Robin has 30 years of professional and financial services marketing experience. Here he provides commentary about some of the key evolving issues within professional services strategy and marketing. The aim is to provoke thinking and provide useful information that marketers can use within their firms as they continue to improve performance.
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It’s felt like a good time over the last couple of weeks to rethink about strategies and talk to clients about “what next?”
In this I’ve been reminded of a useful tool which was developed by Dr Tony Grundy. It’s very helpful as a means of determining the best choices from a range of options. You can see a top level view of it here
At it’s heart it is a simple way of thinking about and evaluating different options, that you can use in decisions from “what corporate strategy should we use?”, “who should we acquire?”, “what client segment shall we focus on?” “what website agency should we use?” or even “what car shall we have next?”
More about it is available online if you search on ‘strategic option grid’.
The world (or at minimum the UK) feels different than it did on 23 June and the result and its’ aftermath of course will have implications for your clients.
Much is still uncertain. But it’s an important time to reach out to clients; not just to tell, but to listen.
Our thinking is that there are 3 areas worth additional focus on, in the coming months, and asking your clients. These include:
- What activities and developments are now planned by the client (and how have these changed ?)
- What is their sentiment, and level of confidence in the business environment?
- Where do they need more certainty? Where would they value more advice about the potential impact?
Asking these questions can enable you to better help individual clients, but also to comment most meaningfully on key issues, and develop your events and communications programme to be most useful to your markets.
Comments, or questions, as always welcome on 07940 886677 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a short but thought-provoking piece recently in Accountancy Age on this issue.
To slightly paraphrase the article, it suggests that actually many of the approaches and ways of doing business undertaken by ‘professional firms’ or advisors are anything but professional in the 21st century.
It also makes me wonder whether the description professional services firms, or indeed lawyers or accountants is the best way of describing what people do and the value they bring. While bolting ‘solutions’ at the end of a name or service descriptions risks an entry in Private Eye, firms would be advised to think about the commercial merit and value of what they do being much clearer in the description, and indeed the undertaking, of their activities.
The January football transfer window is pretty bizarre if viewed dispassionately – but in an idle moment it made me think. If your firm were a football team, how would you value your players? Who are your star strikers and which central midfielder would you ideally shift to a lower-league outfit? Perhaps more importantly, what are the characteristics of the players you should recruit, and where are the gaps in your squad? What are your objectives for this season?
I’m not suggesting you take this analogy too far but if you’re feeling brave, it might open up an interesting debate with the management team and provoke some creative thinking!
Here’s a real-life story about a firm which has recently rebranded with a new visual identity, and lots of messaging about client focus and responsiveness.
So what happens when you ring someone?
The phone rings…
No acknowledgement or voice messaging system “kicks in”. This happens if you call a direct line or the switchboard. It’s not just a “one-off” as this has been the experience of a contact of mine on three separate occasions.
I’ve no idea how much the “rebranding” cost. But the firm isn’t meeting minimum expectations on this. Maybe some of the budget should have gone on the phone system and making sure staff understand the significance of responding.
As I sometimes say –could this be happening in your firm? And if so, how much business might you be losing?
One theme has been increasingly visible in some of the recent in-depth client feedback interviews we’ve done for firms. It’s connected to “commerciality” but it’s more profound than that.
It’s not “technical expertise”, and actually it’s not a client servicing issue either.
What it is, is about understanding the context in which the client works in. Their operating pressures, the environment in the sector they work in, and the types and demands of the different (external) stakeholders they work with.
Some clients have told us that understanding this enables the firm to be realistic, pragmatic, and to drive strategic value and the “right” result. Otherwise the firm can deliver something that looks great on paper but – crucially – that they don’t much benefit from in the real world.
Fee earner/professional advisor performance is hugely variable on this – but it doesn’t have to be.
We’re seeing signs that some firms, and in particular law firms, are moving away from thinking about differentiation as being “lets change our logo and the colours on our website”.
A mystery shopping exercise we recently performed across a small set of firms showed that:
- Two firms had genuinely determined an “offer” which was distinctive and provided something materially different to competing firms
- One firm talked about undertaking work in a different way, but it appeared “skin deep” as lawyers could not articulate how they did this
- For one firm, there was a huge gap between what it said it was like, and the experience of a prospective client in dealing with them.There was a gulf between the “verbiage” in brochures and the website, and the reality. It was also a matter of chance as to whether the enquirer was put through to the right person.
What do you think your firm would look like to a prospective client?
Do you know how your proposition stacks up?
Most client feedback exercises get feedback about how the firm performs. Better ones also identify what factors have the greatest impact on the client’s continued use of the firm.
But few – still – use the opportunity created by the process to get vital insight into the events and commercial issues seen as most likely by their clients. Knowing this can not only alert you to opportunities with specific clients but also help ensure all your marketing and communications investments of time and money – including events, articles, and social media content – are focused on the issues of most relevance to your clients and prospects. Take a look at this example
It may not be the first source of theory or advice many people look for, but there was a recent article about how the Sky cycling team took a disappointing 2104 Tour de France and questioned a variety of things which ultimately led to their success this year.
The general manager, Dave Brailsford, talks in this article about the desire to not accept “its OK” and the process to build much better performance from the team. You don’t need to be a lycra wearing weekend warrior to be able to consider the points and perhaps apply some of the thinking.
Cross-selling, or as I prefer it to be terms, co-operative selling or successfully extending relationships with clients, requires a number of things to be in place. Fee earners need to be able to answer 5 questions with a “yes”. The link here to the Co-operative selling image shows you what these questions are.