Wednesday 27 February 2019, Leeds

The February event for the Yorkshire PM Forum was delivered by Alistair Beddows, Managing Director of Meridan West.  Alistair came to talk through the findings from the Marketing Leaders Benchmark Survey.

This year is undoubtedly going to be a year of change. From the news we can see that the Big 4 are circling the legal profession, there may be more mergers and Brexit is most certainly going to have an impact on professional services.  One Senior Marketing Manager (SMM) gave an excellent quote… “Understand the rapidly changing pace of the legal market so that you can participate in the strategic debate. Engage with key stakeholders both internally and across the firm's clients so that you can bring the voice of the client into the business and ensure that it is always at the top of the firm's agenda.”

When asked about strategic priorities for the year – growth clearly dominated, one in five were looking at efficiencies, and 15% said transformation was a priority.  When asked to name three key priorities growth and efficiency came top, with a third of people citing transformation.  Risk and crisis management made up the top five.  If growth is so important what has driven it? 24% said they are reviewing the firm’s strategy, 60% are going to invest in technology to ensure better client services, 47% are going to hire laterally and 34% are looking to new markets.

Marketing and BD professionals have a key role to pay driving this agenda.  One SMM was quoted as saying “My vision for the marketing and business development function in this firm is to be proactive and commercially-focused, and to act as the commercial heartbeat of the firm. Our goals are to identify, forecast and generate sustainable revenue growth. Our business development and marketing plans are aligned with achieving these goals.”

What are the marketing and BD priorities for the year?  85% said it was to improve the client experience – this has been the top answer for the last three years.  78% said client feedback and 66% answered social and digital marketing.  SMM’s were also asked which of these priorities were top and 22% said client experience, 16% feedback and 15% brand.

But are spending patterns aligned to these priorities – 71% said they are increasing spend on the website and online marketing and 59% on databases and CRM.  71% said they were spending the same amount on market research and 20% said they were retreating from events.

The survey also showed that marketing budgets are up on average by 2.4% - this has been pretty consistent over the last five years.  However a third of people surveyed said the budget had been frozen or cut and when the survey drilled down into head count and expenditure on salaries it showed that there was more work to be completed by less people. 

Will marketing professionals have strategic impact?  58% thought the role of marketing was understood by fee earning staff (the audience felt this was not high enough), 73% thought marketing has sufficient authority to perform its role sufficiently, 50% had regular interaction with clients and 66% agreed that the voice of the client has a stronger presence at the top table than three years ago.  28% felt the ROI of marketing was easily demonstrated and 21% said it was easy to recruit the high quality talent required.

This leads us on nicely to the last question which was around skills gaps.  47% of people interviewed felt client listening was the biggest skill gap, followed by data analytics – 35%, CRM 28% and strategic thinking 26%.

The final part of the event was a discussion between the audience and two panellists – Sue Murdoch, Head of Business Development at Pinsent Masons and Victoria Goff, Marketing Manager at Sagars.  Both were pretty much in agreement with the findings of the survey and a lively discussion covered supporting fee earners with BD, the uncertainty around Brexit, client feedback and technology.

Isobel Hainsworth-Brear, Director
Print Leeds