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Passion, People and Principles

The New Marketing Director Speech

post # 68 — May 4, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post

On http://www.lawmarketing.biz/ there was a request from a new marketing director of a law firm who had been asked to give a speech at a partners’ retreat about “what it is that I do, and how it equates to dollars in the door”

There’s a temptation in this situation (and every new relationship) to rush to prove yourself (or the worth of your subject area) by making claims for what you can offer. After all, that’s what you’re being asked to do.

However, the image of being thrown to the crocodiles comes to mind. You can just see the skeptical lawyer audience listening with an “Oh yeah? You’ve just been added to my overhead costs? You better be good!” mentality.

In this situation (as in a sales situation, or as in all new relationships) the best thing you can do is apply a variant of Shaula Evans’ approach and make sure that you clarify your mandate, and make sure there are no misunderstandings about where you can and cannot help. Use this opportunity to get the relationship off on the right foot and you’ll save a lot of future grief.

So, in this situation, my advice is that the new marketing director (or HR director, or IT person) should stand up, take a deep breath, and say something like the following:

“As your new marketing director, my job is to support YOUR efforts to attract, win and retain clients. I cannot do that for you; I can only help you do it better.

“If you are energized and motivated to want to get involved in developing your practice, I will be available to offer advice customized to your practice, your personal situation and your ambitions. It will not be the same advice across the board, because each of you is different, and I must learn to serve you as individuals, not as clones of each other.

“I’ll try to be a trustworthy counselor to each of you. Tell me your objectives, and I’ll try to help you accomplish them, if I can.

“I can offer advice and execution assistance on a wide variety of marketing activities, including seminars, articles, speeches and so on. I can help you make each of these more effective. However, I will not give blanket recommendations about which of these tactics to use, nor how each of them can best be used. In all cases, the best technique will be one that both fits you and will appeal to your clients. We will discover what these specifics are through personal discussions, or not at all.

“Part of my job will be to help you understand what it will take to accomplish the goals you say you want to achieve.

“Occasionally, this will mean that me pointing out that you are aiming for unreachable goals, or that the amount of effort and resources you are willing to dedicate will not get you where you say you want to go. While I will do my best to help you achieve your goals, I will not encourage you to launch half-measures if I don’t think they will work.

“In order to serve you well, I will need the privilege of giving my opinion and sharing my knowledge about what works. I will be your advisor, dedicated to your success. I will not just do what you tell me to do if I think you will be wasting your time.

“It’s not my job to tell you to get involved in business development. If you do want to get involved, then I am here to help. If you don’t then, as your employee, I cannot and will not try to force anything upon you. I will only give my opinion and advice when it is asked for.

“So, please give me a call so that we can meet one-on-one, and I can truly understand what you want to accomplish with your career and your business. I promise you that, if you do, I will do everything in power to assist you in accomplishing your goals. Thank you very much.”


Shaula Evans said:

David, I’m having a good laugh this morning as I never expected to be immortalized as the originator of the “Shaula Evans approach.” You are truly far too generous in giving away credit.

In regards to this post, I’ll add that I’ve worked in a handful of organizations (in non-tech positions) where the technical team took a similar approach to the speech you outline above for new marketing directors: essentially positioning themselves not to be antagonists, competitors or peons but partners, by defining their own roles as, “I’m here to make your job easier and more efficient. I’m here to make you look good.”

Unsurprisingly, those were the companies where I wound up with the most amazing technical tools to work with…and where it was the easiest to get my own work done and perform well in my own job. By defining themselves as part of the larger team instead of as outsiders, our highly-skilled technical people were treated like peers, not printer monkeys—and in that positive environment they went out of their ways to work some real technical miracles for the company. All in all, a great upward spiral.

posted on May 4, 2006

David Koopmans said:

What is powerful about the approach you suggest here is that it actually describes what marketing can do without calling it marketing. That is a good start, because the word “marketing” is about as useful as “engineering”. Following that train of thought, these lawyers need to know if they are talking to a person who will fix their car or someone who will launch the next spacecraft. The position/title of “Marketing Director” doesn’t tell anyone anything.

posted on May 4, 2006

Karen Love said:

The simiarities among the professional services in regard to establishing credibility of marketing professionals among partner groups is an ongoing and exciting challenge! Positioning yourself as one that deserves a seat at the table while having a servant’s heart attitude is a balancing act that must be evidenced in daily conversation. I receive calls weekly from accounting marketing professionals that are challenged with this exact senario…The “tipping point” is just now showing up in various forms.. one is a longer retention among accounting firms keeping talented marketers. Another milestone is a handful of us have made it to the owner ranks. These case studies will show that their is usually a fast company thinker in a managing partner role that assisted in positioning the marketer for success.

posted on May 5, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Thanks to Shaula, David and Karen for pointing out what I’ve long believed – that the answers to our questions come from a basic understanding of how people work, and our special situtaions, roles and industries are really not so important in figuring out what to do and how to do it.

Last week I gave a presentation based on my TRUSTED ADVISOR book, first to 500 consultants, and then to the 100 or so people in staff roles who serve the consultants and help them do what they do more effectively (HR, Finace, Legal, IT, etc.)

My approach, which I think was accepted, was to point out that we’re ALL advisors and that we all have clients, and the key lessons are basically similar.

Oh, sure, there’s 10 percent at the margin that makes for a special situation, but we’ll make a lot more progress if we focus on the 90 percent that we have in common with everyone esle’s situation!

We all need to expand the range of people from whom we are willing to learn, and stop thinking of ourselves as having unique challenges.

posted on May 9, 2006

Dennis Howlett said:

It’s a David Maister day for me! Moving along – I do think the profession has certain unique characteristics that have to be addressed. Otherwise we run the risk of drifting into cookie-cutter territory.

Otherwise, I can see how this would be attractive but as others say – it’s an incredibly tough act.

posted on May 12, 2006

Moisha said:

posted on April 5, 2007