Yesterday, I was delighted that the West Midlands branch of Professional Marketing Forum invited me to run a condensed “Campaign management in the professions” session.

It was a great turnout with over 30 folk from legal, accountancy, actuarial, property and patent attorney firms. We enjoyed sunshine and the wonderful hospitality of SG Martineau lawyers in the centre of Birmingham. Well done to the Committee!

The session included highlights from various PM Forum training courses – being more strategic, marketing planning, campaign management, creativity and innovation, digital marketing and buy-in – and covered:

High calibre campaigns

  • What does a good campaign look like?
  • Great campaign criteria
  • Beyond thought leadership
  • Examples of great campaigns from the professions

Campaign challenges

  • Gaining buy-in and client focus
  • Combining strategy and creativity
  • Integrating digital and social media
  • Measuring success

Great campaigns

In addition to the campaigns I considered (which included: BDO, CBRE, Irwin Mitchell, Mishcon de Reya, Slater and Gordon, Taylor Wessing and Thomson Snell & Passmore) the delegates suggested the following which had a distinctly financial flavour:

Five biggest challenges 

The delegates spent some time considering their biggest campaign challenges but were surprisingly consistent in their responses:

  1. Rare research resources – Whilst one or two of the firms present had dedicated resources allocated to market and client research, most marketers were left to do this on their own and had poor internal information systems to support them. Subsequently, segmentation, targeting and persona development was affected. There was also an issue for those who did the research in helping fee-earners identify the real insights on which differentiating and value creating campaigns could be based.
  2. Lack of commitment – Whilst we spent some time considering buy-in strategies, gaining and sustaining commitment to a campaign was highlighted as an issue. Some commented that often so much fee-earner and marketing time was needed in the preparation of research, thought leadership or new products and services (for example, apps) that support needed to ensure an effective launch, communications and sales campaign and follow up was often lacking.
  3.  Impatience and short-termism – Despite the long sales cycle in most B2B professional service firms, most partners and stakeholders need to see immediate results and grow impatient when these take time to appear. Campaigns that are sustained and demonstrate a long term commitment (see above) are more effective.
  4.  Managing mavericks – We all recognised the value of mavericks who think differently, generate fabulous ideas and energetically and single-mindedly drive action. But the challenge of managing mavericks was discussed – particularly with regards to side-lining or undermining important strategic initiatives or diluting brand effectiveness.
  5. Difficult ROI measurement – It’s not a simple task to demonstrate real return on investment for marketing and business development activities. I couldn’t agree more and have written on this subject in the past (see, for example, ). Helping firms and fee-earners develop realistic campaign objectives at the outset was essential both to manage expectations and to demonstrate success.

Four Takeaways 

The feedback forms indicated that the main takeaways from the session were as follows:

  1.  “You are not alone” – Most folk seemed to have a Michael Jackson moment. The challenge of gaining buy-in and engagement in a professional service firm, obtaining the relevant strategic input and resources and being allowed to stick with a campaign long enough for it to bear fruit were challenges experienced by most marketers in a professional service firm environment.
  2. “Less is more” – As most marketers and business development folk are in a constant spin trying to accommodate a never-ending stream of demands from their fee-earners, identifying a few really important campaigns and focusing resources on those is more likely to generate meaningful results.
  3. “Early involvement” – Make sure that any specialists – such as digital or social media experts – are involved at the outset of campaign development. They need to understand the strategic aims, the insights from the market and client research and how the proposition permeates the overall campaign.
  4. “Defining success” – Return on Investment (ROI) is notoriously hard to calculate in professional service firms – not least because of the scarcity of the right sort of data, the long sales cycles and the importance of personal selling in the process. However, clear objectives at the outset and detailed KPIs for both process and outcomes provide a way forward.

Further details of the Professional Marketing Forum training courses:

Further details of the Professional Marketing Forum West Midlands branch: