Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Engage Your Marketing Team

How good is your marketing team? Do you even know what they do on a daily basis? If you are fortunate enough to work for a firm that employs a professional marketing staff, do you regularly spend time with them and engage their talents to help market your practice? Many law firms, accounting firms and other professional service companies now have marketers on staff to help promote and protect the image of the firm, however, not all the fee earners know how to get the most out of these great resources.

Twenty years ago many firms did not have marketing departments. Over the past two decades, marketing and business development professionals have found there way, to varying degrees, to important roles inside these firms. However,they are still under-utilized and not properly respected by many of the professionals whom they serve.

I spent three years as the marketing manager inside two large law firms. I was amazed at how some partners and senior associates viewed my role as a trusted advisor and important member of their team, while others seemed to look at me as a necessary evil. One day I met a senior partner at a rival firm who told me that the fact my role even existed inside a law firm made him sick (his firm also had a professional marketing staff). He said he favored the days when law was a "profession" and not a competitive business, and that he did everything he could to avoid his firm's marketing manager. I think this is very short sighted.

Another lawyer I worked for had a nickname for me: "Cost Center", since my salary and marketing budget was an expense, and I did not bill hours or directly create revenue. While he and I worked closely together, and the nickname was just a joke between friends, it is not uncommon for many professionals to honestly feel this way about their firm's marketing staff.

How about you? Do you avoid your marketing department or use them as a valuable tool to help further your career? How much time have you spent getting to know them, and understanding their background and learning what special skills they many have that you can tap to grow your business?

Here are three tips to help you get the most from your marketing staff:

1. Get to know them. If you have never been to lunch with your marketing team, then you need to remedy this situation. You would be surprised how helpful these people can be to help you get quoted in article, speaking engagements, etc..., but like all humans, they are going to give these opportunities to the people they know best. As a partner in your firm you may believe that the responsibility is theirs to get to know you, but you have it backwards. If you want the support staff to truly support you, you need to reach out to them and build a professional relationship like you would with a client or prospect. Too many senior professionals get caught up in the hierarchy. Some partners will only go to lunch with other senior partners. Get over yourself. The partners that I have seen who work closely with the marketing staff usually are the ones who seem to do the best at business development. Coincidence? Hmmmmmm.

2. ALWAYS treat everyone with respect. I have seen too many partners lose their tempers and treat staff in a disrespectful manner. It is not in your best interest to have the marketing team think you are a jerk. It is very hard to sell a product you do not like. Think about it, they have the power to help promote YOU....if they hate you, they wont do it. While it is very easy in a professional services firm to think that only the fee earners are important to the success of the practice, this is not the reality. Everyone on the team contributes.

3. Help them grow in their career. Too many times we prejudge people and decide in advance the level of their capabilities. Work with them to help them on tasks that are beyond their level of expertise and allow them to develop new skills. I worked for one manager who would assign me projects that we both knew I had never done before. He would acknowledge that we both knew this was a stretch for me, but would assure me that he was confident I was capable, and he would offer to assist me with it at any time. Through these experiences, I was able to grow, but more importantly, I developed amazing respect for my boss....and I would do work extra hours to help him promote his practice.

Do not waste the resource of you firm's professional marketing staff. Reach out to them and make them your partner in success.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

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