Marketing matters in the “new normal”: PM Forum conference takeaways

The excellent speakers at PM Forum’s recent annual conference, Marketing matters in the “new normal”, provided many great learning points, as usual. Here are just a few of my key takeaways that are hopefully useful reminders for marketers in both professional services firms and B2B companies:

Firm leaders want marketers to be the trusted advisors that we advise them to be

There is an opportunity and increasing demand for marketers to be trusted advisors, rather than just service providers, to the leadership team and professionals in their firms. While marketers tend to over-satisfy firms’ needs for staple areas such as marketing communications, pitching and CRM, we generally under-deliver on more advisory areas such as coaching, pricing, being a change agent and new service development. As marketers we should practise what we preach in order to elevate marketing from service to business partner.

Great influencing and persuasion skills are vital for professional services marketers, and just as important as marketing expertise

Adapting our social style, so that it’s the most appropriate for the situation or person (i.e. likely to be successful), thinking like an optimist, making emotional connections as well as logical arguments, treating others as they (not you) would like to be treated – all part and parcel of being an effective influencer in a professional services firm (and all of which can be learned, hopefully not the hard way).

Less can be more in marketing

Undertaking a smaller number of flagship, integrated activities in a unified (data-led, outcomes-focused) strategic planning process, rather than a larger number of small activities scattered across the firm, can reap significant benefits and help move marketing up the value chain, with greater stakeholder buy-in and better commercial outcomes. But culturally, particularly in multi-office, multi-disciplinary firms, quite a challenge.

Relevant, bold, timely campaigns win business (and awards)

Marketing campaigns that generate new business and win awards require an awful lot of hard work. Ensuring relevance by establishing clear objectives, “hyper-targeting” your audience, and measuring results; boldness by creating engaging, memorable content; and timeliness by matching marketing activities to where the client is in their journey with the firm and/or tying in to external context – all of this takes considerable effort and time, but is well worth it in the end.

Account-based marketing is a proven way to build value in key client accounts

Treating individual client accounts as markets of one, account-based marketing (ABM) delivers a higher return on investment for those accounts than traditional marketing initiatives (according to ITSMA research). Built around client insight, and with marketing and sales teams co-operating, ABM offers a structured approach to managing key accounts and an opportunity for marketing teams to add real value, instead of being seen as the “pens, PowerPoints and parties” team.

Measuring (or proving) return on investment in marketing remains challenging, but is critical for C-Suite buy-in to marketing

Theoretically it should not be overly difficult to calculate return on investment in marketing, but anyone who has ever worked in a professional services firm knows how hard it is in practice in these environments for a whole range of reasons… The key ROI calculation recommended was “(Value of New Work – Investment) / Investment x 100” – not, as the speaker pointed out, that your “mum was impressed” or “the partners said they enjoyed the campaign.” However, even this metric does not consider lifetime value of the client, so does not reflect real returns longer term. Decisions based only on immediate ROI risk being the wrong ones.

Effective marketing is fundamentally important for professional services firms’ success

Perhaps the overall message from the conference is that effective marketing is fundamentally important for professional services firms’ success (at the moment maybe even for their survival in some cases), just as it is for B2B and B2C businesses. Those firm leaders and professionals that recognise the potential of marketing and make full use of it (and their marketing professionals) will outperform those that do not – now more than ever.

More about PM Forum

Having been involved with PM Forum in some shape or form for a couple of decades, and currently Regional Director Scotland and MPF Awards judge, I would thoroughly recommend membership to any firms that are not already members. Apart from the annual conference, there are regular events and webinars, great thought leadership articles in the magazine, a range of training courses and a useful knowledge hub. Maybe even more beneficial are the connections with other marketing and business development professionals, both in the UK and overseas, and the valuable support network which this provides. Find out more about PM Forum.