Five steps to become the professional services firm of choice
by Jeanne Urich, Service Performance Insight
The goal of any good “Go To Market” strategy is to tap into your prospect’s compelling reasons to buy and to simplify and differentiate your services offers. Too often, professional services marketing programs start with “how we do it” rather than “Who are our target buyers? What business problems do we solve for them? What business issues trigger a need for our services? What makes us different?”
Awesome services marketing programs start by focusing on clients and their business issues. Positioning answers to “What do you do?” in a way that communicates value and the benefits clients get from buying from you. After properly positioning your services to provide value, create effective sales tools to ignite your selling efforts and bring your marketing programs to life.
These are the five steps for designing an awesome marketing approach:
- Understand the business development value chain.
- Focus on high-impact business development activities.
- Know and reinforce the qualities that are most important in selecting a PS firm.
- Create memorable positioning and messaging that tells a story.
- Reinforce your go-to-market strategy with sales tools.
Understanding the business development value chain
The key to winning business in professional services is based on properly positioning your firm to be the most known, respected and valued in your market. Effective services marketing starts with your strategy — understanding who your target buyers are, what business problems you uniquely solve for them and why you’re better than your competitors.
Once you’re clear on your strategy, these steps will ensure you’re the premium firm as represented in Figure 1:
- Generate a reputation. Develop a unique and differentiating point of view. This may be based on past client success, research, or special tools and competencies you have developed. Show how your point of view drives client success.Demonstrate your deep understanding of your clients’ business issues and the value you provide. Market your differentiating point of view as widely as possible to your target client base. Collaborate with complementary partners to create more comprehensive solutions.Ensure every client engagement is a success — even if you have to provide more than you originally planned. Constantly improve your knowledge and skills so your firm is the best in its field. Word of mouth travels fast — if you establish a great reputation, new prospects will beat a path to your door.
- Generate clients. Here’s where marketing and selling come in. Spread the word, get known and be unique. This will help with referrals, one of the most effective ways to generate new clients and repeat business. Demonstrating thought leadership through speaking, writing, serving on boards and participating in conferences are all effective strategies to land new clients.Prematurely creating a proposal reduces the scope of your engagement and the value to your client. Instead, take time to understand your client’s challenges and jointly design the expected outcome. If possible, quantify the business outcome in measurable terms. When the solution to the client’s problem produces significant value, pricing will never be an issue.
- Generate client impact. The impact you produce for your current clients is crucial to enhancing your reputation, getting referrals and securing new client engagements. Investments in training, methodology, skill improvement, knowledge management and repeatable frameworks increase your chances of producing superior client outcomes.Strive to understand and measure the value you produce for your clients and communicate that value. Client value should be the basis of your pricing. Meet and exceed expectations on every project and every client will become a reference and source of referrals.
Figure 1: Professional Services Business Development Value Chain
Exceptional client outcomes come with repetition and experience. Superior engagement results and client value will improve as you continue to deliver similar projects. Trying to be a jack-of-all-trades is a good way to ensure that you are a master of none.
Focus on high-impact business development activities
Unfortunately, all business development activities don’t have the same impact, as Figure 2 shows. Most of the time, more tactical activities — like cold-calling, email blasts, social marketing, tradeshows and advertising — have a short-term effect and do little to enhance your brand or build long-term awareness. These tactical activities yield the best results when they are targeted and demonstrate your firm’s deep understanding of the prospect’s business issues.
Figure 2: The Impact of Business Development Activities
If prospects show interest by downloading a white paper, coming to your booth or listening to a webinar, encourage a senior member of your firm to make the follow-up call, not a junior telemarketer reading a script. Assuming you’ve done your homework by thoroughly researching the target prospect’s business and solution fit, assigning a qualified suspect to a senior business developer enhances your reputation and lays the foundation for a valuable long-term relationship.
Today’s professional services buyers need to be assured they’re working with a high-quality, reputable firm. That’s why referrals work so well in generating new business. High-impact business development activities involve giving a taste of what prospects can expect if they engage with your firm.
Let prospects self-qualify that you’re the right provider by experiencing samples of your work — through your website, demonstrations, presentations, client testimonials and white papers. Clients buy professional services from firms they trust and that have shown they’re the right fit for the way they want to do business.
To enhance your referral base, help your firm be prominent in the associations and networks to which your target buyers belong. Do more than just show up at a conference. Target prospects in advance by letting them know your firm will be presenting and senior consultants will be available to discuss business needs. If a good prospect attends your session, gauge the level of interest with a follow-up call and a copy of the presentation.
Your website is a primary vehicle for market awareness and visibility. Thus, it must reflect your unique positioning. The design needs to be clean and the copy needs to speak to prospects in their language. Hire a professional website development firm to design a website that reflects how good you are. This article shares the first two steps for designing an answer marketing approach. Read part two for the final three steps to help your PS firm become the provider of choice.