Gearing up for success in practice development guide
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Gearing up for success in practice development guide

3 months ago · 5 min read

Congratulations! You have decided to ramp up your firm’s marketing and practice development initiatives in order to grow your practice. That’s great news.

Now that your firm has made this important decision, where’s the best place to get started? This guide contains some basics to help you and your team get on the same page as you prepare for your new focus.

A rapidly changing landscape

First, it’s important to understand that attracting and retaining new business in this economy is more challenging than ever. Several key factors are at work here including the following:

  • Clients are more demanding. With limited resources and greater needs caused by the recent pandemic, clients are re-examining the cost benefit of their advisory relationships. They want better communication, more proactive insight and specialized services. Bottom line, delivering greater value is a must.

  • Marginal service is no longer good enough. As clients become more demanding and competition for their business is on the uptick, it is no longer good enough to provide average service. This can be a challenge for practitioners who are forced to do more with less staff - but it is a new reality that must be addressed. It's essential for practitioners to be more tuned in to clients' changing needs and deliver solutions to meet those needs. From new clients to age old relationships, practice growth requires outstanding service.

  • Social media is changing the way clients buy. Like it or not, social media has made a significant impact on the way people buy. Whether it is a new car or professional services, today's consumers want easy access to information so they can make more informed decisions when they are ready to buy. Practitioners must be closely tuned in to buyers’ needs so they can provide the information that potential clients want when they want it.

Changing needs call for new perspectives and practices

As clients have become more demanding and buying habits have shifted, so too must practice growth strategies. It’s not to say that tried-and-true tactics will no longer produce results. Achieving successful practice growth in today’s marketplace will require practitioners to look at practice development from a broader perspective and blend proven strategies with new ones to meet client expectations. This transition is already beginning to take place but it is only the start of what could become a new era in practice development.

A new look at practice development

Now that you have an overview of the landscape, let’s get clear on practice development. This is important because many people use the terms marketing, sales and business development interchangeably not realizing there is a difference. The differences in the functions are significant.

Practice development is defined as:

Everything you do to get, keep and grow a client. undefined

The practice development equation

This simple equation highlights the major elements of practice development. As you can see, practice development is made up of four pieces - marketing, sales, client service and cross-serving.

M + S + CS2 = PD undefined

This equation may be broader than the ones you have seen in the past. The important thing to keep in mind is that each of these components is dependent on the others to yield maximum results.

Marketing

  • Educates the audience about your firm

  • Broad messages to a broad audience

    • Websites, newsletters, seminars, blogs, tradeshows, advertising, PR, social media

  • Moves a potential buyer through the early stages of the buying process

    • Unaware, aware, consideration

  • Generates leads

Sales

  • Picks up where marketing leaves off

  • Narrow message to a single audience

  • Advances the prospect to a client

  • Converts opportunities into revenues

Client service

  • Carries out expectations set during marketing and sales

  • Provides revenues

  • Establishes opportunity for ongoing service and revenues

Cross-serve

  • Identifies a client’s unmet needs

  • Matches their needs with a service that you can provide

Practice development spectrum

Just like preparing a tax return or conducting an audit, developing and retaining clients follows a defined path. Since no two prospects have exactly the same needs or buy the same, the process can vary in the way it develops, but it basically follows the same path.

It starts by planning the types of business you want to obtain. That involves how you let those potential clients know about you and your firm, the services you provide and what makes you unique. It’s also about how you stay in front of them over time. With each step in the process, the actions become more narrowly focused on the individuals involved.

It’s important to note that practice development is a never-ending process. Once prospects become clients, you and your firm must serve them by offering the value they are seeking. A big part of service is to continually identify additional needs and find ways to meet those changing needs.

Connecting the dots between key components

Successful practice growth requires a coordinated and integrated effort between marketing, sales and service. While marketing can create new business opportunities for the firm, it is the sales efforts that ultimately close the deal and convert opportunities into revenues. Marketing and sales work together to set client service expectations.

To maximize your practice development actions, it is essential to connect the dots between the key components. Unfortunately, this is where many practitioners run into trouble. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • It’s difficult to sell unless you market.

  • It’s a waste of resources to market if you don’t sell.

  • Marketing and sales together set expectations for client service.

  • Client service involves ongoing marketing and sales efforts to increase the revenue dial.

Discussion questions

  • How would you describe the practice development landscape for your firm?

    • How has this changed since the pandemic?

    • Has the pandemic impacted the need for your services?

    • What impact has the economy had on the way clients and prospects buy your services?

  • Does your firm have a clearly defined practice development process?

    • If so, how do you communicate this to your team?

    • Does this include clear definitions for key terms (i.e. marketing, sales)?

  • Does your firm have a formal practice development plan?

    • What types of practice development plans do you have in your practice (i.e. firm, niche)?

    • Does this plan(s) have a set, agreed upon budget?

    • Who is responsible for overseeing this plan(s)?

    • Who is responsible for carrying out the plan(s)?

  • Do you have clear practice development expectations for each level within your firm?

    • If so, how are they communicated?

    • How are they incorporated into individuals’ annual goals and reviews?

  • Do you provide formal practice development training for your practitioners?

    • If so, please describe this training.

    • What levels participate in this training?

    • What steps is leadership taking to reinforce and strengthen this training (i.e. hands-on initiatives with seasoned rainmakers, involvement in the sales process)?

  • What steps does your firm take to integrate its marketing and sales initiatives?

    • What impact has this integration played in increasing new business?

    • How has it improved ROI?

  • How does your firm measure practice development success?

    • What metrics do you track?

    • Do you have regular pipeline meetings?

    • How do you track practice development success against your plan?

    • What strategies yield the most success in winning new business?

  • Does your firm have a well-defined cross-selling/cross-serving process?

    • Does your firm provide cross-selling/cross-serving training/coaching for your practitioners? If so, please describe.

    • How has this cross-selling/cross-serving process impacted the amount of additional services that your firm provides to existing clients?

  • Does your firm have a clear definition of client service excellence?

    • How do you communicate this internally? Externally?

    • Do you have clearly defined client service expectations for your practitioners?

    • Do you provide client service training/coaching to your practitioners?

  • How does your firm measure its client service?

    • How often do you measure client service?

    • What do you do with the information that you learn from your clients?

    • What measures do you take to resolve client dissatisfaction that you uncover?

  • How do you communicate practice development success within your firm?

  • How do you recognize and reward practice development success in your firm?

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