Are you making slow strategic marketing progress?
by Rob Sheffield
A common complaint when we work with clients is that they've agreed their plan but progress seems to be as slow as a snail. I asked seasoned fellow marketing consultant Nicola Webb to share her experience of how professional services and knowledge businesses can make sure that plans gain the traction they need to make a difference.
You’ve done your research, consulted everyone, drafted your marketing plans, got buy-in and sign-off and started to implement them. Then everything slows to a halt and you’re spending your time chasing the same people about the same activities, time and time again. Sounds familiar?
Well, take some comfort from the fact that the majority of your colleagues are facing the same dilemma. Marketing is not the primary focus for most fee-earning staff, so when they are busy, it drops off their radar. So, how do you keep momentum going once you have your plan in place?
10 steps to getting plans moving
I think there are 10 key steps to achieving this:
- Get a leader/champion of plans You’ll need support from a partner who is senior, respected, visible – and most importantly – who leads by example. Pick the champion carefully, explain their role and get them on board. They should be prepared to have words with fellow partners (not always easy in a ‘collegiate’ culture), to help motivate/reprimand those that are not making the effort. Start with the plan for their department or sector and work from there.
- Get buy-in to plans Although it can take longer to achieve, I think it’s important to get buy-in for the plans from management, heads of departments/sectors, and their teams. I meet with the management team and walk them through the purpose and content of a typical plan, then add in more detailed objectives with the heads of department/sector. We then involve their and brainstorm ideas around the objectives.
- Management/monitoring and adaptation of plans Once in place, it is vital that you have a process and the resources (see point 4) to regularly review the plans. You can do this at monthly departmental/sector meetings – providing a quick update based on information you have collated from the team beforehand. It’s important to be flexible and if things don’t work, adapt the plan and move on.
- Appropriate resources/budget to action One of the many reasons that progress can be slow is that, often, plans are too ambitious, and contain more objections and actions than you can shake a proverbial stick at. You need to be realistic about what can be achieved. Manage your and others expectations well and you won’t be disappointed.
- Internal politics Some firms have a culture whereby those with strong and/powerful voices get heard and, as a result, get the budget and resources they demand. Be aware of this and use appropriate metrics (spend as a percentage of turnover, growth trends, strategic objectives and so on) to either support or deny these requests.
- Sufficient capacity among partners/fee-earners Whilst we’re on the subject of resources, a common refrain from fee-earners is a lack of time to do what was required of them in the past month. You need to quickly uncover whether this constraint is actual or perceived. I often look at monthly time sheets to see what level of unbilled time they have and what they are spending it on. Then it’s a question of encouragement, coercion or ‘naming and shaming’ to get them to do more.
- Performance management Establishing and maintaining marketing momentum is as much about culture and behavior as it is about focus and resources. Inactive firms are often ones where business development is not part of any performance management and career development programme. Without these, and accompanying penalties or rewards for inaction/action it will be difficult for you to make sustained progress.
- Communication of objectives It is important to communicate the objectives and some detail on how they will be achieved to the wider team. Behavioural studies have shown that if everyone is included and expected to have a role and be, in some way, accountable for progress, then more people are likely to act, rather than leaving it to others to do.
- Communicating successes In changing behavior, I prefer to use more of the ‘carrot’ rather than ‘stick’ approach. So, getting buy-in, giving everyone a role and remit (however small) and then communicating successes internally are key. I’ve issued success emails, weekly blogs, intranet and departmental meeting updates and had a BD champion of the month campaign, for which everyone was eligible – from support staff and junior lawyers, to partners.
- Measurement of success/ROI This is an old chestnut and difficult to achieve (and I don’t think you should reach the point of stasis because you are doing so much measurement) but having some targets are good, as they give you a sense of achievement. (For more thoughts on this read How can you tell if you're successful?)
Focus on these ten measures and I think you’ll have a better chance of establishing and maintaining marketing momentum. Good luck!
Nicola Webb is the Principal Consultant at Implementor and can be contacted at Nicola@implementor.biz.