There are several modules in our marketing solutions that rely on knowing who your best-fit clients are (and should be): lead gen, messaging, differentiation, service offerings and touchpoints.
Professional services firm’s lead generation system can either be a carpet bombing or a series of precision strikes. Messaging can either be generic or to-the-point. Differentiation can be hollow or meaningful. I think you already know what yields better results.
In any case, if you know your target market well, it’s easier to achieve precision. And you’re more likely to want precision for your firm because A - your resources are rather limited and B — you probably have too many competitors.
The whole point of going through all this trouble of workshop sessions is to identify focus for your marketing efforts. Your firm doesn’t need more clients. Not any clients. Your firm needs more of the right type of clients. And this is where most professional services firms struggle.
Two symptoms of the same problem
Generally there are two symptoms that lead to the same problem. First, when the firm doesn’t have enough work. Second, when the firm is already busy but doesn’t have resources (money, people, time) available. There are a few tests we run to discern this. Check out this Firm’s full Potential calculator.
Regarding the first symptom. If we focus your marketing efforts on getting more clients without specific benchmarks, you will most likely get more work. But it will immediately transform into the second symptom of the same problem. Firms tend to concede a lot when they set goals of meeting just the sales numbers. They become busy but still lack the resources to move to the next level.
The second symptom is when the utilization rates are so high that your people are over-worked yet the profit margins (and several other indicators) remain below the market average. This means you can’t afford and don’t have man-hours to seek out better-fit clients.
And so the common problem is this — how do deal with what’s preventing your firm from getting to that next level. To be able to get there you need to know what it looks like for your firm.
Defining the next level for your firm
Often the desired next level looks like this. You have enough of the right type of clients right now and in the pipeline. You have ongoing influx of leads and prospects. You know your conversion rates: ad to lead, lead to prospect, prospect to client. You have qualification criteria across your lead gen arc. Your firm’s key benchmark indicators signal that you’re on the right track. And so you can make data-based predictions on what your business is going to look like in the next 12 months with some level of confidence. If you like what you see, you move further.
From here, subject to certain metrics, you can afford to do several things without much risk. You could, for instance, increase your prices, disqualify bad-fit clients, devote resources to higher-impact marketing efforts, charge for value rather than hours, etc.
So either way — if your firm is struggling with not having enough work or being very busy but stuck, and you want to get to the next level, we have to fix your lead generation problem focusing on the right kind of clients.
We have several exercises we go through in our workshops to better formulate the best-fit clients. In this article I wanted to share one of the exercises you can go over today with your team.
How to find your best-fit clients exercise
- Make a list of all the clients you’ve worked with. If the list is rather long, skip to the step #3.
- Use your own definition of bad-fit clients and dismiss them (mentally) from this list.
- Identify the work you did for your clients that pushed your then current knowledge beyond its former scope. The work that made you learn something new; that helped you deepen your expertise. List these clients.
- Identify work that had the most impact on your clients. The more tangible the impact, the better. List these clients.
- Identify work where your profits were above average. It could be the kind of work where your costs were low, you did everything with minimum redos, you spent less resources than usual. List these clients.
- Now try to identify clients that have all three (step 3-5) indicators at once. These will be your best-fit clients.
These three best-fit client criteria — knowledge, impact and profit — aren’t random. These are derived from the application of the SCP model.
Your newly acquired knowledge benefits your employees (S pillar). Your most impactful work is valuable to your clients (C pillar). And your better-than-average profits are a boon to your Profits pillar.
Simultaneous benefits in all three SCP pillars is the sort of alignment you want to pursue at your firm. You want to do more of this kind of work for the same kind of client. Clients who will benefit from this type of work, will require you to push your expertise further and can afford to (eagerly) pay premium are the best-fit clients for your firm.