We were running a Business Development programme for a medium sized Accountancy firm recently when the conversation turned to marketing your firm and the need for an increased focus on marketing and an improvement in the performance of the marketing team. This is something that we hear often from professionals and it is usually borne out of a misunderstanding of what marketing actually is, and the role marketing professionals, as well as the legal or accounting experts, should play within the marketing machine.
What actually is marketing?
If the purpose of your firm is to attract and retain clients, then marketing your firm, in it’s absolutely simplest form, is about deciding what you should do to achieve that purpose! It’s about knowing who you want your customers to be today and tomorrow.
It’s about developing services that will satisfy clients and prospect’s wants. And it’s about ‘helping to make selling happen’.
The key to marketing’s effectiveness lies in its purpose or focus. If the focus is to explore business opportunities with a prospect or client face to face, then the activities to invest in are those which give you a platform to have a direct business conversation. But if marketing is being conducted without a real focus, then it is likely to fail.
If we think of marketing in a Professional Service Firm in the context of football, then marketing activity is the football pitch and the commercial activity is to get the spectators to attend. Exploring the opportunity is the penalty area and the tender process, proposal or request for work is shooting towards goal, and the players and corporate hospitality team is your client service team.
This mix represents your typical marketing seven ‘P’s’ – promoting the right product/service, at the right price, in the right place with a demonstration by expert people, effective processes and the physical evidence to prove you are good at what you do! (Think – Champions league titles!)
And who is responsible?
We asked the delegates on the Business Development programme a question. ‘How many client facing people do you have within the firm and what is the size of the marketing team?’. The answer was X hundreds of professionals supported by a team of 22 marketing managers and assistants.
If the widespread belief is that marketing your firm is the sole responsibility of the dedicated marketing team then I would imagine there is a lot of frustration from all sides and that successfully growing fees, attracting prospects, retaining key clients and building a quality brand is immensely challenging.
What we are getting at here is that everyone with any aspect of client or prospect contact (which is probably everybody within the firm) is in the ‘marketing team’ and should be responsible for marketing your firm. It is vital that people understand this and take responsibility for driving growth.
For those firms lucky enough to employ knowledgeable, professional and enthusiastic people who are in dedicated marketing positions then fantastic. Using the football analogy, they are responsible for devising the marketing strategy, plans and activity to get the fee-earners quickly and effectively into the ‘exploring the opportunity’ (penalty) box. And then advising, supporting, coaching and driving them to enable a successful score.
Effective marketing can be broken down into 3 elements:
Corporate marketing, awareness of the firm’s existence
Capability marketing, awareness of what the firm does and how well it does it
Contact marketing, direct opportunities to communicate and build relationships with prospects, and show that the firm wants to do it
Dedicated marketing teams do fantastic things to ensure that targets know the firm exists, what it does, and that it is good at doing it. Fee-earners can have false hopes that this focus will lead to increased Business Development activities, but usually this is wishful thinking.
What these activities do is put the fee-earner into a fantastic position to ‘woo’ those targets. Just as the football coach / manager can’t help a player score once the whistle has been blown for the start of play – the marketing team can’t influence the outcome either.
Despite all the tactical marketing tools, social media platforms, digital options, web sites and even artificial intelligence the vast majority of prospects will still choose to buy based on the human element. The vast majority of prospects are converted through effective Contact marketing as professionals get closer to prospects.
Why? We need to understand why prospects and targets choose to buy.
The general rule of thumb is that there are 6 buying motivations (the SHAPER model).
(S) Safety – it works, I have trust in the service and products provided.
(H) Honour – I like being associated with the firm, the brand, and the image.
(A) Advancement – I like innovative solutions and to ‘go for things’ early.
(P) Protection – if it goes wrong, I know I will be looked after.
(E) Economy – I will get value for money / return on investment.
(R) Relationship – I like you and I want to do business with you.
Prospects motivated by Honour and Economy may potentially make buying decisions based on more remote corporate and capability marketing but the majority of decisions will be influenced by contact and relationship building as shown below:
So what this all means is that the people who have the biggest impact on marketing your firm is the individual fee-earners. This also means that firms need to look closely at the way that messages, ‘elevator pitches’ and key selling points are defined and articulated by everyone with client contact. It also means that there is a need to focus on building skills and confidence in communication, personal impact, business conversations and relationship building. Perhaps this should be the main investment area for the marketing budget!
So… how many people are marketing your firm? And how effective is marketing working? How can you build a culture of high performance marketing?
If you would like to discuss how theGrogroup can help your fee earners win more business please get in touch on 01892 610060; we would be delighted to talk.