The next step in developing your firm’s profile and staying focused over the long-term is to regularly set industry-specific goals and identify key clients and prospects. To set goals is to be focused about what your company needs to do in order to grow and thrive, rather than seeing results fluctuate with the vagaries of the market.
So, how do goals take shape? How do you create goals that accurately reflect your firm’s mission and realistic capabilities?
First and foremost, it’s important to figure out how your firm defines success and to be clear about how you want to measure that success.
Ask yourself how will you know that your industry practice is successful.
Whatever your area of industry expertise, here are a few benchmarks of success that can help bring clarity to your goals. You don’t have to focus on all of them. Choose a few that make sense for your firm and your target industry.
- Market share. Figure out which specific segment of your target market you want to focus on. Do you want to dominate the industry in your geographic region? Pursue an industry sub-sector or a specific client type (e.g. family owned food & beverage companies)?
- Revenue and revenue growth. This is one of the most fundamental and easily measurable markers of success. How much revenue does your firm want to generate this year? By what percentage do you want it to grow in the next two years? Five years? Ten years?
- Margin and profitability. If you’re already focused on revenue, consider taking it a step farther by setting a profitability goal. Say you’ve been pulling down a consistent gross revenue for the last few years, but your costs have gone up. It might be time to set a new goal to raise your margins and balance out the increased cost of business.
- Client and employee retention. A sure sign of success is being able to hold on to marquee industry clients and top-caliber industry professionals. Losing either will cost both money and prestige, so make it a priority to make them happy.
- Proposals. Set a clear goal for the number of client proposals you want your firm to make each year. Maybe that means getting invited and responding to 20 RFPs next year. Or maybe it means submitting to 10% more RFPs next year than this year. Like revenue, this one’s fairly straightforward to measure, so it can be a slam-dunk goal if you put your mind to it.
- Win rate. If you’re putting 10% more proposals out there, whether for new clients or individual projects, how many of those proposals do you want to win? As with any goal, make it a stretch that’s not entirely out of reach.
- Target key clients. Ah, the trophy client. They can transform your reputation and influence overnight. But you won’t win them overnight, so which clients or projects do you need to pursue to help you reach the goal of landing your dream client? If you’ve already got them, how do you keep them? How many other trophy clients are on your list?
- Client penetration. You’ve got your all-star industry client list. They love you and you love them. Maximize those relationships by setting share-of-wallet goals that up your revenue from individual clients. That could mean cross-selling them on other services, or increasing the volume of work in service areas you’re already delivering to them.
- Client satisfaction. Word-of-mouth and client recommendations are among the most powerful marketing tools. Do your clients like your work? Would they recommend you to other businesses in the industry? Measure their satisfaction by asking them those questions on a regular basis and challenge your firm to increase the “Yes” votes by a certain percentage each quarter.
- Client and industry awareness. How’s your profile in the industry? How high-profile do you want to be? You can increase the industry’s awareness of your firm by setting goals for the number of industry conferences you attend, articles you write, speaking invitations you receive, and how much web traffic your industry content garners. Then, keep tabs on how much business you generate as a result of all those interactions.
Of course, all of these goal measures are scalable based on the size and age of your practice. Where a 20-year-old industry practice may strive for market domination and increased margins, a two-person industry boutique may aim to have two new client meetings a month. Start with the goals that are easiest to measure and most important to the long view of your industry practice or firm.
Be realistic about who you are and what’s within the realm of possibility.
The targets you set don’t just serve to measure success, they also inform what you need to do in order to hit them. If you set and meet a goal of earning four new clients in a six-month period, how will your company handle that growth? Will you need to hire new industry professionals or reassign existing ones? Should you say goodbye to clients that don’t help you reach your other long-term goals? Will you need to increase industry marketing or training budgets?
And, most importantly, once you’ve set your goals, track them and look at the results.
Here are some key frameworks to apply to each goal:
- Each goal must be measurable. If a goal is too lofty or ambiguous, it’s hard to judge whether you’ve really succeeded. Get more specific. Don’t just aim for increased revenue, aim for, say, a 15% increase in net revenue in a fiscal year.
- Determine how to track each goal. Web traffic can be measured and tracked via Google Analytics. Client satisfaction can be documented in surveys. Industry email marketing success can be measured in open rates, click-throughs, and sales conversions. Put numbers on your results.
- Each specific goal must have an owner. Leave no room for finger-pointing or “But I thought she was in charge of that goal.” Pick the person who is most involved or responsible for a certain area and give them ownership. For instance, assign individual partners or experienced professionals to specific target industry clients.
- Report the results. Have the goals’ owners present the results, whether it’s to the industry practice leadership or the entire firm. Nothing lights a fire like public accountability. Presenting the results can help energize your firm for the next quarter and keep individuals on track.
- Analyze the results. An honest look at the results will determine what resources are needed and what the goals for the next quarter or year should be. Were this quarter’s goals too ambitious or not ambitious enough? Do some professionals need additional training or resources to succeed? Does a professional deserve a promotion or increased recognition and responsibility?
Ultimately, your industry-specific, short-term goals are all about reinforcing your firm’s long-term mission, vision, and values. Hitting quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year metrics will help keep you on track from decade to decade.
Use these measures as starting points to help set new industry practice objectives and refine existing ones. Whether you’re a renowned industry practice or starting from scratch, industry-specific goals create an accurate reflection of how successful your firm is and how successful you want it to become.