Professional services are occupations in the service sector requiring special training in arts or sciences. Professional service firms sell knowledge and expertise, unlike other organizations that sell tangible products. These firms include marketing and advertising agencies, accounting, law firms, technology consulting firm, management consulting firm, coaching, architecture, engineering, and construction among others.
This kind of professional services organization thrives on certain aspects that have incessantly streamlined their growth scheme. You will realize that much of these services industry growth has come from client referrals, marketing strategies, management technologies, among others.
There has never been a better time to grow a professional service firm or any new business but recently a confluence of factors have come together to make this the perfect time to pivot away from older strategies, much of this opportunity has been brought about by digital disruption.
Essentials to Grow a Professional Services Firm
Cultivate existing client relationship
Retaining existing clients can be even more important than acquiring new clients in order to scale a professional services firm. In the end, happy clients will refer you to other potential clients and that is, without a doubt, the best way to grow.
This can be achieved by acknowledging your target audience as an individual. While your relationship with your client is professional; acknowledging that you see them as a person more than just a paycheck can go a long way. The extent of your personal connection will vary.
Share knowledge with your client if your client doesn’t understand your area of expertise. The client may feel ignorant about the process, and therefore disconnected from the development of the project. You need to help him/her understand what you will help build trust and confidence.
Always focus on exceptional communication. Timely efficient communication should be a priority. Being available demonstrates that your client’s project and satisfaction are important to you. Also timely and thorough communication builds a strong client relationship by making your client feel comfortable being open and honest with you.
Also, be open about your opinions with your clients, they must be able to trust and rely on you as an expert. Thus, maintaining a policy of openness/transparency and confidently expressing your opinions when it comes to your professional ground is the key towards the best interest of this project.
Another thing is always to maintain a positive attitude. Even though you feel stressed or overwhelmed, it’s important to show a positive face to your clients.
Understanding the services that are most profitable to the company
As much as all the services in a company are inclined to boost its growth, there are specific services that require first priority. Such services are the backbone of the units that generate income for the company. These services need adequate attention and essential skills to ensure quality productivity.
Being aware of which services are giving you greater profitability and which are not, will allow you to make the right decisions in pursuit of the profitability of your business. By tracking the hours invested by your team for certain services vs. the budget assigned to the project, it is possible to see if it is worth continuing to offer certain services. This is crucial in order to grow your business.
Build a predictable process for winning more clients
This whole process resonates with fostering a stable customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is a process in which a business or other organization administers its interactions with customers /clients and potential ones using data analysis.
CRM software records customer contacts, emails, and social media profiles. It can also automatically pull in information such as recent news about the company’s activity and it can store details such as the client’s personal preferences on communications.
CRM systems organize this information to give you a complete record of individuals and companies so you can understand your relationship over time. The software improves customer relationship management by creating a 360 degrees view of the customer, capturing their interactions with the business, and surfacing the information needed to better conversations with customers.
Biggest Challenges to Grow a Professional Services Firm
It is common knowledge that growing a professional firm is not a walk in the park. The challenges associated with the strategies implemented in achieving growth of a professional service firm are what make the difference. How you respond to these challenges determine your teams’ competency to succeed or not. The biggest threats to professional firm growth include:
Acquiring new customers
Every business needs customers to survive the market’s storms. Maintaining the existing customers is mandatory but it does not provide prospects of the company’s growth if it does not increase customer base. Acquiring new customers in business is a skill that technology has enhanced over the centuries. Today, we have digital marketing that has proven to be very effective in acquiring new customers.
The world has gone digital therefore your firm services need to adapt to the status quo. Social media is a perfect tool that most companies use to get their clients today. In addition, getting a customer’s attention in this competitive market can be simplified by strategizing on your first impression. Marketing needs to exhibit a positive image of your services that can capture the attention of the target customers and consider buying.
Planning for the long term
The survival of a company’s management borders heavily on the system and organization of executing responsibilities to produce the end product or service. Planning for how a professional service firm operates its business is one aspect that requires consolidated effort hence the need for a board of directors.
Planning reduces chances of mismanagement of funds since it allocates every budget it its primary purpose. Moreover, it is what determines the next phase of development in a firm that intends to grow. By planning, adjustment can be made in areas that need fortification to deliver at optimum levels.
Management of funds is a subject that requires level headedness to ensure proper budget allocation. It is the biggest factor that every business relies on for development. Financial management goes hand in hand with planning since it’s the unit of executing plans.
Financial management focuses on maximizing the profit at lower cost, credit management and procurement of resources. The cash flow is controlled by these three aspects. Investing in resources that require high maintenance may generate profit but cost benefit analysis proves otherwise. Therefore the procurement budget should ensure the resources have more output than input.
Retaining existing customers
This subject relates to the saying ‘make new friends but retain the old ones.’ Customer acquisition is very important but customer retention is another problem all together. You can attract many customers with your selling pitch but you end up losing them at the end of the day due to maybe service delivery. Therefore customer retention may look superficial but it has a broad base for its stability.
The basis of retaining customers relies on how you maintain the client’s interest in your services or products. Essentially, it comes back to keeping records of customers’ satisfaction as this will keep you in line with the customer’s needs in the dynamic market.
Characteristics of high growth firm that your professional service firm should adopt
As much as Covid 19 interfered with the progress of almost every business globally, there are companies that slightly felt the pinch. Most professional firms couldn’t readapt to the dynamic changes imposed in the market by the pandemic up to date. When you look at the frame of the companies that only suffered minor financial breakdown from the global pandemic, you will realize a pattern of characteristics and goals.
These companies have specific characteristics that you will wish to incorporate in your organization.
1) Invests in target market research and analysis
Having a great understanding of your target customers’ behavioral pattern in the market is key to providing a service that has value to the consumer. High growth companies invest their time and resources to study the target market systematically in all seasons to provide analysis that will resonate with their productivity at specific time.
This is one essential part of having control of the market but most organization overlooks its significance.You might want to employ this approach in your marketing strategies to understand when your customers become active buyers and if the service provides value at that particular moment.
2) Assign value to their products and services
You see, it is not just about selling but selling value to your target customers. High growth firms are aware that by internalizing the value of the services in the minds of the employers, customers’ needs will be serviced. A workforce of customer focused team addresses a specific community of customers since the value of their service is conditioned to solve a particular problem at a particular time. In the long run, your customer base will end up doing the work for you by acquiring more customers through referrals.
3) Invest in employees competency
The profitability of any organization solely depends on the productivity of the workforce. High growth professional firms understand that their employees require sufficient training to deliver adequately.
Full engagement of an employee assures good working environment for the employee which in turn improves productivity. Some companies even go to the extent of having stress management programs within their precincts to ensure good mental health for their employees. Work related stress is common among employees that do not have a peaceful working environment and this normally calls for a psychological attention programs before it becomes worse.
In a nutshell, always ensure that your employees are happy with their work and that the working environment is conducive for optimum productivity.
4) Diversify marketing strategies
Aside from being dynamic in its trajectory, the market for any business has grown widely such that there is no monopoly of services. Bearing this knowledge in mind creates a pattern of marketing strategies to stay in tandem with the direction of market flow.
Adapting new marketing strategies is what has kept most large organization in business even in the most adverse conditions. Such companies invest in ideas that can survive in the future marketing platforms. Having options in conducting your business creates trust between your target customers and the company. Reliability is very crucial in customer retention since most customers are programmed to go back to their previous service provider if the service was wonderful.
5) Have a strong Project Management Software
It is crucial to have a traceability in the operation of the firm to make the right decisions. The use of a Project Management Software gives the possibility to have visibility of the resources used in each project and to be able to distribute them appropriately in order to guarantee deadlines and quality of work.
For this, the correct tracking of hours is vital, which allows to understand the time invested in each project and its cost. All this will allow real data to be able to make better delivery projections and better budgets for new businesses, avoiding losses due to miscalculations, which is the main cause of profitability leakage for professional services firms.
How Artificial Intelligence can help Professional Services Firm
Nowadays, we have reached the next level with Artificial Intelligence.
Adopting AI to professional services has financial gains to the organizations as the system has the ability to do high-speed calculations, produces a faster response to clients as it is timely, meets client’s demands and staff expectations.
AI can be used to assess the quality of employee work performance and provide managers with timely reminders for when an employee might be ready for a new challenge.
Another advantage of AI is reducing fraud and risk in a firm as the system can be trained to detect abnormal behavior and spot anomalies in the firm.
AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform activities that normally require human intelligence. Some of the AI technologies that these firms can use include:
1) Natural language processing: It is the ability of software to understand and read a variety of written documents in a human way.
2) Robotic process automation (RPA): It is designed to automate transactional rule-based tasks by mimicking human interactions.
3) Speech recognition: Transcribes human speech automatically and accurately.
4) Computer vision: A system with the ability to identify objects, scenes, and activities in naturally occurring images.
5) Machine learning: A digital process that learns mining information to discover patterns in data that can help predict future events and lastly is the rule-based system which captures and uses experts’ knowledge to provide answers to tricky problems that are governed by fixed rule sets.
Other advantages that AI has in Project Management Software:
- Save time and money by automating and optimizing routine processes and tasks.
- Increase productivity and operational efficiencies.
- Make faster business decisions based on outputs from cognitive technologies.
- Avoid mistakes and ‘human error’.
- Use insight to predict customer preferences and offer them a better, personalized experience.
- Grow expertise by enabling analysis and offering intelligent advice.