December 2, 2022|Kim's Blog, Marketing|
Release time to become a more proactive Marketing and Business Development Executive (November 2022)

It was a full house at November’s PM Forum workshop for Proactive Marketing and Business Development Executives. Delegates were from large and medium sized legal, intellectual property, accountancy, actuarial, pension and consultancy firms – from the UK but also from the Channel Islands and Portugal – with some supporting up to 12 jurisdictions. This article summarises the main themes that arose from the discussions and exercises and forms part of the day’s learning resources. Thanks to all the delegates for their enthusiastic participation and for the support of Morag Campbell.  Many management teams I speak to express a desire for their M&BD Execs to be more proactive – which takes time, tact and the confidence to think ahead and adopt a more advisory approach. Release time to become a more proactive Marketing and Business Development Executive.

What does proactive look and feel like?

There were a variety of views of what being proactive looks like – from thinking ahead, anticipation, taking the initiative, being resourceful, being ready to act, offering alternatives, acting rather than reacting and finding ways to add value.

The point was that we all have different ideas about proactive – and no doubt it will be the same for fee-earners. So we should ask people about their perceptions on what they would like. This type of conversation is itself an example of being proactive.

There were also comments that it meant M&BD executives need to shift from a response-only or reactive way of behaving to being more advisory and more like a consultant.

We can see how more senior members of the M&BD team allocate more time for being proactive – often by focusing on future goals and projects and investing time in analysis, research and planning.

What stops us being proactive?

There were many things that get in the way of being proactive including having too much work and too many projects, long task and to do lists, research activities and having to respond quickly to a deluge of inbox and chat messages. In essence, the workload often prevents more proactive action. Inbox overload was a major feature. However, some executives can slip into the habit of constantly responding to questions and requests. And for some, the firm’s culture means that they aren’t expected to be proactive.

It’s worrying that so many M&BD executives feel under constant pressure. People who are always stressed are unlikely to be able to do their best work and may suffer from burn out, anxiety and depression. So we must take responsibility for managing our workloads – and asking for help with prioritising if necessary. There are resources on resilience:

Building Resilience – Regulation, Reframing, Relationships and Reflection (

10 tips to increase your resilience – Kim Tasso

Resources to help you deal with difficult interactions (

Crazy busy – Book review – Dealing with stress (

Using the “free day” exercise, delegates reflected on what they might do with more time available – step back and looking at the big picture, be more creative and think of new approaches (rather than reacting from habit and repeating past activities) and conduct more analysis and planning to clarify goals and desired outcomes. One delegate mentioned taking time out to consider ROI to develop future projects.

There were comments too about confidence.

Soft skills – Boost your self-confidence and confidence (Video) (

Be more confident and convey confidence – top tips (

Insights into assertiveness, confidence and effectiveness (

How can I make the time to be proactive?

Everyone is busy with heavy workloads. So we need to find ways to free up time so that we can be more proactive. We discussed a variety of ways to free up time so that you can shift towards being more proactive, including:

  • Time management – Deploy techniques to manage our time effectively – especially blocking regular time out to think
  • Prioritise – Use marketing and business development plans (and your line manager) to focus attention and identify priorities
  • Delegate – Identify which tasks could be delegated and particularly to those outside the M&BD team
  • Outsource – Consider the speed and cost benefits of using external experts and specialists or freelancers
  • Produce plans – Create and approve plans with fee-earners to agree who will do what and by when and avoid last minute panics
  • Improve process efficiency – Look at regular and repeating activities to see how processes could be improved or automated
  • Minimise meetings – Find alternative ways to communicate and/or ensure meetings are kept short by producing papers in advance and showing what decisions are required in meetings
  • Provide guidance and checklists – Produce tools to enable fee-earners and others to support themselves better and be more self-sufficient
  • Automate – Explore technology solutions that will save time
  • Establish routines – Ensure that regular activities are properly scheduled and completed by the appropriate person
  • Stop activities that don’t add value – Regularly review repeat activities that don’t add value any more and agree to stop them. Set approval processes and limits for activities that are not planned and/or bids or tenders below the agreed value
  • Repurpose – Consider all the ways in which great content can be repurposed rather than sourcing new content every time
  • Assess effectiveness – Stop repeating activities that take a lot of time and effort for little return

Other time management techniques are explore here: 35 tips to improve Time Management for busy professionals (

What can I do to be more proactive?

We considered many different ways to be more proactive (see the lists below). But the main ideas included:

  • Clarify aims
    • Discuss with fee-earners what they most want to achieve – what would the best outcomes be?
    • Find out the biggest challenges for the fee-earners and find ways to help them
    • Rather than simply actioning what fee-earners ask, explore (and challenge) whether there are better ways to achieve the desired objectives
    • Obtain data so that aims are realistic
  • Promote collaboration
    • Look at where teams have similar aims and consider how they might work together
    • Provide insight and education on alternative methods of M&BD
    • Identify where different teams are trying to reach the same audience and prompt sharing and collaboration
    • Help cross-pollinate ideas between teams with internal communication
  • Check strategy
    • Undertake detailed analysis to obtain data that will enable everyone to target more effectively
    • Consider alternative methods to achieve the same results with less effort (e.g. replace regular seminars with a podcast series)
    • Check current segmentation and targeting criteria to ensure that they are properly focused
    • Look at what other teams and firms are doing
    • Consider alternative ways to achieve the same or a better outcome
  • Monitor the external environment
    • Conduct regular horizon scanning to see what’s coming down the line in the economy, technology, political, environmental and sociological trends and to identify future opportunities and threats
    • Undertake research to identify emerging and future opportunities in the market
    • Monitor the activities of competitors to detect changing themes and approaches
    • Look at other sectors to see what marketing and business development approaches they find successful
  • Prepare plans
    • Align marketing, business development, project and campaign plans so that they support business and sector and practice group objectives
    • Ensure there are plans in place to guide everyone on what to do and when
    • Prepare crisis management plans to anticipate and mitigate risks
  • Monitor effectiveness and impact
    • Seek feedback from clients, referrers and targets on what content and channels they find most valuable
    • Review the success of past campaigns to identify those things which we should stop, continue or extend
    • Analyse the results of past marketing and business development campaigns to identify the critical success factors
  • Improve systems and processes
    • Find ways to automate or be more efficient in regular or repeated activities
    • Constantly review our processes to identify ways in which we can reduce time or cost and increase results
    • Identify what systems, solutions and technologies might be deployed to increase efficiency or effectiveness
  • Learn constantly
    • Continue to learn about new marketing and business development techniques and campaigns to see if they can be applied in my markets and sectors

Poll results and other discussion topics

Delegate aims for the session

Delegates had various aims for the day including:

  • Be more proactive
  • See the bigger picture
  • Develop confidence to be more proactive
  • Learn more about the fee-earner mindset
  • Become more advisory
  • Help our fee-earners and firms be more successful
  • To be inspired
  • To learn from others
  • To extend my network
  • Get promoted

Key delegate takeaways from the session

The delegates identified the key learning points and actions from the session:

  • Do less, but do it better!
  • Keep learning and refreshing my knowledge and skills
  • Use research to become a fortune teller
  • Review our current processes and see how they can be improved
  • Learn to “reframe” when dealing with “difficult” fee earners (View the more ‘difficult’ fee earners in a different way that allows me to get rid of that label and to work with them in a more proactive way and to understand the way they work
  • Invest more in development
  • Be more assertive
  • Back up ideas and plans with data
  • Find examples/templates of a best practice business development plan/marketing plan
  • Reflect more on my day to day job
  • Review my personal brand, blockers that I may need to overcome and actions for success.
  • Make a project plan/mind map of how in my role I can be more proactive
  • Schedule monthly check ins to monitor my progress
  • The image exercise! (this was an exercise in personal branding)
  • Use the great reading list now to help me as I look to be more proactive
  • Keep up with marketing trends
  • Think about how I can add value to upcoming projects before starting them
  • Use tried and tested marketing theory/diagrams to explain a new campaign or strategy to fee earners
  • Prioritise my personal brand as well as day to day work
  • Work on my own brand at the firm
  • Plan my career as I plan a marketing project to make it happen

How do you convey confidence?

  • Be concise and clear
  • Remain calm (speak at a moderate pace)
  • Communicate aims and outcomes
  • Use precise language
  • Understanding everyone’s role and the scope of each practice/group
  • Maintain a sense of humour

Soft skills – Boost your self-confidence and confidence (Video) (

The value of theory (and marketing jargon)

  • Marketing theory is useful for having a good base, but not essential
  • Using tried and trusted theories and frameworks adds confidence, credibility and legitimacy to our recommendations
  • Marketing theory provides a good base of ideas and frameworks to apply in different situations
  • Avoid using excessive use jargon with fee earners as it can confuse and create a barrier
  • Theory and models can be used to promote understanding and trust and provide guidance and a trusted process
  • It helps us educate our fee-earners and other functional leaders
  • Provides a solid strategic base for our analysis and recommendations
  • Having a structured approach saves time and ensure we don’t miss any important steps in the process
  • Keeps messaging simple, concise and practical
  • It avoids us getting into (and staying in) bad habits (e.g. “spray and pray” communications)

Marketing basics – Marketing audits with onions and pestles (

Marketing and Business Development Planning in a Nutshell (

Marketing planning in a nutshell – simple and complex plans (

Strategic thinking – Audits, assumptions and alignment (

Communicate creatively 

One of my favourite exercises involves delegates working in teams to select images and develop storyboards to describe and tackle common challenges. Here are some highlights:

  • Fly – Pesky irritants that won’t go away and are always present
  • Brick wall – Impenetrable barriers
  • Caught in the cross-fire – Resolving competing interests or views
  • Dinosaurs – Set in their ways and likely to become extinct
  • Concierge – Available 24/7 to meet all of your needs
  • Coffee cup – Less professional, more social
  • Elves – Performing magic overnight
  • Children – With lots to learn by having fun
  • Therapist – Talking through challenges and concerns
  • Fortune teller – Looking into the future
  • Rabbits from hats – Delivering amazing results
  • Aladdin’s Cave/Treasure chest – Unlocking rewards and benefits

Future demand for M&BD skills

During a discussion about future careers, there were numerous ideas about which skills and knowledge might be needed in the future by M&BD executives

  • Understanding of ESG and D&I
  • Managing big data and analytics
  • Digital skills
  • Gamification
  • Using the metaverse
  • Account management and selling skills
  • Research methods
  • Project management
  • Strategic thinking
  • Soft or people skills

See also: 

Emerging marketing and business development roles (

How to advance your career in professional services marketing (

Nine Marketing and Business Development trends in 2021 (


Half-way through the day – after the strategy content – delegates shared their reflections:

  • Communication
    • Think about how I would describe marketing and business development to my fee-earners
  • Planning
    • Consider what I would do if I had “free time” – what area of my job would I want to focus on?
    • I should start to think about how i can use my free time to develop and become more proactive within my role – putting together an action list to complete when I have a quiet period.
    • Create a list of proactive go-to-actions that I can (try) to implement.
    • My team has little direction in regards to marketing activity and no solid deliverables. I would like to find the time to make this happen
    • How can I utilise my time more wisely and what impact can I make to the team going forward?
    • As my firm does not have a specific marketing plan for each service sectors, so I am planning to be more proactive and create one for my servicing team. To let the partners or seniors to get a holistic view on what marketing team does and the importance of it.
  • Use of marketing and BD theory
    • Interesting to see everyone’s views on marketing theory and if it is useful when speaking to fee earners as we don’t tend to do this in my firm
    • There are many marketing resources/theories that I think would be beneficial for me to know more about/have a refresher on. I need to invest time in this so I can then use this knowledge to add value in my current role
    • It would probably be beneficial to revisit some of the marketing theories I studied at university and use them as the basis for structuring and selling future BD and marketing campaigns to fee earners.
    • Use the tools and resources available to spot opportunities
  • Events
    • It was interesting to hear that events don’t have to only be IP related (or whichever field you work in). It can be on a completely separate topic (commercial or business or news related) which might attract more potential clients
  • Data
    • Thinking about how we can use the data more to evidence the benefits and encourage marketing involvement with fee earners e.g. showing benefits and results of content creation, data input in the CRM – activities/relationships
    • During down times I should be doing more market research and inputting that into marketing plans for the different service lines I support. I should also share this with other teams so that our efforts are joined up and meet key themes / targets
  • Skills
    • Skills we need to achieve buy in are persuasion skills and influential skills.
    • Essential skills in organisation and follow-up guidance.
    • I think continuous learning (articles, blogs, podcasts) both marketing and legal will benefit my confidence and in turn help me to be a better advisor to the lawyers
  • Project reviews
    • I think it is crucial to stay on top of things and not lose the thread. To close each project and initiative with specific conclusions. There is so much that gets lost in the middle that these skills are increasingly valued. They make the team and the fee-earners feel a sense of confidence, which then works in our favour when we promote new ideas and projects.
    • Where can i add value add to other projects?

Marketing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) (

Boost training effectiveness by incorporating learning theory (

Poll results

Our anonymous polls enable delegates to benchmark their views, abilities and approaches

Poll: How confident do you feel in your role?
Start of session End of session
1 (Very low) 0% 0%
2 0% 0%
3 0% 0%
4 0% 0%
5 11% (2) 0%
6 17% (3) 12% (2)
7 44% (8) 29% (5)
8 17% (8) 35% (6)
9 11% (2) 18% (3)
10 (Very high) 0% 6% (1)


78% (14) had some form of marketing qualification compared to 22% (4) who didn’t

Poll: Is your role mainly:
Strategic marketing 6% (1)
Tactical marketing/Communications 18% (3)
Information management/Admin 5% (1)
Selling/Pitching 12% (2)
Relationship management 6% (1)
All of these things (business development) 47% (8)
Something else (Campaign project management) 6% (1)


Poll: Segmentation at your firm (multiple choice)
Market or industry sector 61% (11)
Size of business 28% (5)
Job function 22% (4)
Geography/region 39% (7)
Nature of relationship 28% (5)
A mixture 44% (8)
None of these 0%


Poll: Do you have marketing plans for (multiple choice)
The firm 28% (5)
The markets we serve 28% (5)
The products/services we promote 39% (7)
Each territory/region 11% (2)
A mixture 44% (8)
None of these 0%


Poll: How well does your firm track/monitor the source of leads?
Really well across the firm 22% (4)
Good in some teams 39% (7)
OK 22% (4)
Not very well 17% (3)
Not at all 0%


Poll: Do you measure client satisfaction?
Yes – across the firm and all clients regularly 11% (4)
Yes – for our largest clients 22% (4)
Yes – for some clients or periodically 56% (10)
No 11% (2)


Poll: Have you seen any crisis management plans at your firm?
Yes 39% (7)
No 61% (11)


Poll: What type of external consultants does your firm use (tick all that apply)
Brand 35% (6)
Design and creative 53% (9)
PR, Public relations and copywriting 53% (9)
Web development 41% (7)
SEO 29% (5)
PPC 24% (4)
Data management/Analytics 18% (3)
Mailings 6% (1)
Events support 24% (4)
Other (IT and submissions) 6% (1)

88% (15) do not have anyone reporting to them, 6% (1) do and 6% (1) will have soon

Poll: How often do you have difficulties in your relationships with fee-earners?
Never 7% (1)
Occasionally 80% (12)
Often 13% (2)
All the time 0%


Poll: Have you had formal training in selling?
Yes 17% (3)
No – self taught/experience 44% (8)
No – unfamiliar with sales/selling concepts 39% (7)


Poll: Where is most of your time spent?
Marketing/BD planning 39% (7)
Awareness raising 28% (5)
Lead generation 6% (1)
Winning new business 11% (2)
Developing existing relationships 11% (2)
Other 6% (1)

Related articles

Reflections from Marketing and Business Development Executives ( April 2022

Proactive Marketing Executive – Plans, Budgets, Relationships and Career ( September 2021

Proactive Marketing and BD Executive – Data, Reach, Qualifications, Skills ( April 2021

Proactive Marketing/BD Executive (Oct 2020) – Session highlights ( October 2020

Six themes for Proactive Marketing and BD Executives (2019) ( January 2020

Top 10 takeaways – Proactive Marketing Executive (Feb 2019) ( June 2019

Proactive Marketing Executive – Eight top tips ( February 2018

Proactive Marketing Executive workshop ( February 2017

seven building blocks of a proactive marketing executive ( October 2015

Marketing Executives develop empathy in fee-earners’ persepective ( October 2014