Wednesday 24 January 2018

New regulations, more intelligent technology and turbulent political climate. With each challenge comes opportunity and it is the professional services marketers who will determine the impact of these challenges for their firms.  

Meridian West’s Alastair Beddow kicked off the event by sharing the results of their Marketing Leaders Benchmark Survey. The top challenges for the year ahead were revealed as Brexit, GDPR and low-cost competitors. However, the survey states that main focus for professional services marketers remains the same as last year: improving client experience through technology, brand alignment and investing in the right systems and people.

These challenges were then discussed by a panel, including Daryl Atkinson, Howard Kennedy; Samantha Bisson, Buzzacott; Jon Gibbs, Moore Stephens and Jill Warren, Bird & Bird.

The discussion points of the panel reflected the results of the survey and the general mood of anxious optimism.

The Benchmark Survey revealed an element of mystery surrounding the impact of GDPR in marketing. Both the attendees during the evening and the respondents of the survey were split on whether the implementation of the regulations will positively or negatively impact their firm, or have any effect at all. Regarding Brexit, 37% of respondents expect a negative impact on the firm with only a third of marketers feeling as well prepared as possible. However, the majority of marketers predict a neutral/ positive impact. For both GDPR and Brexit, the panel seemed to be adopting a ‘wait and see’ mindset, recognising the requirement to be adaptable. Perhaps next year’s benchmark survey will be more definitive. 

To improve client experience the panel discussed utilising new technology and creating a differentiated brand.

Technology: Keep it simple! 

Jill Warren, Bird & Bird says the key is to ‘Keep it simple’. The benchmark survey suggested that most professional marketers are not prepared for the impact of the automation and artificial intelligence. Bird & Bird stated that a lot can be achieved with the simplest of platforms and also went on to say “that technology has given them the opportunity to develop bespoke applications to provide solutions for clients which can then be monetised”. When moving towards the automation of client delivery processes, the panel advised to create a sub-brand around this solution to be shared with all employees so that everyone in the company become an advocate.

With the emergence of new technology platforms aiding marketers, it would be easy to get lost in the data and lose sight of how that information will positively impact your clients.  To maximise this “goldmine of data” it is important to identify the information that can be repurposed to improve client experience, or empower business development teams. Gibbs stated that a firm needs “the human intelligence and strategic thinking of marketing professionals to use this data to make strategic decisions and influence the company”. 

39% of professional services marketers are looking to automate social media channels and campaign management. Could automation and artificial intelligence result in a loss of jobs within marketing? The panel addressed this issue in short and the answer was ‘no’.

In theory, automation of web content will save time and money. However, the results of the survey show an expected increase in marketing budgets. The panel suggested that the money saved should be reinvested into upskilling marketing teams and hiring experts to handle the data and into creating a differentiated brand.

Power of the brand

13% of survey respondents said that relaunching their firm’s brand is their top priority for 2018. Daryl Atkinson at Howard Kennedy believes that “power of the brand” is key to overcoming the challenge of low-cost competitors although being “differentiated” is becoming increasingly difficult: if all professional services firms are international, collaborative, thought-leaders, results-driven and trustworthy – then you’re back to price comparison as Samantha Bisson, Buzzacott stated.

Daryl Atkinson of Howard Kennedy sees creating a strong brand “as an opportunity to develop new business opportunities from outside of the partner network”.

A theme from the previous year’s benchmark survey was the importance of effective internal communications in improving client experience. Interestingly, this also seems to be a focus this year. The panel discussed how a firm’s brand must be integrated into the client experience through every touchpoint; from receptionists, to thought leadership and fee earners.

The talk ended with an optimistic statement from Jon Gibbs, Moore Stephens:

Marketers should have confidence in their brand and in their ability to influence and add value. To thrive, marketers should be creative, commercial and know the business inside out. 

Written by
Jeannie Gibson, Luminous