We’re continuing our look at a process firms can use to evaluate and develop new services to meet clients’ needs and create new sources of revenue by building a more consulting-based practice. September 21st we introduced steps 1 and 2 – Research Market Needs and Evaluate and Prioritize. In this post we introduce steps 3 and 4 – Define the Scope and Go to Market with Your Service. Check back October 19th as we conclude with step 5 – Tracking Results and Measuring Success (including a downloadable guide for the whole process).
Step 3: Define the scope and “package” your service
Now that you’ve selected the service(s) you want to launch, help ensure your success by defining the scope of the service very specifically and communicating it to the appropriate people in your firm. “Scope” includes the step-by-step process and tools your service providers will use to deliver the service, what participation is required from the client, the time it will require from both your service providers and the client, and the frequency of delivery of the service.
This step is important for a couple of reasons. First, it ensures consistency in the quality of your service delivery, which protects your client relationships and helps maintain your brand. Secondly, this specific scope definition goes a long way to familiarizing your staff with the service so they are comfortable having conversations about it with their clients.
Once that scope is defined, your last step before taking the service to the marketplace is packaging. Packaging includes:
- The name of the service: Ideally, it’s a good idea to identify a name for the service that will communicate benefit(s) and at the same time be attention-getting and memorable. This isn’t always easy – or even possible – but is worth putting in the time brainstorming and even testing with a client or two. Many times your opportunity to catch someone’s attention and hold it is fleeting – a good name could really help when you’re trying to generate interest in your new service.
- The deliverables and benefits: Make sure all your people know what the key deliverables of the service are – what tangible take-aways the client receives. Clients will want to know this; but even more importantly, define the key benefits of the service – the tangible and intangible improvements for the client. Communicate these benefits internally so your people can effectively promote the service, and make sure they are incorporated into your web site and marketing materials for the service. Clients and prospective clients will not take action until they understand “what’s in it for them” – the potential benefits of engaging you for this service.
- Pricing: Hopefully you have a feel for what clients will be willing to pay for the service from your earlier research. People prefer to pay a flat fee for a service rather than being quoted an hourly rate and paying for time, so be sure to estimate the time investment and identify a recommended flat fee that pays you profitably but reasonably given the benefits and value proposition to the client. It’s not necessary or even recommended that everyone in the firm understand the fee for the service; it’s always a better idea to quote each client individually based on the scope of their needs; the service experts will have the best understanding to do that.
Step 4: Go to market
Patience will be important for your go-to-market strategy as there are important steps to follow to ensure success:
- Beta test
- Define target market
- Develop messages
- Communicate messages to target market
- Proactively follow up to generate new business leads
If possible, beta test the service with one or two clients to work out delivery issues, identify and resolve problems, make sure the deliverables are on point, and discover if the service works in reality the way it works in theory. Be candid with your client(s) up front and explain they will be doing you a favor but also receiving service benefits for no or greatly reduced fees. During the project, check in with the client(s) to find out what questions and concerns they have and incorporate these into the way you deliver the service going forward. Make sure your clients understand the benefit they received and when it’s over, ask them if they are willing to go on record with a testimonial you can use in future marketing and/or serve as a reference for future clients.
Based on what you learned in your initial research and your beta test(s), think about who the best targets are for the service. It’s actually better to focus on a narrow, very specific target market:
- you can tailor your messages more directly to them;
- it’s easier to determine the right channels through which to communicate with them;
- you can communicate to a smaller number of targets more frequently with a given budget.
Think about what type of companies have most need for the service based on industry and even sub-group within industry (e.g. sub-contractors within the construction industry), size (annual revenue, number of employees), ownership (private vs. public, closely-held/family-owned, etc), geographic location (where you can profitably serve them and they will recognize you as a viable provider), situation/circumstances (own vs. lease building, profitability, stage in growth cycle, etc).
For almost every target market, there are sources available to acquire a list of companies that matches your criteria. If there are variables for which you can’t filter when you purchase it, consider having someone call the companies to ask the appropriate questions to further segment your list. This can be a good task for an intern or new staff who aren’t yet busy, or you may choose to outsource to companies who provide this service.
Messages and communication
Now that you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to, develop the messages that will get their attention about your new service. Focus on the benefits of the service as it relates directly to their business, and the potential value proposition of engaging you to provide it. Make sure you address what differentiates your from competitors providing the same or a similar solution. Answer the question: why are you the best alternative to resolve this issue and/or deliver these benefits?
Below is a list of ways you can get your message to your targets, in the recommended chronological order of implementation:
- Have face-to-face conversations, starting with your current clients in the target market
- Incorporate on your web site, in blogs, social media profiles/groups
- Send direct mail/email
- Hold seminars and/or webinars
- Promote the topic to industry groups via speaking engagements and articles
This will require you to develop a variety of materials. Whenever possible, incorporate the testimonial from your beta test client(s) and continue to add testimonials as you grow the practice and have more satisfied clients. It is always more powerful to have your clients state the benefits and value proposition. Tie the materials together with similar content and graphic elements so you build a “brand” for the service that fits with the overall brand for your firm.
Frequency of communication is vital. We’ve all heard the concept that people need to hear a message multiple times before it resonates. The number required keeps going up because of the increasing number of competing messages to which people are exposed, through traditional media, social media, email, etc. Don’t be afraid to make at least quarterly “touches” with your target market regarding your service and the benefits it delivers. If you’re varying the method of communication (direct mail, invitation to seminar, promotion at industry conference, newsletter article, etc.) it won’t feel like too much to your clients and prospects.
It isn’t enough to simply put your messages out there; we’d all love to believe if we build it they will come, but that’s movie fantasy. Proactive follow-up is a necessary component of any successful go-to-market effort. The goal with your follow-up is to get face-to-face with each client or prospect so you can have a needs-based conversation, present the benefits of your service, and move the sales cycle forward. The table below gives you some tips on how to follow-up to each of your communication tactics: