In recent economic times, Professional Service firms struggled alongside other businesses. Firm owners had to tighten their belts, so to speak; cutting back on employees and reducing company spending. The net result was, and continues to be, that firms are operating in an ever more competitive environment. All signs point to us entering a period of economic recovery. This isn’t news by any stretch, but it’s something to keep in mind in terms of your clientele. Since 2008, business spending, not consumer spending, has led the national recovery. Some of our clients, on the other hand, took the last five years to get wiser and choosier with their spending. In this globalized world where Professional Services firms are competing against each other, sometimes without all the resources they would like, clients are going with the best-of-the best because they simply have an endless amount of options. How can you ensure that your clients see you as the firm to invest in?
Perhaps your vision is the same as it has always been, but it may also have evolved and shifted in response to the changes you have seen. Determine your brand positioning statement and your vision, or at least revisit it, to see if it still applies to how you operate. A solid vision will direct you in key decisions, such as where to specialize and what kinds of clients to work with. This will give you a well-thought framework against which you should run your business.
It’s not just about delivering work that is a cookie-cutter answer to what your client asked for. Rather, give them something they cannot get elsewhere and show them a reason to keep coming back to you. It’s about delivering work that is a thorough, genuine, eye- opening process for your client, and an introduction to new aspects of their business they may not have experienced before. For example, at Industrial Brand, if a client asks for a new website, we don’t just give them a website. We also arm them with a social media strategy. We don’t just give them a new brand‚ we also provide a Styleguide so that everyone on the team has access to all aspects of the brand at any time. Do the same with your clients: give them what they ask for as well as what is relevant in their industry. Things that relate to their ask or needs.
Being full-service isn’t necessarily a bad path, but it won’t make you memorable to your clients. There are many full-service companies out there claiming to do everything under the sun. If you advertise yourself as one of those, there is a risk of falling in the shadows of a ton of other companies doing the same thing. Instead, think about what makes you special. What does your team do best? What is your brand identity? Is it that you emphasize human, in-depth communication between yourself and your clients? Is it that you have a commitment to environmental sustainability no matter what you do? Is it, like us, that you focus on certain businesses and understand them well? Whatever it is, own it, emphasize it, promote it, and strengthen it. That way, you’ll attract the clients that are the best fits for you and are likely to stick around for long-term relationships.
Marketing automation, CRM, social media marketing, and a whole bunch of other terms are highly relevant and some are barely over a year old. It can be overwhelming to keep up with everything, but it’s important that you make this a priority. If you know the latest and greatest in terms of technology, you know how to deliver the best work and solutions to your client, AND how to make your own internal operations more efficient and therefore more profitable. If you are simply too busy, task someone in your office to keep everyone up to date. Chances are someone will be happy to take this on. We have a few folks at Industrial Brand who keep us “young”.
A big result of being up-to-date in the technology is managing your efficiency. Invest in automation systems that make life at the office easier for everyone and save everyone time they would otherwise spend on menial tasks that could simply be automated. As well, tighten your project management systems. With a tight internal system of operating, online and offline, your business will run smoother and this saves significant time and dollars in the long run. Ask us about this, we’ve just gone through it ourselves.
Invest in staff who have the spirit, work ethic, and potential to develop your business according to your unique vision. Check out another article of ours on the impact of web presence on employee retention. Employees are your number one asset, treat them as such.
As much as we are all looking for clients, we can’t all say yes to everything. Your clients define you as much as they help you survive, so if you take on a client that doesn’t necessarily fit into your company vision, it might set you further away from the corporate identity you aspire to. So how do you evaluate if a client is worth the time, outside of using intuition and opinion? At Industrial Brand, we have a process that helps us determine if a potential client is a good fit or not. Think of investing in a similar process yourself: something formulaic and reliable that can quickly and cleanly help you and your client see if a relationship is worth it. Although professional service firms suffered comparatively lightly compared to other businesses during the recession, the recession still taught us the values of being efficient, of specializing to differentiate ourselves from competition, and of giving our clients memorable aspects of service that will make them feel confident about investing in our services. Share your thoughts and insights with us.