“Where have all the CMOs gone?” is the subject line of an LSSO listserve discussion late last week. Some of the legal marketing/sales industry’s top consultants (Silvia Coulter and Bill Flannery, to name two) weighed in on this hot button topic.
Silvia, a consultant with Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, noting that she is seeing the following at firms who are not currently filling open CMO positions (she posted it Friday, February 19, 2010). These firms have chosen instead to:
- Have a highly respected partner oversee biz dev and marketing
- Have a highly respected partner BE the CMO (maybe with the title of marketing partner/business development partner)
- Go with the director of marketing and director of biz dev who the CMO hired (who needs a CMO when it’s all set up kind of thinking)
- Have marketing managed by the practice group managers (some who are former practicing lawyers, some who came from marketing and are in the practice groups themselves and some who are PD folks)
- Have marketing/biz dev managed by the COO/ED.
Silvia asks the question: Have we lost footing in the senior ranks of the profession? I think the short-term answer is “yes,” because the urgency to replace this strategic, more expensive position following the financially strained years of 2008 and 2009, has taken a back seat to short-term cost savings.
The March 2010 Harvard Business Review is called, “Power out of the Recession.” There is a terrific article called, “Roaring out of the Recession,” that states “research notes that 9% of companies come out of a recession stronger than ever” and the authors list how these companies lay the groundwork for success.
The authors talk about post-recession winners and losers . . .
“Just who are the post recession winners? What strategies do they deploy? Can other corporations emulate them? According to our research, companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow do well after a recession. Within this group, a subset that deploys a specific combination of defensive and offensive moves has the highest probability—37%—of breaking away from the pack. These companies reduce costs selectively by focusing more on operational efficiency than their rivals do, even as they invest relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets. Their multi-pronged strategy, which we will discuss in the following pages, is the best antidote to a recession.”
They go on to note that: “Companies that only cut costs heavily during a downturn don’t flourish after it ends.”
So, let’s go back to the open law firm CMO positions. Those of us who have been in legal marketing a long time have seen highly effective and successful CMOs. In most cases, these professionals have had success at one or more law firms, and some have recently left their current firms and are now CMOs at other large law firms. What makes these professionals successful and sought-after?
They have the same qualities and talents that Fortune 500 CMOs have: rigor, resourcefulness, intelligence, ambition, courage, a brain that is balanced in its rightness and leftness, a sense of humor, and decades of relevant experience in sales and marketing operations.
My advice to the law firms who are putting the CMO position on hold is — don’t. Prepare your firm to hire a strong CMO; do the hard work up front — analyze what makes your firm unique, know what your top rainmakers and practice leaders need in terms of support, then find the candidates who have a track record of success. If you don’t know how to get started with this critical analysis, call me at 214.351.9690 — just don’t wait. Your overly defensive, wait-and-see position won’t pay off long-term.
In my next post, I’ll add more from this LSSO discussion.