Let’s talk about the blurry line between marketing and business development.

I’m not one of those terribly concerned with what we call it. Preoccupation with either the use or elimination of specific labels is often (it seems) more an attempt to dictate language in the interest of controlling a conversation than it is about connecting.

My real interest as a marketing/BD leader lies in finding common ground and building trust with the professionals I aim to assist in more effectively penetrating the market.

So, the fact that, particularly in the legal space, terms like marketing, business development, and client service are often used somewhat interchangeably no longer troubles me much. Do they represent somewhat unique functions? Given my frame of reference, yes. But I’m not at all sure that fact warrants much time.

While inside our teams we need to understand functional differences, I believe a case can be made that the silos created by many of the labels we want to affix hinder progress more than they create clarity of purpose or efficiencies.

Call it what you will, it seems to me that the role of professional service marketers is two fold:

  • To facilitate (at times orchestrate) an actual marketplace connection between the subject matter experts with whom we work, and those in a position to hire them; and,
  • To protect the integrity and enhance the strategic visibility of the firm’s (or individual’s) brand — in the most comprehensive sense of the word.

The methodology by which an individual or team accomplishes these two broad tasks can vary substantially. The size of the firm, number of practice areas or groups, size of the support team, budget allocations — all of these will impact how a marketing team is structured.

But in any case, marketing is not about advertising campaigns. Or great logo design. Or memorable tag lines, events and elevator speeches. Nor is business development about a CRM system, so-called Big Data, research tools, and B-School worthy plans.

All can be valued assets, to be sure. But few will get the job done in isolation.

What Matters? What Makes A Difference? And What Do We Call It?

As we think, rethink and plan for the months ahead, what do you say to some brainstorming around the real keys to successful Marketing efforts?

Here are three bits of fodder to get the conversation rolling.

  • Begin with a strategic approach to Marketing and Business Development that is aligned with the objectives of your firm (basic, I know…but we’ve all seen approaches that instigate more of a tug-of-war than effective go-to-market plans);
  • A solid marketing/BD foundation is scalable — adaptable to the tools and resources at hand;
  • Success begins with smart targeting. This is roll-up-your-sleeves work, We muse about it often in these postings, and without it, even robust and well-funded programs can come up short. Smart targeting gives shape to how we effectively approach the whole ball of wax — what communication should say, what channels and tools to utilize, and how to package and present a pitch that actually connects.

Most of us drift from one side to the other of that blurry line, depending on the day. Those in larger organizations with the resources to do so, may be able to build out discrete functions. But I’m guessing few of us can afford to go long tending to only part of the equation.

So call me a Business Development guy…or a marketer…or just a guy that helps. Titles and labels notwithstanding, the most successful individuals I know in this business find innovative ways to facilitate connections between the marketplace and the professionals with whom we work.

The work of the (very) few who figure this out will ultimately be called professional. And the individuals themselves, trusted advisors.