Posted 17th February 2011.
Most marketing focuses on how to attract and win new clients.
But once you've got 'em, how do you get 'em to stay – and to buy more from you?
Here's an idea introduced by David Maister in his classic work “Managing the Professional Services Firm”. It's the concept of “superpleasing”.
We all know that getting more work from existing clients can be the most profitable source of new business. They already know us and trust us – and we've (hopefully) done good work for them.
So it should be a much easier sell to get them to buy more from us – provided they need the other things we're offering.
Sadly, in most businesses and also for individual practitioners – we focus most of our marketing effort on much lower payoff activities.
Running an advertising campaign, trying to cold call new prospects, or networking to meet new people, for example.
It just seems kind of sexier to focus on brand new clients than it does to build our relationships with our existing and previous ones.
And when we do try to market to existing clients, we often go about it completely the wrong way.
We equate marketing with meetings and “schmoozing”. We invite the client out to an event. Or we arrange for our managing partner to meet them to “chat them up”.
Those are the things our marketing budget is geared up for – events and non-billable time.
Now there's nothing wrong with these activities. Sometimes they're just the right thing. But more often than not there's something much more effective you can do with your time and money.
Think about it from your client's perspective instead.
If you were your client, what would be more valuable to you, what would demonstrate the commitment of a professional more, and what would prove their capabilities more: a chat with the managing partner, or the professional massively overdelivering on the work they're doing for you?
99% of the time, clients will go for the latter.
So instead of spending our marketing time and money schmoozing our current clients – we should spend it “superpleasing” them.
Instead of spending time with clients at a social or business event, or in “marketing meetings” – spend it on the project you're working with them on and do an even better job than you would have done otherwise.
Instead of buying an advert or putting on a marketing event – spend the money to arrange a value-added session with your client's management team where you show them 5 new ways of implementing the results of your work and getting a better ROI.
In short, spend your time and money in any way you can think of so that the client not only thinks you did a great job for them (which should be the baseline) but that they think you've done the best job of any service provider they've hired.
Don't think marketing – think value for your client.
Now you can't do this for every client. You need to focus on the high priority ones who have the potential to give you lots of new business, or strong referrals to other potential clients.
But if you superplease them like this it's the strongest way of getting them to buy more and to reccomend you with enthusiasm
Posted 31st December 2009.
OK – there's a huge risk here that I'm going to put quite a few noses out of joint – including a number of people I know personally.
But I'm going to give it a go anyway. The following is my personal list of the most influential writers, advisors and consultants to the professions – particularly when it comes to strategy, marketing and business development.
I've gone for a global list rather than people who have had an influence in specific countries or specific circumstances.
And please, please, please – if you expected your name to be on the list and it isn't – I can promise you, it'll be an oversight rather than a deliberate slur. My memory just isn't so good nowadays.
The list is in no particular order.
1. Well, I said the list was in no particular order, but who better to start with than David Maister. Since the publication of Managing the Professional Service Firm in 1993, he's been responsible for pioneering or popularising countless ideas and principles which we now take for granted. Now retired, his body of work (including First Amongst Equals, The Trusted Advisor, Practice What You Preach, True Professionalism and Strategy and the Fat Smoker) and the impact of his personal influence mark him out as the most influential contributor to the professions over the past two decades.
2. Ford Harding literally wrote the book on Rainmaking (as well as Cross Selling and Creating Rainmakers). Harding's work is characterised by deep, insightful thinking. You won't find simple “one size fits all” remedies in his books. What you will get is experience, research and critical thinking combined to allow professional firms to develop the unique strategies and approaches that will work for them.
3. After co-authoring The Trusted Advisor with David Maister and Rob Galford, Charlie Green has gone on to make the “trust niche” his own. He's broadened his scope by publishing Trust Based Selling, and has become the leading commentator on the importance of trust in business relationships.
4. Alan Weiss is perhaps best known as a prolific author and advisor to the independent consultant sector. But his contributions to the professions go way beyond that. He's published on management, recruitment, work-life balance – and he led the field in driving for value-based fees. He's often controversial – but always worth paying attention to.
5. Bruce Marcus was writing a blog way before any of us knew what a blog actually was. As the author of 15 books from Competing for Clients back in 1986 through to Client at the Core in 2005, and as a Marketing and Public Relations consultant to some of the leading accounting, law, consulting and financial firms, he's been at the forefront of both defining and implementing leading techniques in Professional Services Marketing. He was one of the early pioneers who highlighted the real differences between services marketing and product marketing and has continued to bring new insights and ideas to bear to this day.
6. Sadly the only female in the Guru12, Suzanne Lowe focuses on the gnarly issue of Marketing Integration: how to get marketing and sales, and professionals and staff aligned and working together on business development challenges – rather than taking refuge in their comfortable silos. While many of us focus on the perhaps more straightforward issues of helping individual professionals and practice areas improve the way they market and sell; Suzanne tackles the sort of problems of cross team and cross discipline integration that bedevil large firms.
7. Like Charlie Green, Andrew Sobel is an ex Gemini Consulting VP and expert (or Deep Generalist as he would put it) on Client Relationships. Sobel's work has focused on how professionals can build trusted advisory relationships with their clients. Latterly, he's explored how relationships can be deepened beyond individuals to allw teams and entire firms to build long-term partnerships with their clients.
8. Mike Schultz & John Doerr are perhaps the “New Kids on the Block”. As the authors of this year's best selling Professional Services Marketing, they're at the forefront of today's knowledge of “what works”: from social media, to the web, to good old fashioned seminars and networking. And as publishers of Raintoday.com, they bring the leading thinking from global experts right into the reach of practising professionals.
9. Robert Middleton was the first “online guru” of professional services. Focusing on independent professionals, Middleton pioneered information marketing approaches (email marketing, teleseminars, etc.) long before the current wave of “experts” jumped on the bandwagon. And his material remains the best and most versatile resource for the sole practitioner and small practice.
10. Another “New Kid on the Block” who's actually been around quite a while is Michael McLaughlin. Mike wrote Guerilla Marketing for Consultants, one of the most accessible sources which professionals can simply pick up and use. This year he turned his focus to selling with Winning the Professional Services Sale and set about converting professionals from pressing and pushing sales to helping clients buy in a way that works for them. It's a fun read too!
11. Richard Chaplin is a name that many won't have heard of. He's not a famous author or speaker. But over the last two decades as founder and chairman of the Managing Partner's Forum and the PM Forum (for Professional Services Marketing and Business Development) he's done as much as anyone to promote effective management and marketing in the professions. Richard's Linkedin connections list reads like a Who's Who of Professional Services. What Richard doesn't know about networking (and especially about Linkedin) probably isn't worth knowing.
12. The identity of the 12th Guru is up to you. Drop your nominations into the comments box for who you think should join the other 11 on the Guru12 list and I'll create a poll to select the final Guru. Or if you're too shy to comment, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS Thanks to Mary Flaherty of the Raintoday Rainmaker Blog for inspiring this post with her recent excellent posts on the “Best of the Decade” in Professional Services Marketing & Sales.
Posted 6th August 2008.
One of my favourite resources for professional services marketing is David Maister's series of podcasts. In his Business Masterclass episode “Cultivate the Habits of Friendship” he shares a lovely anecdote about building relationships that bears repeating:
The actress Angelina Jolie was interviewed on television and asked if she had to like the characters she was portraying in order to act them well. Her answer was brilliant. She said something like: “You can’t love everything about everyone. But there must be something there. The key is to find that one small slice of overlap between you and them, and focus intensely on that overlap, ignoring everything else.” I don’t know about acting, but that sounds like a perfect recipe for human relationships to me.
The reality of relationships is that everyone is different, and everyone is flawed. There will be things we like, and things we dislike (in differing proportions) about everyone.
Although it's often said that you get 30 seconds to make a good impression – and that's great advice for how we should present ourselves – we absolutely must not treat others in this way. Yes, our time is precious. Yes, we cannot have deep relationships with everyone and we must be selective. But we must not make that selection based on the first 30 seconds.
We've got to take time and make an effort to establish a relationship with people before making that selection. In my life, the scouser who looked so much like a “scally” at our first meeting I feared for my hub-caps is my oldest friend; and the irascible Scot who everyone else steered clear of was the guy who gave me some of the most insightful advice on sales I've ever had.
Angelina's method of focusing on the areas of overlap and ignoring the rest is a great way of starting relationship and of beginning to find out enough about people to know whether to continue the relationship rather than making a snap decision.
Image via ThisParticularGreg