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The Mad Clientist

Only 20% of CMOs Trusted Advisors

By March 15, 2017April 16th, 2020No Comments

Advisors bring deep knowledge and insight. Trust means you are relied on. Only 20% of CMOs feel like they are both. The bulk of law firm marketing leaders believe they are supported, respected, and well thought of—but—they have not yet gained the coveted trust.*

CMOs who believe they are relied on for their knowledge act differently. Their advice and counsel to all others aspiring to become trusted advisors includes:

  1. Speak your voice. Don’t wait to be asked—offer your thoughts and opinions.
  2. Be ready—and welcome the chance—to defend your position against the kind of cross-examination only a world-class litigator can deliver.
  3. Be sure to construct your thoughts in a positive manner.
  4. Learn the art of being diplomatic and firm.
  5. Know the lay of the land—don’t argue and present ideas you know everyone is against.
  6. Sell your ideas to key partners individually and get their input before making formal recommendations to a committee.
  7. Say no when asked to engage in low value-added activities.

Most CMOs need time to develop these skills, especially developing their voice. You will gain these skills by observing others who have attained trusted advisor status. You can practice your own skills in your department or smaller-scale meetings. Most of all, the trusted advisors build these behaviors into their daily life. You can start with one behavior or with all of them—but starting and building your skills is the key path to follow.

Getting Close to Trusted Advisor

41.7% of law firm CMOs, twice the trusted advisor rate, describe themselves as respected and supported by the partners in their firms—but have yet not made the leap to trusted advisor. Respect and support are precursors to becoming a trusted advisor. These CMOs have the challenge of converting respect into trust. Respect is hard enough to earn—but successfully transferring this into trust demands more to win over the partners. You can take the advice above and look for ways to spend more face time with partners.

The overworked world of the CMO makes face time a rarity—but face time, dialogue, and helping partners be more successful will help you cross the divide in your favor.

CMOs on the Market?

Just over 1/3rd of law firm CMOs believe their relationship with their firm’s partners is somewhere between tentative to skeptical. These CMOs are fighting an uphill battle and feel like they get little accomplished. Many of these relationships are difficult to convert to a more productive status. Some will fight the good fight to make new friends and influence partners—but some, especially those where partners are skeptical, have one foot out the door.

Law firms who add an element of skepticism or a tentativeness to the CMO relationship mix are putting their revenue streams at risk—if for no other reason than the firms with trusted CMOs are focusing their energy on clients and developing business, while the skeptics question why they should. 


*Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 150 law firm marketing leaders between June 2016 and September 2016.

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