The Lawyer Management Q&A: Flint Bishop

Carl Weston has been head of marketing at Derby firm Flint Bishop since 2006

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to go into the industry?  

If you want to go into marketing you need a thick skin. If you want to get in legal marketing, you need to be armour platted. That might sound like an overstatement, but it really can be tough. I think it is because so many elements in marketing are viewed as subjective. And it is human nature for different people to like different things.  

Also working in a business where the people are the face of the product, it’s natural for them to have strong opinions about communications that impact them directly.  That is why you should be able to justify every element in your marketing and communications: your headline, sub headers, copy, image choice, call to action – everything.   Back each up with rationale and, even better, previous examples.  Being on the receiving end of subjective opinions is obviously not limited to working in a law firm. When you work in marketing you need to learn how to live with criticism. And where possible, use it to make your output more effective.  

What’s your favourite part of day?  

My favourite part of the day is definitely the morning. I have a long commute to work so leave home at 6.15am to get to the office around 7.30am.  Being in a city so early can be a bit strange. I get to see the stragglers going home after a good night out. Getting to work so early means I get more done, simply because there are less distractions. Although finding my coffee mug amongst all the rest often feels like a game from The Cube.  The first thing I do – which starts on the bus but continues when I get to work – is catch up on the news and conversations on relevant social media channels. This often unearths content that I can use for our own online and offline public relations activity. This also gives me a change to join any conversations that have been flying around; particularly on my LinkedIn marketing groups.   

What’s been your best piece of career advice?  

My best piece of marketing advice is to study – and not to stop.  That might sound obvious, but I’m astounded at how many people work in marketing that have never studied. I’m not just talking about formal study. I’m also talking about reading up on all the tactics open to you as a marketer. For instance, how to write headlines that work, how to format communications to make them easy to read, how to get a reaction from someone online. And of course, how to construct a persuasive argument.  

I’ve got a marketing library of 38 books that me and my team use constantly to help us. Books like ‘The Snowball  Effect’ , by Andy Bounds, ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ by David Ogilvy and anything written by Drayton Bird.  In fact there is one absolute gem of a book that I use almost every day, and that is ‘How to do better creative work’ by Steve Harrison. He is a marketing guru who has won more major awards in his discipline than any other in the world.

It saddens me that marketing is often not approached with the degree of professionalism as a career that law or accounting is. Again I’m not pointing my finger at legal marketing in particular, as I know some fantastic marketing men and woman that are doing great jobs.  I just mean that marketing is still sometimes seen as an administrative exercise, something that anyone can do. And this perception is not helped by the lack of knowledge in some marketing departments.  

What are the challenges of working at a regional law firm and why?  

The obvious challenge of working in a regional firm is how to grow outside your geographical boundaries.   We’re working hard to solve this and have won several national FTSE 250 businesses as a result.  Some of these clients have been won through our sub brands such as FB Debt, a service that helps business increase their cash flow by improving their credit management processes. It improved one client’s bad debts by £26m. Whilst others, including major commercial property clients like Bowmer & Kirkland and Clowes Development (UK) Ltd have been our clients for over 30 years.  But national growth is a challenging objective.  

How do you think technology is changing the industry?   

For me technology, or more specifically digital, gives marketers speed, relevancy and transparency.   I installed a firm-wide CRM system about five years ago which is proving its worth.  For instance with email marketing, I have the ability to segment our database to isolate the most relevant audience for a message. Then I create an email campaign, hit send and literally watch the results unfold.  Amongst other items I can instantly see statistics for open and download rates and the number of people who forward my emails. And of course, this allows people to manage their data preferences too.  This is important information as I use it to shape future messages.  We’ve had some great wins using this approach. Pay per click advertising also offers an exciting opportunity. We’re currently running campaigns for private client services on Facebook and Google and business services on LinkedIn.  Both are doing well, and we now have our cost per enquiry down to £28.56 which is not too shabby at all.  

What’s on your to-do list?  

The biggest project on my to-do list right now is the total redevelopment of our website and social media sites such as Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn. This has proven a major task as I’m trying to balance the human element of visual aesthetics and copywriting with the keywords that actually get our websites found by search engines.   And of course, making sure they work across all platforms too.  I [also] think awards wins give real law firms tangible internal and external benefits, so have championed this over the last few years.  

IT systems used: Hubbard One CRM, Elite and DPS.