Building A Brand
In turn, the brand, and what it represents, should penetrate the DNA of the firm and its culture. It should be integral to the firms marketing, business development and communications strategies.
Professional services firms are about people: relationship building and cross-selling are the core components of a marketing plan to grow the top line from existing and new clients. Indeed, in an aggressively competitive market, these actions are a necessity simply to maintain market share.
Like any professional services firm, Progressive SMEs employ a classic key account management programme supported by a client listening function and client relationship management systems.
Individual Partners are given overall responsibility for individual clients, with a cross-practice client team (predominantly partners) supporting them to drive cross-selling activities.
SMEs tend instinctively to avoid extending their remit to encompass relationship management and the offering of strategic business advice.
SMEs need to move from being a transactional firm that is good at relationships to a relationship firm that is good at transactions.
To support that goal, we would introduce a programme called “Strategic Client Conversations” across the firm, recognizing that relationships start with a dialogue, ideally at a business, not exclusively financial, level. The objective is to become “Trusted Adviser” which is a step beyond financial adviser.
This requires skills in behavioural change. To address this and to give fee-earners the confidence to have a broader, deeper and better quality interaction with clients, we would conduct research among our clients as to their expectations of our fee-earners.
Clients want their SMEs to use their understanding of the business and market to help them manage their strategic challenges.
Questions to routinely ask include;
- How much do we engage with the client?
- Do we prepare well enough for client meetings?
- Do we question assumptions sufficiently?
- Do we know enough about the client’s commercial imperatives?
- How can we best use our knowledge of the sector?
- Do we know what it is that clients will really value about our advice?
And many more……
Develop a strong brand – It should act as a leadership platform, justify premium pricing, reflect the firms’ values and have an emotional resonance with clients, partners, staff and recruits.
- Align your people with your strategy
- Plan for new markets
- Build relationships
- Focus on cross-selling
- Demonstrate sector expertise
- Be a game changer – be innovative in building new products and services. Create new markets
- Lessons on growth
- Reasons for growth – clear strategy, why?
Follow clients – Growing clients to match their ambitions
Brand clarity – a clear message, consistently delivered and communicated internally and externally
Relationships – Client management programme and client strategy development
Cross-selling and building trust
Business model – organic, acquisition, mergers, alliances, networks, supplier partnerships
Growth and skills – in house capability and willingness to accept an outward-looking approach
Innovation – services and products, client solutions
Continuity and change – Change will happen, embrace the client-focused approach
Clients naturally gravitate towards the practices that have an established reputation for excellence in the areas which they need support
The promise of fulfilled expectations, as well as high levels of reassurance that the strongest brands can bring, commands a premium price that clients are willing to pay
Firms that invest in developing clearly defined offerings and are accomplished at communicating them to clients and prospects are repaid many times over
Successful brands engender confidence and higher levels of client satisfaction and retention, which in turn lead to greater market share and increased profits
Encouraging the use of research as a basis for identifying clients’ needs and providing advice on how best to tailor the firm’s approach will reinforce the value of marketing
Constantly reinforce brand values internally and externally with colleagues, clients, prospects, recruits and the wider world. Ensuring that the firm’s values are clearly understood and upheld in all communication builds brand strength