How professional services firms develop new business effectively

Social engineering concept
A recent survey found that the top challenge for 72% of professional services firms was attracting and developing new business. Twice as many said this as the next most mentioned topic.

Since it’s a topic on so many firms’ agenda, it’s even more important that those within the firm spend their time and resources on the right marketing and business development activities that stand more likelihood of helping them to achieve the objective of attracting and developing new business. And it’s also crucial to make sure the marketing and professionals work together to make this stuff happen.

There are three types of marketing: corporate, capability and contact marketing, differentiated by how close to the client they are and how active or passive they are.

pyramidCorporate marketing includes general awareness-building activities such your website, large-scale seminars, winning awards for your firm.

Capability marketing includes writing articles, doing research and sharing the results, speaking at sector specific conferences, all designed to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.

Contact marketing includes networking, face to face meetings, small roundtable events, small scale seminars and is about building personal relationships.

Whilst it is absolutely true that you need corporate marketing as part of your strategy, the majority of your marketing, in order to build a relationship with your prospects and motivate them to go to the next step, needs to be around the capability and contact marketing level. The real challenge for professional services firms around this is that on the one hand these are the most effective in getting prospects to say ‘yes’ but on the other hand these are precisely the activities that require more of the fee-earners’ time, often difficult to get for anything other than client work.

I recently wrote How marketing can support sales of the need to ensure that marketing activities support each step of the sales process. The corollary of this is how to make this happen in an environment where professionals are busy doing the work, but where their time and thoughts are needed to action the BD and marketing plans.

How can you square this circle?

There is no magic wand for this. And different things work for different people and firms. I am, however, a big believer in the power of collaboration to get things done, so here are some ideas to help you:

  • Agree up front what the role of BD and marketing teams is and what the role of fee-earner is – agreeing this can give both parties a mandate to chase, cajoul, remind as necessary.
  • Set up a meeting, perhaps outside the office, for 30 minutes to focus on that thing you need their time for.
  • Decide between you what input you need from a fee-earner and what the marketing/BD person can then take away and do before coming back with a draft.
  • Reminders and chasers work for some people, but not everyone – ask each other when it is reasonable to expect something and hold them to that timescale, finding out what helps them to action what they said they would..
  • ‘Educate’ people within your firm about what marketing and BD people do, can do and want to do. And what it can and can’t achieve. There is often a misconception around this area and still too many people think marketing is only about organising events and producing brochures.
  • Share widely what activities fee-earners should concentrate on both to ensure they’re spending time on the most effective activities and focusing on ideal targets and key clients (and not going for that tender they really shouldn’t be doing). Individual plans can help here, but make sure they’re linked to the wider team or practice area plan.
  • Communicate often and openly with people about what’s happening, successes, challenges, improvements made.
  • Encourage a proactive approach to BD (which will save them being chased) and see if you can get how much time they are spending on marketing and BD into appraisals.
  • Make sure the marketing plans (at individual or team level) are totally aligned to their pipeline and desired future client base.
  • Trust and credibility are vital and as we all know, these take time to build. Build these relationships as you would with any client – mindfully, at the right pace, demonstrating credibility, competence and compatibility at every opportunity.