Kim Tasso reports on the 20th annual PM Forum
conference which focused on the skills and
perspectives needed to market the firm of 2020.
I can hardly believe that this was the 20th PM Forum conference
– how time flies when you are enjoying yourself! The
mood was pretty upbeat at the start of the day and the
animated 170 or so delegates were quickly quietened by the
chair, Graham Munday of Hydrock, introducing the first
Views from a futurist
Chris Yapp referred to the recent research by Deloitte/Oxford
University which focused on the impact of artificial intelligence
(AI) and ‘smart machines’ to show how disruption could impact
the professions. He talked about how we needed T-shaped
workers who blend breadth and depth.
His breathless presentation then moved on to economics
with the reassuring words that “there’s a Golden Age coming but
there’ll be a recession beforehand”. He provided much food for
thought and summarised with the 2020 determinants of
- Quality of the client list
- Quality of relationships
- More strategic focus vs transactional
- New models of governance: openness to new ideas
- Rethinking recruitment and development.
When asked whether the partnership model hindered adaption
to the various changes he said that while decision making is
affected, two firms present at the conference used scenario planning
to understand the impact of future trends on their own
business and those of their clients. He was positive in suggesting
that “advisory services will grow” as clients want “advisers who
have a track record in producing good ideas”. So ramp up that
thought leadership programme.
Steve Martin on persuasion
Having seen Steve present before, alongside his co-author
Robert Cialdini, it was great to see him step into the spotlight
and shine. He talked about the psychology of persuasion from
his book The Small Big – condensing 60 years of social science
research into a fascinating 30 minutes. His talk centred on our
three deep seated motivators: to make decisions as efficiently as
possible, to affiliate and gain the approval of others and to see
oneself in a positive light.
He reflected on the impact of information presentation on
pricing decisions and gave tips (such as introducing an expert
before putting a call through, the primacy effect in negotiations
and the recency effect in recruitment). He warned us that when
we become overloaded with information we revert to using our
reptilian brain. Let’s hope that’s more lithe lizard than tardy
At the first break the overwhelming view of the delegates –
who were really buzzing – was that it was the best ever opening
of a conference. High praise indeed. And well-deserved in my
Collaboration – Elliot Moss interviews Howard
Kennedy and Buzzacott
The first break was followed by an interesting session where
Elliot Moss of Mishcon de Reya took the chair as interviewer – a
familiar role from his radio work. We heard how a law firm HR
director and an accountancy firm Head of IT saw collaboration
with marketing and business development. There were some
great quotes: “Fee-earners need IT but don’t necessarily want it”
and “Candidates are more interested in brand than pay and
Employee engagement and alignment was a key collaboration
area for HR (with values reflecting the internal and external
audiences) and IT reflected on project management skills. It was
interesting to hear the view that often support staff have the
advantage in that they have an overview position which enables
them to see the big picture more easily than the fee-earners.
There was consensus on the need to locate support staff with
fee-earners if we are to avoid a “them versus us” divide.
There was some reflection on who owns the intranet and its
content and a view that only collaboration could achieve “the
best people with the best technology and the best relationships”.
Workshop – Hubspot and using inbound marketing
At this point we set off to our various workshops. Being a long
term Hubspot fan meant that I was determined to hear the talk
by Darragh Toolan from Hubspot.
We spent some time on developing client personas (“No
more than three!”) and learned how to “market with a magnet
not a sledgehammer”. There were various helpful checklists and
proformas provided and lots of help as we tried to use them.
There was also a useful content mapping tool analysing each
stage of the sales funnel along the awareness, consideration and
A key takeaway for me was that if the content has more than
600 words it is valuable enough to put it behind an email
Lunch with the sponsors and exhibitors
During the breaks we were able to browse the stands of sponsors
and exhibitors. I picked up a copy of ‘Legal industry content
marketing report’ from Passle which reported that the total
number of legal industry content marketing output doubled in a
year (from 30,052 to 59,842 posts). I also took one of their
handy smartphone cleaners. A lime green booklet on brands
from Mytton Williams included some fabulous case studies. And
I picked the brains of the Totum team to learn about the latest
trends in the marketing/BD recruitment market.
I admired the Star Wars Lego model on the HighQ stand
where software for managing technical documents and personalised
client portals was being demonstrated. I learned about a
Grant Thornton strategy case study from Bladonmore (“Your
story. Well told”) and I was also intrigued to look at the corporate
intelligence reports available from LAC Group – those will
be valuable to anyone who is supporting pitches. Added to my
hoard was a checklist for a perfect face-to-face interview from
Acuigen. Thank you!
Differentiation by the Personal Communications
Using a couple of well-known concepts – Charles H Green and
David Maister’s Trust Quotient and the idea of converting
features into benefits – the lawyers-cum-actors from PCA did a
fabulous session role-playing before and after scenarios of
lawyers talking to clients.
The insightful portrayal of a non-business development
oriented fee-earner trying to sell was almost too painful to watch
(although we all laughed a lot) it was so accurately observed.
The session also demonstrated how powerful role-playing was
for teaching selling skills.
Winning clients with neuroscience
Whilst some went off to other interactive workshop sessions, I
remained with many others to hear from Jan Hills. With fleeting
references to Simon Sinek’s golden circle (most focus on the
‘how’ and ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’) and Daniel Kahneman’s
‘Thinking fast and slow’, we were into the world of emotions and
the brain’s limbic system which concentrates on rewards and
Jan shared insights from leading scientists such as Sandy
Pentland (honest non-verbal signals and authenticity) and Amy
Cuddy (power poses generating confidence). She explained how
important memories get an emotional tag and about some of our
natural biases – of which there are around 150. I was delighted
to receive her handbook of tips and hints which are the basis of
her forth-coming book. Add that to my Christmas list please!
Client panel with Santander, Aframe and Argus Media
The final session – where we hear direct from clients – is always
my favourite and this year was no different with Elliot Moss
back in the moderator chair. The clients were senior lawyers
from Argus Media and Santander, plus the CFO from technology
The theme running through most of the questions and
answers was that professional firms need to invest time in really
understanding the client’s business and provide a proactive
service and insight about the future. There were numerous
comments on another emerging theme about whether professional
advisers were trained to provide this type of service.
There were some fascinating observations in the ongoing
debate about the importance of the brand of a professional firm
compared to reputation of the individual adviser. Pet peeves
appeared to be advisers who don’t do their homework and who
provide lots of options but no recommendations.
A great day
The general consensus – obtained from both speaking to other
delegates and by watching the active tweetstream (#PMFConf) –
was that it was the best conference ever.
What I found particularly interesting was that the majority
of the sessions were about psychology and people skills rather
than marketing and technology skills.
I’m already looking forward to Thursday 29 September
Kim Tasso is a management consultant, author and
journalist. Further information at www.kimtasso.com
A day to remember! PM Forum conference 2015 in 125 tweets!