How to Hire a Great Marketer for Your Firm and Get Out of the Way – RainToday

I received this article by Bruce Marcus, a contributing Editor to from a terrific new client and collaborator – Alice Heiman.  I found it to be so well written and insightful, that researching and writing my own article seemed a futile attempt to make his points different or better in any way.

So without further qualifications, please read Mr. Marcus’ thoughts:

“And now a word to clients and partners who think they know marketing…

Unless you’re that rare bird who’s had some successful experience because you have some kind of inborn talent for marketing—and there are some of you like that—you don’t know beans. And you won’t know beans until they start teaching marketing in law or accounting schools, which is long overdue. Or until you’ve had long experience with a terrific marketer on your staff.

But, if you don’t have a natural affinity for it, there are things you should know that will result in your competing successfully in this wildly competitive market. Or until you hire marketers who know their stuff, and can teach you what you should know.

You should know, first, that the mechanics of marketing—the media relations and the writing and the direct mail and seminars and such—are not marketing. Marketing, in the final analysis, is an art form. The mechanics and tools are not the art. (And, as I’ve often said, when you’re hiring a marketer, don’t look for a mechanic, look for an artist.)

OK, then, how do you hire an artist to do your marketing? Even before you talk to your first interviewee or read your first resume, you need to know this:

  • Understand and respect the skills of marketing. You can understand a lot, if you don’t try to gum it up with trying to do what you’re not trained to do.
  • Don’t take seriously the opinions of non-marketers about technical marketing matters. They’re not likely to know.Some of the best articles, brochures, and other written marketing material wouldn’t pass muster with a seventh-grade grammar teacher. But know that marketing writing isn’t designed for grammar teachers. It’s designed to communicate ideas clearly and persuasively, with credibility and passion. Writing ain’t wordsmithing, any more than fine cabinet making isn’t just hammering and sawing. It’s communication of ideas.I couldn’t begin to tell you how much of what I write drives seventh-grade teachers and English majors nuts. But not, apparently, my many thousands of readers, nor the editors of the publications that print my stuff. Nor, thank goodness, my consulting clients.
  • At the same time, know the difference between what promotional activities are, such as activities that enhance name recognition and reputation, and what the activities are that actually get clients to build a practice. The difference is strategy, and a range of practice development activities that get you in front of prospects. Promotional activities are important, but won’t do much to get you clients if you don’t follow up with practice development activities.
  • Either trust your marketer’s judgment, or get a marketer you do trust. No, your spouse, who has a degree in English and did a fine job of raising the children, can’t write your brochure. Your spouse doesn’t know how. And the consensus of your partners about marketing copy is about as useful as your marketing team’s consensus about an audit or a brief.
  • Read resumes carefully, and know (or find out) the differences between different kinds of marketing professionals.In the early days following Bates, one Big Eight accounting firm hired its first marketing director from an ad agency. But the guy had been in ad traffic, and knew nothing about professional firm marketing, or writing press releases that someone would publish, or creating a brochure. “But he worked for a major ad agency,” was the excuse.
  • Make sure that you and your prospective marketing hire both understand the same things about your marketing objectives, and that both of your objectives are realistic.
  • Make sure you both understand what you’re willing to do—or not do—to achieve marketing success. Most marketing activities, particularly as prescribed by good marketers, might not be within your experience. But they should be within your marketer’s experience. Again, either trust your marketer or get a new one.
  • Listen to what your marketer has to say. Listen carefully. If you can’t live with what’s being said, either don’t hire that person, or forget about marketing. You’ll waste your money and the marketer’s time.
  • If you don’t know how to hire a marketer—and if you’ve never worked with one before—then learn.There are good books. There are articles. There is, of course, The Marcus Letter and other good marketing blogs and websites. You can speak to marketing professionals in other firms that have successful marketing programs. There are the marketer’s associations such as the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) for law firm marketers and the Association of Accounting Marketers (AAM) for accounting marketers.
  • It sometimes helps to judge a prospective marketer’s experience by the questions he or she asks you in an interview. A good marketer should ask…
    • How many practice areas do you serve?
    • Which are your strongest practices? Which are your weakest?
    • What are the industries you’re strongest in, and which are your weakest?
    • Do you use client service teams? How many? Which practices? How are they organized and how are they monitored?
    • Will I be able to regularly attend practice group meetings?
    • Is there a marketing committee? How often does it meet?
    • To whom will I report?
    • How many partners are sympathetic to marketing and supportive of the marketing operation?
    • How strong are your cross-selling activities? (This will tell whether the partners cooperate with one another, or whether the firm is a collection of individuals who think of themselves first and the firm second.)
    • How large is the marketing department?
    • How large is the marketing budget?
    • How will marketing success or failure be judged?

Any marketing applicant who doesn’t ask these questions—or questions like these—is going to be gone in eighteen months or less. Don’t waste your time or the applicant’s time.

At the same time, it helps to hire the best marketers if you consider…

    • Whether the applicant asks the foregoing questions.
    • The resume is only the tip of the iceberg. If it merely lists jobs, ask what responsibilities each job actually entailed, how they did it, and with what success.
    • Get an assessment of how much they actually know about your profession. It may or may not be much, but the longer the experience the greater the knowledge.
    • Successful marketing requires a great many different skills—writing for many different kinds of media, from brochures to press releases; networking; strategy; media relations; planning and running seminars; list management; and many more. Ask which skills the interviewee has, and in which are the strongest. Don’t ask about weaknesses and expect a straight answer.

Thinking in terms of the above, and not what you think you know about marketing but probably don’t, will more likely get you an effective marketing operation—and knowledgeable marketers as well.

Why do some firms succeed and grow, empowered by great marketers and marketing programs, and others don’t? Start from the beginning of this article and read it through again.”

4 Responses to “How to Hire a Great Marketer for Your Firm and Get Out of the Way – RainToday”

  1. Andrea Norman Says:

    Excellent article! I have spent years marketing for professional service firms like accountants, architects, engineers, and contractors. My number one complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be an appreciation or acceptance that marketing is a profession just like accounting, law, architecture or engineering. Many of them believe that if they know how to be friendly and golf, they are excellent marketers. Then, they hire administrative staff that know graphics as their “marketing” staff.

    The firms that decide to take seriously marketing strategy, execute with clarity and commitment and measure the results will be the ones that will grow and prosper. The others will not.

  2. smartblog Says:

    Thanks Andrea!

    I’ll be linking to Mind The Gap here. Great site… terrific approach. Great to see others out there who share our values.
    Thanks for stopping by..>!

  3. Mike McDowell Says:

    SPOT ON. This is a well written article. Thank you very much for sharing this, Larry!

  4. Patrick Byers Says:

    We’ve served 100’s of clients and I agree with Mike McDowell, “spot on.”

    We’re writing a new client orientation piece right now, hoping we might be able to gracefully help clients help themselves get the most out of our firm. I’ll be referencing this for inspiration.

    Nice work.

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