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Secret Sauce

Unlocking the Secret Sauce

Johnson Wright, a consulting firm with a strong internal culture, rejected the conventional path to growth. Firm leadership felt certain profitability and the firm’s culture would both suffer from adding price-sensitive compliance and remediation to the firm’s highly-technical litigation support and engineering practices. If they wanted to maintain their culture, growth would have to come from their existing services.

Hidden Value

Driving growth within their existing services became the priority. The challenge lay in winning new clients in an industry where relationships are measured in decades.

The conventional industry wisdom was to focus on the claims managers who hired consulting firms. Jargon-filled reports written in an academic style pleased the claims managers, but less-technical senior executives required re-writes and summaries. These executives were entrusted with decisions to pay or litigate multi-million-dollar claims. They cared about managing risk and protecting the insurance company’s asset.

Interviews with the firm’s Best Clients and referral partners revealed powerful insights neither Johnson Wright nor its clients had noticed.

The lawyers and insurance companies who were their Best Clients noted Johnson Wright took an approach which was better. Rather than writing to a report for single audience at a time, they delivered a comprehensive recommendation integrating the needs of the client’s internal hierarchy.

By focused on likely outcomes rather than every possible outcome, client executives gained confidence in making multi-million-dollar decisions based on limited information. This was a conversation most of their competitors—the ones who focused on turning out dense reports—simply couldn’t have.

The principals at Johnson Wright took this approach this for years without recognizing how it added to the ability of clients to conserve their assets. The firm’s principals saw it as the right thing to do rather than as a secret sauce giving them a competitive advantage. Similarly, clients said Johnson Wright was “better” without really thinking about why.

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“Bruce is a great facilitator of team discussions on marketing strategy and positioning who enables everyone to be heard and get buy-in for both the process and results.”

Adam Love, Principal Scientist, Johnson Wright, Inc.

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Improvements: More than Marketing

Clients weren’t the only ones who gained unanticipated benefits. The firm’s leadership tallied three major improvements tied directly to the interviews I conducted.

#1. Highly focused, cost-effective marketing and business development geared to limited resources

A Strategic Marketing Plan clarified and strengthened the firm’s positioning. They recognized their real value came not from the report, but from the intangible recommendations and strategic advice supporting high-level decision making. Visibility soared within client companies as the firm highlighted how its work directly benefited higher-level executives.

#2. Manage staff so every client benefits

Clarity regarding how the firm created value for its Best Clients prompted leadership to change the way they managed mid-level staff doing much of the day-to-day technical analysis and report writing. Analysis and recommendations that explicitly integrated with the client’s business processes and the ultimate decision to pay, how much to pay, or to litigate became a stated requirement.

#3. Shift from recruiting to hiring

Attracting the industry’s best and brightest to work for a smaller, niche firm had always been a challenge. Just as the firm’s new positioning identified strategic clients, clarity and focus for how the firm delivered value made it easier to find and attract potential employees who matched Johnson Wright’s approach and firm culture. By being pickier about who they hired, they ended up finding more and better-matched candidates.

Insights from your Best Clients create a Virtuous Cycle of Marketing.

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