If you can confidently answer “yes!” to the following metrics, then you’re ready to take your practice to the next level:
• Is your firm’s mission perfectly aligned with your market?
• Do your marketing efforts create exactly the relationship your customers most want and need?
• Are your services well packaged, presented with a What’s In It For Me? punch, and priced at various levels?
• Do you know exactly where and how to promote your firm’s services?
• Does your marketing system routinely and predictably create the kinds of new customers your business requires?
What happens next in many successful firms, however, is not good news. Instead of sticking with what’s created success in the first place, the focus shifts away from a marketing mindset. Instead of being an essential lens through which people in your firm view their role, marketing as an every-day focus fades from importance. After all, why continue to invest the time and resources on marketing when you’ve got more business than you can handle now anyway? And shouldn’t you spend time on what’s now important, like internal operations, serving current clients, and other more urgent priorities?
The answer is an emphatic NO! Not only will you erode all the hard work you’ve invested get to where you are, but it will be much harder (and expensive!) to turn your now larger and more complex ship around, once you lose that marketing mindset.
The truth is, that once your firm gets more successful and, by definition, more complex, your energy and focus turn naturally more inward. As your business grows, it takes on a life of its own in the form of meetings, policies, training, politics, and reports. The larger your firm gets, the more energy is directed inward – it simply takes more planning, management, and systems to keep things running smoothly.
So how do you keep your firm from being consumed with internally focused activities? By developing and executing a strategy to…
Keep your firm’s mission alive, real, and relevant in the marketplace. Think of your firm’s mission as the “magnetic north” in your compass. For everything you do, constantly ask, “what difference does this make in the lives of our customers?” If it makes no difference (or the wrong difference), then why are you putting resources into it? Build this line of questioning into decisions you make and resources you allocate.
Create and maintain laser-like internal alignment with your external mission in the marketplace. Everyone’s job should have a direct connection to serving the customer. That means tying rewards and consequences to how everyone at your firm contributes to building client relationships. Even if someone has no direct client contact, they’re supporting someone who does. Connect the dots between what they do and what it means to the client.
Create new customers for old packages. Chances are, you haven’t saturated your current target market. Don’t let the basics that got you to your current level of success fade away. And what about new target markets? What successful services do you have that you could offer to another segment?
Create new services for old customers. Do a little research…ask people on your “front line” what they think your customers need. Ask your customers directly or hire an outside firm to ask for you. Find out why you won and lost business. You’ll be surprised, inspired, and motivated by what you learn.
Create new packages for old services. Take what you know or do and put it into a new format or offering. You can create workshops, CDs, e-books, mini-books, on-line content, workbooks, checklists, and more out of just about any professional content you know or work with. Think beyond just charging an hourly fee for your services. “Productize” what you know by offering people helpful tools they can use.
Ensure you and your leadership team are role models for the rest of your firm on how to create lasting relationships. What behaviors, words, standards, and approaches create lasting relationships with both clients and employees? Make sure your senior team walks the talk and, if they don’t, fix the problem. If you can’t model how to create lasting relationships at the top, others are less inclined to do it well.
Deliver on your firm’s brand promise through solid practice management. The mark of a true professional is when your firm’s own act is together. It’s not enough to be experts in your field, backed by the credentials and experience that are important to your target clients. You must also engage in continuous learning about your profession, your clients’ industries, and how to professionally manage your firm. Your firm’s leadership must act as a role model for how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. Are these high standards to set for your firm? Absolutely. But then again, you’ve already proven you do the basics well.
Resting on your laurels will only go so far.
Sooner than you think, loosing your focus on marketing will put you back to square one, scrambling for clients and worried about cash flow.
Except this time, the stakes are higher, your profile in the marketplace is higher, and you have a lot more to lose. So why go there? Take your firm to the next level, and be confident you won’t have to look back!
Putman, A. Marketing Your Services. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1990.