Last week we had a full house at the PM Forum’s “Proactive Marketing and Business Development Executive” full day online workshop with delegates from across the UK (and one from Singapore). We covered a huge amount during the day. Reflection is a key part of learning and so here I share the main reflections from Marketing and Business Development Executives.
Develop your marketing knowledge base
We looked at a wide variety of market research and information sources about markets and clients, the professions, marketing in the professions, client preferences and future marketing developments.
The environment constantly changes and we must remain alert to new trends and information. As proactive M&BD executives we must find and monitor great sources of information to keep us aware of new developments and opportunities. A valuable input into situation analyses and strategic marketing audits.
Just a few potential sources of information to get you started:
Executive Engagement Strategies by Bev Burgess (kimtasso.com) – Thought leadership preferences of the C-suite were mentioned
Communicate clearly and assertively
One delegate commented: “Clear and confident communication and assertiveness are key. The fee-earners need to believe in the Marketing & BD function for it to be a success. We know and understand the importance of M&BD but it may seem daunting or unimportant to others. We don’t fully understand their specialisms, but we trust they are experts. Ideally, it should work both ways”.
Another added: “It might be fair to say that one of the most essential skills to achieving buy-in would be the ability to clearly communicate the practical applications of the strategy and theory (i.e. digestible and incremental steps), as opposed to broader ideas that can at times feel somewhat distant to individual roles”.
The need to be assertive was echoed by a third delegate: “Setting boundaries and being able to say no. The knowledge gained from today will hopefully help with that as I will be able to evidence the impact of proactive activity”.
Adopt an evidence-based and emotional approach
“Don’t be afraid to use marketing theory and present market research to justify and back-up ideas and suggestions”.
We can draw on the vast body of marketing theory, knowledge and best practice when presenting our ideas. We can use market research to demonstrate trends, gaps and opportunities. We are part of the professional services marketing community. We are not alone.
Persuasion requires us to blend logic and emotion. Lawyers, accountants and surveyors rely on evidence in their roles. We harness data to provide a rational and logical basis for our recommendations.
Yet persuasion science shows how important it is to engage emotions as well. We looked at the need to develop empathy (part of the emotional intelligence skill set) with our fee-earners.
Concentrate on what you can influence
We considered Stephen Covey’s circle of concern and circle of influence from his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989) and several delegates found this helpful.
“I found the circle of influence and circle of control really helpful. It’s easy to get caught up in issues and challenges outside of your role and I think taking this tool into consideration will be really useful going forward”.
Marketing and business development executives are often buffeted by a deluge of requests for support from numerous fee-earners. We need to keep the strategic goals in mind to focus on the most important initiatives.
“There is no need to blindly follow the crowd just to be the first and get lost in the noise for every single trend. Remember to keep the focus on what is most relevant to your strategy”.
Involve fee-earners early in the planning process
“We need to be consistently approaching fee earners with a clear, high-level overview of marketing plans, involving them from an early stage without overwhelming them with the intricacies of each step (a more detailed plan should be reserved for the marketing/BD team). I think that this is an important point as it will affect the receptiveness of fee-earners towards BD in general and for each initiative” was the observation from one delegate.
Rather than struggling with buy-in after the event, we should build-in buy-in by involving the fee-earners throughout the strategic planning process.
Think like a consultant
Often M&BD is positioned as a support function within the practice. We need to think of ourselves as consultants – listening to fee-earners’ aims and challenges, diagnosing the potential issues and generating ideas on how to tackle them. This transforms the dynamics of relationships with fee-earners. And it helps us work in a more collaborative way to co-create solutions to M&BD challenges.
“As you step up to a more senior position, it’s important to become and have more of an advisory and influence function within your role”. Several M&BD executives found the idea of a mindset change to “be more consultant” helpful.
Some introductory books on consultancy skills:
Manage your time wisely
“Rocks, pebbles and sand” and “Eat the Frog” were two of the time management techniques that stuck with some delegates.
We need to measure everything – to assess the situation, to inform decision-making and to obtain evidence of the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of our M&BD programmes.
Measuring the impact of individual activities – for example, an event – was fiendishly hard and so we must develop campaigns with the appropriate mix of activities to move people through the buying cycle effectively.
And we recognised the challenges of calculating ROI in B2B professional services where the sales cycle can be long and complex.
Invest in your personal development
“This morning’s session has highlighted the value of being proactive in personal development. Reading useful case studies, books and blogs can help you become more confident in your role and your approach to marketing and business development”.
The world doesn’t stand still – it’s constantly changing. We need to be proactive in equipping ourselves with new knowledge and skills if we are to continue to adapt to changing markets, clients, roles and technology.
Professionally qualified marketers are required to fulfil their CPD (Continual Professional Development) requirements. But we all owe it to ourselves to invest in lifelong learning so that we protect ourselves and future-proof our careers.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has professional qualifications for all levels of marketers. New CIM professional marketing qualifications – 2020 (kimtasso.com). And the knowledge, skills and behaviours listed in the Level 6 Marketing Manager apprenticeship – from page 16 are helpful.
Plan your career
Whilst we must remain flexible and seize opportunities when they arise (“squiggly careers”), we should take some heads-up time to think about what we want from our future careers.
We need to realistically assess our strengths and weaknesses and identify knowledge and skill gaps that need to be filled. We can apply the marketing planning process to our careers if we are to avoid “strategic drift”.
Huge thanks to Morag Campbell at PM Forum for providing brilliant technical co-hosting support with all the polls, interactions and break out exercises taking place with seamless efficiency. And well done to those joining us from different time zones and for those who were fasting during Ramadan – truly resilient people.
Details of future training sessions can be found here PM Forum
The image – Hercules and the hydra by Lucas Cranach-the-elder – was selected by delegates at one of the creative breakout sessions exploring the challenges faced by proactive marketing and business development executives. It could be interpreted as a reflection on the workload – forever fighting on so many fronts and with two new tasks emerging when you have slain one. We don’t believe it was a reflection on the state of the relationship between marketing/BD professionals and fee-earners!
Delegate Poll Results
How confident do you feel in your role?
|Rating (1 is low, 10 is high)||At the start of the session||At the end of the session|
Do you have any marketing qualifications? New CIM professional marketing qualifications – 2020 (kimtasso.com)
- Yes 53%
- No 47%
Is your role mainly:
- Strategic marketing 11%
- Tactical/Communications 26%
- Info management 0%
- Selling/pitching 0%
- Relationship management 11%
- All of these 53%
What does proactive mean?
- Anticipating (we particularly like this definition as it aligns with the definition of marketing which is “The management process responsible for anticipating and meeting client need profitably”)
- Forward thinking
- Being in control of the situation
- Acting on theory learnt
- Taking charge
- Doing something without being told
- Doing something!
- Putting things into practice
How much time in your role do you spend being proactive?
- Around 10% 42%
- Around 20% 32%
- Around 30% 26%
Which segmentation approaches are used by your firm? Marketing and BD planning – Segmentation, Rock Stars and Engagement (kimtasso.com)
- Market/industry sector 68%
- Size of business 47%
- Job function 42%
- Geography 58%
- Nature of relationship 21%
- A mixture 37%
Do you have marketing/BD plans for: Marketing planning in a nutshell – simple and complex plans (kimtasso.com)
- The firm 74%
- Markets we serve 37%
- Products/services 47%
- Territories 42%
- A mixture 37%
How well does your firm track/monitor the source of leads?
- Really well across the firm 17%
- Good in some teams 50%
- OK 17%
- Not very well 17%
- Not at all 0%
Do you measure client satisfaction? Client satisfaction benchmarks – How do you measure up? (kimtasso.com)
- Yes – across the entire firm regularly 33%
- Yes – for the largest clients 22%
- Yes – for some clients or periodically 44%
Have you seen any crisis management plans at your firm? Book review: Managing online reputation – How to protect your company on social media by Charlie Pownall – Kim Tasso
- Yes 17%
- No 83%
What types of external consultants does your firm use?
- Brand 42%
- Design/creative 63%
- PR/copywriting 58%
- Web design 63%
- SEO 11%
- PPC/paid search 16%
- Data/Analytics 21%
- Mailings 11%
- Events 26%
Do you have people directly reporting to you?
- Yes 11%
- I used to 11%
- No 79%
How often do you experience difficulties in your fee-earner relationships?
- Never 0%
- Occasionally 78%
- Often 22%
- All the time 0%
Have you had formal training in selling?
- Yes 13%
- No – self taught 25%
- No – unfamiliar 63%
Where is most of your time spent?
- Marketing/BD planning 35%
- Awareness raising 6%
- Led generation 18%
- Winning new business 12%
- Developing existing relationships 29%