The majority of delegates from legal, accountancy and consultancy firms at the recent PM Forum half day workshop on Practical and Professional Skills for M&BD Assistants were relatively new to their posts. Over 60% hadn’t studied marketing formally. Most were interested in learning how their careers might develop. So the key themes from the session were: New Marketing and Business Development Assistants – Brands, Digital Marketing and Career Planning.
Like branding and messaging for our firms, we thought about three key words to sum up our personal brand. This exercise revealed how hard it was to encapsulate what you stand for and how you are different from (comparable) others. Differentiation for people in the workplace can be as tricky as differentiation for businesses and products/services in the marketplace. This short video explains the Power of Three in messaging.
Many delegates used activity words such as planning, organisation, events, insights, proposals, social media, web design, writing, legal directories and digital marketing. While others used attribute words such as personal, approachable, collaborative, proactive, social, creative and option-oriented. Few used value or purpose words. More unusual answers included: legal background and former legal editor. Surprisingly, a few mentioned that they were multi-lingual – increasingly important in our global markets.
Reputations (past actions) and personal brands (future promise) develop as we interact with team members and fee-earners. Be confident and offer ideas and suggestions. Push back on requests that are either not within the strategic focus or where alternative approaches might be preferable. Think ahead – for example, asking about what needs to be achieved or how contacts will be followed up – as this develops a reputation for thinking strategically.
Other posts on personal branding include:
- Brand Basics (Video) – What is a brand? Why are brands important? (kimtasso.com)
- Building a personal brand – Key Person of Influence (kimtasso.com)
- Lessons in leadership – personal brand, presence, stages (kimtasso.com)
- Personal or firm brand? Professional services marketing (kimtasso.com)
Digital and content marketing
When asked about the areas where they would most like to increase their role and contribution (see the poll results below), the majority of delegates indicated digital and content marketing.
While it is certainly true that a large proportion of professional services marketing was reliant on digital and content marketing, it was also important to recognise that success ultimately relies on strong relationships with contacts, clients and referrers.
So we must focus on what content is important to clients at each stage of their buying cycle or their relationship. We need to consider what they want to know, rather than just what the fee-earners want to share. Marketing should always be focused on the needs of the client as championing the client is a vital role of marketing.
The nature of professional service marketing means that often the client relationships – and the role of selling to create, nurture and develop those relationships – was the preserve of the fee-earners. M&BD Assistants can be effectively “locked out” of client relationships. However, a key role was to support fee-earners in identifying, targeting, creating and nurturing those relationships. So whilst digital and content marketing is important, so too is selling and relationship management. Meetings, events, entertaining and pitching/tendering are key activities to support this. And M&BD assistants can make a huge contribution in research and information management as well as ensuring that contact programmes are as effective as possible. That marketing integrates with and supports selling and relationship management programmes.
We looked briefly at the wide range of training resources to help people develop their digital marketing skills – from other PM Forum training events, to industry conferences and also e-learning resources such as those provided free from Google Digital Garage and HubSpot Academy.
M&BD Assistants need to take responsibility for developing and progressing their careers. Although it is often easier in larger firms where there are established marketing and BD team competency frameworks and learning, development and progression pathways. It can be trickier in smaller firms with more compact M&BD teams – although sometimes smaller firms offer greater opportunities to get involved in new activities to develop a wider range of skills and experience.
M&BD Assistants need to assess their strengths and weaknesses and identify any gaps in their knowledge, skills and experience. And then to find ways to address those gaps – with the help of their managers and HR and L&D teams.
M&BD Assistants need to be aware of the overall goals of their firms and the M&BD team so that they can align their work and contribution accordingly. There was also a discussion about the value of having a broad and varied role (generalist) and deep expertise in a particular area (specialist).
Many of the delegates had started their roles during lockdown and while working from home. Therefore, they had to adapt their learning style and habits to take advantage of the huge wealth of training resources they could access digitally. However, many noted that there were advantages to being in the office and learning from observing and chatting to team members.
M&BD Assistants need to focus on their outputs and results (what they achieve) – rather than their inputs (what they do). Ultimately, we are measured on our productivity and results so our CVs must show evidence of what we have achieved in each role or project.
We talked about using the marketing planning framework (Where am I now? Where do I want to be? How will I get there?) to create a personal career plan: Marketing planning in a nutshell – simple and complex plans (kimtasso.com)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a review of a book on marketing and business development careers in the professions (“How to advance your career in professional services marketing” by Dominic Ayres) – so watch out for this! And check out the PM Forum’s Mentor Match programme if you’re keen to find a mentor.
Delegate takeaways and actions
- “If you take the time to plan your career, you’re more likely to achieve your goals”
- The cats/dogs/bears personality analogy to help me understand how to communicate with fee earners
- Reframing negatives into positives
- Think about future aspirations and goals – avoid drifting
- Develop my own career plan – identify any weaknesses and ways to develop/grow
- Find out what the fee-earners need from me and the M&BD team
- Ask what the team want from me more
- Be proactive by letting my manager know which tasks I’m most interested in
- Obtain more feedback from seminars and events so they can be improved
Delegate poll results
These results show the experiences of the delegates and allow other Marketing and Business Development Assistants to benchmark their roles and experience.
- Have you studied marketing before?
- 63% No
- 38% Yes
- To what extent has Covid/WFH changed your role?
- 25% Not at all
- 50% A little bit
- 13% Quite a bit
- 13% A lot
- 0% Completely changed my role
- Where is most of your time spent?
- 0% Strategic marketing
- 38% Tactical marketing/communications
- 6% Selling
- 38% Client and referrer relationship management
- 18% All aspects
- What do you spend most of your time doing (single choice):
- 20% Managing data, databases and systems
- 13% Drafting and editing copy/content
- 0% Issuing/managing mailings
- 0% Supporting internal communications
- 0% Answering queries from fee-earners
- 53% Supporting M&BD executives and managers
- 0% Undertaking research
- 7% Organising events
- 7% Preparing tenders
- Where do you most want to spend more time in the future?
- 7% Internal engagement/internal marketing
- 13% Profile raising, PR and media relations
- 60% Digital marketing, content management and social media
- 13% Events, seminars/webinars and contact programmes
- 7% Something else
- Personality comparisons (see the personality video explainer)
- How would you rate your skills/abilities in selling?
- 0% Very low
- 40% Low
- 40% Average
- 20% Good
- 0% Excellent
- What percentage of your fee-earners do you think are engaged with and keen to do marketing/BD?
- 0% Less than 10% of fee-earners
- 20% 10% to 40% of fee-earners
- 20% About 50% of fee-earners
- 40% 50% to 70% of fee-earners
- 20% Over 70% of fee-earners
Before considering some of the main strategic marketing and BD frameworks and processes we shared the most common jargon words we heard before exploring what they all meant. We mentioned the importance of avoiding jargon with fee-earners as it can be alienating.
Some of the jargon words shared included:
- B2B (Business-to-Business as opposed to Business-to-Consumer)
- CRM (Client Relationship Management)
- FY (Financial Year)
- KAM (Key Account Management)
- KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- USP (Unique Selling Proposition – see Value Proposition)
We also recognised that each firm might have its own jargon which is part of its culture. It can act as glue to those within the firm – a shared language with shared meaning.