I’ve worked with professional service firms over the years on projects ranging from research and strategy to rebranding and websites. And in addressing these issues I’ve watched clients struggle with one particular challenge again and again. It’s a challenge that asserts itself for a multitude of reasons—and it’s one that I understand all too well, having spent most of my career leading in-house marketing teams.

The challenge is finding the right talent for your marketing team, then getting them quickly up to speed and being productive. Connecting new talent with the goals, opportunities, and responsibilities of their new firm are an urgent priority and can often play a role in the timely completion of initiatives in progress.

Hiring for professional services marketing roles

Professional service firms face some unique challenges when it comes to marketing recruitment.

  • The longer business development cycle means that there are a large number of leads and pursuits in play at any given time.
  • Many firms feel compelled to give their marketing staff other non-marketing responsibilities, too – ranging from operational support to pursuit activities (which some firms call marketing).
  • The professional services marketing pool includes a high proportion of managers because many small to medium sized firms hire only a single marketer and give them a manager title.
  • Titles can have little bearing on practical experience (even less than outside of professional services) because of the shared responsibilities and operational differences between firms.

What does this mean for you? Sometimes finding a person with the skills and fit you need can be akin to looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. And even when you find that needle, there is still work to do!


Common questions

Below are a few questions I hear on a regular basis (some of which I’ve asked myself in past lives):

  1. My new recruit is young, talented, and motivated, but lacks practical experience. How do I train effectively and keep the ship afloat?
  2. She has great experience in X area, but we need to pivot and support A, B, and C, too.
  3. My new hire can competently support us across the board, but I need some good examples of “next-level” work he can work toward.

A few strategies to get started

Below are some insights I’ve gained during my career and a few strategies you can use when bringing on new marketing staff. Usually there is an immediate tactical need (sometimes directly related to a current project), balanced with longer-term strategic objectives. Example: “John/Jane just turned in his/her notice. How are we going to complete X, Y, and Z infrastructure milestones without them”?

  • There are benefits to developing relationships with strategic marketing and branding consultants that you trust. These resources can see you through the marketing recruitment and transition phases, providing valuable support services—even coaching freelance resources if appropriate.
  • When you have clear processes in place, document them as a standard practice. These resources will make training your new marketing members much easier—and preserve critical institutional knowledge.
  • Getting a new recruit up to speed takes time and effort (even if they are a total rock star), especially if they are coming in mid-project. Plan to expend considerable energy at first orienting and training them.
  • Consider using online learning resources to supplement training for certain skills. There are some amazing and highly tailored resources available today. Focus on adapting that learning to your firm’s specific operations, culture, and goals.

Bring it all together

Recruiting and training marketers can be a challenge. I hope this this handful of insights from my own experience helps you build and train a high performance marketing team!

Are you in the midst of team transitions? Have some great war stories to share? Please share your experiences in the comments below.