The number one question for professional services firms to ask is:
What are our clients’ needs?
Everything a firm does should flow from answering this question.
Here are a few pointers for getting this question answered:
- Ask: The most direct way to get an answer to this question is to ask your clients. That may sound obvious but professionals are often reticent to be so direct. The reality is that many, if not most, clients will welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues they are facing – and by implication where they may need help.
- Ask the Right Way: Make sure the question is posed in the clients’ terms – what are the issues they are facing? What are they trying to do? What challenges do they see in overcoming issues and getting things done? Don’t start by asking if they need one of your services. Wait until you’ve asked the business questions that suggest a need for your services.
- Ask Widely: Don’t assume that one client or one client executive has all the answers. The more widely you cast your net both inside and outside your clients the better intelligence you will gather on what issues, challenges and needs are of greatest importance.
- Ask Frequently: In this volatile environment client needs are likely changing quickly. Keep the channels of communication open to identify new or shifting needs.
- Look for Other Evidence: It may not always be easy to get your questions answered directly by clients who are pressured and short of time and resources. Either way, look for other evidence of client needs. This evidence can come from a variety of sources such as news about your clients and their actions, news about their industry or by monitoring how your competitors are talking about the issues their clients are facing.
If you are in a practice leadership or a marketing role your number one priority is to be gathering and analyzing this vital market intelligence from across your practice. Without it you risk implementing practice development strategies and marketing programs that are only marginally relevant to clients’ real needs. In this financially challenging environment it is vital that business development activity delivers strong results by focusing on what matters to clients.