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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Business Development for Professional Services

Sales is different for Professional Services practices than it is for other types of B2B firms. How so? 

Nowhere else is it more important or evident that your customer wants to do business with a real person, that is someone they trust

While the stages of the Marketing Hourglass are still the same – Know=> Like => Trust => Try =>  Buy – how you approach them will be slightly different for Professional Services than for other types of firms.

Let’s look at how to get started.

Educating and Informing versus Selling

As a professional services practice, your approach to business development will be very different. You don’t sell, you educate and assist the business. You don’t “Sell”, you provide solutions to the customers problems.

  • Don’t talk about the products you sell; talk about the problems you solve.
  • Talk about how the business will work with you as you solve those problems.
  • Tell the business what they get, not what you do. Explain the benefit to them of  what you do.

What You’ll Need Before You Start

Before you get started on your business development, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right tools in place. Somethings that you’ll need are:

  • Clear Messaging & Defined Ideal Customer Profile – you should have completed these as part of your marketing strategy
  • Website, Online Profiles and Listings, CRM, and Email Marketing – you should have completed these as part of establishing your Total Online Presence
  • Telephone – number, answering system and voicemail
  • Sales support materials – you should have the following prepared, printed and ready for distribution: business cards, individual practitioner bios, company profile, services descriptions/brochures, client testimonials and/or use cases. Note: not having printed materials when you need will lead to lost opportunities, or the risk of being perceived as not being professional. You do not have to spend a lot on printing, but make sure you have hard copies of these materials at the ready when you need them.

Know

The first stage of the Marketing Hourglass is Know. This is creating awareness of your firm, and familiarity with your services offered. There are 3 ways you will generate new prospects.

  1. Outreach – You are actively reaching out to prospective clients that you have identified through research. This could be picking up the phone, or sending out letters or emails. Most professional services practitioners find outreach to be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. You could use a third-party firm that specializes in setting up appointments for you
  2. You get found organically – Prospects contact you because they have a problem and they have seen information about your firm, you, your content, or the problems you solve. They find your content online, through searches, or see and hear about you at speaking engagements or conferences. For most professional services firms, this is the preferred and most predictable method of generating leads. 
  3. You are referred – Referrals could come from Influencers (Centers of Influence), from previous customers, or from your networking activity. If you’ve been in business for awhile this could be a great source of leads for your practice, however it takes time to build up a referral base, and referral volumes may not be enough on their own to sustain your practice. 

Outreach

What is your objective in the area of developing relationships with new clients? How many do you want to attract? What industries do they represent? Do you have a sales pipeline?

Examples include:

  • Client-specific marketing plans
  • Practice group marketing plans
  • Individual marketing plans
  • Sales pipeline development and implementation

Networking

What is your objective related to how often and with whom you will proactively develop relationships with?

Examples include:

  • Identifying opportunities for the firm and individual professionals
  • Networking programs for practice groups
  • Networking training and best practices

Trade and Professional Association Involvement

Every professional should be active in his/her industry association (Professional bodies, Financial Planning Association or Bar Associations) as well as at least one industry-based association attracting prospective clients or referral sources. What is your objective in this area?

Examples include:

  • Assess firm’s involvement and ROI with associations
  • Create association strategies to become high profile members by pitchingprofessionals to write articles and speak at upcoming events

Like & Trust

It can take a considerable amount of time to go from Know through Like and Trust until a business is ready to Buy. Be patient and nurture your leads for future business. 

Market Research

Define an objective related to incorporating market research into your practice before meeting with a new prospective client or referral source.

Examples include:

  • Big opportunity research on companies and peopleCreate client dossiers for new business

Nurture Prospects

It’s important to understand that there isn’t a single formula to Nurturing Prospects. Keep in mind that the objective is to move the prospect through the Like and Trust stages. You must ensure that you establish Rapport with the prospect, and that you build Trust until such time as the prospect is ready to take the relationship further. Your nurture process will likely use a combination of the following, staggered over time.

  • Direct contact – via telephone or face-to-face
  • Newsletters – sent out via mail or email
  • Email marketing / marketing automation – sending the prospect white papers, research studies, articles that you’ve written, or other content pieces such as infographics, and case studies, or information on government policies and programs that businesses like theirs can utilize
  • Seminars or webinars

Try / Buy

Try

What does trial look like for a professional services firm? The Try stage of the Marketing Hourglass could take the form of:

  • Market Comparisons
  • Participation in a benchmarking study
  • Samples of work you’ve done for similar types of customers
  • Providing a Quote 
  • Finding a “foot-in-the-door” lower value service you can provide so that the prospect establishes a commitment with your firm and gets to know you

Buying

Depending on the type of customer you are dealing with, when they are ready to move to the Buy stage of the Marketing Hourglass it could be as simple as you submitting an Engagement Letter to the customer that outlines the scope of work, your committments, pricing proposal, and business terms.

Proposal Development

If you are responding to an RFP (Request For Proposal) be prepared. RFP’s can be very time consuming, and if managed properly, may lead to lower close rates. What objective do you have in the area of increasing your ability to efficiently respond to requests for information about your services?

Examples include:

  • Create a proposal archive
  • Develop efficient proposal response processes
  • Design professional and visually appealing proposal responses
  • Write proposals for new business
  • Develop and rehearse proposal presentations 

Keeping on Track

Business development can easily go off the rails. You need to implement a system to keep it on track. 

  • Use a calendar tool. Set aside time every day.
  • Schedule activities from your CRM
  • Keep your efforts organized and scalable – Build templates that can be customized and reused in the future with other prospects to keep effort minimized

Success

If you implement a business development program for your professional services firm, you can expect to generate more leads, nurture more leads through the Marketing Hourglass, and ultimately convert more leads to customers.  

Execute and Optimize to Drive Marketing Results

Execute and Optimize to Drive Marketing Results

You've completed your strategy and planning. While strategy is critical to success, strategy without execution is just theory. Now it's time to execute and optimize to drive your marketing results to the next level. This is where "the rubber hits the road". 

Keys to Successful Marketing Execution and Optimization


Plan Out a Year. 

You should map out a year’s worth of projects, campaigns and processes and break each month into a theme, and each project into weekly action steps. Each action should be assigned to a single person to be responsible for completing.

Review progress regularly. 

On a monthly basis make sure that you remain on track. On a quarterly basis, review your progress and revisit what's working and what isn't. Determine if you need to make any course adjustments.

Track performance of key marketing metrics, including:

  • Marketing budget - actual vs forecast
  • Marketing campaign performance - budget vs actual, projected results budget vs actual
  • Marketing tactical performance - website traffic, search engine rankings, number of email subscribers, emails sent, emails opened, click through rates, conversion rates, number of booked appointments, number of proposals or pricing quotes submitted
  • Volume of Leads Generated and Cost Per Lead (CPL)
  • Sales - revenues, by product/service, by customer or segment
  • Marketing costs per sale made, aka Cost Per Acquisition
  • Marketing ROI - marketing costs versus incremental profit generated
  • Key Marketing Metrics Every Marketer Should Measure
  • Content Marketing Metrics​​​
  • Marketing Dashboards for Visualizing Performance​​​

Create Efficiencies. 

Once your system is in place, make your processes repeatable. Standardizing these processes and turning them into templates will help your team execute effectively and efficiently every time, no matter who’s driving the work. Save time, reduce effort, and reduce mistakes or rework by ensuring that the right steps and checks are performed in the right order.

Optimize. 

Optimization is the difference between a marketing program that is effective, and one that is outstanding. To truly drive performance track results from you marketing activities through each step of your campaigns. Starting at the weakest performing point, begin to test and monitor different creatives and different approaches. Monitor results, and stop weak performers, and continually optimize the winners. Repeat this process regularly.

Lastly, Create a Continous Cycle for Ongoing Success

It can be very easy to let your plans to execute and optimize fall to the side. You have a critcal client deliverable that requires all hands on deck, a flu epidemic leaves half your staff bedridden or something else comes along and you just don't get to the marketing. This is where you need to ensure that you've built the discipline within your firm to execute, to monitor results, to adjust plans and optimize. Turn execution into a habit, and make it a continous part of your business operations. 

TIP: Implementing an ongoing system for marketing execution can be time and resource consuming. We provide everything from coaching to guide you through the process and make sure you stay on track to fully managed marketing execution programs where we take care of all of the elements of implementation for you. Get started on the path to success 

Increase Profitability by Boosting Customer Retention

Grow your customers to increase profitability

You’ve heard it before. It’s cheaper to keep your current customers than it is to find new customers. It’s true for many businesses, especially in the services business where the cost to generate a lead and nurture a relationship always seem to be increasing in cost.

Marketing to your current customers, or to customers after the sale is the bottom half of the Marketing Hourglass. Turn those customers into Repeat buyers, and to sources of Postive Reviews and Referrals for your business.

Marketing Hourglass

If you've never considered marketing to current customers after the sale, now is a good time to build a cohesive strategy for customer retention.

Let's look at how to get started.

What is customer retention?

The activities a business uses to increase the number of repeat customers and to increase the profitability of each existing customer.

Customer retention strategies enable you to both provide and benefit from more value from your existing customer base. You want to ensure the customers you worked so hard to acquire stay with you and continue to get value from your products and services, and the relationship with your firm.

In general, the higher the value of each sale or the frequency of purchase, the more the effort you should spend on customer retention marketing. Ideally, you are able to increase both. 

Customer Value = Average Sale x Purchase Frequency

Once you compare your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) for new customers with the value of your current customers, it should become apparent how much you should be investing in your customers to retain them.

Why you should care about existing customers.

  • Higher profits. Since your existing customers trust you already, it gets easier to convince them to become interested in even more of your products or services through up-selling and cross-selling. In fact, Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.
  • Better conversion rates. Existing customers have already bought from you, and if you keep them satisfied they are more likely to buy from you again. You’ve already established trust, and built a relationship with them, which makes it easier to identify their needs and predict their moves.
  • Less expensive marketing. You’ll spend less time and effort finding new customers and convincing them that you are the one they should buy from, which means – less expenses. 

How Can You Boost Customer Retention?

Now that we've confirmed the value of retaining your customers, what strategies and tactics can you employ to do so?

Deliver incredible service and ensure your customers are satisfied

This goes without saying, but an unsatisfied customer is unlikely to purchase from you again. 

Nurture the relationship with the customer after the sale

Schedule regular touch points with the customer in your CRM or marketing database. Use a variety of mediums from telephone calls, in person visits (if appropriate), emails, and traditional mailings. Depending on the value of the customer, invest in hosting opportunities, or send them company-branded promotional items.

  • Trusted Advisor - The classic book by David Maister and Charles Green. Develop such a deep relationship with the customer that they implicity trust you as the go-to source.

Introduce your other products and services 

Probe your customers needs and find ways to expose them to your other products and services. A long-term customer should be aware of the range of products and services you provide. Depending on your business, consider bundling products and services together (that make sense for the customer). 

Keep top-of-mind awareness with the customer

Add the customer to an email or newsletter distribution so that they regularly see your firms name, and information about your industry and services. Follow the customers' businesses on social media, and encourage them to do so with you in return. 

Look for ways to add value to the relationship 

This can vary from industry to industry, but a significant way to deepen the relationship with the customer is to provide value added beyond the products and services you sell. This could be related to your recognized expertise, or information from your industry or suppliers.

If there is a renewal or repurchase time frame, make sure to begin reaching out to the customer well in advance

When it comes time for renewal, there should be no effort for the customer to do so. You've already confirmed with them the value of your services and the relationship you have with them, and so there is no effort for the customer to consider whether or not they should renew with you, or even to consider a competitor.

Feature the customer and the work that you've done for them, or ask them to be a client reference

Ask the customer for permission to feature their business in a case study. Most customers will feel flattered by the gesture, and very few will mind the additional exposure for their business. 

Make it easy for the customer to refer you additional business

A satisfied customer is much more likely to send you referals. Look for ways to make it easy for them to do so. Come straight out and ask them, or give them loyalty or repeat purchase discounts if they do so.

TIP: Your customer referrals can also be a strong contributor to your strategy to become a recognized expert. Read more about it here: 7-Steps to Becoming a Recognized Expert

Success

Even if you implement just a few of these strategies properly, you can expect to deepen relationships with your customers, increase their retention rates, and ultimately make them more profitable for your business. 

7-Steps to Becoming a Recognized Expert

Be an expert and build trust and credibility

Customers want to deal with someone that can help them. Bottom line. If you want to be that someone and win their business first you'll need to win their trust

And how do you win their trust? You start by demonstrating your authority and expertise. This gives you credibility. 

It doesn’t matter what products or services you offer, your prospects likely have lots of different options to choose from. Being able to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and position yourself as the person or business most suited to serve them is vital to your success.

The secret to getting noticed despite all the noise in the marketplace is to establish your authority. When you have authority, people will pay attention. When you are perceived as a subject matter expert, people will naturally want to work with you. They will seek you out.

Getting to that level is all about positioning. Using a few simple strategies, you can position yourself as the go-to expert for your customers. You can attract business to you. Instead of constantly hustling to find your next client, you can turn yourself into a client magnet and let them find you.

Here are 7-Steps to Becoming An Expert, to position yourself as an expert for your customers:

1. Decide what you want to be an expert or authority on

As with almost every other element of marketing, the more you can focus, the better the results you are likely to generate. 

  • Pick a handful of topics in your field related to your business. These topics should be areas that you can talk to authoritatively. 
  • Filter your topics based on whether there's a customer WIFM (What's In It For Me?), and whether the topics are likely to generate interest or engagement.
  • For your filtered list, think carefully about the overall message that you want to deliver to your audience. What do you want them to learn? What is your point-of-view?

2. Start writing

A well written article with valuable information is likely to be shared by the people who enjoyed it. This is how content goes viral – through peer-to-peer sharing. By writing regularly, you expose your brand and your business to new audiences on a consistent basis.  As you publish and promote your content, you will gradually begin to position yourself as an expert on the topics that you focus on.

  • Social media
  • Blogs (your own or 3rd party)
  • Publications and media - newspapers, magazines, industry journals

Make a list of the most popular publications, journals, websites and blogs in your industry and your community. These are the sites that your ideal clients are visiting regularly to obtain information about your topic. Contact those websites, and request to become a guest contributor. Most website owners are always looking for high quality content to publish on their website that will add value to their visitors.

Write an article exclusively for each website on your list, and include your bio with a link back to your website at the end of your article. This strategy, known as being a guest contributor, helps you get your message in front of new audiences online that may have never discovered you otherwise. You provide content to the media for free, and that content helps direct new visitors to your profile. It’s a win-win.

Challenged with writing? 

  • Pick your subject
  • Think about who you're writing for and what you want them to learn
  • Jot down the major points you want to cover
  • Outline your article
  • Begin filling in around each of your major points
  • Create transitions between points
  • Write an open and a close
  • If you're having a difficult time, you can always hire writers to write for you based on what you tell them, or have them edit your work

3. Speak

Live Events

Most people are terrified of speaking in public, so when they see someone do it they tend to immediately perceive that person as an expert and a leader. Plus, when you speak to a live audience, you have their undivided attention for the duration of your presentation. This affords you a unique opportunity to engage and connect with a large amount of people at the same time.

If you’ve never spoken in public before, a great starting point to develop your skills is your local Toastmasters Group. This is a non-threatening, positive environment in which people meet regularly to practice their speaking and communication skills. Once you build up some confidence, you can begin speaking at networking events, Meetup groups, seminars or conferences in your industry. If you speak regularly to groups of hundreds, or even thousands of people, you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry very quickly.

Podcasts

Most podcast hosts are always on the lookout for more guests to interview for their show. If you think that your story, message, or advice would add value to the audience of a specific podcast, then visit that podcast’s website and find their Contact Page. Send the host a brief message outlining your experience and area of expertise, and tell them you’d like to be considered as a potential guest for their show.

Many podcasts attract thousands, even tens of thousands of listeners on a regular basis. If you make it a routine to be a guest on other podcasts regularly, your name will gradually become known by thousands of highly targeted people from around the world. At the end of each interview, tell the listeners how they can get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you do or how you can help them. 

4. Optimize your profile

Prepare a professional bio

Have bios prepared in 1-paragraph and 1-page formats. You can either write these yourself or have someone write them for you, but make sure you have these prepared in advance. 

Get professional photographs

The impact of professional photographs can't be understated. If you want to be seen as an authority or expert, your image needs to be professional. These can be either studio sessions, or in your place of work, or ideally both. Spend the money on this once and you will be able to use these photos repeatedly for years. 

Create a Professional LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to showcase your expertise, professional experience, and achievements. Used properly, it can be an incredibly powerful networking and positioning tool.

Here are a few tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile:

  • Use your profile and professional headshot 
  • Highlight your experience and areas of expertise
  • Highlight your subject-matter-expertise writing or speaking engagements
  • Profile volunteer work and any board/charity positions you've held
  • Add specific skills to your profile so that people in your network can endorse you for those skills (endorse other people’s skills first, and they will likely reciprocate)
  • Collect testimonials from customers, coworkers, and not-for-profits that you've worked with (write testimonials for other people first, and they will likely reciprocate)
  • Include a way to contact you or a link to your website

5. Comment on posts related to your expertise

A great way to become known in your industry is to engage in conversations that are happening on popular news sites, online forums, blogs and social media groups in your industry.

  • Don't spam out or pitch your products or services agressively
  • Do add value to others by sharing helpful advice, insights, and responding to questions that other people are asking.

Another advantage of adding value to the conversations that are happening online is that the owners of those blogs or social media groups will likely notice. Building relationships with other influencers in your industry is never a bad idea, because it opens the door for potential collaborations or partnerships in the future. Commenting regularly on their platforms can help build that relationship.

6. Curate content from others

Content curation on it's own won't position you as an expert, but it's an excellent way to supplement your efforts. 

What is content curation? Simply put, you'll be finding articles, posts, videos on your subject matter expertise that have been published by others, and you will share them to your website, newsletter, social media feeds, or email distribution list, along with a short description about why it's relevant to your audience or customers, or what they should take away from it. 

MORE INFORMATION: Head over to our guide on How to Make Social Media Work For Your Business for more useful tips on utilizing social media to your advantage.

7. Build a calendar and a plan to execute it

You can become a go-to expert for your customers and build awareness of yourself and your firm, but don't expect it to happen overnight. Build a managable and realistic plan. Think of the journey as a marathon not a sprint. You want to start small & build momentum.

  • Build a calendar and a plan. Stagger the amount of content you produce and for which purposes. Plan for large pieces infrequently - several times a year, or quarterly at the very most. 
  • Google - Hero Hub Hygiene model - Developed by Google for YouTubers, this is a very relevant model for all content types

Success

Even if you implement just a few of these strategies properly, you can expect to build awareness, establish credibility, and ultimately attract a considerable amount of new business. 

TIP: We've helped hundreds of professionals and businesses use this model to become famous experts. We can coach you through this process. Head over to Coaching and schedule your appointment.

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