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A year ago we wrote:

It can be easy to think that marketing strategies and reports are the domain of large, glossy firms with marketing teams. The thing is, when you’re fighting daily fires and looking after one too many clients, the thought of doing marketing or business development can tip you over the edge. You’re busy doing the day job… why would you want to generate even more clients? The problem is, deep down, you know why. You have to do the marketing in the busy periods so that the quiet periods don’t happen. And there’s a limit to the amount you can rely on word-of-mouth and the reputations of one or two partners. Ultimately it comes down to – at best – pace of growth or – at worst – keeping on top of cashflow. So, how should smaller firms go about their marketing and business development?

And we went on to suggest three things smaller firms could do to get going with their marketing and business development (set some objectives and goals; create a practical action plan; and organise a regular accountability meeting). But we think there is actually a fourth thing smaller firms can do, that wraps a lot of this up into one: A Marketing & Business Development Audit. Yes, that’s right. Audit’s aren’t just for big firms.

We do regular audits for chambers and law firms, both in terms of marketing and strategy and also narrower areas (such as digital marketing).  In all cases we report on our findings and present a R(ed), A(mber), G(reen) risk report, setting out suggestions for activity in order of priority. A marketing and business development audit takes a detailed look at what you’re doing, how, why, when and where, and how this contributes to the wider strategic plan. The audits are a ‘step back’ to look at everything you’re doing for marketing and business development, viewing them through the lense of your overall objectives, to identify the things you’re doing well and those that are going to stop you achieving what you want to. Done correctly they are utterly practical, useful studies that underpin our ongoing planning, save you money and improve your performance.

Over the next three articles we’re going to consider just five of the more than fifty areas we look at in our audits: 

  • Clarity of purpose (Governance): Are marketing strategies and tactics clearly aligned to the organisation’s wider strategic plan? How do policies, procedures and processes support this?
  • Stakeholder research: Using tools to assess how stakeholders (both internal and external) view your organisation and its reputation, as well as their likelihood to recommend you and their perceptions and views of service/expertise as well as marketing impression.
  • Competitor analysis: Identifying your key competitors and assessing their performance against your strategic objectives (ie. how do they demonstrate the things you deem important). How do you monitor this?
  • Money: Expenditure projections set against reality. How do we budget and forecast budgets? How is the annual budget spent (and how does this relate to plans)? What proportion is tactical versus personnel? What impact does budget and money have on tactical performance and delivery of KPIs?
  • Reporting: What do you do with all this information? How can you use it for a practical action plan? How can you communicate it (usefully) to partners and executive committee members?

Most importantly, we’re going to look at them from the perspective of smaller firms – perhaps one or two partner organisations. We’ll show you how you can conduct your own audit and the insight it will bring. 


Let’s start with a biggy… Clarity of Purpose.

We call this governance and it really sits at the heart of any successful marketing and business development activity. We think it’s a fair bet that, from time to time, you’ve questioned the value that your marketing brings… whether advertising in that guide or spending money on a new website is really going to make a difference. We think the most important thing is that there is a clear and demonstrable link between what you’re doing, the way you do it and the ways it contributes to achieving organisational goals. So actually, for us, this is one of the most important areas any smaller firm can look at.

In practical terms this means being able to answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a firm-wide strategic plan? 
  • Have goals been set for the next 12, 24 and 60 months? 
  • Do you understand what they mean for the marketing activity?
  • Do you have marketing and business development objectives, linked to these organisational goals?
  • Does your marketing strategy demonstrate how each of your objectives contributes to these organisational goals?
  • Does your tactical marketing plan demonstrate how each activity contributes to achieving marketing goals and objectives?
  • In your marketing reporting, are you demonstrating this link through from marketing activity to achieving marketing goals/objectives to achieving organisational and strategic goals/objectives? 

In the next section you need to consider how you deliver marketing, make decisions and ensure consistency: 

  • Do you have agreed procedures for how you deliver marketing? You might want to consider written procedures for organising events, handling email marketing campaigns, using social media, client care, day-to-day PR, crisis PR etc We call this the ‘what happens if you go under a bus’ factor…
  • Do you assess your own performance and adherence to procedures such as these?
  • Do you review them on a regular basis?
  • What training do you deliver for new starters on following these procedures?
  • Do you have agreed policies relating to marketing decision-making? You might want to consider policies for selecting events to attend, client entertainment, use of marketing budget etc
  • Do you assess your own performance and adherence to policies such as these?
  • Do you review them on a regular basis?
  • What training do you deliver for new starters on adhering to these policies?
  • Are there any policies and procedures you don’t have that you think might be helpful? Consider areas of conflict or challenge over the past year.
  • What contingencies do you have in place for the times that they are not adhered to/used?

This might all seem like quite a lot to take in… indeed, this first area, alone, might provide you with all the areas for considering and work, over 2021, you can cope with. 

At ELE Global we offer the following fixed fee audits for smaller firms:

  • All marketing & business development (our most popular review) 
  • Client care and relationship management 
  • Digital marketing and social media 
  • PR and thought leadership 
  • Business development (sales)

Whatever we find we’ll write it all up with a R(ed) A(mber) G(reen) report, showing the ‘hot list’ of things you need to do next. The results are presented in plain English and a way that you can ‘pick up and work with’. For more information about our audits and work supporting smaller firms, click here