Professional Services Insights

Winning strategies to consistently grow mid-size service firms

If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders

This Could Be Just What You Need To Achieve Your Next Big Break-through

When I started my business in 1998, we had one mission. We wanted to be the best marketing firm on the planet for midsize professional services firms. For 10 years, this mission guided us until it became clear that it wasn’t big enough. That led to mission 2.0: Unite marketing and sales teams around best practices. That produced some huge breakthroughs for clients. But fast forward yet another decade and even that mission was inadequate.

Enter mission 3.0: Align leaders to stimulate next-level growth. In fact, after more than 23 years of serving clients, I have come to believe that this has been the missing ingredient all along.

If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
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Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow

Are You A Professional Services Practitioner Or An Entrepreneur?

Most successful professional service firms can grow by way of referrals up to a point. Then they hit a plateau. After serving more than 50 midsize service firms over the last 21 years, I've discovered that the mindset of the firm's leadership is the No. 1 factor that determines whether or not the firm will break through revenue plateaus.

If the firm leaders see themselves as practitioner-in-chief, the most important producer of work product for clients, the firm is not likely to break through the plateau. But if the firm leaders see themselves as entrepreneurs, they'll greatly increase the odds of breaking through. If you are the leader of a successful midsize service firm that has plateaued, I'd like to share with you some ideas for changing your mindset and your personal example so you can reignite growth.

Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
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How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today

Focus On Your Promise To Ideal Clients

There are thousands of successful mid-size service firms in the United States today and many more thousands around the globe that know they’ve never achieved their full potential. They come from several different industry verticals including accounting, law, technology consulting, financial services, management consulting, coaching, architecture, engineering and construction, among others.

To me, a successful mid-size service firm has been in business five or more years, has $3 million to $30 million in revenue, 15 to 150 staff members and has a demonstrated history of delivering results that matter to clients. After working with several dozen firms who fit this profile, I’ve come to recognize certain traits.

How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
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Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories

Create Resolve And Inspired Action For People On Your Team

It’s A Wonderful Life, brought to life by Frank Capra, was a box office flop when released. A now venerated story that has become a holiday classic, inspiring millions to fight through adversity, was originally a financial misfire. Still, It's A Wonderful Life may not be Capra’s most important film or his greatest contribution to the free world.

During WWII, Capra produced a series of documentary films called Why We Fight. While the U.S. had hundreds of thousands of soldiers going through training to enter World War II, many of them really didn’t understand what was at stake. Capra gave them clarity and resolve, which many soldiers needed in great measure given what they were about to face.

Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
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How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures

To Unleash Your Growth Potential, Leverage Word-Pictures That Inspire

Winston Churchill was a master of word-pictures. All great leaders have this ability, to one degree or another. This is well documented in Martin Gilbert's book, Churchill: The Power Of Words. But Churchill’s most powerful and effective word-picture did not come from his own mouth.

Churchill knew in the early 1940s that he needed the United States to enter World War II as his ally. But there was great resistance to this in the U.S., as the average American farm boy couldn't understand why he needed to leave his plow to pick up a gun. After all, Europe’s problems were for Europeans to solve.

How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
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How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits

If You Want To Be Trusted, Earn A High Say-Do Score

When I was a kid, my dad would say, “Your word is your bond.” He was a scrappy, bare-knuckled contractor who fought for every job. Picture Ernest Hemingway with a hammer.

He worked with small crews in unbearable temperatures to get the work done and done right. He knew his word, and that delivering on his promises would help him earn or lose the next job. After all, people talk, especially in the small community where we lived.

How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
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Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

This Empowers You To Retain Top Talent While Aligning Them To Your Vision

I believe there are two very important reasons professional service firm leaders should nurture, and even actively coach, the entrepreneurial instincts of their top people: retention and alignment.

Retention is about creating an environment where your best and brightest feel inspired to achieve their full potential. Alignment is about coaching your top people to think and act like entrepreneurs, so your interests and their interests align.

Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7

Navigating The Complex Sale For A 100% Close-Rate

Certain types of service organizations navigate a sale that is complex, long, risky and challenging.  If they win the deal, everyone rejoices and rain falls from the sky.  If they lose the deal, well let’s just say that makes for a very bad day, potentially a very bad year. 

The complex sale is tough.  I have known of certain complex sales to last for a year or more.  Early in my career, I was involved in a 20-million-dollar deal that took nine months to win.  I have seen these types of deals create chaos, stress and anxiety.  I’ve seen the complex sale make or break careers.  Without a doubt, the complex sale is risky.

After nearly 25 years of helping service organizations navigate the complex sale, I’ve learned a lot of lessons.  I believe you can substantially improve your win-rates by following a proven methodology and a seven-step process.  In fact, I think you can get to a 100% win-rate.  Let me show you how to do this. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6

The Five Sales-Ready Indicators Of Professional Service Buyers

The biggest risk to people who carry business development responsibilities is that they’ll waste their time on prospects who will not close.  Whether you sell services to businesses or to individuals, your ability to accurately predict a close impacts so many things. 

To earn the respect, trust and confidence of the people around you, you need a solid pipeline of deals and a predictive model that works.  You need to be able to say, with confidence, when certain deals will close.  Then those deals have to close pretty much on the schedule you predict.  This is what it takes to have success as a business development leader and as an entrepreneur. 

But the challenge is that it’s very difficult to know who is ready to go versus who is a tire-kicker.  The best way I’ve discovered to address this is to uncover, early in the dialogue, the five key sales-ready indicators of professional service buyers.  This strategy, if you use it well, will guide the prospect toward the best possible solution for them and make your predictions highly accurate.  In this approach, the prospect wins and you win.  Let me show you how to do this. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5

Building An Ideal Client Profile

Selling professional services is ultimately about getting the right people to say yes to your proposal.  But this raises an important question.  Who are the right people?  In my experience, this will vary depending on whether you sell services to businesses or individuals.  But here is something that will not vary.

For you to create the triple win, where the client wins, you win and your company wins, you absolutely must have clarity about your ideal client.  When service organizations struggle to develop a great pipeline, to win deals or when deals take forever to close, usually the root cause is a problem with their ideal client profile. 

However, when service firms have a clearly defined ideal client profile and make this the centerpiece of their sales and marketing efforts, great things happen.  Their win-rates go up, deals close quickly, their clients are deeply satisfied, their profits are healthy and team members take pride in their work.  Let me show you how to do this. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4

Constituting A Highly Effective Sales Team

One of the biggest challenges for mid-size service firms, when it comes to selling professional services, is that the same people who sell also deliver.  These people are constantly torn between the need to develop new business and to satisfy current clients. 

If they spend too much time prospecting for new clients, they are concerned current clients will migrate to other providers.  If they don’t prospect for new clients, they won’t grow.  So what do they do?  How do they acquire new clients while also keeping current clients happy?  It’s a real conundrum. 

But the biggest challenge, when it comes to new business development, is figuring out who should sell.  I’ve worked with numerous service firms who have tried to constitute sales teams that did not produce the desired results. 

After working with dozens of mid-size professional service firms, I’ve arrived at a simple conclusion.  If you want to grow, your top-most people must sell.  This is crucial to unlocking your firm’s full potential for consistent growth.  Let me share with you what I know works today. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3

Prospecting To Fill Your Pipeline

In this thought piece, I want to share with you two key concepts that will help you fill your pipeline with great prospects who deeply desire your services.  The approach I recommend accelerates prospects through your funnel when the time is right for them.

I also want to share six guiding principles about how to manage the sales funnel as prospects begin to lean-in.  I place the two concepts and the six principles under the larger category of prospecting.  This is why prospecting matters.  

Most successful professional service firms have high close-rates once an ideal prospect enters dialogue.  But getting prospects to engage in meaningful dialogue is often a challenge.  Here is my thesis to you.  To have a healthy pipeline of great prospects, you need an effective approach to prospecting.  Let me share with you how to do this. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2

Aligning Marketing, Sales & Delivery Around The Equation & The Promise

In this thought piece, I want to debunk one of the biggest misconceptions I see today about how to grow revenues and profits for professional service firms.  The misconception goes like this: the marketing function generates leads, the sales or business development function closes leads and the delivery function delivers the work-product.  This is a classic assumption about how these teams work together to produce meaningful growth.  But it’s dead wrong.  It doesn’t work.

I call this model the triple flip.  In other words, marketing generates a lead and flips it over the wall to sales.  Sales closes a deal and flips it over the wall to the delivery team.  The delivery team looks at the deal, realizes that it’s going to be incredibly painful to deliver against it and then flips off sales and marketing.  That’s the triple flip.  It is a recipe for failure.

There is a much better way of handling these three functions.  What I’m about to describe will produce the triple win, not the triple flip.  When you align marketing, sales and delivery around two key things – the promise and the equation – everyone wins.  Service firms who create this alignment grow by leaps and bounds.  Let me show you how to do this. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
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How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1

Winning With Integrity

I want to ask you a question.  When I use the term “sales person” what image comes to mind for you?  Do you think of a slick huckster who will do or say anything to close a deal?  Do you think of someone who lacks integrity and is prone to lying or at least over-promising?  Do you envision someone who is not trustworthy and is maybe lacking in scruples?  

This is not at all how I think of sales or of selling, especially for professional services.  I believe the exact opposite is true.  The best sales or business development people I’ve known over the years have very high integrity, are completely trustworthy and hold the respect and admiration of everyone around them.  They are great people as well as great sellers.  

Over the next several thought pieces, I want to share with you what works today in selling professional services.  These are my lessons learned from 25 years of marketing, sales and entrepreneurship.  I believe success in selling starts with adopting the right mindset.  Let me share with you how character and integrity are crucial to success in selling services. 

How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
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How To Market Managed Services - Part 3

Building And Executing The Outbound Plan

In my last article on this topic, I outlined ten digital marketing strategies that accelerate the growth of managed services revenue.  Managed services, unlike project-based services, break the feast-or-famine cycle, are usually scalable and stabilize profits.  This can lead to EBITDA that is well above industry averages. 

My thesis is that digital marketing should front-end the sales cycle of managed services.  Great digital marketing builds trust, increases your win-rates and creates buy-in to your approach.  Creating buy-in is essential to retaining clients for the long-term, which impact profits. 

There are two parts to a digital marketing plan: infrastructure and outbound.  In this article I want to give you insights into five outbound digital marketing strategies.  These strategies are based on the real-world experience of numerous professional service firms today who have grown managed services substantially.  These practices account for millions of dollars in net-new, high-profit and annually-repeatable revenue.  Let me show you what actually works today.

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
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How To Market Managed Services - Part 2

Developing The Best Strategy

In my first article on this topic, I built the business case for why your firm should adopt managed services and why digital marketing should front-end the sales cycle.  I stated that you should set three key goals for your digital marketing efforts: increase your win-rates, create buy-in to your approach and retain clients long-term.  This is how you realize EBITDA that is well above industry averages.

But you might be wondering how to use digital marketing to accomplish these goals?  Digital marketing can feel very foreign or very familiar, depending on how closely you’ve monitored the trends.  Most of us recognize great digital marketing when we see it.  Yet we probably don’t understand what went into it.

In this article, I want to change that.  I want to give you a behind-the-scenes view of how to do digital marketing very effectively today, specifically for managed services.  What I’m about to share with you is based on real-world experience, not theory. 

These insights come from having built and executed numerous managed services marketing plans for mid-size professional service firms.  These 10 strategies account for multiple millions of dollars in managed service sales in several different industries.  Let me show you what works.

How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
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How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1

Why Digital Marketing Should Front-End The Sales Cycle

Managed services can be game-changing for professional service firms.  Whereas most professional service engagements are one-off projects, managed services are typically based on long-term contracts with repeatable monthly or quarterly invoices. 

Managed services deliver a lot of benefits.  They break the feast or famine cycle.  They’re usually pretty scalable.  They allow you to predict operating costs against a defined revenue schedule.  They stabilize your profits, allowing you to take a long-term perspective. 

However, for clients to acquire managed services, they need to buy-in to a long-term vision for what you can do for them.  Sometimes a committee is involved in the decision.  Getting decision-makers and influencers on the same page is challenging.     

How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
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How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn

Don’t Miss This Opportunity

Client acquisition is a top goal for all of our clients and for my firm.  I’ll bet it’s one of your top goals too.  But if your situation is like many firm leaders today of mid-size service organizations, you don’t just want to acquire clients.  You want to acquire the right clients.

I call these ideal clients and they are much better than just any old client.  Ideal clients want and need your services.  They have budget.  They have a presenting issue for which your services are a great fit and a timeline in which they must act.  They want a long-term relationship and they’re easy to get along with.  They are willing to engage in serious dialogue and even champion a deal for your firm. 

If that sounds like someone you’d like to connect with, I have great news.  There are probably thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people on LinkedIn today who fit that profile.  LinkedIn is the single biggest market-square in the world today for service professionals.  If you haven’t tapped the power of LinkedIn yet, you are missing huge opportunities.  I’m going to show you how to fix that right now. 

How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
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Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy

This Is Crucial To Realizing Your Growth Potential

I want to ask you a question.  How close has your firm come to achieving your growth potential?  When you look at the number of clients you are doing business with today versus the number you could be doing business with, how big is that gap?  What size of the pie do you own today?

If you are like most leaders of service organizations I speak with, you feel that you’ve only just begun to tap your potential.  You recognize that there are far more clients out there you could and should be working with.  Does this frustrate you, motivate you or both?

After working with literally dozens of service firms who feel this way, I’ve come to realize that a digital marketing strategy is a key part of realizing your potential.  And a key part of the digital marketing strategy is a multi-channel approach.  Let me share with you why you need a multi-channel strategy and how this will really benefit your firm. 

Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
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Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?

Here Is How To Fix This Problem

I visit the websites of professional service firms all the time.  In a given week, I might view 50 different websites from service firms in a number of different industries including accounting, law firms, technology consulting, financial services, architecture and others. 

As I navigate through these websites, I can’t help but ask myself who these sites were built to satisfy?  I’ve been a part of numerous web builds over the last 10 years or so.  I’ve watched as organizations struggle with all sorts of questions.  Typically, they ask what their website should look like, what kind of impression they should make and how to look professional?   

But these are not the most important questions to ask if you want your website to actually drive new revenue.  The question is this: what kind of experience do we need to deliver to ideal organic prospects to cause them to lean in to us?  If you get this right, your website will pull great prospects through the sales funnel and compel them to enter real sales dialogue with your firm.  Let me show you how to do this. 

Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
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Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack

Getting Past The Hype To What Actually Works

Digital marketing is one of those terms that has become so popular, but so misunderstood.  The same could be said of digital disruption.  It almost seems that you can take any word these days and put digital in front of it and that’s supposed to make it cool, as if we should all pay attention.

I grew up in the world of analog or traditional marketing where we used a variety of strategies and tactics to put our brands and services in front of prospective clients.  I believe many of the same principles apply to digital marketing as applied to analog marketing.  Yet, there are definite differences. 

About ten years ago we made the transition to full-blown digital marketing at my firm and we’ve learned a lot of lessons about what’s effective and what’s ineffective in digital marketing.  The biggest source of confusion, in my estimation, is how digital marketing works, what tools you need and how to integrate those tools into a digital ecosystem that feeds your economic engine.  I’d like to share with you my insights about the ultimate digital marketing stack, why you need it and how the pieces and the teams fit together to drive meaningful revenue. 

Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
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Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits

Here Is How To Foster Deeper Client Relationships

A friend of mine says that we’re judged by the quality of the questions we ask.  In professional services consulting, I believe this is very true.  I was reminded of this recently when conducting market research for a client.  This client is looking for ways to expand their service offerings, increase client impact and, of course, enhance their profits.

To achieve these goals, we are conducting research with their clients to identify a set of unmet needs.  During an interview with one of my client’s clients, I heard something very insightful.  I asked this person about their experience in working with multiple professional advisors.  Here is what they said.

Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
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Ten Reasons To Adopt Managed Services

A Business Case For Making This Pivot

Certain types of service organizations are prone to feast-or-famine cycles, scalability issues and client loyalty challenges.  This might be CPA firms who are overwhelmed in tax season.  It might be technology consulting firms who see a deluge of demand when a major manufacturer revs their products.  This might be management consulting firms who realize tremendous demand when government regulations change. 

No matter what type of firm, the challenge remains the same.  At certain times their hands are empty and other times they can’t handle all of the work.  Usually these firms share a common approach: project-based deals have a start, a delivery cycle and a finish.  When the project is done, the team members who served the client are costing you money even though you may not have billable projects for them.

Ten Reasons To Adopt Managed Services
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Hard Money. Fair Money. Easy Money

HOW AN IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE PROTECTS PROFITS

I participated in an advisory board meeting with a client recently.  The goal of the advisory board is to bring together service buyers and service providers to foster mutually beneficial relationships.  I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that service buyers and service providers see the world in very different ways.

A comment from a service buyer struck me.  He said: “it’s important to me to build a reputation for being fair, for not being a jerk who’s ready to kick someone over the smallest thing.  If I build that kind of reputation, no one would want to work with us.  Having good relationships with service providers is crucial to MY success.”

I found this statement to be very insightful.  As service providers, we tend to think about what we want out of a business relationship.  We sometimes lose sight of what our clients want.  That’s why you need to be intentional in building an ideal client profile.  This not only allows you to serve clients better, it also protects your profit margins.  Not sure what the link is between an ideal client profile and your bottom line?  Let me explain.

Hard Money. Fair Money. Easy Money
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The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer

Why You Need Great Long-Form Content

I want to address a myth that is prominent in sales and marketing circles today for professional service firms.  The myth is that service-buyers are time-starved and crazy busy, so you must keep things short.  The myth goes like this. 

Today’s service buyer has no time.  They have more options than ever before in terms of service providers.  They can’t tell why this service provider is better than that one.  So if you want to attract their attention through content marketing, you have to produce short, pithy content.

The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
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How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently

Key To Accelerating Your Growth

I was talking to an entrepreneur the other day who is in the software development business. His company builds cloud applications and provides professional services to deploy the software. As we were discussing how we do business, I discovered that we shared a similar philosophy regarding RFPs: requests for proposals.

How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
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Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?

How To Take Control Of Your Growth

I’d like to debunk a myth in this blog-post. The myth is that your best new clients will come from referrals. In fact, many organizations believe that their growth potential is almost universally defined by the size of their referral network.

I think that is wrong and that this approach to growth is typically fraught with challenges. I’m not opposed to referrals. We get these and I also make referrals to my partners. But I’ve noticed a trend over the years.

Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
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How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today

Here Are My Best Ideas

I’ve been a professional service marketer and entrepreneur now for nearly 25 years. Over the course of my career I’ve worn many hats. But I’ve always been in the business of growing service firms. Sometimes that means growing brand awareness. Sometimes that means re-positioning brands. Sometimes that means productizing services so they are easier to sell. Sometimes that means coaching sales and business development teams.

How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
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How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture

This Is How You Realize Unlimited Growth Potential

Many firm leaders at mid-size service organizations have a big concern. It’s called Rainmaker culture and it goes like this. A few people at their firm have the Midas touch. They can turn to gold anything that they touch. These people make it rain. It’s a good-news bad-news scenario.

The good news is that you have some people who know how to generate and close business. Every company needs that. These people often account for a very large percentage of annual revenue – sometimes more than 80%. Rainmakers are worth their weight in gold. That’s the good news.

How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
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Why You Need A Generous Brand

Generous Brands Substantially Increase Revenue And Profits

Most service firms are run by people who are experts in their field. Many of our clients have advanced degrees, years of experience and a solid personal reputation. These are really, and I mean really, smart people.

The unique thing about service firms is that we sell the invisible. Services, after all, are intangibles. They’re not concrete or physical. You can’t hold them in your hands or feel the weight of them. There is no reliable buyer’s guide that allows you to compare the features and benefits of service A versus service B or C.

Why You Need A Generous Brand
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How Content Impacts The Service Sale

Good Content Marketing Shapes Client Expectations

Most marketing and sales leaders in service organizations believe that the primary reason to deploy content marketing is to generate leads. The theory goes like this. Give prospects some great ideas to prove you’re an expert and that position you as a trusted advisor.

This is definitely a value that content marketing delivers. But, in my experience, that’s not the complete picture. In fact, lead generation is not a very good reason for deploying content marketing. You might be surprised to hear me say this.

How Content Impacts The Service Sale
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How To Know When Prospects Are Ready

Use These Guidelines

I talk to professional service firm leaders almost daily. They routinely ask me for my advice about when they should engage prospects in dialogue. This can be a real conundrum. Talk to them too early and they ignore you. Talk to them too late and you miss opportunities.

Knowing when to engage in dialogue is challenging. But there is often an even bigger challenge - knowing who to talk to. For business development and sales people, these two questions are of paramount importance: who and when?

How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
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How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations

Look At The World Through Their Eyes

I want to tell you about an experience I had recently that I bet will sound familiar to you. A friend of mine wanted to introduce me to a new friend of his named Jim. He said I would find Jim interesting. But this introduction came with a caveat.

My friend warned me that Jim knew a lot about two topics: cars and airplanes. I like cars and I’m fascinated by planes and aviation. I’ve even written blog posts about radar systems. So I thought I could learn some things from Jim and maybe even form a new friendship.

How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
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Nurture Organic Relationships Online

Through The Power Of Consistency

A lot of service professionals today have a hunch. They suspect that there are potentially thousands of people and companies out there in the digital ecosystem that they could be doing business with who are not their clients now.

They assume that at least some percentage of those people would be a perfect fit for them. But they struggle with two questions: how do I find these people and how do I build relationships with them? These are tough questions.

Nurture Organic Relationships Online
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How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects

This Is How You Become A Trusted Advisor

I’ve noticed a trend and I’m wondering how this compares with your experience. Some of the best prospects in the world, the one’s you really want to connect with, are also the most jaded. Call it life experience. Call it having been around the block. Call it defense mechanisms.

How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
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Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?

The Power Of Self-Persuasion

I want to ask you a question. Do prospects want to buy or be sold? Do great prospects, especially those in the C-suite, see themselves as being in control? Are they in the driver’s seat? Do they choose how and when to engage with a professional service provider? Are they actively looking for the right solutions to help their organization achieve their goals?

Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
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Can You Hack Service Firm Growth?

What Is The Surest Path To Trusted Advisor Status?

Lately I’ve been receiving strange messages from people who promise that they can help me hack growth for my service company. I’m not entirely sure what this means, but it sounds painful. Most of the hacks I’ve received have been from sports injuries that are still with me all these years later.

Can You Hack Service Firm Growth?
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Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?

Why You Need This To Acquire Organic Ideal Clients?

I want to talk to you about a funnel. But it’s probably not the kind of funnel you are used to hearing about. You are likely quite familiar with the shape of the traditional sales funnel. It’s very wide on the top and then gradually narrows at the the bottom. But there is another funnel that I think is even more important for acquiring organic ideal clients.

Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
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Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements

How And When Organic Prospects View These

When I travel through airports, I often read the signs that line the walls. One sign in particular caught my attention recently. It was from a law firm and it said: “lady justice may be blind, but she sees things our way 97% of the time.” Now that is quite a claim. Essentially, they are saying that they win 97% of their cases. That’s impressive.

Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
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How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers

The Value Of A Content Marketing Runway

I want to ask you a question. How much busier are you today than you were five years ago? Does the pace of business just seem to be picking up? Does it seem as if you have more tasks to accomplish than you have hours in the day? If you are like so many busy professionals today, the answer to all of these questions is yes.

How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
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How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In

This Is How You Put An End To Meeting Postponements

I was speaking with a prospect a few days ago about the goals she wanted to accomplish. She said her big goal was to get the right people looking their way and excited about talking to them. She was tired of her consultants having to drag people through the sales funnel.

After I dug a little deeper, I discovered two significant challenges. First, her valuable consultants were spending way too much time with the wrong people. Second, when her consultants finally connected with the right people, they seemed resistant to talk. They didn’t see how spending time with her consultants would benefit them. They often reluctantly agreed to a meeting but then, about half the time, they canceled or postponed the meeting.

How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
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How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity

When The Right People Are Ready, They Move Quickly

I was having a conversation with a prospect a few weeks ago. After we spoke for a few minutes and I described how we might help his organization he said the following to me. “Randy if you get me a proposal that outlines everything we talked about for the fees you described, I’ll sign it. Let’s get going.”

How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
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Five Digital Marketing KPIs

How To Know Your Digital Marketing Is Effective

A lot of companies are investing heavily in digital marketing these days, hoping for specific kinds of returns. But what happens when those returns don’t materialize for a long time? CEOs and senior marketing executives have to make choices about what to do next, often difficult choices.

I’ve heard CEO’s lament that they can’t see the results of digital marketing. They wonder if they should keep trying, change tactics or even change marketing leadership. Marketing leaders often struggle with a new digital landscape that feels like foreign territory. The analog strategies and tactics that used to work are no longer enough. But building a successful digital marketing plan often feels like gazing up at a star field and picking points of light to see the constellation. The picture is not obvious.

Five Digital Marketing KPIs
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Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?

You Don’t Need To Be A Digerati To Master Digital Marketing

I overheard a conversation the other day between two service professionals who are over 40 years of age. One said: “I don’t get why young people always have to be on their cell phones. They even walk down the street with their eyes glued to those screens. The real world is passing them by.”

The other professional, maybe a little older and a little wiser said: “They’re not missing the real world. They’re just in a different real world from you and me.” Maybe you know the feeling? The world of the digerati is a conundrum to people who didn’t grow up with all of these connected devices.

Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
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Why I Don’t Make New Years Resolutions

The Value Of SMART Goals

I know this is going to sound rather bah-humbug of me. But I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe in them. Why? Because in my experience, in both my personal life and my business, it is nearly impossible to accomplish anything significant in a year. It takes longer than that. Sometimes, much longer.

Why I Don’t Make New Years Resolutions
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Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?

How Content Marketers Can Deliver A Better Experience

Have you ever had content regret? This occurs when you are enticed by a promise of what a piece of content will do for you – like an e-book, or a webinar or a white paper or even a set of videos. But once you actually register, you feel duped. You feel as if the content creator was far more interested in getting your contact information than in actually fulfilling the content promise. It’s worse when the content creator starts to incessantly email and call you.

Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
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Content Registrations Are Not Enough

Why Marketing Must Stimulate Leaning-In Behavior

I was reading a blog post the other day that purported to give advice to B2B leaders about how to accomplish their goals. Like most content these days, it offered 3 simple steps. One of those steps included offering an e-book as a door opener to get registrations and start a business relationship with a prospect.

But then the post made this audacious claim. It said that the e-book does not need to be particularly well-written because most people won’t read it. I was shocked, but then again, I wasn’t. I’ve come to expect this these days.

Content Registrations Are Not Enough
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Is Your Website Open For Business

What Messages Are You Sending?

Shopkeepers on main street use a simple practice to let people know they’re open for business. There’s usually a sign or some bright neon that says “come on in, we’re open.” This is how retail operators get traffic down their aisles, eyes on goods and customers at their registers.

But is there such a sign for B2B companies? In today’s digital world, our websites are open 24 hours a day. Or are they? Is an always-on website the equivalent of a main street sign? Do our websites send a message that says, in so many words, we are open for business and would like you to view our wares? Or do our websites send a different message?

Is Your Website Open For Business
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How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan

The Strategies You Should Consider

A lot of professional service firms today are trying to figure out the best way to use digital marketing effectively. Many organizations are struggling because of the range of options that digital marketing presents. This can feel entirely overwhelming, especially since most small marketing teams at service firms simply cannot do everything.

How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
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Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2

Three Strategies To Accelerate Your Success

In my last post on this topic, I made a bold claim. I stated that if you use digital marketing effectively, you will be a more productive company with higher profit margins from the exact same set of people. This is the game-changing opportunity that digital marketing offers us today.

But this raises an important question. How can you know that you are using digital marketing effectively? Most service-based organizations today are deploying some combination of analog and digital marketing strategies. Yet very few are realizing the outcomes of greater productivity and profitability from the same staff. If anything, their expenses are going up while their profits are shrinking or holding steady. What’s the secret to better profits and productivity from digital marketing?

Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
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Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale

How It Creates Self-Persuading Prospects

Professional service clients, in the age of digital, do not want to be sold. They want to buy. They see themselves in the driver’s seat of the entire process. They choose when, where, by what channels and for how long they engage. They disengage whenever they want. They choose to enter dialogue when they are ready. They are fickle, unpredictable and impossible to control.

Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
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The Value Of An Idea Driven Website

Why They Beat Online Brochures Every Time

In today’s competitive professional services landscape, websites are more important than ever. New clients will take most of their in-bound journey on your website. You make your brand, services and value proposition distinct and clear through your website.

You differentiate from competitors, in large part, through your website. Or do you? Is this even possible? Why is it that so many professional services websites seem to be so similar that prospects can hardly tell them apart?

The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
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A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients

Why You Must Stimulate The Digital Ecosystem

I was speaking with a prospective new client the other day and he told me this sad story. He and his marketing team had built a great looking new website. They spent months choosing the right platform, writing new copy, selecting images and building all of the webpages. They had a grand opening and sent out an email to their list. And the results were… Ho-hum.

A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
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Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2

Hacks, Cheats And Tricks Are Not Digital Marketing

There is a great deal of confusion today about what digital marketing means. In my last post on this topic, I showed how digital marketing is a lot like analog marketing. I noted how a speaker at a conference could use certain thought processes to produce a compelling presentation for their audience. Those same thoughts processes could be applied to an online article, especially if it is published in a specific channel in LinkedIn.

Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
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Do You Get Digital Marketing?

How This Strategy Empowers Service Firm Growth

Service firms acquired clients, in the past, primarily through referrals. When a service provider did a really good job, their satisfied clients would recommend them to other people. But this wasn’t the only strategy that used to, and still does, work.

Do You Get Digital Marketing?
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Who Benefits From Your Content?

How Insights Build Trust And Affinity

I read quite a few blog posts each week. I also attend webinars, download e-books, read white papers and research reports and watch videos. You might think I’m a content marketing junkie. You might be right. But really, I’m looking for the best of the best.

Who Benefits From Your Content?
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Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing

What’s The Difference And How Will This Benefit You?

A lot of people use the terms lead nurturing and content marketing interchangeably. I prefer not to do this and I’ll admit that my distinction is somewhat artificial. It doesn’t really matter what you call these two strategies because a rose is still a rose by any other name. What does matter, however, is that you have clearly delineated between the two strategies and that your approach to using content offers two options: a shallow swim and a deep dive. If you get these two strategies right, your sales and business development people will never try to talk to someone who isn’t ready and they’ll never miss an opportunity to talk to someone who is ready. Let’s explore how to do this.

Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
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Your Best New Client Is Looking For You

Are You Giving Them A Reason To Find You In The Digital Ecosystem?

Many leaders of small to medium-sized professional service firms believe there are hundreds, thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of great new prospective clients out there. But these service firm leaders often struggle to find the prospects and pull them into dialogue.

Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
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Make Your Website A New Client Driver

How To Pull Prospects Along The In-Bound Journey

I was talking to a leader of a professional service firm the other day who said – our website is our store-front. I think there is great wisdom in this statement. In today’s digital world, people believe what they read, see and hear. Much of that reading, seeing and hearing takes place on your website. Prospects window-shop your storefront by spending time on your website.

Make Your Website A New Client Driver
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Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3

Here Is How You Build An Ideal Client Profile

In my last post on this topic, I built the business case for why you need ideal client profiles (ICP). There are so many benefits that come from attracting and serving ideal clients. But this probably raises an important question in your mind. How do you build an ideal client profile? What is the process? Well, I have some good news for you. We are going to do that, together, right now.

Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
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Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2

The Benefits You Can Realize From Working With Ideal Clients

In my last post on the topic of ideal clients, I identified the seven qualities that make ideal clients ideal. 
In this post, I want to highlight the benefits that come from focusing on ideal clients. When service firms have an abundance of ideal clients, amazing things happen. Let’s explore this together.

Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
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Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1

Client acquisition tends to be a top goal for nearly every professional service firm. A growth orientation can sometimes cause service firms to take on clients who may not be ideal. I would argue that this is not a wise path to take. When service firms work primarily with ideal clients, a few very powerful things start to happen. Here is what I have witnessed.

Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
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How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing

Align Your Content Tactics With Your Goals

What would you think of a farmer who planted and nurtured crops, but never harvested them? What would you think of a famer who never planted or nurtured crops, but showed up in the fall with pitchfork in hand, ready to harvest? You might think both of these farmers are a bit loopy. Right?

How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
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Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas

Lessons Learned From Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin gave away some of his best inventions and ideas. He published them in his newsletters for free. They were distributed to most of New England. While other people were attempting to commercialize and control intellectual property through patents, Franklin openly shared his ideas with everyone.

Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
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Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel

The route to consistent and predictable growth

Many professional services firms struggle with the feast-or-famine phenomenon. They either have too many projects and not enough hours in the day or way too much time on their hands. This makes it very difficult to plan for the future and build a reliable operations plan for people, processes and technology.

Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
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What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients

Convert the digital relationship to analog

In days gone by, most professional service firms would start their new client relationships in the analog world. We used to produce conferences and events, hold seminars and shake hands at tradeshows. Even our non-in-person promotions were analog. We would print advertisements and newsletters to mail to people with a real, honest-to-goodness, U.S. Postal Service stamp. Sounds funny now, doesn’t it? Oh, the good ol’ days.

What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
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An Audience Of One

How To Connect Deeply With Decision-Makers

As marketing people we have been duped. We have come to believe in a lie that distorts all of our messages and causes us to miss the mark with the very people we want to connect with. Marketing programs at major universities and well-established principles of advertising have participated in our undoing. Frequency, recency, reach: this is the language of marketing and it is ineffective.

An Audience Of One
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How to Attract New Ideal Clients

What steps should you be taking?

Client acquisition tends to be a top goal for nearly every professional service firm. You might be enticed to take on clients who are not a great fit. My advice? Don’t do it.

Instead, focus on those kinds of clients where you and your company can have the greatest impact. The payoff to you and your clients will be huge. Here is my advice about how to position for and attract new ideal clients.

How to Attract New Ideal Clients
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Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?

The Difference Could Be In Your Bottom Line

A few years ago I was consulting with an IT enterprise architecture firm. We began by conducting qualitative and quantitative research for this company. I secured an interview with the CIO from one of the big three credit reporting agencies. Sitting down with this very sharp gentleman, I asked him what he looks for in an IT consulting firm.

Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
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Why You Don’t Need 10,000 Followers To Achieve Your Business Goals

Quality Over Quantity

Have you noticed how social media pundits use the term followers? They use this word to describe people who are reading their blog-posts, downloading their content and connecting with them on social sites. The big goal, according to the social media pundits, is to get thousands of followers.

But is that really a viable goal? Will it really help service firm leader achieve their business objectives? I’m not convinced of that. Here are my reasons and also my recommendations for connecting with people to achieve meaningful business value.

Why You Don’t Need 10,000 Followers To Achieve Your Business Goals
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Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner

Which Would You Bank Your Career On?

A lot of people are producing content these days. As an English Literature major, I am pleased to see that my writing colleagues have gone from under-appreciated to having a dearth of opportunities. But with so many people producing content, you have to wonder about something. Where do the ideas come from and what is the quality of these ideas?

Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
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Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

Focus On Goals To Increase Odds Of Success

Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of service organizations are focusing on pain points. This is usually evident when I visit their website. There will sometimes be buttons in primary navigation that say something like – Your Pain Points or Challenges We Address. Now there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But I really do believe it’s incomplete.

Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
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How To Nurture Ideal Prospects

Why This Impacts Client Acquisition

My father used to say something that has stuck with me for many years. “Randy nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is wise advice from a man who did not finish high school and never spent a day in a college class-room.

How To Nurture Ideal Prospects
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Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?

Is It Time To Dumb-Down Your Content?

Content marketing is an incredibly hot topic right now with virtually every company on the planet. This is especially true for B2B and professional service organizations for whom traditional mass-media, such as television, radio and newsprint formats, are out of reach either because of budgets or because of targeting.

Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
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Why I’ve Lost Faith In Quantitative Research For Competitive Benchmarking

And You Should Too

It seems pretty much every day now I see an email or post on LinkedIn that invites me to compare my marketing plan, budget or approach to “best-in-class” companies. I used to pay attention to these and even put some stock in them. In fact, I’ve built marketing plans in the past based in part by what these surveys say.

But no longer. I’ve lost faith in most quantitative research studies that provide competitive benchmarks. I think you should too. Here are my reasons.

Why I’ve Lost Faith In Quantitative Research For Competitive Benchmarking
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Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be

The Power Of Embracing The 95/5 Rule

Professional service marketing leaders often become frustrated when they look at the conversion rates of leads who have accessed their content. Here is what I mean. The marketing function will produce and provision all sorts of content in a given month. This might include blog-posts, infographics, articles, webinars and videos. Smart professional service organizations are using marketing automation tools now to track what happens with people who access this content.

Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be
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