In November it was a full house for the PM Forum’s Proactive marketing and business development executive online workshop. It was on budget day so those from accountancy and tax practices had a lot going on. These sessions are experiential – with much use of social learning so many insights are generated during group discussions. Proactive marketing and business development executives – CRM, internal engagement and career insights.
What CRM/systems would people recommend?
There was much discussion about the different systems that were used – and people’s views on whether they were good, bad or indifferent. Many reflected that it is rarely the system that is at fault if there are issues. The firm’s culture, business development processes, adoption by fee-earners and support staff and the quality of the data are key success factors.
A variety of specialist (to professional services) and mainstream CRM systems were explored. The pros and cons of standalone vs integrated (with the firm’s overall data architecture) was considered – especially with regards to user adoption and data duplication.
Enhance internal engagement (and obtain sales information from fee-earners)
Most firms have systems that gather data on front-end marketing activities such as web visits (Google Analytics), social media management, mailings and events. However, some lack systems and data for monitoring activities once leads are passed to fee-earners for follow up and nurturing.
Sometimes marketing and sales system are not integrated. So there were questions about how to persuade fee-earners to provide information on how they were progressing with leads (to monitor lead nurturing and supplement attribution and cost per lead calculations) and their conversions (so that ROI could be calculated).
Some firms were fortunate to have integrated CRM systems (such as InterAction and Salesforce) that incorporated opportunity and sales tracking information so this was not a problem. Others had difficulty with this as the fee-earners did not have a systematic approach to pursuing leads and opportunities. And there was the added complication of long sales cycles. Four themes in the art of selling – Integrating marketing and sales (kimtasso.com)
A creative exercise on engagement generated some interesting metaphors – for example, a brick wall suggesting a lack of communication, a carrot considering motivation and a Leonardo di Caprio shrug suggesting indifference. This ignited ideas on how to address some of the issues.
There were comments that it was unusual for people to be in the office so face time and in person meetings – where it is easier to develop rapport, trust and solid working relationships – were rare. Geographical and psychological distance can seem larger when in a digital space. Finding ways to meet with people in real time (such as at social events) can help.
Create a sense of unity by reminding people we are on the same team and all striving for the same results (happy clients and increased profits). A similar approach would be to unite people behind the need to focus on client interests and overcoming competitor activity. And it is hard to argue with evidence of client sentiment or competitor action.
Marketing and business development executive career insights
There was an even split between delegates who were new to the role and others who were more established. Between 1% and 20% of their time currently spent being proactive – with a median of 10%. Ideas on how to spend any “free” time ranged from competitor and analytics analysis to business plans for teams although some mentioned getting up to date on admin.
We shared questions and reflections half-way through the day and at the end. Key insights raised by delegates included:
View marketing qualifications from a professional services perspective – Half the delegates had marketing qualifications. The early quiz on key marketing concepts prompted some to reflect that their studies had concentrated on consumer marketing (B2C) which made it challenging to apply to B2B professional services marketing. New CIM professional marketing qualifications – 2020 (kimtasso.com)
Collaborate – If you can demonstrate to fee-earners that you are approachable, knowledgeable, helpful and get the job done they are more likely to be engaged. Working as part of a team – across marketing and business development specialisations and with fee-earners from across the firm – was more important for today’s more complex projects. Collaboration is one of the four human abilities that can protect us from being automated The Human Edge – How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers (kimtasso.com)
Hone thought leadership skills – There are many skills required to support thought leadership projects including: internal relationships, collaboration, influence, persuasion, research, analysis, creativity, campaign planning, project management, content development, analytics and performance measurement Campaigns, thought leadership and project management (kimtasso.com)
Accept resistance and push back – We all experience some push back from fee-earners. Sometimes this is because of the constraints fee-earners experience – too little time, pressure to serve clients, fear of failure. Sometimes it is because we need to find better ways to communicate. Sometimes we need to refine our ideas and present better evidence. Dealing with resistance to change (kimtasso.com)
Look beyond marketing communications – Many of the delegates’ roles focused on marketing communications and some were keen to understand the broader business development activities. “It was interesting to learn how Business Development Executives work with managing client relationships”.
Conduct a personal gap analysis – “By considering all the things that a proactive marketing/BD executive could do and talking to other delegates I have discovered some gaps in my knowledge and skills that I aim to remedy”. Taking responsibility for your own personal development is particularly important for those in smaller firms where there is perhaps a less developed career development process.
Harness social learning – Whilst in person and online training have a lot to offer, sharing with peers remains a powerful way to learn. “It has been really interesting to hear the different platforms others use for events and social media and how they work for their firms”. Another delegate commented “Be confident, have a solid plan and solid support from a colleague outside of marketing/BD i.e a partner”.
Acknowledge some challenges are universal – Delegates felt relieved that they were not alone in experiencing some issues. “Listening to others it seems that we all face similar challenges – particularly with regards to internal engagement. It’s reassuring to know that it isn’t just me and my firm!”
Delegate planned actions
Be more confident when talking to fee-earners and take control of my role
Perform a ‘personal audit’ and improve my knowledge in the areas of marketing/BD where my confidence and experience is lacking
I will be more assertive and convey confidence when working with client facing teams.
Make myself more visible in meeting with fee earners.
Build relationships with fee-earners
Build my knowledge of the sector
Write a SWOT analysis of my progress so far and cross-reference it against where I want to be in future
Build a future plan and organise steps of actions on how to grow
Carve out more time to think before I just do
Anticipate needs of the fee earners and be more assertive in my approach
Ask for more feedback from fee-earners and managers on where I can improve or what I can do to help them engage more
Look at the BD plans for each team more regularly to remind myself what we’re trying to achieve
Do some further reading and research to increase knowledge and keep up to date with an everchanging market (more knowledge will lead to more confidence in role)
Use the rock, pebble and sand method to prioritise and not become overwhelmed
Keep aware of new tech changes – especially AI
Selected delegate poll results
Delegates appreciate seeing their responses to compare against their peers
How confident do you feel in your role?
Start of session
End of session
Do you have any marketing qualifications?
Is your role mainly:
11% Strategic marketing
47% Tactical marketing/communications
0% Information management/analyst/administration
5% Relationship management/development
37% All of the above
Which segmentation approaches are used in your firm (multiple choice)
79% Market/industry sector
21% Size of business
53% Job function
32% Nature of relationships
47% A mixture
Do you have marketing/BD plans for (multiple choice)
74% The firm
58% The markets we serve
58% The products/services we promote
37% Each territory/region
26% A mixture
How well does your firm track/monitor the source of leads?
0% Really well across the firm
21% Good in some teams
32% Not very well
0% Not at all
Do you measure client satisfaction?
11% Yes – across the whole firm and all clients regularly
11% Yes – for our largest clients
63% Yes – for some clients or periodically
Do you have crisis management plans at your firm?
Which types of external consultant does your firm use (multiple choice)
68% Web design/development
58% Design and creative
32% PR, public relations and copywriting
16% Data management/analytics
11% Events support
Do you have people reporting directly to you?
How often do you experience difficulties in your relationships with fee-earners?
Have you had formal training in selling?
50% No – self-taught/experience
50% No – unfamiliar with sales/selling concepts
Where is most of your time spent?
56% Marketing and business development planning
28% Awareness raising
11% Developing existing relationships
6% Winning new business
0% Lead generation
Which topics are your three highest priorities for learning?
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