Leor Franks on Successful B2B Marketing in Professional Services

6th January 2022

Leor Franks is currently CMO at the London-based international law firm Kingsley Napley. He has over 20 years of B2B marketing experience, including Director of Marketing at Deloitte, Marketing Director at Ernst and Young, and Marketing Director at FTI Consulting, among others. 

What’s something you’ve noticed specifically in B2B Marketing? 

Marketing professional services is effectively selling people to people. It’s not exclusively B2B, but it’s nearly all B2B. And it’s not about selling products, it’s about selling the time of people.  

One thing I learned early in my career is that the professional services sales cycle is longer and more difficult than it is with product. In my experience there are more stages. I’ve created a model to articulate this called ‘The Favourability Journey’, which express the 4 stages of the typical sales cycle in B2B professional services.  

The 4 stages of The Favourability Journey are: recognition, reputation, relationships, and revenue.  

Recognition is ‘Have they heard of us’? Reputation is ‘What does our target market think of us’? Relationships is ‘How well do our targets know us’? And revenue is how we perform during tangible opportunities, or ‘Why will they buy from us?’.  

The Favourability Journey will take a client from uninformed and uncomfortable to purchasing decision. I’ve learned to plan business development and communications along those stages.  

Are these R’s in chronological order?  

It does tend to be chronological, but you do have the opportunity to jump if you’ve got the right forum in front of you. An example is that pre-lockdown, a lot of the business development work in professional services was done through event networking. It’s very possible to walk up to someone and have a conversation, build a rapport, and build a relationship, even though that client doesn’t have any prior recognition of or insight into the reputation of your firm.  

It’s unlikely though, that if recognition, reputation or relationship aren’t there, that you’ll get to the revenue stage. Because it’s not often in B2B Professional Services that someone just goes online and buys- it’s not like a product purchase on Amazon.  

How did ‘The Favourability Journey’ evolve? 

I noticed when working in large firms, that they tend to have four separate marcoms functions. These included Brand (recognition), Communications (reputation), Marketing (relationships) and Business Development (revenue). Experience taught me that if those four functions were run independently and reported separately, you’d get silo mentality, conflict, and different agendas and strategies.  

So, when I had my first cross functional leadership role, I put these skills together into one team, with one reporting line. And I found that things worked a lot better if we addressed where the client was and which of those four marketing stages were required.  

Which marketing challenges have you experienced? 

Gaining consensus in a large firm can be challenging. There were instances, for example, where I would try to get agreement from the business to do a bit of rebranding work. Often when the decision reached the board, I’d be told to either pause or water it down, or not do it.  Kingsley Napley offered me a seat on their board, and with it came the opportunity to actually effect change.  

I arrived in January, and by July we had a new brand. I consulted very widely, but I was able to accomplish an entire rebrand in six months. In previous firms it was taking as long as four years to even have the conversation. 

Which marketing achievements are you happiest about? 

As part of the rebranding, I did a lot of work with Kingsley Napley’s strapline and created ‘When it matters most’.  I interviewed every one of our 71 partners, asked questions, and listened to the language they used about client situations, the types of advice we’d give, and why our clients chose us.  The support I received for the strapline was overwhelming. And this came from simply using the consulting techniques of asking questions, listening and synergising the responses.  

At FTI Consulting I built a sustainable team, recruiting 19 people in six months, that had a real sense of community. I was there for five years and over two years after I left, 15 are still there.  

At Ernst & Young, I did a lot of work to interview all our stakeholders and look at the markets to better understand our clients. Our number one target buyers were Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), in medium to large corporates. And that audience is saturated, being targeted by virtually every professional services firm.  

I put together a program called Capital Insights, which was a quarterly magazine, inserted into the Financial Times both virtually and in hardcopy, which we launched in about six months. Over the first year, the microsite we built a had something like 50,000 visits, which in B2C is probably a good number, but in B2B is an astonishing number.  

What B2B marketing advice would you give? 

One thing I’ve observed over the years in B2B is you have to listen to the market internally as well as externally. You have to talk to your stakeholders because they own and run the business, especially in my sector.  

I often talk about what I call the Alignment Gap, the gap between market needs and the partners’ wants. It’s really important to listen to both. Otherwise, you can have a great marketing campaign that hits the audience externally that doesn’t get buy-in internally. Or worse still, you can get tremendous buy-in internally with a campaign that doesn’t resonate in the outside world and is a big waste of money. 

How do you bridge the internal/external alignment gap? 

We use client surveys, client feedback, reputation monitoring and platforms that look at market sentiment. I don’t want to describe it as easy as most firms do this kind of thing, but the internal piece is harder for me.  

I meet with each of our partners individually for an hour seeking qualitative data. I then send around a quantitative survey to each of them. Having trained as a consultant and qualified as a financial analyst, data is very important to me.  

And when you’re talking to the board and discussing return on investment, I find it a lot easier when you have a methodology that people actually understand. If you’ve got evidence based on data, it’s simpler to explain what you’re doing and to demonstrate why it’s the right thing.