New Roles in Professional Services Firms
The role of CMO, particularly in professional services, has evolved rapidly over the past decade. We’ve seen new, value-driven positions cropping up as opportunities for career growth, as well as greater potential for strategic mobility not just within sectors, but for leaps across them.
As legal, accounting, and consulting firms grow in sophistication and value takes center stage, a number of new roles are emerging:
Chief Pricing Officer. Clients are demanding ever more transparent and flexible pricing structures from the professionals they hire, and the field has become more crowded with non-traditional providers such as Axiom. Staying competitive requires a deep understanding on the part of firms about how they can be profitable, as well as creativity and collaboration to find mutually beneficial solutions. CMOs who can combine their knowledge of the product offering with an understanding of the unique dynamics of how their business operates, particularly at mid-sized firms, can drive revenue at a fundamental level.
Chief Lateral Integration Officer. Many firms assume that once they spend to land a great lateral hire, things will take care of themselves. But many laterals, especially those with a regulatory background, need time and attention to integrate successfully. With ALM reporting up to 50 percent turnover among lateral hires, this is a significant issue for firms growing via mergers. This role typically involves quite a bit of handholding and individual coaching, as well as ensuring the lateral is plugged into the right practice group meetings and is developing networks internally and externally.
Chief Data Officer. Current CMO’s can and should become immersed in how to harness big data in the context of marketing and business development, particularly in relation to targeted messaging and follow up. Data in most organizations is now plentiful and ubiquitous, but to provide real value, there must be an individual within the firm who can dig into it and use it to retain and attract clients and drive revenue.
Chief Client Service Officer. Large firms are growing increasingly sophisticated in creating client intimacy—growing deeper, long lasting ties with large and emerging clients—through key account programs, relationship review processes, CRM systems, and so on. CMOs looking for future opportunities need to take advantage of any client-facing chances to demonstrate an ability to communicate and develop firm wide processes to enhance relationships.
In the bad old days, CMOs rarely lasted beyond five years at any given firm. As professional services organizations are developing a stronger understanding of the challenges and scope of the role, however, business development talent is now not operating under the gun but in a strategic way, adapting as the sector changes. There is movement into these new, exciting lateral roles, as well as demand across sectors. These days, a CMO at an accounting firm may move relatively easily to legal or consulting. These roles in professional services have now reached true legitimacy and can provide long, rewarding careers.