Most firms are good at performing the services of the specialty they are in. Professional services firms like attorneys or CPAs for instance, know bankruptcy, tax code and methodology, investment strategy, divorce, business turnaround and much more. However, when it comes to the business of a responsive operational platform, or finding and communicating with prospects and retaining clients, the skills required are generally unfamiliar and, for many, uncomfortable.
On the matter of client development, most players are challenged by this responsibility for several reasons. They may feel that selling is not their responsibility, beneath them, or they simply don’t have or never learned the skill.
Structuring a practice, selling and developing an efficient operational platform are not generally subjects that get much attention in school. Here are some guidelines for finding and keeping customers in a professional firm environment:
- Start with the two “most importants:”
1. Nailing your value proposition. Write several paragraphs around the profile of your target clients; include background on their pains and needs, then describe the unique solutions that set you apart.
2. Establish a database of all your connections. Every practice needs a real-time, robust database (we now call them CRMs – Customer Relationship Management systems). You will populate your CRM with all your disparate contact lists, records and business cards: add names and contact information, coded by categories such as client, prospect, networking contact, friends of the entity, and more that you must keep updated from now on.
- Website – Just like everyone needs air to breathe, businesses today need a website. It’s the first place someone will go to find more information about you, prior to making contact. A prospective client will want to read testimonials, understand your specialty, and learn from any blogs or white papers you have written in support of your brand and professional claims. Note that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical component of assuring your site will get the attention it deserves. Remember nobody cares about you, only what you can do for them, so don’t use words in your content like “we” and “our” with any frequency. Write about the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me!)
- Networking – before considering a general advertising campaign, your need to establish your brand. Look at the value proposition you just prepared and create a 30 second introduction (your “elevator” speech). Next, do some internet research to find the face-to-face groups and online communities where you believe your prospects have interest. Start making connections, leverage opportunities for one-on-one meetings and raise your profile by becoming involved in committees that support the groups where you participate.
- Knowledge leadership – As you build your database you must communicate regularly to establish and maintain that “top-of-mind” position with those that need to know more about you. Write blogs, post on networking sites (as well as your own site) and author whitepapers to further reinforce your expertise.
- Leverage social media – LinkedIn is designed specifically for professionals to connect with others. Establish both a corporate LinkedIn page and a personal one for yourself. Join online groups and get in on the conversation. Posting blogs on the various group sites will surely raise your profile. Keep in mind, and this is hard to do, bloggers that post 6 or more articles per month get much more recognition than those that do the minimum.
- Now you can advertise – There are several approaches. Broadcasting through general publications, e.g.: a print ad in a better living publication might be good for a residential architect. “Narrow-casting” is more targeted and might serve a bankruptcy attorney through a promotional email campaign where you target very specific categories, either from your CRM or a purchased list.And, don’t forget online Pay-Per-Click advertising like Google AdWords, SEO and promoted social media campaigns.
These are the foundational must-haves that will assure you are in the game. The challenge is finding the time or a capable resource that can set the process in motion.
Consider Lauterback Consulting. We are specialists in the three primary business process areas: 1) Business Development (Marketing), 2) Operational infrastructure (assuring operational efficiency), and 3) Culture Development (leadership) which promises a cohesive team that understands your corporate objectives and is invested in achieving the success you envision.