As a managing partner, you are busy running a professional services firm. You are playing a constant game of whack-a-mole, triaging incoming requests, juggling the many demands on your time. You understand that marketing, when done well, is far more than a business enablement tool — it can be a strategic driver of success and growth for your firm.
Are your marketing efforts driving results?
Do you ever wonder if your firm is under or over-investing in marketing? Do you feel like you struggle to build name recognition in your key markets? Are you unsure of the efficacy of your marketing efforts? Do you have the right people on your marketing team? If any of these questions have ever crossed your mind, read on.
As a marketing consultant for high-growth professional services firms, I am often asked by the managing partners of accounting and law firms to assess the health and wellness of a firm’s marketing program. These are the five timeless questions that I help my clients answer about their firms:
Q1. Do we have the right marketing leader and team in place?
This is the question that many of my clients ask first. Questions about growth leadership and structure are often the trigger that results in bringing in an outside consultant. It’s important to objectively assess whether the firm’s first-chair marketing professional shares your vision and can lead the team successfully to execute a marketing plan that aligns with your firm’s goals. If not, it might be time to find a new marketing director or CMO.
Likewise, you’ll want to be sure that your team is composed of equal parts creatives and industry-aligned marketers who can partner to deliver business-driven results. It’s important that your team has the right skills and expertise. You will need experts to drive content marketing and digital marketing — including a deep understanding of web, social, and SEO best practices — along with branding, advertising, lead generation, PR/communications, photographers, and videographers. More importantly, they will need to work well together, leveraging project management tools and processes to handle a large volume of marketing activity efficiently.
High-growth firms tend to have twice as many marketers as other firms, so headcount is something to consider. You want a team that is busy, but not so far overloaded that they cannot innovate and try out new ideas.
Q2. Is marketing helping us grow our business, or are they just enabling our current book of business?
Answering this question highlights the fundamental difference between a firm where marketing is adding value to the organization versus a firm where marketing simply serves a necessary operations function. The key to seeing marketing as an investment, rather than an overhead expense, is being able to point to explicit ways that marketing is helping to grow your business — either firmwide or through specific industries and practices.
Industry-aligned marketing plans are often the most effective ways to launch marketing campaigns that build awareness, drive consideration, and create new business opportunities. Ask yourself if your firm is using an industry go-to-market approach and the marketing team is helping with prospecting, content delivery, sales support, and, ultimately conversion.
Even if your firm is not using an industry-based approach, client understanding is paramount. Your marketing team should have a strong grasp of your firm’s target audience and the markets you serve. They should be able to identify key client segments, recognize their pain points, and tailor targeted marketing strategies accordingly. Without market research and access to client data, your marketing team will struggle to deliver the kinds of insights needed to make informed decisions and be a strategic driver of growth.
Q3. Are marketing and sales in lockstep and working symbiotically to drive new business?
Speaking of being a strategic driver of growth, your marketing team should have a firm grasp on how your firm develops new business and how their day-to-day work contributes to the overall growth of the firm. Effective communication and collaboration between marketing, sales, and service teams are crucial.
Marketers should collaborate closely with rainmakers at the firm — including partners and BD professionals — to gain insights, support the lead generation process, and optimize conversions. In more sophisticated marketing organizations, marketing and sales teams work hand-in-hand, such that marketing creates campaigns that drive awareness and build a pipeline of interested prospects in terms of inbound leads. They can qualify inbound leads for fit and seamlessly pass along leads by setting up sales meetings internally.
Sales can then provide feedback on which marketing activities are most successful in identifying the right kind of leads. This partnership and feedback loop is enormously helpful in building a marketing team that creates a meaningful impact on the firm’s top-line revenue.
Furthermore, your marketing team is typically well-positioned to be the #1 champion of the client experience, resulting in more cross-selling activity, higher client loyalty, and increased referrals. This reduces the need for identifying new clients to replace the holes left as a result of client attrition.
Q4. How well aligned are our marketing tactics and budget with the firm strategy, brand, and growth goals?
In some firms, marketing is opportunistic: marketers take advantage of sponsorships and advertising opportunities that are presented to them. This is rarely the best approach because there is no understanding of how marketing helps to drive awareness and interest, with the long-term goal of conversion to new business. Marketing activities are not fully connected and result in a flurry of “random acts of marketing.”
Random acts of marketing are the undoing of any marketing team. Let’s be honest — printing branded golf balls isn’t helping your firm generate awareness, build credibility, or shepherd prospects through the sales cycle. If your firm is guilty of “random acts of marketing,” don’t fret; there are easy ways to correct this.
The first step is to make sure that the firm has a mission, vision, and growth strategy that is clearly and succinctly communicated to the entire firm. Then, the marketing department needs to translate this strategy into an annual marketing plan, or industry-aligned marketing plans, that advance the firm’s goals. These plans should then trickle down into the personal goals of each member of the marketing team with key results outlined. Lastly, firmwide internal communications, including CEO/managing partner updates and townhall meetings, should reinforce this line-of-sight messaging to help individual team members see how their day-to-day work impacts the overall success of the organization.
Furthermore, it’s essential to invest in a distinctive and cohesive brand — both in terms of visual presentation and messaging — across all marketing channels. Strategic differentiation will allow you to help stand apart in a crowded marketplace. This brand positioning will ensure that you are maximizing your marketing spend and impact, ultimately driving greater awareness for both your business and talent brand.
Q5. Are we effectively measuring our marketing impact, or are we just busy with marketing activity?
As a managing partner, you should monitor the performance of your marketing team using key performance indicators (KPIs). Understanding which marketing initiatives drive the most significant impact on business growth will enable you to allocate resources effectively. These activities should be driving toward the results you want your marketing team to help your business achieve.
Metrics to consider might include lead conversion rates, client acquisition costs, and the success of specific campaigns. Depending on your goals, you should be seeing reporting on a monthly or quarterly basis. If the results of these efforts aren’t producing the numbers you want to see, you can easily course-correct and try out a different approach. In many ways, marketing is an art, rather than a science so testing and iterating should be expected.
Creating a laser focus on the marketing activities that are aligned with firm growth goals — with a clear understanding of the KPIs involved — will ensure that the team knows where to focus its energy.
In conclusion, as a managing partner, you should be able to answer these five timeless questions. Staying informed about your marketing team’s capabilities and performance will enable you to make more informed decisions and drive the growth and success of your professional services firm.
Do you need help answering these questions — and more — at your firm? Alyson Fieldman is a seasoned marketing professional with over 20 years in professional services marketing. She works as a consultant with high-growth professional services firms to achieve their strategic, marketing, business development, and client/employee experience goals. Feel free to contact Alyson Fieldman via her website, www.rockit-results.com.