leaf smlROBIN’S BLOG

Robin has 30 years of professional and financial services marketing experience. Here he provides commentary about some of the key evolving issues within professional services strategy and marketing.  The aim is to provoke thinking and provide useful information that marketers can use within their firms as they continue to improve performance.

thriving… Improving marketing, business development, client satisfaction, and financial performance.

What’s important to your clients has probably changed

A couple of weeks ago our car – probably like many others in the last few weeks – had a flat battery. The thing about modern cars is it’s a lot more complicated than it used to be, you can’t just stick jump leads on any more.

In the end it necessitated two different people from two different organisations coming out. I’ve no idea which one was more technically adept, as I struggle to tell the difference between a spark plug and an exhaust pipe. But one guy coughed into open air, and kept rubbing this nose, and was pretty blasé about social distancing. The other had gloves, had clearly sanitised stuff, was respectful of distance, and had clearly thought how to communicate and show me how to do stuff, again at a distance.

Who do you think I’d use again? It’s a blunt example, but enabling customers to feel safe and secure in dealing with you is going to be a big deal for a while.

How can you help your staff retain their clients?

I’m not going to say “this is a challenging time”. There’s no need to replay all that. You already know.

What’s more important is that some of the unknowns may derail your competitive ability to retain work and clients over the next few months.

I’ve written about this at more length elsewhere (see here) But some of the key bits are ensuring that not only do you know what your clients want, but you understand how emotionally capable staff – and their line managers – are to deliver it. That requires finding out, in a sensitive, and risk-free way.

You can’t be resilient if you don’t know what you need to do to create that resilience.

Capabilities and market gaps

It feels right to talk about something more “normal” for the moment.

We did an interesting project a few months ago for a firm which was keen to understand the truth about how its capability was perceived vs. competitors, and indeed if it could successfully differentiate itself.

From speaking to their clients and key opinion formers across their high priority sectors, it was clear that the activities of their competitors had created a gap. The firm in question just needed to more clearly communicate its capability and ensure that its “brand” resonated more clearly, though key people confidently delivering all the elements of a trusted advisor. They now have a clear map and focus to do this, and I’m sure they will succeed.

Flexibility in times of uncertainty

Thriving recently undertook a thought leadership programme for a major law firm. We found that some of the characteristics of the successful in-house legal team of the future included flexibility, clear goals, leadership and values, effective stakeholder and board management – and the ability to respond rapidly to the unexpected.

That seems even more significant now.

Contact me if you’d like to chat about thought leadership.

The post Brexit route forward for marketing and learning and development staff

Shortly after the referendum on UK membership of the EU Robin and Phil Gott of Peopleism created a short “manifesto” for those in key roles on responding to the changed conditions created by the result.

This is more true than ever now. You can see the manifesto here.  Additionally, its become clear from our interviews of clients of law firms, accountancy firms and other professional advisors that understanding client challenges around Brexit, and providing insight, is a clear route to competitive advantage. Or, disadvantage if you don’t do it.

Making marketing teams fit for the future

At the end of 2019 we completed a research programme for a major law firm into the future of in-house legal teams, what they would look like in 2025, and the challenges faced.

The results were fascinating and it struck me that they might well also be true for many ‘intellect’ based professions and indeed in-house marketing, BD, HR and other functions within professional services firms.

The key behaviours and skills which respondents said they needed to develop included a deeper understanding of the business and the wider sector, stakeholder management, influencing and the ability to understand technology.

Soft skills and processes were a higher priority than technical functional skills, and a core challenge was balancing day to day demands with the ability to get ready for future challenges. While some people saw technology as a “magic bullet” most recognised that while it could help, there were many other aspects needed to get a team fit for the future.

One of the key results that sticks in my mind was that the success stories we heard about, often were based on creating a team with shared goals, and real clarity of purpose that guided their behaviour, actions, and relationships with colleagues.

That seems to me to be very true for marketers and BD people within professional services firms too.

“The solicitor disappeared!” – the impact of turnover on client relationships and how to handle it better.

Though it shouldn’t, it still surprises me when I hear feedback from clients of law firms about a particular issue.

If anything it seems to be becoming more frequent.  We hear “war stories” from clients who talk about contacting the person dealing with their issue at a law firm, only to find that person is no longer there.

There has been no communication either from the solicitor or the firm as a whole. At best the client has to then provoke a response by the firm to allocate to another lawyer, and spend some time “re-educating” the new person responsible for their matter.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes. It’s irritating enough to have to spend additional time; additionally it doesn’t feel as though the law firm particularly values the relationship with me.  So it’s not surprising that the client then often says that they are either less likely to give the firm work in the future, or that while they will instruct it in other areas, they have lost confidence in one particular practice or team.

We’ll shortly produce an article on how to deal with the root causes of this problem.

Making more effective use of insight (by wasting less time)

Thriving did a small research project last year looking at some non-client firms and exploring areas of best, good, and less good practice. You can see the results in more detail in the Articles section.  What is hampering firms gain the benefits of client insight in many cases, is the time spent “manually” gathering, collating and analysing insight. The focus is on cranking the handle rather than exploiting the result.

The “admin heavy” nature of this is sometimes because of an understandable desire by partners to maintain control.  An hour spent by staff manually finessing processes cannot be spent in consulting with decision makers about the actions the firm should take.

There is a massive opportunity in many firms to improve this – we have a free benchmarking tool for any one who’d like to review how they compare to good practice – contact Robin if you’d like to access this.

The technology was all very fine – but what about the basics?

I’ve recently been looking at getting new car. So I make appointments for test drives etc. All good fun.

At one car brand/dealer, once I’d made the appointment, I got an email reminder the day before, then on the morning, and subsequently I’ve had about 3 mails, apparently from the head of customer sales (though clearly automatically generated) advising me of the risk of letting the car I really want go by.

All very fine, if a bit irritating and intrusive. But the real problem is that the salesperson didn’t turn up to the appointment I’d booked and I left after 30 minutes of wasted time. It turns out the receptionist didn’t pass the message on properly, the salesperson didn’t check. The closest I got to an apology was a voicemail saying ‘sorry I missed you’.

I wonder how much effort has got into the automated message system and how much has gone into staff training and behaviour. The former has no impact on my purchase decision, the latter has quite a bit. I won’t be buying a car from there.

Mission Accomplished

My old school friend Russell and I reached John O’Groats 16 days after setting off on our bikes, from Lands End, at 6pm on 10th June.

The journey was not without challenges but also, we met many lovely people and were the recipients of several acts of kindness along the way.

The WorldWildlife Fund is over £1550 better off, and Russ also raised a great sum for his preferred charity, Make A Wish.

You can see some of the pictures here

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