The marketing department of most professional services firms is growing up, thanks in large part to the changing skills required for marketing.

In the past decade we’ve seen the rise of digital channels and data accessibility change how marketers devise strategies to better connect with prospects and clients. From educating prospects on issues and topics to helping them understand services and their value. In short, your marketing team knows exactly how to be most relevant to your firms’ prospect community. So, ensuring marketing has C-suite representation is the best way to ensure this marketplace knowledge gets built into your overall business strategy.

The Evolving Role of the CMO

The role of chief marketing officer, or CMO, is new to many professional services firms. Others may be broadening or redefining how the CMO executes the critical marketing function. Either way, companies are finally recognizing the value of integrating marketing leadership in high-level decision and strategic efforts. At the highest levels, strategic marketing requires leadership from an individual who understands both the skills required for marketing and the skills required to grow a firm.


As CMO, it’s not enough to be a good leader or strategic thinker; they must understand the operational and financial side of the business. And, by bringing marketing skills to the executive mix, a firm gains a deeper, data-driven understanding of target markets, which channels are driving conversions, how prospects are learning about your firm, and how changes in all these arenas can—and should—inform a firms’ growth strategy. The real value of a CMO is in bringing to life the growth strategy through their understanding of the client experience as part of the entire relationship pipeline—from prospect to signed client. Because CMOs understand the strengths of traditional marketing and digital spaces alike, they know which opportunities to exploit and which to shy away from to connect with the desired target audience.

Interestingly, current marketing efforts are informed more and more by real-time data. While a CMO doesn’t have to be expert at the skills required for marketing analytics, what a C-level marketer will bring to the table is an understanding of how your marketing tools and channels form a picture of what’s working and what’s not.

A good CMO identifies and capitalizes on trends that lead to more conversions, leads, and business.

Where Growth Meets Strategy

With the proliferation of marketing channels, it is easy to lose sight of how your marketing efforts can best support your growth strategy. A CMO can bring a more holistic approach by ensuring that marketing does not become a desert of random activity but rather an oasis of impact. Marketing is in many ways the single most client-responsive piece of your growth puzzle.

As we learned in our recent high-growth study, “high growth firms put 23% less effort into traditional marketing.” When we asked these higher-performing firms about the marketing variables they track, we learned they look to the entire marketing pipeline, not a specific variable. Additional tracking (beyond the common proposal win/lose rate, conference attendees, etc.) and an understanding of the full marketing pipeline allows firms to make course adjustments in their marketing to maximize their return on investment. This ultimately results in better connections during the pre-sale, sale and post-sale stages.

SEE ALSO: How to Drive Organic Growth: 5 Proven Strategies for Professional Services Firms

What a CMO Brings to the Table

An effective CMO brings seasoned business and management experience plus a broad understanding of marketing best practices. In other words, a CMO brings an omni-channel perspective, crossing offline and online.

Having a CMO doesn’t necessarily mean you need a huge in-house marketing team. But a CMO will be able to tell what marketing skills and resources are required internally and which can be cost-effectively outsourced.

For example, you might have great analysts and strategists but not a creative team. Or you might have great writers, designers, and coordinators but need someone expert at market research or analytics to help point them in the right direction. A CMO will know how all the pieces fit together and how to build a responsive and engaging marketing team.

What’s the best approach to ensure your firm has access to the skills required for marketing success? Well, that will really depend on your goals and staffing requirements. Ultimately, CMOs are faced with two possible options:

  1. Train staff for the marketing skills needed.
  2. Hire the marketing skills needed (whether individual or a firm).

A CMO understands the right balance of each option. Marketing skills are evolving every day and this guarantees that the marketing skills of today will not be relevant tomorrow. For today’s professional services CMO, success depends on understanding the latest skills required for professional services marketing and helping develop those skills in their marketing department.

Additional Resources

  • Discover what today’s most successful professional services firms are doing right in the research summary 2016 High Growth Study.
  • Find out more on becoming a sought-after expert in your industry by downloading a free copy of The Visible Expert℠ book.
  • For more hands-on help on becoming the next Visible Firm®, register for our Visible Firm® course through Hinge University.

How Hinge Can Help

Hinge is a global leader in helping professional services firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be implemented. In fact, our groundbreaking Visible Firm® program combines strategy, implementation, training and more.