Kim Tasso reports on this year’s PM Forum conference.

It seemed like just yesterday when we were poised in front of our screens at home attending the first online PM Forum conference in 2020 – and here we were again.

The new 3D floorplan provided a relaxing background for networking, enabled by the new shuffle facility which encouraged interaction between the 100 delegates. With an electronic delegate pack safely downloaded and nibbling cookies courtesy of PitchPerfect we were all set for the day.

After a brief showreel from headline sponsors content creation platform Ceros, Nadia Cristina opened the conference: “If 2020 was the year of change – 2021 is the year of consolidation”.

Alignment: the secret of success – Leor Franks, Kingsley Napley
Leor’s focus was on internal listening – taking the pulse of internal stakeholders. He covered the challenges of cross-selling, localisation and central co-ordination, and reviewed Managing Partners’ Forum data to consider the gaps in M&BD support – primarily in sales and commercial.

He offered alignment solutions:

  • Clarify goals (recognition, reputation, relationships and revenue)
  • Understand wants
  • Identify needs
  • Check in regularly.

Marketing in a (predominantly) digital world – David Gilroy, Conscious Solutions
The rule of thumb on budgets was that you needed 5-10% of your revenue. Research indicated that this was now closer to 3.1% but David’s survey of 350 law firms revealed it to now be 2.1%.

He reported that some firms increased their marketing spend during the crisis – your money is worth more when competitors reduced their budgets. Some firms reduced their budget overall but increased the proportion of their digital spend.

David talked about ROI – and shared some fascinating insights on the cost per matter from one client. Rigorous analysis on the cost per matter at his own business revealed £1,000 to recruit each new client which then had an average lifetime of 6.47 years. I imagine many delegates noted actions to conduct their own analyses.

He finished with some insights into Google’s core web vitals and shared his views on the popularity of Peer Led Facilitated (PLF) events and Digital-first or Digital-only options.

Award winning thought leadership – Matt Allen, Bidwells
I’d reviewed this amazing campaign from a £50m turnover and 500 people firm in November so it was good to hear it from the horse’s mouth. I think it was one of my favourite sessions of the day – and not just because it was from the property sector.

Matt talked about the inception of the campaign back in 2018 when they recognised the growing importance of the innovation corridor between Oxford and Cambridge. He shared some brilliantly-produced and impactful videos.

They aligned the firm’s business strategy with the client needs and identified the clients with whom they wanted to collaborate. What was particularly interesting was how the M&BD staff became experts in the arc to support fee-earners. They worked with Blackstock PR and Perkins & Will architects. The overall budget was £30,000.

He explained the 16 policy/planning recommendations included in the Radical Regeneration Manifesto. This featured in the Chancellor’s Budget, drove a quarterly think tank with Government departments and was a central element of roundtables for 30 clients and content in a multi-channel campaign. Over 70,000 views resulted. Editorial reached Estates Gazette, Farmers Weekly, Sky News and the BBC. And a Secretary of State talked at an event for 350 guests. The firm also spoke at party conferences where their mock “protest” launch achieved coverage in The Times.

Rebooting resilience: Why ‘well-wash’ won’t work – Dr Sarah Hattam, Consilio Health
It was unusual to see a GP and mental health professional at the conference but with stress and burn-out an increasing problem – particularly amongst M&BD teams – it was a welcome session. Sarah talked about many mental wellbeing programmes being either “lipstick on pigs” or “refer to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)” and argued that a more comprehensive, data-driven approach was needed at firm, team and individual levels.

She quoted Deloitte research suggesting that on average the ROI on well-being projects was 500% but could be as high as 900%. She offered practical tips:

  • Create conditions that maximise physical well-being
  • Manage cognitive load
  • Increase the sense of coherence (ie. allow people a sense of agency).

Some thought that post-Pandemic, we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign the workplace. We need to educate clients – as well as leaders – so as not to place unreasonable demands on people.

Strategy – Julia Hayhoe
At the morning break-out Masterclasses, I joined the strategy session for senior marketers.

Julia compared a traditional strategic framework with a nimble strategic thinking pathway to alleviate uncertainty and adapt to changing demands and competitor actions (respond, review, reimagine, realign). She argued it was important to avoid a binary thinking about the future.

Julia considered six major macro trends (economic recovery, sustainability, Government intervention, the future of work, private capital and activism and digitisation, data ownership and integrity) and how these drive key business priorities. She talked about the blurring between professional services firms citing developments at Deloitte Legal, Keystone Law, Mishcon de Reya and Co-Operative Legal Services. She also talked about purpose-driven firms such as Bates Wells.

Increase your impact with a stand-out personal brand – Deborah Ogden
After lunch, I was excited to see that in Deborah’s background she had the same Wonder Woman image that I have! She referred to it when talking about Amy Cuddy’s work on power poses. Woven into engaging stories, she talked about internal stakeholders.

Deborah explained her PIE model – Performance, Image and Exposure. Only 10% of your success is from performance, 30% from personal brand and 60% your visibility.

I was struck by her report of a Deloitte Human Skills study that said by 2030 two thirds of all roles will be human skills focused. She shared research that you have a tenth of a second to make a first impression and urged us to take a strategic approach to developing a personal brand using the 3Cs: Clarity, Communicating consistently and Capitalising.

Marketing transformation to deliver effective campaigns – Adele Ghantous, Lapis Angularis
This was another impressive presentation – this time on martech. Adele talked about how firms were responding to the digitised customer experience.

She commented on the disconnection between marketing and sales – 96% of businesses were found to have issues with strategy and process alignment. She reported that 85% of businesses say that aligning sales and marketing is the single biggest opportunity to improve performance.

Adele reported that 28% of marketers use integrated marketing enterprise work management platforms enabling collaboration yet 50% struggle to demonstrate the value of marketing. “Technology alone is not the answer” she said – Hallelujah to that!

She urged us to optimise existing stacks rather than adding to them and to focus on connected customer experiences with smarter integration of infrastructure.

Client experience – Susan Ahern and Megan McKeon, Clark Hill
Clark Hill’s reinvention of its M&BD team featured in PM Forum events earlier this year so it was good to see them on the conference platform.

During an impactful and content-intense session, they talked us through the steps in their evolution. To promote cross-operational collaboration they built stakeholder engagement with the executive committee, senior leadership team, finance and analytics, business unit leadership, firm operations, IT and human resources.

They shared information from Thomson Reuters SharpLegal survey on clients’ legal spend. And, from the same report, the seven levers to improve client relationships.

Their 11 point end-to-end process for client feedback was outstanding. They also created the PULSE principle to pivot around the client:

  • Position our brand for growth and success
  • Understand our target sectors and markets, our relevant strengths and relationships
  • Learn about the SWOT of sectors and clients
  • Strategise to develop an organised game plan to develop relationships and increase revenue
  • Engage with impact to build industry reputation and institutional client base.

Other workshops included Kathy Innes, of Ecovis, talking about brand and Mat Morrison, of Digital Whiskey, on social media.

Client feedback panel
Expertly moderated by Helen Blake of FutureCurve, this year’s client panel fielded some outstanding people: Dan Kayne of Network Rail, Kate Curnow of Honda, Mayen Ekong of Wärtsilä (Finland) and Melinda Nicci of Body Collective.
Amongst the topics discussed were:

  • The importance of ESG, social issues and staff well-being
  • Clients want to receive feedback as well as provide it
  • Clients want partnerships with their providers – and social media helps them see the human side of their advisers.

Nadia closed the day reflecting on the key themes and we then enjoyed more networking – armed with chilled orange negroni cocktails from Conscious Solutions. Thanks also goes to the other sponsors: Mytton Williams (brand and design), Vuture (emarketing), Passle (content distribution), InterAction (CRM) and Thomson Reuters HighQ (collaboration platform).

Kim Tasso is a consultant, psychologist and author.