Professional Services Marketing Handbook

Professional Services Marketing Handbook: How to build relationships, grow your firm and become a client champion. Edited by Nigel Clark with Charles Nixon. Kogan Page (London), 2015. 262 pages.

This is one of the few marketing books that I have seen that cover the issues involved in professional services marketing in all the professions. Presented in the form of a group of thematically linked essays by many authors, this broadly conceived handbook, published in London and largely written by British authors, is as close to a state-of-the-art summary of knowledge about our field as there is today. Writers and examples are taken from accounting, architecture, and management consulting as well as law.

The editors, who include some leading legal marketers from international firms such as Allen & Overy LLP and Freshfields Bruckhaus, divide professional services marketing into five broad topics: growth, understanding, connecting, relationships and managing. Perhaps the best and most succinct of the sections is the one on “connecting,” which does an excellent job of summarizing the rapidly changing and vexed areas of content marketing and thought leadership.

“You have to be where your clients are, if you want to talk to them,” writes Nick Masters, a former journalist and now global head of online at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “And now you have to communicate with them via their preferred methods. We may consider this pampering, but they are calling the shots more than ever, and we need to respond to that change. Established business methodologies still group people together based on some form of market segmentation, but the fragmented nature of people’s roles and lives means that these ascribed groups are not necessarily understood or recognized by those target groups … In an age where we are all bombarded with information, unless what we are sending them is strictly targeted and clearly actionable, it will be rejected and ignored.”

In the “relationships” chapter, the handbook does a fine job of pointing out the vast benefits and the nearly unfathomable pitfalls of client relationship management (CRM) programs.

“Winning the argument for setting up a client program is not usually a problem,” writes Gillian Sutherland, director of global key account management for an architecture and engineering firm. “The difficulty occurs when the program appears to run out of steam and senior people start to ask what the business is getting out of it and, indeed, what the clients are getting out of it. The most common reason is a lack of definition of what the business wants to achieve from the program, which is why defining and agreeing this at the beginning is so important.”

The handbook in general builds, from an intellectual point of view, on David Maister’s conception of the lawyer or other professional as “trusted advisor” and the allied notions that credibility, reliability and intimacy help build up trust, while self-orientation can destroy trust.

The multitude of authors mostly do a very good job of avoiding marketing jargon and expressing themselves clearly, making the book fairly easy to read.

At certain points, British business terminology, which can vary slightly from the American language, can be found in this book, as one might expect. This should not deter the American reader. Perhaps the most obvious instance is a chapter heading about “closing the commerciality gap.” Where the British say that some lawyers may lack “commerciality,” we would say that lawyers may lack “business sense” or “business orientation.” I rather like the term “commerciality.” The authors also refer to “client listening programs” where we might say “client feedback programs”: again, the British term sounds more felicitous to me.

All things considered, this book should find its way to the sophisticated legal marketer’s shelf.

By: Jonathan Groner, PR Specialist and Freelance Writer, for the May/June 2015 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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