I first encountered Rachael through her excellent articles over at PACE and couldn't resist asking her a few questions about B2B and professional services marketing.
Rachael has spent most of career working in professional and B2B services organisations before becoming a consultant six years ago. She now works with clients to build their sales and marketing capabilities with the aim of helping them to win more business and develop better relationships with clients.
1. How did you initially get involved in professional services marketing?
By accident. I had been working in academic publishing marketing for a few years and was looking to move from London to Bristol and change sector. One of the jobs that really appealed and which I got was as Marketing Manager for a law firm and that was the start of it.
2. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing professional services marketers today?
Marketing and BD work best in professional services firms when both marketing teams and fee-earners are working together, mutually interdependently, with a clear strategy and plan as the foundation, where the marketing team is credible, can demonstrate that they add value and support the development of the firm. The kind of activities which help win new business and protect existing relationships need structure and the expertise of the marketing and BD team but they also need time and input from other professionals. But getting that time, regularly and consistently, to be able to work collaboratively, is the greatest challenge.
3. One of your areas of focus is improving relationships between firms and their clients – what do you think is the most common error made by firms?
Making assumptions. Of course everyone wants to do a great job and give great client service so those clients stay loyal. But too often assumptions are made about: what ‘adding value’ means to client, what great client service means in the firm and to the clients, what brings clients to the firm and keeps them there, what their objectives and plans are for their business, how the firm can help them achieve them, what they’re interested in, what information will be interesting and valuable to them. The solution? Communication. Talk to them, ask them questions, gain feedback, take the time to get to know them, build relationships, be authentic and genuine.
4. Do you think your role will have significantly changed in ten years’ time?
I work as a consultant rather than in-house so at the moment my focus is improving the marketing and BD capabilities (in the areas of process, skills and leadership) of those who work in professional services firms, whether that’s fee-earners or marketing and BD teams. I think what will change radically is the marketplace in which professional services firms operate and how they respond to, for instance, technology and its impact on work, a maturing market or an increasingly informed client-base demanding increasingly commercial, not just technically good, professionals. I therefore see my role as being very similar – firms will still need good BD and marketing skills – but in a different context. I think there will also be more demand from certain sections of the market, such as property consultants or engineers, where firms not having those skills will become a real problem.
5. What key piece of advice would you give a professional service firm struggling to get itself noticed?
There’s a lot of talk about ‘differentiation’ which is extremely hard to do in an environment when there is no shortage of competitors, so it is hard to get noticed on that basis. What makes a difference for most firms, though, is undertaking regular, focused and consistent marketing and BD activities, across the board ranging from regular ‘listening’ to clients to proactively looking for new business and making sure enough people in the firm are out there helping to grow the business, doing a good job of the right kind of marketing.