- Understanding how market drivers will impact the future of marketing & BD roles in Asia
- get insights straight from Asia based clients on teams, jobs and expectations
During our last visit to Hong Kong we ran a career seminar for over 30 Business Development (BD) and Marketing professionals with the industry’s leading association, ICON. As part of this we interviewed 10 clients across the law, accounting and property sectors to get their insights on the future direction of marketing / BD across all of Asia.
Here is a snapshot of the key takeaways:
How will changing market conditions affect how you structure and resource you Marketing & BD team?
- Disruption is happening at an incredibly fast pace in all markets, impacting all clients and professional services firms.
- Professional services “selling” has moved from: reactive (the phone rings with work coming in) > pro-active, insight based (consultative selling) > co-creation (work with the client to find the problem and on developing a solution together). The latter requires a different type of thinking and support from BD professionals.
- Almost 75% of our clients spoke about the push to move resources “offshore” (meaning out of HK/Singapore to cost saving centres in eg Manilla, parts of the UK). This is mainly lower level admin support and process. The same percentage also spoke of the push to automation (we mainly heard this in terms of Artificial Intelligence – ‘AI’ for pitch creation). This means that if your role is mainly process, analytics and support tasks, you will be affected and may need to reposition your skillset.
- What will be left “onshore” in major Asian centres for BD & Marketing professionals? The focus will be high level facilitation, strategy and being Business Advisors. “We can almost drop Development now in our team, Partners expect advice on the business more broadly.”
- 90% of clients now expect all their team members, from the most junior level, to be market facing and client facing, at appropriate levels for them – to be an advocate for the business. This can be confronting for some of those at the executive level – if you’re not doing this it will be important to push yourself.
- “Just in time marketing” requires agility from firms and marketing professionals that can influence to make things happen quickly in a partnership.
- For Greater China, whilst some clients (minority) said they have a directive to only hire those with Mandarin skills, even if that means hiring more junior and developing them up; most clients still don’t require Mandarin skills for manager roles and up (certainly beneficial without being essential).
- Expats – there has been a shift over the last 3-5 years for partners, fee earners and business professionals; there is now an expectation that expats will have a long-term commitment to the market, hiring managers will not generally be attracted to bringing those into the team who see this as a 2/3 year career progression tactic before returning “home”.
What skills (Technical & Soft) will be important for the Asia based marketer of the future?
- There are still many Marketing/BD generalists in teams but there are more specialist skills expected within that generalist mix – social, digital, analytical, content marketing. “Digital is no longer a specialism – it is crucial for all.”
- In BD there is a continuing trend for sector and/or client focus, whether specialist roles or as a major part of hybrid roles with practice.
- Marketing is now focused on measurement and content creation.
- Some clients predicted more sector BD specialists coming from Industry in the future, not a professional services background (at Seldon Rosser we are starting to see a bit of this in UK / Australia). It will important for BD professionals to “go deep” in understanding the part of the business they are supporting to continue to be of true value.
- For managers – understanding how to engage varied generations.
In going through these key points it is useful to reflect back to the shift in focus of the roles which will remain “on-shore” in major Asia based centres – roles that focus on facilitation and project management, strategy, coaching and true advice.
- Empathy and emotional intelligence.
- Commerciality / strategy / facilitation.
- Builds relationships and trust quickly (connected to the increased client facing focus).
- Can follow a process but easily relinquish for divergent course.
- Shows initiative – not restricted by hierarchy or job description.
- Independence of thinking.
- Expansive thinkers – curious to understand the business.
- Ability to engage with C-level – “demonstrate an understanding of the client & industry in meetings (as well as write the notes!)”.
What was clear from the conversations we had with all these clients is that those bi-lingual / tri-lingual candidates in Greater China who can truly develop these soft skills and gain experience in a market leading, best practice BD/Marketing team; will have incredible career paths in front of them.
What does high performance look like to you?
We expect the answers we got here would be reflected if we asked clients globally the same question. This is how your current employer / future employer will assess high performance – are you holding yourself to the same bar?
- Energy to create new ideas & openness to accept opinion.
- Partners saying “could not have won X piece of work without them”. Having merely contributed isn’t enough (for BD).
- Going beyond the typical BD& marketing job description to be a Business Advisor: for example, advising on commercial structure of client engagement / product development – how to structure / resource / price.
- High emotional intelligence; understand what motivates people and adjust (eg day to day use of understanding personality type tools).
- Self awareness – if a team member doesn’t have this “they are doomed” as they wont be able to take feedback and develop.
- “They had done a lot of research, but showed no insight”. What value are you adding to the conversation?
- Ideation – bringing something new to the table for Partners that they would not have thought of without BD& marketing team.
- Almost all clients would hire attitude over technical skills (as long as some fundamentals in place).
- “It’s that additional 5%. Do the day job but then go beyond to help Partners deepen brand and client relationships to achieve profitable revenue.”
For a 1:1 future career proofing conversation please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will organise a time to speak with you.