‘Professional Services Marketing 3.0’ Named Book of the Month

Practice Management Forum – the world’s largest and fastest growing community for professional services marketers, with over 4,500 members in accounting, law, property, financial services, management consulting, architecture, design, engineering and other types of professional firms, based in the UK and 30 other countries across the world – has selected “Professional Services Marketing 3.0” as the Book of the Month and placed it on its Recommended list.

Robert Pinheiro, marketing manager at Manches LLP, a leading London-based law firm specializing in ultra high net worth individuals and growing mid-market companies, says he “will be recommending ‘Professional Services Marketing 3.0’ to colleagues and marketing peers.”

Pinheiro writes at PMforum.co.uk:

Robert Pinheiro

Robert Pinheiro

Bruce embraces the fundamental issue that until quite recently most professional service firms had not worked out what they wanted from their marketing functions and many marketing functions had not worked out what the firm expected from them…

Professional Services Marketing 3.0 is a useful refresher for all marketers in professional services. Indeed key sections should be summarised for fee-earners to remind them what we are all here for and what professional services marketing is all about “moving prospective clients to understand that when the need for legal or accounting services does arise, they should choose the marketer’s firm rather than another…”

The book is easy to dip-in and dip-out with 29 short, accessible chapters on how marketing works, building a marketing culture, new dimensions in internal communications, the formula for professional services marketing, campaign planning etc.

There are lots of great checklists: questions a good marketer should ask at interview, why advertise, writing good copy and things to ask when appointing a PR agency.

Essential for any marketers looking to move from product into professional services marketing it has a good chapter on the differences between the two, as well as useful sections on putting together and implementing the marketing campaign, the tools and tactics available, what you should expect from a successful marketing campaign, creating a brochure and several helpful chapters on public relations. I particularly liked his chapter entitled “Be nice to journalists…”

The journey on how marketing has evolved …  is particularly well told…

Bruce is clearly passionate about the concept of professional services marketing 3.0 and from my own experience I have seen how we have moved from professional services marketing 2.0 where it was the fee-earner against the marketer to 3.0 where the fee earner clearly understands the role of marketing within the practice, the marketing techniques available and the role of the professional marketer.


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RainToday Interviews Marcus on Professional Services Marketing 3.0 [Audio Podcast]

In this RainToday.com podcast interview, author Bruce W. Marcus describes the evolution of professional services marketing, how it advanced as a result of the internet and how a client-driven approach drives the success of firms these days.

Click here to start the 22-minute podcast
(right-click to download, 20MB mp3)

RainToday writes:

If you think marketing professional services is challenging now, consider what it was like more than 30 years ago when firms were just learning to do it. Partners in firms didn’t know how to do it, they preferred their gentlemanly methods, and they fought against ideas marketers presented to them.

“The early days of professional services marketing, for marketers, it was horrifying. There was no hospitality in law or accounting firms for non-lawyers or non-accountants. It was an uphill battle,” says Bruce W. Marcus, author of Professional Services Marketing 3.0.

But marketers persevered, and the ideas they came up with, such as what we call content marketing today, are alive and thriving.

Listen as Marcus discusses how professional services marketing has evolved since the Bates court decision (what he calls Professional Services Marketing 1.0), how it advanced as a result of the Internet (2.0), how the barrier between partners and marketing has dissolved (3.0), and how a client-driven approach drives the success of firms these days.

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How Listening to Clients Shapes Success

by Bruce W. Marcus

Typical proponents of Professional Services Marketing 3.0 are lawyers and accountants who have learned to think and act like marketers, lawyers and accountants who have developed new kinds of law firms and accounting firms, and new kinds of governance structures.

It’s a system that in at least one aspect draws upon a product marketing practice – in that the marketers participate in designing aspects of legal and accounting practice. It’s a system in which lawyers relate to clients in more constructive ways, and in dialogues rather than monologues. In law firms and accounting firms in which the barriers between partners and associates who are skilled and talented have eroded, and client service teams that not only serve clients better, but function as marketing instruments, by virtue of developing better ways of demonstrating the possibilities of extended service.

David Urbanik is one such individual functioning under Professional Services Marketing 3.0. Neither a lawyer nor a trained professional marketer, no lawyer or marketer better understands both the legal profession and its practices, as well as the art of practice development. Urbanik points out that… “ Product companies do market research and alter their products to better fit what their customers need or desire. Traditionally, professional service firms look at markets and attempt to deliver services they have to the opportunities they see.” Maybe the shifting paradigm, he says, is the need for professionals to listen more carefully to clients and change what they do and how they do it (shape a product/service)) in response to what they hear.

And, notes Urbanik, “You can’t shape something if you don’t understand it and can’t communicate clearly with those who must be at the core of building it … meeting the explicit or implicit client need which very well may require something different from the traditional law firm model.”

Working with Urbanik, we added a new marketing component to the firm’s practice groups. This not only enhanced each group’s marketing efforts, but helped build a firm marketing culture. We then focused marketing efforts on those prospects and markets with the greatest potential for growth and profitability, without totally ignoring those at the other end of the spectrum. The emphasis is on focused. It worked.

In the brochure and web site we did, we broke our services into groups that addressed the specific need of clients — what they needed — not merely what we had to sell off the shelf. Thus, we spoke of meeting the needs of clients in areas of Value Creation, Operational Support, Transactional Support, Risk Management, Preventative Legal Practice, Asset Recovery, Litigation Services, and Wealth Preservation and Distribution. In other words, we tailored our product — these categories — in terms of the client’s needs and opportunities, not just laundry lists of our services.

In this context, the need to bring a firm’s capabilities to the market is resulting in new kinds of firms, structured to address and serve the markets for its services. These new firms focus on client service, and firm productivity, without in any way diminishing professional integrity.

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What Accountants Are Learning about Marketing

by Bruce W. Marcus

Today’s accountants understand that, unlike most other occupations, they must be active participants in the marketing process, at least as suppliers of grist for the marketing mills, and certainly as part of the ultimate selling process.

What’s more significant is that they begin to see the professionalism in marketing, and particularly the selling aspect of it.

With the new configurations of firms evolving, accountants and the marketers who serve them have greater reason to work more closely.

Today’s marketers and accountants are each beginning to have a better understanding of the markets themselves, and the industries in which clients function.

  • They know the difference between understanding the elements of a market versus simply segmenting mailing lists.
  • They are more conversant with the techniques of fathoming market needs, and designing not only marketing programs, but firm structures to better meet those needs.
  • They better understand how to shape services to meet client demands and needs.

Under Professional Services Marketing 3.0, more and more marketers will participate in designing new services for clients, as well as the programs to market those services. In fact, marketers are increasingly responsible for understanding the market and feeding market information back to the firm.

This new generation of accountants better understands their clients’ businesses and industries. This results in improved client service and relationships, and therefore better practice of accounting.

An increased focus on selling – both by the professionals and the marketers, has produced a new generation of specialists. While selling has always been part of the marketing process, competition has bred a new focus on its importance and skills, to the point that the specialists are trained practitioners of what is now called, appropriately, Practice Development. The thoughtful marketing consultant, Suzanne Lowe, made extensive inroads into the art and craft of the process in her recent book, The Integration Imperative: Erasing Marketing Business Development Silos- Once and for All – in Professional Service Firms.

Marketing 3.0 is emerging. It is evolving – and it gives us a better clue to the future of the profession than all the prognostication of the self-proclaimed seers. If the accountants of Marketing 2.0 misconceived marketing and marketers, the accountants of Marketing 3.0 now begin to see themselves as partners with marketers – active, contributing partners. What had been an us-them relationship is becoming an accountant-marketer partnership.

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Professional Services Marketing 3.0 Gets a Rave in Legal Innovation

A note from the publisher

In addition to the attention Professional Services Marketing 3.0 is getting in the U.S., leaders in Europe and around the world are taking note.

At Legal Innovation, Ann Bjork of Sweden-based Virtual Intelligence, a knowledge management consultancy specializing on law firms, writes:

The book provides not only an expansive description about these eras and the professional services marketing development, it also serves predictions on the future on the basis of Bruce W. Marcus’s vast experience, as well as ideas and suggestions for marketing strategies and finding different approaches for positioning. It contains a vivid and comprehensive description of how the professionals began to learn to compete by using the tools of marketing and how this lead to the nature of the firms beginning to change, with a shift from the traditionally practice-driven firms to the client-driven firms with focus on the value of the services to the client. We now also see new kinds of firms developed with a clear focus to improve client service and productivity by the use of innovative technology and new attitudes by the professionals. As Bruce W. Marcus puts it in his preface: “That’s what this book is about – how to learn to swim to shore in a churning and turbulent sea of evolution and change. How to recognize and participate profitably in the incoming tide. How to use your own resources to survive and thrive when your competitors are drowning in a sea of despair. How to find and sow the seeds of opportunity in the midst of crisis. How to survive as the future unfolds.”

An interesting question, going back to the discussion on technology before, is the relationship between new innovative technology and the ability to compete, in regard to the current changes in the practice of law. In connection to this discussion, Bruce W. Marcus provided these insightful remarks: “It occurs to me that a vast number of law and accounting firm marketers working today are all substantially post-Bates, which is, I think, why so many believe that the substantial changes in the practice of law seems to stem from technology alone, rather than from the ability to compete where that ability hadn’t existed before. This is not just a fine debating point – it puts the focus on technology, which changes too rapidly to predict with any accuracy. While technology plays a strong role in change, this focus makes it difficult to project future trends with any degree of accuracy. The ability to predict trends is, I believe, essential to planning.” […] “One of the first and most significant manifestations of change has been value billing, which, in its earliest iterations, had nothing to do with technology. The thinking on it was first put forward by the brilliant Ron Baker. While not yet universal, we saw the beginnings of it well before the beginning of the technology revolution in the mid 80s. Another phenomenon that began pre-technology was the growing client sophistication, which has ultimately been enhanced by technology. Technology is a tool that accelerated, but didn’t initiate, the evolution of the law and accounting firms. But as the electric saw facilitated carpentry, it didn’t invent sawing.”

It is always hard to predict the future, but one thing we know for sure is that change is inevitable. When clients seek change and a competitor takes advantage of technology to provide new innovative services in response to that, other firms will react and initiate a change of the legal marketplace. Innovation of law firms have accelerated during the last years and will most likely continue to accelerate in ways not possible to predict, especially when it comes to changes driven by new technology, which are often complex and unpredictable to make assumptions about. The innovative trend is also due to the dynamic times we live in and the economic realities law firms are facing, where the need for competitive intelligence by understanding what your competitor is doing and grasping the trends of change into improving, not imitating, is the key to survival. Even though technology may not have been the sole reason for the changes in law firm practices, it has certainly provided new ways of meeting the client’s demands and thereby providing such competitive advantages that drive changing market mechanisms.

At VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum, which we arranged this fall, Professor Richard Susskind talked about this and made some clear predictions for the changing legal profession and that the future for lawyers could be either prosperous or disastrous – lawyers who are unwilling to change will struggle to survive, but lawyers who respond to the changes and embrace technology and new ways of providing legal services will find opportunities for new and exciting lines of business. Richard Susskind believes that the challenge to deliver more for less – clients are under pressure to reduce internal headcount and external spend, but also require more legal and compliance work involving greater risk – will define the next decade for legal services and that law firms can meet this challenge with strategies involving the innovative use of technology and a new way of identifying the real needs of the clients. Richard Susskind emphasized that law firms have to change their structure and to rethink their business completely from pricing differently to working differently. The golden age of profitability for law firms have passed. Leaders who are innovative will still be prosperous, but followers and late adapters will be dragged down to cost competing and struggle for survival.

Remember though, that “the past is the guide to the future, not just technology” and while the technology is not the answer itself, it is an accelerator of the change process that started already in the 70’s with the ability to compete, as described in Bruce W. Marcus book. A recommended article that combines these two perspective is Jordan Furlong’s article from last year “How to compete on price” on why lawyers should stop following the old advice not to compete on price and instead learn how to do it in a way that sustains the business. “You can’t control what the market will pay you; but you can control, to a large extent, what you spend to compete in that market. If you ever expect to seriously offer fixed fees to the marketplace, you absolutely must start by competing on cost. Competing on price might be a necessary evil, but competing on cost can be the key to your success.”

Thank You!

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The Quirks of Evolution

by Bruce W. Marcus

Today’s modern law or accounting firm — and there are more of them than we think, and fewer of them than we’d like to think – is still evolving. Change is the result of an evolutionary process – and evolution in a dynamic world is an imperative, and ongoing.

Today’s modern firm is sufficiently different from those of the last century as to be almost unrecognizable to the old timers:

  1. It tends to be more client oriented.
  2. It’s informal in internal and external relationships, and appropriately formal when the accounting practices demand it.
  3. New concepts of governance are beginning to emerge – even to the point of considering the publicly-held firm.
  4. Firms increasingly speak of a concept called valuewhat is the value to the clients of the knowledge and skills we provide? – which puts greater pressure on the traditional and somewhat archaic hourly valuation of client service.
  5. In many firms, hourly pricing is being replaced with the more substantive value pricing, based on the value of the matter to the client.

The professions face a changing relationship with clients. The era of the somewhat docile client is vanishing, thus affecting the ways in which the professions must function in the marketplace. At the same time, the professions are experiencing commoditization of traditional services, which, in today’s electronic environment, readily facilitates outsourcing to highly qualified providers in such countries as India, the Philippines and even China.

To have dreamed of outsourcing legal or accounting processes to a foreign country would have been a source of great hilarity only a decade or so ago. Such can be the quirks of evolution.

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The Melancholy Baby Syndrome

by Bruce W. Marcus

In most law and accounting firm marketing, we take what’s given to us from the practice, and impose marketing techniques on the firm and its services.

Traditionally there is little or no input by marketers to help shape the service being promoted. This results in marketing by rote, where ultimate marketing performance is driven by factors not entirely within the control of the marketers. I’ve long called this the Melancholy Baby Syndrome – the piano player who’ll play Melancholy Baby no matter what you really want to hear.

In 1980, in what was probably the first post-Bates article on Marketing 2.0, I wrote on marketing an accounting firm for the Virginia Society of Accountants. Revisiting that article today I’m stunned to see that to a large degree virtually every word is not only still relevant today, but that little has been added to the basics outlined in the article. This, despite the rapid and vast proliferation of professional services marketers, and the extensive introduction and use of new technology. Yes, there have been refinements and embellishments, and even some ingenious and imaginative use of marketing techniques. But the techniques – and most significantly, the relationship between most accountants and most marketers who serve them, have been virtually the same as in the 1980s.

The problem is that from about 1980 to now, the practices of accounting – techniques, governance, client relationships – have changed substantially, as have the economy and the markets for these services, but the techniques of marketing professional services have remained static.

But now, accountants are becoming more sophisticated. The nature of the market for their services is changing, as is the nature of professional services practices. Marketing 2.0 has been losing its grip. Tenure for marketers continues to be short, with frequent turnover. Reading the resumes of any ten marketers today is to see a game of musical chairs.

But still, there have been exceptions – and they sowed the seeds of the next generation of marketing to serve the changing needs of the marketplace – Marketing 3.0

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Are You Ready for the New Age of Professional Services Marketing 3.0?

by Bruce W. Marcus

An interesting characteristic about legal or accounting marketing is that it can only be done with the full participation of the lawyers or accountants.

Not true, though, in product marketing.

The lawyers and accountants must supply the grist for the marketing mills. The auto and cereal companies don’t have to rely on the people on the line to market.

The problem with that is that when every marketing idea is a hard sell within a a law or accounting firm, when every partner has something to say and says it, a lot of marketing ideas don’t get into play. The lawyers and accountants had trouble understanding that they must be as conversant in marketing practice as the marketing professionals, and that marketing professionals must be substantially conversant in professional firm management.That’s what Marketing 2.0 has been like, and is only now beginning to change.

And here we begin to see the beginning of a new era – Professional Services Marketing 3.0.

But evolution often has a life of its own, and what should be is often what will be. With new generations of professionals moving into positions of authority – lawyers and accountants not totally imbued with, nor inhibited by, the traditions of their elders. What is emerging, then, is Marketing 3.0. It is the next stage of the evolution, and while its seeds are in the past three decades since Bates, it portends substantial change for both the marketers and the professions. This, I might add, is not conjecture, but demonstrable fact.

Professional Services Marketing 3.0 brings us the lawyer or accountant who is now completely conversant with the role of marketing in the practice, the techniques of marketing, and the role of the professional marketer. Where, under 2.0, it was the professional versus the marketer, we now begin to see the accountant/marketer or lawyer/marketer – in a new partnership.

What we see, also, are new kinds of firms, with new configurations, developed to improve productivity and client service. We see new attitudes by the professionals, and new professional-marketer relationships. It’s a new step in the evolutionary process.

That’s what this era is about – how to learn to swim to shore in a churning and turbulent sea of evolution and change. How to recognize and participate profitably in the incoming tide. How to use your own resources to survive and thrive when your competitors are drowning in a sea of despair. How to find and sow the seeds of opportunity in the midst of crisis. How to survive as the future unfolds.

— Bruce W. Marcus

Bruce W. Marcus is a pioneer in the modern practices of professional services marketing. This is excerpted with permission from his new book, Professional Services Marketing 3.0, published by Bay Street Group LLC.

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