Clients rave, but you struggle to achieve your desired growth and profit targets. You're not alone. Stumbling blocks to growth at professional services firms include:
The Doer-Seller conundrum. Doer-Sellers like doing, but not selling or marketing. (Don't we all.)
Selling the wrong thing. Professionals think in terms of tasks performed (The conventional definition of results.) Those tasks—however important—are a tiny part of the client's overall business. Clients think in different terms.
Questioning your own rates. When was the last time you raised your rates? Do you set your rates based on "the market" or a confident understanding of how you contribute to your client's business?
The solution is simple, but not simplistic. When I connect marketing to the strategy and operation of your overall business, complexity gives way to focus and common sense. 15+ years of conducting hundreds of customer interviews for dozens of clients taught me to peel the onion and identify the key issues that win business for a specific firm. The real reasons your best clients select your firm above other excellent options are probably not what you think.
"Doing marketing" is not the same as having a comprehensive Marketing Strategy. A Marketing Strategy fuels profitable growth by identifying the right priorities and focusing your limited resources for maximum impact.
What kind of impact? Shorter sales cycles, more and better referrals, higher profits, and the priceless joy of having your book full of your best clients. Do those sound like vague, meatless claims? I hope not.
Elite professionals find “selling” hard and unpleasant, but they understand the necessity. They make an unpleasant task harder when they get stuck touting their expertise and deliverables rather than engaging in the conversation clients want to have.
Doers are good at talking to clients, but aren't comfortable "marketing" or "selling" to them. The right conversation changes everything.
If only there was a way to connect the dots to create the conversation clients actively seek. . .
Some growth is more profitable than others. So are some clients. Specific types of projects or clients represent strategic opportunities for your firm while others are merely opportunistic. No one can be the “best choice” for every situation.
It’s quite common for boutique professional services firms to desire growth while preserving their distinct firm culture. Strategic growth is disciplined growth. It’s about finding plenty of the right opportunities rather than laboring to drag a bigger net through the ocean, and then trying to sort out the clients you're actually fishing for on the back end.
That's poor focus. And a huge waste of your limited resources.
Even the right focus won't create great marketing if you don't have a strategy to stay focused. Many hard-charging professional services firms stumble by going directly to tactics such as their website, developing content and creating email campaigns. They learn tactics-without-strategy become an oppressive master rather than a servant, holding your firm back rather than pushing it forward. Marketing that drives your firm to the next level must deliver Revenue, Profits, and higher quality Clients. Those aren't wishful ideals; those are strategic imperatives for a vibrant firm.
If the market is getting more competitive, why do you expect your marketing to become less hands-on?
The goal of marketing is to help potential clients make a decision. They must know why your firm is the best choice compared to other options for their needs, their situation, and their resources. If you don't think your potential clients have other options, you're delusional. Highlighting how you're "different" from other firms rather than focusing on why you are a better choice is marketing to yourself. It feels good, but you won't get the results you need.
Do you know why your best clients select your firm over other, excellent, options?
Getting to the meaty bits of why clients select your firm requires setting aside your own biases. That's hard. Not why you would select your firm. Not why they ought to select your firm. Not all the valuable things you can do for them after they select your firm. Why your best clients select your firm over other options. In-depth interviews with my clients' clients and my relentless focus on the depths of this question changes how the firms I work with think about marketing.
The answer is revealing, and often freeing. Think of it as your firm's "Secret Sauce." Unlocking The One Question will transform how you think about marketing.
Your Secret Sauce is what truly sets you above other providers in the eyes of your best clients.
Unfortunately, your secret sauce is often obscured by marketing groupthink. It's easier to focus on what you want your secret sauce to be than finding out what it really is.
Unlocking your secret sauce isn't like getting bit by a radioactive spider, but you'll be amazed at how empowering the experience is.
Even firms at the top of their game cling to the belief that technical expertise at a reasonable price trumps everything else. As a fellow professional, for years I wanted to believe this was true. That's not how you want to be evaluated. That's how clients evaluate commodities. Your best clients select you over and over again for reasons that are more subtle.
Your secret sauce is gas for your marketing. It accelerates Revenue, Profits, and winning more of your Best Clients.
Coming face-to-face with the reasons your best clients select your firm is like putting on new glasses. Whether you implement with internal staff or an agency, your new perspective will be invaluable for generating the results you expect.
Unless you see The Why through your clients' eyes, best practices are merely disconnected actions you ought to do. Working from The Why builds a clear bridge connecting specific actions to specific results.
I love what I do. One of my greatest joys is seeing established professionals who no longer hate marketing. They know what to do, why it will work, and they have a plan that matches their capabilities and resources. Their journey often starts with dreams of no-effort marketing, passes through the frustrating and mysterious world of "professional marketers," before finally landing in what some call the refreshing world of "real marketing."