices or departments do not have local support. Here secretaries and PAs can adopt a co-ordinating role in driving local marketing and BD initiatives.
- Channel of communication – Secretaries and PAs use systems such as intranets and internal social media networks to keep abreast of firm-wide developments and those in other teams and help implementation in their locations. As such they can provide a vital channel of communication or bridge between central marketing and BD experts and local fee-earners. The channel works both ways – with local secretaries advising central teams how campaigns might be modified to fit the specific needs of the local market and local fee-earners.
- Co-ordination – Secretaries and PAs develop systems that help co-ordinate activities such as campaigns, mailings, events and social media in their location to ensure that everyone knows what is happening and that there is no silo activity, duplication of activity or gaps. Creating and maintaining local information systems on clients, targets, referrers and event calendars contributes to the overall success of all fee-earners in their locations.
- Training other secretaries and PAs – By collecting and centralising information and best practice they can help other PAs and secretaries learn how to expand their roles to take on more marketing and business development activity to support their fee-earners. This both saves time for the fee earners and increases the level of activity. A double win.
- Local implementation – International and national campaign materials and content can be adapted for local requirements and implemented at a local level by secretaries and PAs using remote support from central teams.
Secretaries in the marketing and BD team
There will also be secretaries and PAs operating in the central marketing and BD teams – sometimes supporting the marketing and BD directors and managers and sometimes supporting the entire team. Naturally in these roles they will be adept at using the firm’s client, research, marketing and business development systems. But they can also grow their role and adopt more responsibilities that are typically undertaken by marketing and BD assistants and executives – freeing them up to tackle other tasks.
- Research – Firms rarely have sufficient resources for analysis and research. Secretaries – with some training – can fulfil this role whether it is interrogating the firm’s financial and client systems, using the Internet for research on markets and targets or setting up new systems to obtain and manage the relevant data.
- Project management – Once the marketing professionals have completed the research and planning stages of a project or campaign, secretaries can play a valuable role in co-ordinating the project implementation and ensuring that people adhere to budgets and timelines and that key meetings are scheduled, completed, documented and followed up.
- Monitoring effectiveness – Digital marketing techniques provide a wealth of detailed information and analytic on the effectiveness of web sites, social media and campaigns. Secretaries can play a vital role in monitoring, analysing and summarising this information and preparing regular reports.
With the low availability of qualified and experienced marketing and BD assistants in the professions, many firms will look to the secretaries and PAs in their marketing and BD teams with a “grow your own” approach to those who show enthusiasm, passion and initiative. There are numerous courses and qualifications available to support PAs and secretaries progress up the marketing career ladder. Furthermore, it makes more business sense to retrain and reallocate experienced secretaries and PAs – who will know the firm’s culture, services, systems, clients and staff – rather than losing them through redundancy programmes in efficiency drives.
PS I’d like to thank the PA from a law firm who emailed in some ideas for inclusion in this blog. There’s a star in the making!