Women in professional services marketing

Once upon a time, in the days when office workers preferred bacon butties to skinny lattes and Microsoft hadn’t yet made the fatal gaff of releasing Windows Vista, there tended to be an unfortunate trend within marketing teams inside law firms, accountants and property agencies. That trend saw a multitude of female marketing secretaries, assistants, co-ordinators and executives all furiously, er, marketing, whilst overseeing them all from HIS lofty height would be the marketing manager or director. That’s right folks, the male senior marketer watched over his pride of vibrant, dynamic lionesses, tossing his beautiful mane and growling – well, you get my point, anyway.

In this enlightened age, however, I have seen and had the privilege to work with several female marketing managers and directors, most of whom were driven, inspiring and who left a lasting impression (including my all time favourite mentors, Linda Phelan at D J Freeman and Julie Armstrong at Newcastle College). Happily, the balance seems to have been redressed in marketing teams.

But not for partners in professional services.

I’m thinking back to all of the in-house posts I’ve had over the last twelve years and can say, without exception, that the managing partner and most of the board were indeed male. This often poses a problem for some female marketing managers, who in many instances, are mistaken for a secretary, regarded as eye candy or are simply ignored. Let me quickly add that this is not just because they are female; it appears to be an equation of female and marketing which often brings about these attitudes and behaviours.

So how do you nip it in the bud? In a nutshell, you have to forget all about being female. You’re playing with the big boys and the big boys don’t like emotions, vague, flowery speeches or PMT. Here are some tips on how to exert your influence and be taken seriously:

1. Make your input count. Like it or not, you need to defend your existence in the firm. You do this by not talking in marketing babble, but by showing how the marketing strategy you’ve put in place will get them to where they need to be, and how the marketing activities you’re undertaking are directly impacting (hopefully positively) on the bottom line. Talk facts and figures but be prepared to support your findings.

2. Work hard. Nothing impacts on a reputation faster and harder than someone who only throws themselves half heartedly into an organisation. Be seen to be working outside the 9-5 window, deliver when you say you will and come down hard on those who don’t support you.

3. Play hard. Make time to socialise both with your team and the partners. You should be taking an interest in what is happening with individual cases and the industry in general, so talk to them about it. Show that you know your industry inside out and you’ll gain respect.

4. Loyalty. Support your staff and back them up if the situation calls for it. They in turn will bend over backwards to perform for you, bringing in better results and a more pleasant working atmosphere which is infectious and which will be noticed.

A marketing manager of either sex, can indeed become a powerful person if the opinion influencers in the firm are behind them, supporting their decisions. Consistency, expert knowledge, excellent communication skills and self-confidence are required of all senior marketers, in order for them to perform effectively within an organisation.


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