Business development & marketing planning in professional services

This year more than ever, marketing planning within many professional services firms is taking a longer term view. Although we’re yet to put the pandemic behind us, as we learn to live with COVID, we can at least plan for the future, rather than just managing the present situation.

A significant part of this planning is a greater business development drive. Refining existing services, launching new ones, identifying new markets, targeting different sectors. All to make business models more resilient and relevant in a post-pandemic world. However, as a result of the difficulties of the last two years, many firms risk not having the level of marketing resource or budget they once had, to properly support all these initiatives.

As Mark Ritson so beautifully highlighted in his recent article, ‘Planning for Marketing Planning’ this is the time of the year when marketing planning is high up the in-tray for many. If so, I would implore anyone involved to read Mark Ritson’s piece. For those with limited resource and budget, these are a few of the things I think most important. To ensure you have sufficient bandwidth to execute what you need to, to support the business development needs of the firm and ensure you make the most of what you’ve got.

Be targeted

Agree a clear plan with Partners and business development teams who and what you’re aiming at. What target sectors, which companies in those sectors and who are the individual leads in those companies you need to target? Of course, this should be driven by the needs of the business. Is it more revenue, higher margin work, or a broader sector or geographical spread of income? What are those target companies’ issues and pain points? What services and solutions, either existing or new, are you going to promote to address these.

The purpose should be to focus and narrow these as much as possible, not to keep them broad and vague. Why? We’re dealing with only limited resources so need to get the most bang for our buck. Ensure the content, marketing channels and activity are the most relevant and effective for those targets. Not just general broadcast noise that ticks a marketing box. The clearer and narrower the focus on specific targets, the easier it will be to position the relevant service(s) into a compelling proposition for that customer.

Sift the opportunities from the ideas

Many firms have spent much of the last two years busily thinking of new revenue streams to either replace lost income or make the business more resilient. Beware pursuing too many ideas and identify which are real opportunities. Devote resources to the latter, put the former on the back burner.

Internal politics and personal egos shouldn’t be under-estimated. Individual’s ‘pet’ projects can quickly suck up valuable resource away from more valuable opportunities.

Think smarter not bigger

Increasing your marketing doesn’t have to mean higher budgets or greater head count. The last two years have demonstrated how the pivot to digital has meant budgets can be stretched further. I can’t believe events budgets are ever going to be looked at in the same light. The growth of LinkedIn as a marketing channel in professional services in recent years has shown how cost effective this can be, compared to trying to leverage traditional media.

The same applies to resource. The word is full of creative and marketing specialists to use for specific projects, which enables internal teams to remain small and agile. Of course, that assumes you have the skills to select, procure, brief and manage these external resources remotely and effectively. We’ve all experienced the hard way that money can quickly be wasted without a clear brief.

Take a look inside

New business means winning new clients, right? Not necessarily. Too much business development energy and marketing activity is focused on winning new clients to secure new business, rather than developing existing client relationships to secure more work. The biggest client pitches I worked on last year stayed with their incumbent provider, despite the tenders going on for months. Generating more work from existing clients instead could be more cost effective.

Implementing a thorough client care programme can reap real dividends. Analyse the existing relationship in detail and with honesty. Consider the opportunities to deepen relationships with that key account and identify ways to add more value to the services those accounts receive.

Similarly, a re-focusing of internal communications to ‘promote’ existing services and educate internal teams, can unearth many cross-selling opportunities. These may have sat dormant while fee-earners concentrate on the day job.

Neither of the above initiatives need significant monetary investment. However, they do need commitment from senior leadership and internal resource to execute effectively.

So if you’re wondering how best to use the limited resources you’ve got, yet grow your business in 2022, keep it focused, real, agile and make the most of the client relationships you’ve already got.

And feel free to get in touch.

Nurture Professional Services Marketing Ltd. Company No: 11096654. Registered England & Wales,2 Beverley Court, 26 Elmtree Road, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 8ST