Best in class marketing and BD teams in professional services firms

Drawing on Catapult Growth Partners’ real world, hands-on experience we have analyzed what distinguishes excellent marketing and business development teams in professional services firms. It's not rocket science, but it is surprising how few firms strive for, let alone achieve best practice.


First, a high-performing team is separated from the pack the clear understanding of their raison d'être by the firm’s leadership, i.e. the managing partner and CMO/CBDO, and the team. The best teams get up early in the morning with a single-minded purpose: Grow revenue.

While it seems obvious, it is surprising how many teams fail to have this burned into their psyches. Run-of-the-mill teams are often filled with smart, experienced, hard-working professionals, but they confuse activity with results. They talk about branding, positioning, differentiation, market awareness, social media, etc. They fail, however, to connect those marketing tools and tactics with the ultimate business development goal of growing revenue.

Second, high-performing teams know what leads to revenue growth. They know that the purpose of marketing within law firms is to create issues-based conversations with clients and prospective clients. To get there, they have a clear process:

  • Identify and prioritize clients/prospects and focus on the highest value opportunities.

  • Create issues-based conversations with clients/prospects.

  • Empower, equip and motivate the "sales force" (the professionals) to maximize the outcome of these conversations, including coaching and training to develop the needed skills.

  • Track activity and results.

  • Keep the professionals motivated and maintain business development momentum.

  • Repeat the process.

Third, the members of the very best teams are player-coaches who get out into the market and create connections and opportunities for their firms. They lead by example and join professionals on calls to help coach them in real time. They provide insight and action that both the professionals and clients agree add value to the client relationship.

Fourth, successful teams realize there is a symbiotic relationship between marketing and business development. They do not view marketing and business development as independent activities. Instead, they purposely build an integrated process in which marketing and business development have well defined roles that are different–but complementary. They also know that on the continuum of revenue generation (from both new clients as well as existing) there are no distinct hand-offs between function, but instead a sliding scale of involvement. With marketing playing a heavier role in the initial stages, and business development moving the process forward in the later stages.

Fifth, high-performing teams rely on evidence in driving their marketing and business development plans. They use all available, cost-effective primary, i.e. market research, and secondary data from reliable sources. They have a sound business case based on ROI for investing the firm’s money in information that drives insights that make a difference in achieving their revenue targets.

Finally, high-performing teams have assessed the gap between the expectations of the professionals and the ability of the team to deliver. Often the expectations are unrealistic or unproductive. Under-performing teams find themselves bogged down in reactive, non-effective or non-strategic initiatives. Conversely, the top-performing teams have good leadership that keeps the focus on revenue growth and training professionals to be wise consumers of marketing and business development support. This leads to time spent on proactive initiatives that yield results.

Our guest contributor this month is Doug Johnson, founder and managing partner of Catapult Growth Partners. Catapult is Beaton's exclusive collaborator in the USA and Canada for providing the services of our global digital platform for Beaton Benchmarks and other market research to inform the strategies of professional services firms.