Your Future Firm Starts Now: Success Strategies for Launching New Services – Part 2
October 3, 2016 | The Whetstone Group

We’re continuing our look at a process firms can use to evaluate and develop new services to meet clients’ needs and create new sources of revenue by building a more consulting-based practice. September 21st we introduced steps 1 and 2 Research Market Needs and Evaluate and Prioritize.  In this post we introduce steps 3 and 4 – Define the Scope and Go to Market with Your Service. Check back October 19th as we conclude with step 5 – Tracking Results and Measuring Success (including a downloadable guide for the whole process).

Step 3: Define the scope and “package” your service

Now that you’ve selected the service(s) you want to launch, help ensure your success by defining the scope of the service very specifically and communicating it to the appropriate people in your firm.  “Scope” includes the step-by-step process and tools your service providers will use to deliver the service, what participation is required from the client, the time it will require from both your service providers and the client, and the frequency of delivery of the service.

This step is important for a couple of reasons.  First, it ensures consistency in the quality of your service delivery, which protects your client relationships and helps maintain your brand.  Secondly, this specific scope definition goes a long way to familiarizing your staff with the service so they are comfortable having conversations about it with their clients.

Once that scope is defined, your last step before taking the service to the marketplace is packaging. Packaging includes:

  • The name of the service: Ideally, it’s a good idea to identify a name for the service that will communicate benefit(s) and at the same time be attention-getting and memorable. This isn’t always easy – or even possible – but is worth putting in the time brainstorming and even testing with a client or two.  Many times your opportunity to catch someone’s attention and hold it is fleeting – a good name could really help when you’re trying to generate interest in your new service.
  • The deliverables and benefits: Make sure all your people know what the key deliverables of the service are – what tangible take-aways the client receives.  Clients will want to know this; but even more importantly, define the key benefits of the service – the tangible and intangible improvements for the client.  Communicate these benefits internally so your people can effectively promote the service, and make sure they are incorporated into your web site and marketing materials for the service.  Clients and prospective clients will not take action until they understand “what’s in it for them” – the potential benefits of engaging you for this service.
  • Pricing: Hopefully you have a feel for what clients will be willing to pay for the service from your earlier research.  People prefer to pay a flat fee for a service rather than being quoted an hourly rate and paying for time, so be sure to estimate the time investment and identify a recommended flat fee that  pays you profitably but reasonably given the benefits and value proposition to the client.  It’s not necessary or even recommended that everyone in the firm understand the fee for the service; it’s always a better idea to quote each client individually based on the scope of their needs; the service experts will have the best understanding to do that.

Step 4: Go to market

Patience will be important for your go-to-market strategy as there are important steps to follow to ensure success:

  1. Beta test
  2. Define target market
  3. Develop messages
  4. Communicate messages to target market
  5. Proactively follow up to generate new business leads

Beta test

If possible, beta test the service with one or two clients to work out delivery issues, identify and resolve problems, make sure the deliverables are on point, and discover if the service works in reality the way it works in theory.  Be candid with your client(s) up front and explain they will be doing you a favor but also receiving service benefits for no or greatly reduced fees.  During the project, check in with the client(s) to find out what questions and concerns they have and incorporate these into the way you deliver the service going forward.  Make sure your clients understand the benefit they received and when it’s over, ask them if they are willing to go on record with a testimonial you can use in future marketing and/or serve as a reference for future clients.

Target market

Based on what you learned in your initial research and your beta test(s), think about who the best targets are for the service.  It’s actually better to focus on a narrow, very specific target market:

  • you can tailor your messages more directly to them;
  • it’s easier to determine the right channels through which to communicate with them;
  • you can communicate to a smaller number of targets more frequently with a given budget.

Think about what type of companies have most need for the service based on industry and even sub-group within industry (e.g. sub-contractors within the construction industry), size (annual revenue, number of employees), ownership (private vs. public, closely-held/family-owned, etc), geographic location (where you can profitably serve them and they will recognize you as a viable provider), situation/circumstances (own vs. lease building, profitability, stage in growth cycle, etc).

For almost every target market, there are sources available to acquire a list of companies that matches your criteria.  If there are variables for which you can’t filter when you purchase it, consider having someone call the companies to ask the appropriate questions to further segment your list.  This can be a good task for an intern or new staff who aren’t yet busy, or you may choose to outsource to companies who provide this service.

Messages and communication

Now that you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to, develop the messages that will get their attention about your new service.  Focus on the benefits of the service as it relates directly to their business, and the potential value proposition of engaging you to provide it.  Make sure you address what differentiates your from competitors providing the same or a similar solution. Answer the question: why are you the best alternative to resolve this issue and/or deliver these benefits?

Below is a list of ways you can get your message to your targets, in the recommended chronological order of implementation:

  • Have face-to-face conversations, starting with your current clients in the target market
  • Incorporate on your web site, in blogs, social media profiles/groups
  • Send direct mail/email
  • Hold seminars and/or webinars
  • Promote the topic to industry groups via speaking engagements and articles

This will require you to develop a variety of materials.  Whenever possible, incorporate the testimonial from your beta test client(s) and continue to add testimonials as you grow the practice and have more satisfied clients.  It is always more powerful to have your clients state the benefits and value proposition.  Tie the materials together with similar content and graphic elements so you build a “brand” for the service that fits with the overall brand for your firm.

Frequency of communication is vital.  We’ve all heard the concept that people need to hear a message multiple times before it resonates.  The number required keeps going up because of the increasing number of competing messages to which people are exposed, through traditional media, social media, email, etc.  Don’t be afraid to make at least quarterly “touches” with your target market regarding your service and the benefits it delivers.  If you’re varying the method of communication (direct mail, invitation to seminar, promotion at industry conference, newsletter article, etc.) it won’t feel like too much to your clients and prospects.

Follow-up

It isn’t enough to simply put your messages out there; we’d all love to believe if we build it they will come, but that’s movie fantasy.  Proactive follow-up is a necessary component of any successful go-to-market effort.  The goal with your follow-up is to get face-to-face with each client or prospect so you can have a needs-based conversation, present the benefits of your service, and move the sales cycle forward. The table below gives you some tips on how to follow-up to each of your communication tactics:

tactic_follow-up_approach

Content Marketing: A New Tool in Your Old Toolbox
March 19, 2014 | The Whetstone Group

If you’ve read anything about marketing strategy in the past year or so, you’ve probably noticed the term content marketing making its way into a lot of headlines. Also known as in-bound marketing, content marketing is creating or re-publishing relevant and valuable content online in order to attract and retain clients. Content can be anything from a whitepaper to a video clip to an article or info graphic.

What makes content marketing attractive to most firms is the idea that it can be used to lure the attention of clients and prospects, educate them about how you help solve their issues, capture some information about them and, when they are ready to discuss a solution with you, encourages them to contact your firm. Thus, the term in-bound marketing — meaning prospects that are ready to do business contact you directly. If you’re like many professionals and have an aversion to sales, the idea of prospects calling and asking you to do their work holds a lot of appeal. It sounds like the silver bullet. The holy grail. The coup de grace.

And, because there is so much buzz around the term content marketing, it’s tempting to think that it’s a new invention.

Content marketing is garnering a lot of attention — for good reason. It can be a very effective marketing tool. It certainly needs to be a part of a firm’s marketing mix. But it is only one of many tools that leading firms will implement as the battle for market-share wages on. Firms that place all their emphasis on publishing content may be missing the point. Content marketing isn’t new. There are new platforms — online outlets, more sophisticated email marketing systems, and automation tools to make getting content out to your target market and collecting lead information easier and timelier.

But all marketing — regardless of the distribution channel — is content marketing. The most successful firms have been content marketing all along.

Presenting a seminar or webinar to an interested audience relies on valuable and relevant content to position you as an expert. Mailing a newsletter via (gasp!) snail mail relies on content. Asking questions during a sales call and discussing solutions and benefits in a way that is meaningful to the person you’re addressing is essentially delivering content. EVERYTHING in marketing should have a value-add basis. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting your time and resources.

Also, prospects have different preferences when it comes to communication. As old-fashioned as it may sound, some prospects still prefer to receive communications in a printed format and not all your prospects are utilizing electronic media to the same extent. A mix of channels is your best bet in reaching the most prospects.

While it may sound like content/in-bound marketing will have people knocking down your door to do business; most in-bound leads will still require proactive follow up and working the sales cycle. Improving the quality of your opportunities is also dependent on your ability to market your content to the right audience. The fundamentals of defining a target audience, understanding the issues relevant to that audience, communicating with that audience, tying your solutions to their needs and articulating the benefits of working with you to solve the issue may sound like and old-school approach. Don’t abandon the fundamentals in favor of a — approach. It’s only through applying these proven fundamentals from your marketing tool box that your new tools yield results.

Instead, figure out how to incorporate new tools into your marketing mix. How can you use social media to promote your events? How can you turn a conversation with a client about a challenge they are experiencing into an article you can post on LinkedIn or a blog? Then, make sure you have a plan in place to promote your content to your target market. This integrated approach will yield not only leads, but quality opportunities for your firm.

How Much is Too Much?
April 27, 2011 | The Whetstone Group

I was surprised to learn that a friend of mine had recently changed jobs. He, in turn, was surprised that I hadn’t heard.

“I posted it on LinkedIn yesterday.”

And, indeed, when I looked back through THREE PAGES of older posts I finally saw the indication that he had changed positions. I also checked the digest of my Linked in network activity; it was listed as one of about eight items at the very bottom of a page I had to scroll, scroll, scroll down to find. Past all the updates of the great business books people are reading, past the twitter feeds, past the same blog link posted by three different people at the same company.

As I started thinking about it, I wondered how much information is too much information. What is the right frequency of contributing information in a medium that moves at the speed of light? I had missed something really important, something I really would like to have seen, because it was displaced by so many other pieces of information.

Let me just state that I don’t have a huge network of people. I think I just recently topped 100 connections, and even that seems like too many. How can I possibly keep track of all that information?

There are tools to help manage all the information posted, tweeted, re-tweeted, whose updates you see, whose you don’t. But if I use these settings to hide everything from certain connections, I have to ask myself, why are we connected in the first place?

If I could make one plea to the users of online communication tools, it would be this: Please don’t post for the sake of posting. I call these random acts of posting, and if you are doing it you risk becoming such a part of the landscape that even people you know will stop paying attention to you. You don’t have to share information about your reading list, travel plans, and daily routine just to stay top of mind. The more you do this, the more likely I am to tune you out.

Conversely, there are certain people to whom I ALWAYS pay attention (assuming I see them amid all the junk) because they post so infrequently that if they are making an effort I know it is important. If you have made social media part of your personal business development activity you want to be one of these people. What is the right frequency? I say a couple times a week.

Something else I learned–if you have important information you want people who are professionally important to you to see, make the effort to contact them directly. Send a quick email. Make a short phone call. Mail a note. But don’t assume the world is paying attention to you online 24/7.