Constantly evolving economic and social factors are forcing consulting companies of all sizes and industries to innovate. They’re re-writing their play books to usher in a new set of standards from work-from-anywhere, to diversity, equity and inclusion, to increased regulatory compliance standards ushered introduced by the current state of the world. What all of these companies have in common, is that they need support and guidance from experts to support them as they continue to innovate. That’s where professional services providers have a new found opportunity to create a competitive edge by not only chasing knowledge in these fields, but making it accessible to their target demographic of client quickly while also managing internal factors that are impacting their own business. Here are the common themes we’re seeing from industry-leading professional services firms.
Creating Value by Marketing Intelligently
The best way to quickly gauge if your firm has achieved clarity in the marketplace is to ask your executives and employees: “What do we do and for whom do we do it for?” If their answers are aligned, you’ve likely accomplished this. If their answers are sporadic, there’s a high probability that your customers are even less informed than they are, and then it’s a certainty that your prospective clients will not have the slightest clue what your strategic position in the market is. Let’s use Plative as an example.
Tagline A: Plative is a consulting company that helps companies implement technology
Tagline B: Plative helps services firms, nonprofits, technology companies, and consumer companies implement and optimize Salesforce, NetSuite, and AWS to surface business value.
Perhaps you quickly analyzed tagline B and you’re not in the market for Salesforce, NetSuite, or AWS. Perhaps your company is not one of our core industries. In either one of those scenarios, you may be less likely to call us and contrary to common knowledge, that’s actually a good thing because in all likelihood our services and expertise would not be worth our services fee to you if you do not fit our target client profile. The only way we know this, is by taking an honest assessment of our expertise and understanding who we provide the best service to. Once we have this in mind, we create our entire marketing strategy around it and that is what unlocks clear positioning in the market.
Still not convinced you need to change? Let’s say your firm is more in the tagline A bucket. Do you sometimes feel like competition is forcing you into a race to the bottom on rates? Do you feel like your core services are being, perhaps fairly, undervalued by prospects? Lack of clarity manifests itself in a lower willingness-to-buy from your prospects because there is no specialty to your efforts as an “everything-for-everyone” type of firm. The best way to illustrate this is with a basic “value stick”.
Your firm likely does not provide the same value in services to everybody. This means, that some clients have a higher willingness to buy from you. Identify them, and this is where you should be spending the majority of your marketing efforts. The opposing side of the value-stick is willingness to sell, which in professional services, would be your employees’ willingness to give you your core product: their time. Focusing your efforts on improving your firm’s status in both of these areas, and you create more value.
Tools of the Trade: Marketing
Here at Plative, we use Salesforce Pardot to segment our clients by their industry and location so that we send specific content to them that will provide the most value. A hedge fund client will never receive the same messaging as a nonprofit institution, and a client in Canada will receive a dynamic message that will differentiate their content from a US-based company. To learn more about how we achieve clarity in our marketing efforts, let’s talk.
Institutionalizing Knowledge to Preserve Value
All professional services firms struggle with a key problem: people leave and they take their brains with them. We invest a significant amount of our time and money into onboarding, learning, and ongoing training for our staff and always become nervous when they inevitably part ways with us to chase an outside pursuit or retire from the workforce. Since we cannot keep people forever, we need to make every effort to institutionalize the knowledge of our workforce. Assuming that you’ve done well enough at clarifying your position in the marketplace, you should now have a team of specialists in your core services offering whether that be audit, legal, implementation services, or anything else. Professional services firms need to design controls and processes for institutionalizing this information at the conclusion or midway point of every single engagement to collect IP, lessons learned, or reusable assets that you can take to your next engagement. Here are a few controls Plative implements to ensure we never leave an engagement empty-handed:
- Documented project post-mortems: Each of our engagements has a start and an end date, even renewable retained services agreements. As an engagement is nearing it’s scheduled end or renewal, our Salesforce instance notifies us that we must schedule and log a project post-mortem involving the lead solution architect (subject matter expert), project manager, and client relationship manager to ensure that we document and log all of our wins, opportunities, and potential re-usable IP and components from this engagement. Any information that we create through this session is logged to Salesforce and Notion, then easily searchable in the future.
- A company-wide Wiki: We use Notion, but there is a host of internal knowledgebase software providers out there that enable your team to easily spin up a new knowledge page and make it searchable for future generations of your firm’s employees to find again.
- Recorded enablements and lunch and learns: Any time a Plative employee facilitates a training or enablement session, we record that session and make it available internally for the team to reflect on and view at a later date.
- Skills by resource easily indexed: If a Plative employee in Manilla is staffed to a project with an ERP implementation for a manufacturer, they can find who internally has expertise with the suite of technology we’re deploying and the industry we’re deploying it for. They can easily Slack the person or set up a 30-minute call to better arm themselves for the project kick off in record time compared to the days where we didn’t have such a system in place.
Tools of the Trade: Knowledge
As I mentioned, there are many tools that can conceivably accomplish this, but here at Plative, we use Notion as our firm-wide knowledgebase. It’s nimble enough to let any employee spin up a new knowledge page and submit to our internal “PlativeOS team” for review. Once the page is approved, we file it accordingly and make sure it has enough tags associated with it to ensure it’s easily found with a quick text search.
Client Success and NPS
If your firm is like Plative, the success of your clients is paramount to the growth and profitability of your firm. Firms who understand this track client success as closely as they track billable utilization, leverage, or any other top KPI for a professional services firm. Firms that are not tracking their success scores by client, project, and month need to make this a top priority immediately. Here are some quick ways to automate and report on this:
- CSAT: Client Satisfaction Score is the quickest way to collect critical data and insight into your client’s experience working with your firm. Using Salesforce, we automate this process at 2 points during every project: the 50% mark and the 100% mark. This is so that we can track satisfaction as a trending score on the project level and gain deeper insights into which specific areas of our processes may need our attention at any given period in time. We typically ask for the client’s sentiment and feedback in a required long-text field so that we can make informed decisions about their detailed feedback.
- NPS: Net Promoter Score is an excellent way to compare your firm to others using industry benchmarks. At the end of all of our automated surveys, there is one question that is simply, “how likely are you to recommend Plative to a friend or colleague?”. This is how we collect NPS score, and we use Salesforce to report on it, using a formula report. GetFeedback posted an excellent article about how to configure NPS fields and formulas in Salesforce here!
- Compensation: Put your money where your mouth is. If you are preaching to your prospects, clients, and employees that client success is paramount to your organization’s success as utilization, your employees should be incentivized and bonused on attainment and exceeding firm’wide CSAT and NPS rates. To learn about how Plative compensates based on client success, get in touch.
Tools of the trade: NPS and CSAT
Here at Plative, we leverage Salesforce to create automated surveys at certain points in our project or retainer’s completion percentage. This is configured through automation and process builder with custom email templates. This can also be configured in a similar fashion if you use Oracle NetSuite as your Professional Services Automation (PSA) software. To learn more about how to automate CSAT and NPS collection in every engagement, let’s talk.
Tying it all together
At Plative, we drink our own champagne by implementing the same softwares and procedures that we position to our clients. Our professional services practice has immense experience in the end to end client lifecycle from marketing, to selling, to delivering, to billing, and recognizing revenues/profit from each engagement. If any of the content today has inspired you to bring this back to your firm, feel free to get us involved in the conversation to learn how we can put these principles and more to work for your professional services firm.