We recently connected with professional services expert and influencer, Kim Tasso to talk about marketing. Tasso, the managing director of RedStarKim Ltd., is an independent management consultant specializing in the professional services sector.
In this conversation, Tasso provides clarity on the difference between marketing and sales, advice on how to build and execute a successful marketing strategy, and notes on why integration with overall company objectives is important. This is Part one of a two-part conversation with Tasso. Part two will focus on how technology is impacting marketing.
Intapp: Do professional services firms confuse the difference between marketing and selling?
Kim Tasso: Absolutely. But it’s not just in professional services. The same applies to many business-to-business environments.
It is particularly acute in professional services because the relationship between professional and client is constrained by the rules of a professional body. Often the marketers are “locked out” for confidentiality reasons.
I remember long ago a senior partner saying to me, “I know my clients. I know my targets. I talk to them regularly. I generate all the work I can service. So what value are you going to add?”
Intapp: What value does marketing add?
KT: I use a simple model showing how, in professional services, there are three critical and overlapping business development processes: marketing, selling and relationship or account management.
In large and established firms, the focus is often on developing relationships with existing clients. So, the marketing team’s contribution is around managing complex relationships with major clients and providing information and insight to support collaboration and co-creation of new solutions. In a smaller firm, the focus is often on generating awareness, leads and new business. And the fee-earners generally understand that marketing makes selling easier.
Intapp: What are the hallmarks of a successful marketing program in the professional services space?
KT: In some respects, professional service firms are more client-centric than other organizations. Every partner, associate and other professional has daily contact with clients.
However, one of the most important things for a successful marketing program is real clarity about the target market. That entails identifying sectors, locations, size, types of businesses, and actual buyers. So, segmentation would be high on my list.
I also think it is important to have clear goals. This manages expectations, enables measurement of progress, and guides the selection of appropriate strategies.
The final element is integration – from business goals to marketing objectives, from planning to execution, from the marketing professionals to the fee-earners, and from profile raising to lead generation to conversion.
Intapp: You like to keep things simple when developing a marketing strategy. What does that mean?
KT: I use a simple process to guide the development of a marketing strategy:
Where are we now?
- This involves a marketing audit with systematic analysis of internal and external information
Where do we want to be?
- This requires clarity on what we want to achieve in terms of fees, profits, clients, cases/projects, and reputation
How will we get there?
- The above two stages make it easier to select the appropriate strategy. For example, the strategy might be an indirect approach through referrers or direct to clients. It could focus on relationships with existing clients or generation of new business. Or it might entail broad profile-raising in a new market or focused sales conversations in an established market.
Intapp: Why is it important to distinguish between short and long term profit?
KT: If a firm tells me that the goal is short-term profit maximization, then the strategy we select will focus on selling existing services to existing clients – cross-selling, key account management and so on. Investment will be minimal, and we will be looking for short-term wins. We may disregard smaller prospects and clients that have good potential.
If a firm tells me that their goal is long-term profit development and sustainability, then we will probably look at service and marketing development strategies and new business sales strategies, which take more investment and a longer timeframe to bear fruit.
In reality, professional service firms want both, which puts marketers in a very challenging place! The strategy has to articulate the balance of priorities and manage expectations.
Intapp: How does an effective marketing team integrate into the overall objectives of the firm?
KT: I have observed different approaches to successful integration.
For example, the quality of a professionally qualified and experienced marketing team is important. They are more likely to be part of the senior leadership team and key to strategic discussions about the future of the firm and co-creators of that strategy.
An effective marketing and business development team will have deep knowledge of both the markets and the products. Sometimes, firms use former lawyers and accountants in marketing teams to ensure that they bring this expertise and insight. It ensures that marketing has the necessary credibility with the fee-earners and also allows the marketing and business development people to participate in direct client relationships.
Structure is important, too. If a marketing team is a central function, it can have too many firm-wide activities that appear distant to the fee-earners. It’s usually better to have marketing and business development people working within the practice groups they serve. The physical proximity leads to psychological proximity. They can then manage the entire process – marketing, selling and relationship management – within that practice group.
A big thanks to Kim for her insight about driving strong marketing programs within professional services. Tune in to more of Kim’s perspectives on building successful professional services firms through strategy, leadership, client management and more on her blog. We’d also love to connect with you in person and hear about your marketing challenges (and wins!). Meet us at this year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference in Atlanta on April 8th – 10th. Our product experts will be on-hand to demo our client development solution and to answer any questions you may have. Meet us there!