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For the most part, UK law firms with more than 25 partners will either have already taken the decision to hire professional help to assist with their marketing, or have it on the agenda. But firms sometimes bring professional marketing expertise on board without having first worked out what they want. Unless the firm has carefully thought the role through, both the firm and the new recruit are likely to become disillusioned.
There are two professional marketing roles and these are often confused. Some marketing specialists are best described as "marketing directors"; others as "marketing services managers". A marketing director will be senior, experienced and able to offer real input to a firm's business planning, development and marketing activities to enhance its competitive position and achieve its strategic objectives. To do this the marketing director must be able to deal with the partners on an equal level.
Most firms have (and need) a marketing services manager whose brief is to get things done. Though to be effective he or she needs to know the strategic objectives of the firm, decisions remain with the partnership. This is not to denigrate the role:a good marketing services manager ensures that publications are efficiently produced, that client seminars run smoothly, and that an effective database on clients, prospective clients and competitors is maintained.
Because the two roles are so often confused, firms run the danger of falling between stools: they try to have one person do both. The danger is that they end up with neither sensible marketing plans nor well organised client seminars. There are people who can perform both roles, but they are rare.
Many firms which already have professional marketing help would be well advised to review the firm's needs with the marketing director or manager. Too often the partnership will have entrenched attitudes, but if there is a sophisticated debate as to the firm's expectations then the result is likely to be better utilisation of resources and a better-integrated, better focused and happier marketing director or manager.