GUEST BLOGGER: Amanda Acevedo, Director of Marketing and Business Development - Niles Barton
Over six months ago, I moved from a global law firm with a marketing department of 20+ professionals to a midsized regional firm with a marketing department of just one: me.
Some of the challenges in a solo marketing department are to be expected: fewer resources; requiring the marketer to be a “Jack or Jill of all trades”. A solo needs to do more (everything from business development to website edits to public relations to graphic design) and typically with less budget and support from staff and attorneys.
Solo marketers, coming into the role without experience working in such an environment, lack the availability (found in larger firms) of like-minded colleagues to ask questions, brainstorm solutions and determine best practices. It can be a trial by fire as you quickly try to get up to speed with the firm’s history and attorneys.
However, being in a marketing department of one presents opportunities that are not often available at global firms. A solo marketer must handle all issues that fall under the marketing umbrella. It is a great opportunity to learn new marketing disciplines and increase professional skills, without the risk of stepping on someone else’s toes or pigeon-holing the position (as may happen in a large department).
A department of one also means less red tape and more control. It is much easier to effect change and implement new strategies about things like cross-marketing and brand positioning when you represent the department as a whole. Also, a solo gains direct exposure to all facets of the firm – leadership, practice sections and attorneys.
Drawing from my experience, here are three tips for managing a Marketing Department of one:
1. Build Your Own Department
When a support network is not inherent in the position, build your own to mimic the support and resources found in a larger department. Take advantage of the many legal (or professional services) blogs online, attend webinars and keep up to date with your social networking to stay in touch with the latest trends in the industry. Also, don’t forget to get involved offline by joining the local chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and keeping in touch with your old colleagues. Sometimes you don’t even have to look outside of the organization. I utilize an associate with a photography hobby to help vet our advertisements and newsletters. I also have formed a close relationship with a marketing-savvy partner who enjoys brainstorming. Wherever you find it, an unofficial marketing department or support network is vital to your success in managing a department of one.
2. Make The Position Your Own
One of the clear advantages of being a solo marketer is that you can shape your position as you see fit. Whether it’s public relations, website development or branding for example, you determine the marketing focus based on what the firm needs. At Niles Barton, I have taken an active role in strategic planning and associate development for the firm – despite that not being part of my job description when hired. Regardless of what direction you go, be sure to rewrite your job description to fit your new role.
3. When In Doubt, Work with Experts
At some point, you will find yourself out of your comfort zone – whether it be lack of experience or lack of hours in the day. I recommend that every firm seriously look into hiring a professional services marketing agency to handle a few big-ticket tasks, such a website development or client service interviews. Not only can the marketing agency take on the project more effectively and efficiently, they are often willing to negotiate a fee structure that matches your budget.
A marketing department of one is a unique task that not many have an opportunity to experience. It is not about looking at what you don’t have within your firm, but looking at what you do have and how to be efficient with the talent and resources you are presented with.
I would love to hear stories on your successes as a marketing department of one or what you see as essential for success in this scenario.
Amanda Acevedo is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Niles Barton, a mid-sized law firm that serves individuals and business in the Mid-Atlantic region and worldwide. Prior to Niles Barton, Amanda was the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP.