The 7 Ps of standalone marketing

For standalone marketers or those working in a small team, Helen Burness offers a framework and, even more importantly, reassurance.

It’s easy to think, when reading some of the professional services industry news, that the market is dominated by big firms with correspondingly well-equipped marketing teams and budgets.

But according to Thomson Reuters on the back of original research by The Law Society, in 2015, smaller firms with fewer than 100 fee earners made up 99% of law firms across the UK and 59% of the total number of lawyers employed in private practice worked for one of these firms. This represents around 9,300 firms. And this is not even taking the Bar and new legal start-ups that have exploded onto the scene into consideration.

The above stats would therefore suggest a large percentage of the legal marketing community are working in standalone roles, or smaller teams. And the same goes across the entire professional services sector, from chambers to accountancy firms, trademark attorneys and architects.

Are you out there? If you are, this one is for you.

I was lucky enough to gain many years of experience working for an international law firm before moving to a standalone role in a NewLaw start-up. I had outstanding managers, a huge team of peers, creative agencies, a ton of resources and a marketing operations team. Teams were structured with senior managers, managers and execs so those in senior roles could focus on strategy with the rest of the team focusing on delivery.

But what is life like when you do it all? When you are in a standalone role, focusing on both the strategy AND the delivery? When you are covering everything from client development to RFPs to internal comms to branding projects to social media and anything else which might fall under the – let’s face it – wide remit which is often marketing?

Being a standalone marketer or working in a small marketing team (for the purposes of this I will just talk about the standalone marketer, but this covers both scenarios) is not for the faint-hearted. I often think people in these roles are undervalued for the creativity and grit they bring in their approach to marketing. I would say this though, having been one for the past six years before making the brave/scary leap to consultancy. With the benefit of this experience, here are some ideas for those of you in such roles. You’ve heard of the four Ps of Marketing or the 7 Ps of Services Marketing – this is a slight variation on a theme: The 7 Ps of Standalone Marketing.

1 Plan
When you are often flying by the seat of your proverbial pants, it’s easy to be reactive or fall into the trap of just DOING. But it is essential to set aside time for strategic thought, to revise strategy, to revisit your SWOT and to devise a plan of delivery. This will ensure you are focused in your direction and can always revert back to the strategy/plan to challenge whether an activity makes sense. Finding headspace for this is so important, taking yourself away from the day-to-day is critical to achieve it.

2 People
You have to empower your fee earners to become your sales force and your brand ambassadors. This means moving away from doing and towards empowering with tools and training. This means getting to know them, their strengths, their comfort zones and making sure you leverage these. Some may be great at writing content. Some may prefer speaking. Some may be a whizz on social media. Some may avoid it like the plague. Work out who your champions are and invest in training and supporting them, develop positive relationships and get them to shout about their successes to incentivise others to do marketing.

3 Partners
Newsflash: you can’t do it all. You can’t be an expert at everything (much as I have tried to delude myself on this, sad reality struck when I attempted to build my own website recently). It is key you develop a network of reliable and collaborative external partners who can support you and the business in those areas where you need their input. I truly learnt to understand the value of these collaborators when I worked in a solo role. From the agencies we retained to freelancers who helped us with projects, these people are your peers and your support network, people to bounce ideas around with, to celebrate successes with and to support you when there is a challenge. I have always felt like they are part of my team, even if they are external to the business, and now strive to be such a partner myself in the way I work with clients.

4 Process
You should never have to think about doing a process-orientated task twice. Checklists are your FRIEND. Simple checklists and workflows ensure that you execute tasks more efficiently and can ultimately train others in the business where possible and in your absence. Noting processes is key for business continuity. Where working as a standalone marketer, the ideal scenario is to develop a marketing playbook to ensure continuity in the event when you are not there – it happens!

5 Platforms
What platforms are you going to use to share information, collaborate and communicate? Trello (personal obsession) is brilliant for managing projects. Asana is another good collaboration platform. I live my personal and professional life via Wunderlist to keep track of to-dos. DropBox and Google for file sharing. Nothing makes you discover technology and apps more than freelancing for different clients and constantly driving up your efficiency! With your fee-earner community, invest in a simple intranet as a communication and information repository. It is surprising how many smaller businesses still operate on an ‘email to all’ system. For some businesses, setting up a group on social media might even work. On the subject of social media, social networks are of course great, free (to some extent) platforms for brand awareness and content promotion. For small businesses these can be a good low budget starting point for getting your brand and message out there. But also invest wisely and focus on those where you know your audience is, rather than being sucked into thinking you have to do them all, which is a huge time drain.

6 Proof
It would be a worry if I didn’t mention data, return on investment or proof, wouldn’t it? It becomes more important than ever when working with smaller budgets and resources to ensure every activity makes sense and you are getting tangible business benefit from marketing. There should be internal debriefs after every activity, from events to direct mailers, to analyse stats and track any leads through the sales cycle so you can work out the touchpoints that have led to conversion. Make sure you are religiously reviewing stats on any digital activity from website to every social media channel to ensure you keep iterating and doing more of what works well. As with planning, proof takes time, but is critical to evidence what works, what doesn’t and where you should be focusing your valuable time.

7 Professional development
When you are working on your own and trying to cover such a wide remit, finding time for professional development is one of the hardest things and will often fall to the bottom of the enormous to do list. As a result, it is easy to plateau, to become stale and uninspired and to lose your grasp on new developments in the world of marketing. But YOU are the marketing expert and you need to be constantly upskilling to bring the business value. Follow thought-leaders on social media, network where possible with your marketing peers, go to conferences and if you can, invest in a course. You don’t need to commit to a full-on MBA – there are some excellent bite-sized courses covering such a huge range of marketing-related disciplines now. Taking on a course is a commitment, but the benefits in being able to talk confidently to the business and bring in best practice from what has worked for others, is invaluable.

So that’s it! It’s not rocket science, but I hope it has given those in standalone roles or working within small teams a framework and most of all reassurance, that they are doing a fantastic job being all things to all people.

Helen Burness runs Saltmarsh Marketing. Contact: helen@saltmarsh.marketing or follow her on twitter at @hburness and @thisissaltmarsh