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Demonstrating the value of marketing and business development – outputs versus productivity

Susanne Pugsley asks BD and marketing teams what are you measuring and does it really demonstrate value?

“It doesn’t matter what I believe, it only matters what I can prove” so spoke Lt Daniel Kaffee in the 1990s film A Few Good Men. 

It is a natural instinct in any situation to want proof and not to just take things on faith.   This is especially true when it comes to professionals demanding proof of the value of business development and marketing. This can often cause headaches for BD and marketing teams in professional services firms because there is often very little clarity on what constitutes value or even success. The answer can vary wildly between different departments and stakeholders in the same firm.

All too often I see marketing teams provide reports to fee-earners that only show their various actions and not relating them to business benefits. The misconception is that if you can show how busy you are it proves your worth. But outputs are not returns, nor are they proof of success – just of activity. If the audience does not see the value in the activity, then the justification misses the mark.

BD often fares better than marketing as it can usually show more tangible returns in terms of client wins, but even this is not always straightforward.

In smaller firms, much of the direct BD and pitching is carried out by the fee-earners themselves who often neglect to notify their BD or marketing colleagues until the eleventh hour and certainly won’t credit their input as fundamental to its success.

In several firms I have worked with, I have been amazed to still see emails asking BD and marketing teams to make the tender “look pretty” as their only input. In others, I have seen some lawyers and accountants question why the BD team would even need to know about the pitch at all! This is where the value and knowledge of the BD and marketing team needs to be proved. This will not happen if reports simply list the number of blogs uploaded or press releases sent out.  

Respect comes from demonstrating understanding of the market, pricing, profitability, and knowing what a good client and good work looks like. Most importantly, it is being able to demonstrate the clear correlation of brand, profile, digital campaigns, awards and third-party validation to measurable success in tangible terms for the business and its ultimate impact on the revenue generated and profitability. 

So the next time you are asked to demonstrate what value your BD and marketing team bring to your firm, start by asking the question what would success look like to you?  What are the metrics you would like to see that would prove our value? This is not just a one-way street – you will need to assess where you are in the process. If there is no understanding of the role of BD and Marketing in the work lifecycle you need to think about auditing the function and repositioning it to showcase its essential nature.

This may mean shining a spotlight on the services BD & Marketing are providing to the firm, so you better make sure you can handle the truth!

Susanne Pugsley has held business development leadership roles across law and accountancy firms. She is the founder of the professional services consultancy firm PSBD. She can be reached by email: spugsley@psbd.co.uk.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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