As featured in PM Magazine, July/August, 2022.
Talented people, check. Great technology, check. Partners love them, check. It sounds like your firm’s marketing and business development department is buzzing away. Yet, just like any organisation, it’s essential to take a good look at the indicators of your operation’s health to ensure its wellbeing for the future.
There are seven factors to consider when looking at a marketing department’s health.
1. Are the services provided well defined, suited to the needs of the firm and fully operational?
Do you have the correct positions defined and the right people in those spots? Can you successfully provide the crucial marketing functions that your particular firm and situation require from your marketing department? There will always be one-off projects or events when the firm may require additional talents, such as facilitating software implementation or producing one-off programmes. Many firms use semi-permanent or permanent outside consultants for ongoing strategy, marketing and PR support; however, determining the core functions, programmes, projects and tasks is essential to its effectiveness and hence, its value within the firm.
2. How do you ensure that the primary responsibilities of the department match the needs of the firm?
One of the best ways to determine what functions the department needs is to take a three-part look at the group.
The first step is to do an assessment survey by asking the partnership, practice leaders and heavy department users about their marketing requirements. The second part is determining from the marketing group what they are doing daily and where they feel the stressors are in terms of workload. Perhaps most importantly, ask the group what they think should be done in marketing that is not on the agenda. By doing so, you’ll get the insights of those on the ground, who will have first-hand knowledge of the steps that should be taking place.
But this is only a baseline. The third step involves working with the firm’s CMO to establish what the firm may be doing in the future. Will the marketing department be asked to take more of a role in lateral recruiting? Are they advocating for the firm to step up its activity on social media?
Based on these steps, you can assess where you are now, where you hope to be in the future and whether you have the proper capabilities to move forward. While more nuances are involved in conducting a marketing department function audit, these are vital steps.
Lindsey Bombardier, Director, Marketing & Business Development at the law firm Lenczner Slaght LLP, says, “I am always thinking about the make-up and growth potential of my team. Staying close to the output of our current marketing plan and continuously thinking about our future opportunities helps ensure I have the right roles in place short term. Past that, aligning to the firm’s strategic plan and having an intimate understanding of our clients and matters helps me think broadly and long-term.”
When asked about how this related to day-to-day work, Lindsey adds, “It’s also important that I can offer my team interesting and challenging work. Sometimes that means creating new roles while other times that means reprioritising. If you think strategically and drive value, your business case will write itself!”
3. Are the individuals in the group being properly trained?
By providing training for marketing staff, you are helping to strengthen and grow the skill sets of your internal team. Just as important, you are demonstrating that you care about their development and want to invest in their future at the firm.
A budget should be in place for the department’s senior leaders to make discretionary decisions regarding the training of their staff. While these decisions should be made in tandem with the HR department or, if you have it, a talent development department, the person driving the group, and who is closest to the team, will likely have the best handle on the current needs of the staff. It is a wise investment that will reap multiple rewards in the firm’s future.
As Luke Ferrandino, Chief Marketing Officer at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, says, “Investing in training and other career development opportunities for legal marketing teams is critical to building an effective, innovative and stable function. Offering a robust curriculum of both internal and external professional development opportunities not only develops individual talent and improves their skills, it elevates the entire function. These teams feel valued and are more motivated.”
Luke points out that this has many benefits. “The team feels supported to test new ideas, collaborate more effectively, and will stay with you longer so that they and the firm realise more of their full potential.”
4. Is your marketing department doing an excellent job of communicating its capabilities to the firm’s professionals?
Do the partners know what the talents and abilities are of the marketing department and what tools they have at their disposal?
Marketing the marketing department is vital. At a baseline, if you want to avoid the ‘I don’t know what our marketing department is doing for us’ complaint, it is essential to keep reminding the users of the group of what they are gaining. Once the partnership understands the tools of the marketing department, they are more likely to use them. Consider producing a brochure with the group members’ names and photos and a brief description of who does what. Or consider having a list on your internal website that gives a menu of the group’s services.
5. Are you involving and drawing on your marketing department in the everyday management of the firm?
Involve your marketing people in practice and group meetings, and ensure that the senior members are included in relevant partnership and strategy discussions. If you harness the best strategic thinking, your marketing group is an in-house resource. To leave it out of strategy discussions, only to present them with a change in firm strategy once the idea is fully baked, is often too late. Diversity of thought is key to strategy. If you want to get the most from these talented people, involve them in the firm’s planning and engage them with the firm’s senior management.
Allan Schoenberg, Chief Communications Officer at Vinson & Elkins LLP, points out, “Effectively managing a firm’s reputation begins at the top. Firms with strong positive reputations attract better talent and their clients remain loyal. None of this is achieved by accident, and strong law firm brands are achieved through trust built between communications and marketing leadership with partners working together to create a narrative that makes a lasting impact.”
6. Does the marketing department have the full support and involvement of law firm leadership?
Without that support, it is close to impossible for a marketing department to do a proper job. How the firm’s partners take care of existing clients and develop business is critical. Client development is the lifeblood and revenue generation of the firm. At several firms with which I work, the marketing and business development department holds an annual meeting or dinner with the firm’s leader. It’s an excellent opportunity for members of the group to ask questions, get to know the chair and know that they are an integral part of the business.
7. Is your marketing department organised to support lateral hires and mergers?
If a merger or lateral hiring is on the near horizon, ensure that your marketing department has the staff and resources to support these new groups and assist with their integration.
Integration and adoption of culture are essential. The top reason partners leave, cited by 44.2% of lateral partners, is lack of confidence in firm management and strategy, according to the 2020 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey by legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. Get the partners involved early and inculcate them into the firm’s strategy on day one.
While a marketing department might look functional today, it’s essential to check its health to ensure it continues functioning tomorrow. By determining that the department’s resources are commensurate with what the firm needs, concentrating on training, integrating the marketing department into the firm and ensuring the proper resources are in place, a firm takes the steps toward building a more robust marketing function for the future.