Update on marketing and business development (M&BD) team structures

I presented a methodology to design marketing and BD team structures in November 2015 . Some of the points raised then remain the same, whilst new market conditions bring additional components into the equation. Here I review recent developments and look at some case studies of how M&BD teams are structured: An update on marketing and business development (M&BD) team structures.

M&BD team structure issues that remain the same

Whilst the marketing discipline, professional services, clients and the world have changed, some things remain the same when designing a M&BD team structure:

  • Structure follows strategy – The M&BD team structure must align with the business strategy, the organisational structure and the M&BD strategy. M&BD team structures are not created in isolation – they support the firm’s business strategy which is designed with the external environment and firm’s resources in mind.
  • Support the go-to-market strategy – The M&BD team structure must support market sectors, products/service lines (typically in a matrix of both), international scope or key strategic themes that the firm prioritises.
  • Client focus and adaptation – The strategy and M&BD team structure must adapt to new market conditions and competitors, emerging client needs and new marketing approaches and technology. Marketing is about anticipating client needs so understanding how and when to target different sectors and clients remains a priority.
  • Process integration – Some firms separate out marketing, communications and sales functions – usually the larger firms where more specialisation is required. Other firms will have these roles integrated. Often, a campaign approach will enable the processes to be integrated across different departments, sectors and offices.
  • Other factors to take into account:
    • Organisational culture (centralised or decentralised?)
    • Expectations of M&BD (reactive service or proactive advisers?)
    • Attitudes towards M&BD professionals (Professional qualifications? Former fee-earners with technical product knowledge? From within or beyond professional services?)
    • Role in direct client contact? (increasingly M&BD professionals play a part on the front line of client contact for example, as account managers)
    • Client concentration? (i.e. millions of consumers compared to a handful of global organisation clients)
    • Level of automation? (significant differences exist in firms’ data and technology infrastructure)
    • Budget (some firms limit additional headcount and spend significantly on external agencies)

M&BD team structure issues that have changed

Separate strategic and operational activity

Larger M&BD teams will separate out those responsible for developing strategy from those who implement programmes.

In this case, account managers liaise with the fee-earners. They learn about their markets and clients, help formulate strategy and develop plans. They then brief and manage the marketing operations team for implementation support on communications, events, design, content production and email campaigns.

This structure is likely to have operations teams with specialist core skills such as web site development, social media management, event management, email campaigns, search engine optimisation (SEO) and data analytics. The account manager project manages the different threads of expertise to ensure the campaign is delivered and the expected results achieved.

Some firms have created marketing hubs where support requests are sent to a central point and allocated out to those with the relevant skills and capacity. The marketing teams in this scenario operate like an internal agency – with their time charged back to the commissioning departments.

In smaller firms, strategy and operations are integrated within the same team. For example, there will be senior M&BD managers who delegate implementation and operations to M&BD executives and assistants.

MarTech and SalesTech infrastructure

Modern M&BD is increasingly reliant on data and technology (MarTech and SalesTech stacks).

Some firms will have their marketing and client data integrated into cross-firm systems (for example,  Intapp leads the way with client lifecycle management (CLM) solution (kimtasso.com)) while others will have separate infrastructure for marketing and sales.

The pace of change is constant and firms are increasingly finding themselves in a permanent state of assessing and implementing new technology solutions. The era of specialist martech and salestech experts – and marketing data scientists – has arrived.

The growth of MarTech in professional services – an overview (kimtasso.com)

Account management or project support?

Some firms will assign M&BD to integrate with fee-earner teams – whether in geographic markets, industry sectors or service lines. The benefits here are that the M&BD professionals develop a deep understanding of their markets and clients as well as the fee-earners associated with them.

Larger firms may prefer to have a more flexible structure. Here, the M&BD professionals – and perhaps those from other disciplines (such as finance or human resources) – will be formed into temporary project teams to assist with particular initiatives. Once the project is completed, the team will be disbanded and allocated to new projects. Whilst agile, it can mean that valuable market knowledge and working relationships are lost.

Opportunity and Pursuits Teams

Whereas dedicated sales professionals remain rare in professional services, some firms have centralised those responsible for identifying and nurturing new sales opportunities. Work on the sales funnel is often supported by those in dedicated pursuits teams who will work alongside fee-earners to support early conversion.

Brand management

Brands rarely receive as much attention in professional services as they do in consumer and other business markets. See  Book review – Managing Brands (kimtasso.com) which considers the leading professional services brands.

But large global firms and international networks may have a separate team of brand managers.

These people will manage the strategy to ensure that the brand remains visible and consistent within multiple territories, sectors and client groups.

They will analyse and track brand value and equity. They will police the use of brand materials. They will ensure the brand voice and narrative remains consistent.

Research and client listening

Often there are separate teams of researchers beyond M&BD. These people may be directed at horizon scanning, commercial research and market insights. They may be project-based to support innovation projects. They may be sales-oriented and aligned to tender, pitch and bid teams. Or their focus may be on digital and predictive analytics. (see Advanced Marketing Management: Principles, skills and tools (kimtasso.com)).

Many firms will have rolling client listening and client research programmes. Some with a high degree of automation and many relying on external research agencies. The research team will ensure that all data and surveys are managed and integrated in central knowledge systems, the CRM and performance monitoring.

Key account management (KAM)

In the largest firms, we see M&BD professionals (and sometimes fee-earners) in dedicated roles supporting the firm’s largest and most critical clients. An allied development is those in Account Based Marketing (ABM) roles.

Selected KAM and ABM posts:

Key Account Management (KAM) programme (kimtasso.com) February 2016

A practitioner’s guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) (kimtasso.com) February 2020

Book review: Managing key clients (professional service firms) (kimtasso.com) June 2019

Key Account Management (KAM) – Research companies (kimtasso.com) June 2023


For a long time, pricing was not part of the M&BD team portfolio in professional services. And where firms invested in the area, the pricing teams were more likely to comprise finance professionals and experienced fee-earners.

More recently, we have seen pricing roles emerge within the M&BD department. I spoke to a relatively junior M&BD team member recently whose job title was “Pricing Analyst”. Her role was split between analysing fees on past client matters (and adherence to Service Level Agreements), tracking the spend of major clients and assisting pitch and tender teams with pricing schedules.

Innovation and new product and service development

These were often areas beyond the scope of M&BD departments. Happily, there is now more involvement of M&BD teams in innovation and new product and service initiatives.

Increasingly, firms are looking at e-commerce and developing digital products that can be purchased or subscribed to via web sites.

Change management and major projects

Some global firms have taken some change management and major projects out of the M&BD team structure. They have created central change management teams who pull in specialists from various business functions (e.g. finance, marketing, human resources, technology) as well as leading fee-earners. These people are often highly trained in project management and are bought to bear on firm-wide change programmes. Sometimes M&BD projects – such as thought leadership campaigns and data infrastructure projects – are managed by these teams rather than the M&BD function.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The impact of AI on M&BD teams in professional services is still being explored.

Firms may choose to skill up all M&BD professionals so that they can explore the use of AI in their particular functions – whether research, content creation or analytics. Or firms may choose to hire dedicated AI professionals to work with M&BD teams to explore how AI can be deployed for maximum impact of efficiency and effectiveness.

Property consultancy Bidwells has embraced AI in its marketing team – particularly using ChatGPT in the development of client case studies. Lessons from digital marketing webinars (June 2023) (kimtasso.com)

Remote working

The Covid pandemic forced everyone to work from home. And like many other roles, the legacy was that many M&BD people continue to do so.

But this welcome increase in flexible working does present challenges. Collaborating in global firms and across large teams can be more challenging. There is more reliance on formal communications, automated project management and workflow systems to support collaboration.

It can be harder to maintain necessary upskilling programmes and new, junior members of the M&BD team can struggle to learn the basics and form strong working relationships with their M&BD team and fee-earning stakeholders.

Other perspectives

What fee-earners want

I often work with legal, accountancy and property firms to assist in the redesign of their M&BD teams. I usually consult with the leadership team and a representative sample of fee-earners who use the services as well as the M&BD team members. Two themes constantly emerge.

  1. There is an almost universal desire from fee-earners for M&BD professionals to be more proactive. To identify opportunities and come up with ideas. Paradoxically, the fee-earners also want the team to be highly responsive to all their requests for information and assistance. They fail to notice that their constant demands for urgent support or their resistance to any form of suggestion or challenge are what takes so much time and capacity meaning that teams have little time available to be proactive!
  1. Whilst fee-earners accept that in their discipline, it is normal for there to be experts in different topics they find this hard to accept for M&BD. They assume all M&BD professionals know everything about all aspects of M&BD. So they often comment that they do not know who to go to for help in different areas of M&BD. A frequent request is for a single channel to lodge requests – which is why many firms moved to the account manager model. Internal communications should make it clear where fee-earners go to get different types of M&BD help.

Managing international M&BD teams

In November 2022, an article in PM Magazine (PM Forum) by Keith Hardie explored three international firms – RPC, DLA and Bird & Bird. They have the added complexity of different time zones, trust and control from a distance, maintaining consistency and travel.

They suggested that international teams need: connections, collaboration and culture.

Checklist for your M&BD team

In July 2022 a PM Forum article titled “How healthy is your marketing department?” by Deborah Farone posed some key questions:

  1. Are the services provided well-defined, suited to the needs of the firm and fully operational?
  2. How do you ensure that the primary responsibility of the department match the needs of the firm?
  3. Are the individuals in the group being properly trained?
  4. Is your marketing department doing an excellent job of communicating its capabilities to the firm’s professionals?
  5. Are you involving and drawing on your marketing department in the everyday management of the firm?
  6. Does the marketing department have the full support and involvement of the firm’s leadership?
  7. Is your marketing department organised to support lateral hires and mergers?

Digital marketing teams

There are some interesting ideas on structuring digital marketing teams in this book Book review: Build your digital marketing strategy by Steve Brennan (kimtasso.com)

Marketing salaries

There are various sources of marketing and business development salaries. A table was published in the January 2022 edition of the PM Magazine.

Recruitment consultancies specialising in professional services marketing are also a good source of information about the new types of roles that firms are seeking for their M&BD teams. As well as up-to-date salary and benefits information. There is a list of specialist professional services marketing recruitment agencies here: Recruiting and retaining marketing and business development (kimtasso.com)

Case studies – M&BD structures in practice

Clark Hill (Law firm)

Here is a previous case study of how law firm Clark Hill restructured its M&BD team – marketing case study – Clark Hill redesigns its marketing and BD team (kimtasso.com) from January 2021.

In essence, there is support for 25 offices and there are two teams: Business Development (BD) and Marketing (communications with a regional focus).

Marketing focuses on brand, web site, events, sponsorship and PR/Communications.

Business Development focuses on business plans, coaching, pitches and proposals, pricing, client feedback, client and industry teams, client pursuits and cross-selling.

There is a centralised database with seven pillars of information. 

Taylor Wessing (Law firm)

In an article in November/December 2022 PM Forum Matt Baldwin described the evolution of the M&BD team at Taylor Wessing. I found this particularly interesting as I had some involvement when the firm first established its marketing operations hub in Liverpool – while the main M&BD team remained in London.

The article describes the firm’s five centres of excellence for processes and workflows which have grown from five to 20 people (with 60 people overall in the M&BD team):

  1. Digital
  2. Design
  3. Clients and data
  4. New business
  5. Operations

Tozers (law firm) 

In the same November/December 2022 PM Forum profiled Tozers (a 27 partner firm) which has three offices across the South West of England. There are 18 in the M&BD team which is 10% of the firm’s 193 total headcount.

The team recently took on the role of checking the identification of new clients – extending to cover onboarding. This liberates the lawyers from substantial administration.

All practice teams receive monthly interactive M&BD plans – including working action plans linked to expenditure.

Consultancy and coaching skills are also provided from M&BD team. Early on, the M&BD team used internal communications to enable hybrid working. The M&BD team also provides BD training sessions and encourages people at all levels to build their networks. The M&BD team also assists on the client listening programme.

Davitt Jones Bould (DJB) (law firm)

A 21 partner firm which specialises in real estate – and claims to be the largest firm to do so.

Unusually, all marketing, sales and relationship development work is undertaken by the M&BD team which is organised as a team of account managers leading all client contact. All marketing and other non-chargeable activities are undertaken by a team of 40 staff including Yvonne Hills.

They use a variety of external PR and digital agencies.

MHA MacIntyre Hudson (accountancy)

There are 13 people in the marketing team – with a further three advertised posts.

Business Development people come to the marketing team for support. There is a dedicated lead generation person. Some of the marketing team have responsibility for sectors such as construction, manufacturing, technology and private wealth.

Savills (property)

There was a case study on how they redesigned the bids team. marketing case study – Transformational change in Savills’ bid processes (kimtasso.com)