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Steps to Improve the Business Side of Your Professional Services Firm
Steps to improve the business side of your firm include marketing, sales, KPIs, and investing in the right technology.
Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a firm with multiple offices around the world, there are 5 givens:
If your firm doesn’t create value for your clients, it’s a hobby.
If your firm doesn’t attract attention, it’s a flop.
If your firm doesn’t sell the value it creates, it’s a non-profit.
If your firm doesn’t deliver what it promises, it’s a scam.
If your firm doesn’t bring in enough money to keep operating, it will close.
You know that your firm is amazing, but without working on the business side of your firm, and instead solely focusing on the production side, any of the above can happen.
So, how do you go about improving the business side of your firm?
Start Marketing Now
This might seem obvious, but so many firms don’t bother with this important step and that right away is keeping your firm from reaching its full potential.
If you’ve created a valuable firm, you must focus on marketing. For some firms this seems strange. Why market when you’re creating great work? Shouldn’t that be enough to bring in clients? Not quite.
You need to attract attention and build demand for this fantastic firm you’ve created. Afterall, you’re in a market overflowing with gifted people. It’s important to realize that just because you do great work, this doesn’t always guarantee that future work will follow. You must get serious about marketing the firm if you want to continue to have new clients.
You might think that because you’re busy, maybe even turning down work, you don’t need to waste time and resources marketing. However, for almost every business, especially those that don’t market, work slows down eventually. It always will. Maybe because of changes to the economy or changes in taste and style – whatever the reason, you never want to be in the position of building a marketing plan from scratch when you’re desperate. This is when bad money-making decisions happen.
The importance of marketing for your firm is that it makes your clients aware of your services, engages them, and guides them to the buying decision. A marketing plan helps you create and maintain demand, relevance, and reputation.
So, what exactly can marketing do for your business? Let’s do a quick refresh, or dive into some new points if you’re still skeptical of the magic of marketing:
Better client engagement: You must engage clients. To do so, marketing is the best tool. Marketing allows you to engage potential clients by creating excellent content around your services and letting them in on what they didn’t know before.
Maintaining reputation: Your firm’s reputation is based off how it grows along with its lifespan. Marketing helps you build the brand equity of your business by meeting your clients’ expectations.
Building relationships between customers: You want to build a long-lasting relationship with your clients if you wish to see your business grow. Marketing does this by giving you an understanding of what they want based on consumer behavior.
Boosting sales: Marketing uses different ways to promote your products and services, which increases the likelihood of better sales.
Remaining relevant: Marketing your business helps you remain seen and relevant to clients while also maintaining good relationships.
Making informed decisions: Marketing links you to society so you can answer the basic questions around the how’s and why’s of delivering your services.
Teach and Sell
Now, let’s assume you’ve created an excellent firm that has figured out what the market really needs, and you’ve built a strong marketing plan so that you have people aware of your services and capabilities.
Converting those prospects into paying, loyal clients is the job of sales. Many firms think that if you get that prospect to sign your contract – you’ll have a happy, loyal client. And if your deliverables were not incompetent, they’ll return.
At its most basic, sales builds loyalty and trust between your firm and your client. These are the two things that cause your clients to recommend your firm to others and to return with more work.
A loyal customer is not created from a project completed in budget and on schedule. Satisfied, sure, but not necessarily loyal- yet. For most professional service firms, loyalty and trust are sold through a principal or partner. Every conversation, phone call, email etc. from a firm owner to a prospect or client should be considered a sales communication.
One of the interesting things about being in Sales is you can provide value before your client even realizes it. Being able to demonstrate value to the client is what they need to see. It’s not about you, your skills, or even your team and processes. They must see what it all means to them.
For this to happen, you need to do your homework and learn as much as you can about the client. Your focus will be on teaching, not selling. And every interaction must add value.
I’m sure you’ve seen some finished projects and scratched your head wondering how that ever got off the drawing table and became reality. Well – this is happening not because of amazing designers or a team of highly competent professionals behind them (although this may be a part of the equation), but this happened because the principal is amazing at sales.
Know Your Numbers
“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” - Galileo
Fortunately, for those of us who aren’t so mathematically inclined, if you’re in business you may not need to know the math since we have technology that makes it easy. However, you must know the numbers.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is how business speaks to us. This is done through metrics and measurement.
How do you develop the hourly bill rate for your employees? If you choose it based off what the competitor is paying, you’re not charging what you believe is appropriate for the value they bring. KPIs provide the business intelligence as to what the hourly rate should be based on.
Now, what about the margins between what your employees cost you and what they earn for you? If all you knew was the true cost of every hour for every employee and the true revenue derived from every hour of every employee – you would have incredible power. Knowledge is power and when you know about every facet of your business – you know what is working and what needs to change.
Invest in Technology Like You Invest in Your Team
Most firms believe that their employees are their greatest asset. The most successful firms invest a lot of time and money into the continuing education of their team members.
The effort and care firms expend in building their teams and developing the culture needs to extend into the selection of the technology as well.
When it comes to finding the best tools to help your firm operate, you should put in the same amount of investment. Technology for operations includes time and expense tracking, project scheduling, budgeting, resource allocation, invoicing, accounting, HR and CRM.
These tools improve your efficiency, provide structure and consistency, reduce risk, simplify management and create a more satisfied culture. When a company picks the wrong tools or doesn’t properly train their staff, you begin to experience cracks in your firms’ foundations.
Improve Your Business with BQE CORE
BQE CORE is firm management software that helps the business side of your firm run efficiently so you can focus on making successful, profitable projects.
When improving your business, one of the biggest steps to take is to work smarter. Don’t add more stress and workload to your day. Use tools that can make your job easier and give you the results you’re looking for so you can spend your time doing what you do best- creating fantastic projects.
Just like you have invested in software for project creation, your firm must invest in some system that collects, manages, and interprets data from many business activities. The structure it provides, the consistency of workflow, and the ability to report out in real-time any performance metric your firm considers important are benefits that transcend firm size.
BQE CORE’s real-time automation provides the insights you need to increase ROI and give each team member the right tool for success. Make a step toward improving your business today and see why BQE CORE is globally creating successful firms.
To learn how BQE CORE can improve the business side of your firm, schedule a free demo today.