There are many views on what makes someone, and the marketing function they represent, successful in a company where the practitioners (consultants, lawyers, asset managers, engineers, among many others) are the 'offering' and your role is to take them to market in a distinctive and profitable way. Each company is different but from our experience there are a few conversations which can be applied across professional services to define a path more likely to lead to success for marketing and the marketing leader.
Here are the five critical conversations that marketing should initiate, be an ongoing part of and engage with to ensure success. We hope these conversations help you - onwards and upwards to all marketeers!
1. The ‘culture before brand conversation’
This first conversation sits at the starting line and cannot be re-prioritised for a later conversation. More time spent here, particularly initially, will ensure a strong foundation for marketing credibility and a persuasive ‘voice’ within the organisation.
A deliberate examination and analysis of the company culture is critical to determine the balance between outside-in (that being all external market components and forces) and inside-out (this being the culture and values of the company itself).
In professional services organisations that balance is often initially skewed toward inside-out. Professional services organisations use their culture as a fundamental building block believing that as their practitioners are the distribution channel, the offering (through their thought leadership and client solutions) and the relationship connection to the client – that the culture and the brand have to be inextricably linked. Or to put it another way – the role of marketing is to ensure that clients and prospects experience culture and brand as one and the same.
Therefore a thorough examination of the existing culture of the company and whether this has been translated appropriately into the brand values and the client value proposition is the essential anchor to successful marketing in professional services. What you say in the marketplace must be a true reflection of reality. Clients are quick to spot the gap between ‘who organisations say they are’ and the reality of ‘what they experience’. Additionally practitioners need to believe and see that their culture is appropriately communicated and that the brand resonates for them.
Understanding and belief as well as ownership of this conversation will accelerate marketing’s ability to integrate into the organisation and speak the same language as well as helping the organisation strengthen its brand.
2. The ‘What’s the ROI conversation?’
Too often innovative and / or strong requests for investment or change are rejected at the presentation point because marketing has not proved the commercial impact of the proposal. Persuasion in a professional services environment requires conversations outside the room.
Practitioners need proof, evidence and data points, similar to what they use with their own clients and what the C-suite expect to see. Ideas can be beautifully presented and packaged but fail to persuade because of their lack of reference to organisational costs, growth targets and their impact on the organsiation’s commercial strategy.
ROI and proving ROI needs to be high up on the marketers’ corporate conversations and leaning on evidence in the form of numbers grown or saved adds enormous impact to requests for investment or change.
3. The ‘be part of the fabric conversation’
Believe it or not, but not everything is about marketing! Spending time with other leaders learning and engaging with their agendas is critical. We recommend participating in workshops with sales, finance, HR, IT and innovation (R&D), resulting in a stronger functional marketing leadership as well as an extension of perspective for marketing. Having cross-functional teams input into the corporate strategy as a united group broadens the perspective and gives the organisation greater effectiveness as well as the enrichment of ideas.
We all know that marketing cannot be carried out in isolation from the rest of the business. We need to work closely with other areas of the business, so integrate yourself and your marketing team properly into the business.
Helping other business leaders’ causes and listening to their plans to grow and innovate are conversations that should be weaved into the marketing plan.
4. The ‘compelling thought leadership conversation’
This is a differentiator in the marketplace and where the brand comes to life through the content that marketing produces and our voice becomes relevant and compelling to our target audience. We all know about right content, right place, right time, right audience but the importance of this conversation cannot be underestimated at a time when the market is flooded with content widely available and complimentary.
This conversation is about ensuring that you successfully structure and configure your content strategy. Remember to:
- Agree your objective,
- Be clear about your target audience
- Define the expected ROI and analytics
It is important to get buy in for this across the organisation. Get your executive team/ C-suite, to lead by example – by engaging and promoting the content strategy, and producing content on a regular basis. This way you’ll capture what’s going outside the remit with a persuasive argument to stay on point.
Professional services organisations are now increasingly investing in content managers within their marketing teams. Having worked at organisations without a content manager, you do your best without, but once you have experienced the benefits of this critical curation role you will never want to go without!
Compelling content is a must as is an effective delivery, but remember not to become an organisation that is so focused on creating content and storytelling that you stop listening to your customers.
5. The ‘change management conversation’
Smart leaders champion change. Therefore ensure that marketing is at the table for this conversation. Be ready to embrace, facilitate and enable change – be that through stakeholder management, innovation in marketing, communications or other means. If you are part of the team, you can help shape the company’s strategic vision through internal engagement and internal communications. This links back and reinforces some of the points above in relation to culture and being part of the fabric.
Be a change agent and actively champion change management internally as well as externally.
If you have other key conversations you think marketing should be involved in, let us know.
Click here to see Monica and Linda’s first guest blog, ‘From prospect to profit: Having personalised conversations in professional services’
Monica Ralli is an experienced marketing professional with a background in organisation transformation gained from senior leadership roles in B2B marketing, business development and sales in the professional services sector drawn from legal sector, engineering consultancy, international banking, global consultancy and most recently as Chief Marketing Officer of Hay Group, a global management consulting leader in people and business performance. Agile in operating in global matrix organisations and leading global teams to effective execution. Experienced in developing internal engagement to make external brand impact a commercial reality. Professional passions include brand and culture integration and demonstrating commercial growth through lead generation.
Linda Russheim is the founder and director of HT Financial Marketing, aimed at providing integrated marketing services to investment managers, investment consultants and independent trustee boards. She is an experienced marketing professional with over 15 years’ experience in the financial services industry, and was Global Head of Marketing for Mercer Investments for the past five. Linda has institutional and retail experience, as well as B2B and B2C. Passionate about partnering with clients to create/ drive/ implement and execute marketing initiatives with tangible ROI.