Marketing in an alternative structure
Editorial

Marketing in an alternative structure

Businesses such as law firms, accountants and architects, organised along different lines to most commercial organisations, offer different opportunities for marketers.

Being a marketer in a partnership organisation has its challenges – as in any company – but in my opinion working for a partnership can also provide some excellent opportunities that may not be present in other company structures.

My experience of this kind of flat structure is drawn from more than nine years of working for law firms. Not all marketing teams are organised the same way, and others may have experienced life as a marketer in a partnership structure differently – but hopefully they will have had similar positive experiences, as it can be very rewarding.

Exposure

One of the best aspects is that, even as a junior marketer at a partnership organisation, you have exposure to the very top level of management from the start.

A partner is part owner of the business, similar to a major shareholder in a limited company. It might be more difficult to get direct access to business owners as an in-house marketer in other corporate structures: although you may have exposure to senior marketers, a direct relationship with the equivalent C-suite may be limited to a director-level marketer.

Exposure to the ideas of partners can quickly immerse you in a number of different tactics that are being used to market the company. This is particularly true if the partners you are working with are advocates for – and engaged with – marketing. These partners are at the ‘hot’ end of the scale.

Treacle

Exposure to the top levels of the business early in your career also brings you into contact with those at the other (‘cold’) end of the scale – those who aren’t interested in marketing as it is not their core responsibility. This can sometimes make progress on projects with a broad range of stakeholders a bit like wading through treacle, or make true engagement with the whole organisation tough to realise.

However, what’s encouraging about the colleagues you encounter who are like this is that – whether they realise it or not – they are often actually engaged in marketing.

You can change their view on marketing so that they’re ‘lukewarm’ rather than ‘ice cold’. Part of the challenge of the partnership organisation is to change perceptions.

These partners will often: make great use of their wide personal networks to bring in work; cross sell to use existing client relationships; and win more work from current clients. This is good client relationship management and is to be welcomed in B2B marketing.

Steps to success

There can be conflicting views among partners, and a constant need for consensus can lead to delays. However, open and continuous communication between the marketing department and the wider business can combat this issue and help you to tackle those partners who are ambivalent about the role of marketing.

In the final analysis, there are unlikely to be too many differences between what you need for success as a marketer in a partnership organisation and in an alternative company structure.

Being successful as a marketer in a partnership structure organisation – whether it’s an advertising agency or an architectural or accountancy firm – will be in no small part about collaboration with the senior managers and owners who believe in marketing, as well as the ones who are not so hot on it. In my opinion, that kind of collaboration is key wherever you are a marketer.

David Lawrence is a marketing and business development manager for the top 100 law firm Lewis Silkin.

David Lawrence Lewis Silkin Marketing and Business Development Manager
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