Why investing in a new roof is better than investing in a shiny new brochure
24 Apr 2017
Have you ever bought an old house? If you have then you may have made the same mistakes I made many years ago and mistakenly prioritised painting and decorating, a new kitchen and a new bathroom ahead of dealing with the ugly stuff, e.g. stopping water coming in through the roof, rewiring, damp proofing and replacing rotten windows.
A new kitchen might make you feel good there and then - in the same way a new website or brochure does after a shiny rebrand - but at what price? Is it this the smartest investment you can make to protect and develop your business? I think not!
Too many professional service firms routinely spend serious sums of money on rebrands in some shape or form – a website overhaul, new stationary, more brochures and/or redesigning their logo. I am not dismissing the value of brand, design values and the need for consistency in communications. However, what I am challenging is:
1 How best to align marketing strategy with a firm’s business plan
2 The relative importance of business development (BD) vs. marketing
3 The need to invest more in developing the non-technical skills of your fee earners
Let’s look at each of these points in turn.
What’s the best way to align your marketing strategy with your firm’s business plan?
It is worth remembering Stephen Covey’s mantra ‘begin with the end in mind’ here. Too often in my experience (and I have worked inside more than 100 professional service firms in the UK) marketing activity is driven by inertia and copying competition. This is never a great recipe for success. Firms should be asking ‘what marketing and business development strategies will help us achieve x?’ rather than take knee-jerk decisions to replace their websites and brochures.
What are the alternatives? Often the alternatives are shunned because they would involve taking people out of their comfort zones, e.g. seeking third party feedback as part of a client listening programme (i.e. independent client service reviews) or improving fee earners’ non-technical skills (i.e. the skills that retain client and win new work).
The relative importance of business development (BD) vs. marketing
Protecting and developing relationships with clients and referrers is critical to any professional service firm but you sometimes the return from an investment in BD isn’t as easy to see as a new website or logo. This means investment in strategy, client research and training is all too often moved down the ‘to do’ list.
This situation is compounded by the fact that there often isn’t a budget for training which means the cost has to be covered by the marketing budget (much to the chagrin of the budget owner) and by the fact many fee earners just don’t want to ‘do BD’ so there is a damaging delay between activity and results. All in all you can see why BD gets a poor deal compared to its shinier cousin, marketing.
Why do you need to invest in improving the non-technical skills of your fee earners?
One of the personal benefits of continually interviewing buyers of legal and accountancy services is it leaves me well-positioned to share the insight and feedback we collect later in a training environment and this is particularly valuable for the attendees as it comes straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’.
Here is a selection of the things we hear in pretty much every interview that underlines exactly why fee earners need to get better at business development:
“Why don’t they invite me for a coffee? I would love to be able to just have a chat and a catch-up from time to time.”
“Bumping into people at networking events now and then for a bit of small talk isn’t enough.”
“You need to do more than have one lunch.”
“I don’t know most of the (barristers/ solicitors/accountants) or what else they do so I only ever instruct the people I know.”
“Why don’t they ever ask me what I want? Or what the best way to deliver their services is for me?”
So, what next? Here are 5 suggestions you can implement immediately to immediately improve your approach to business development:
1 Invest in regular independent client service reviews. It will be a self-funding exercise as it always generates new opportunities.
2 Invest in BD training programmes that include both group workshops and 1on1 coaching not a one-off ‘sheep dip’ exercise.
3 Review your BD strategy (if you have one, write one if you don’t!) and check that your planned activities are clearly linked to your firm’s commercial objectives.
4 Match your BD activities to the personalities of your fee earners – networking (formal and informal), writing and content creation (traditional, online and via social media), giving presentations and delivering workshops/seminars or even contributing by doing the research to support all of the previous ideas.
5 And never, ever pay for consultancy and training from your marketing budgets.
I’d welcome your thoughts so please email me to tell me what you’ve done to protect and build your house so it delivers a long-term profit.
Posted by Douglas | 0 Comments