When I started BRS three and a half years ago, I had some preconceived views on what clients wanted from advisory firms and consulting service providers when they selected them. My initial views would have ranked the following criteria:
- Cost being a top priority. Clients made most of their decisions based on cost and price.
- Technical expertise. Technical capability was king and viewed as critical to winning work as a service provider.
- Relationships. Keeping the client happy at all costs, avoiding the tough conversations and aiming to please was all important.
- Location. Being local, close to the client and accessible at all times were all prerequisites to winning work.
Twelve months in to the BRS journey I felt that we were not hitting the mark with our proposals, tenders and marketing to our clients. Six out of ten of our proposals were formal or select tenders, and of these, we were not successful with winning a fair proportion of them. Something had to change. There had to be a better way to secure work with clients.
I was flying back from an overseas trip and I was scrolling through a business magazine that featured a book called The Art of Managing Professional Services by Maureen Broderick. The summary intrigued me enough to purchase the book the next day given the challenges we were having in this area.
What a game changer. The book is a fantastic read but the real gold for me personally was the following diagram which ranked the criteria that 11,000 buyers of consulting services valued:
Industry specialisation! The key criteria which ranked above all others. When reflecting on this, I realised that clients do not want to teach their consultants this important pre-requisite. Knowing their business, their industry, and their constraints was paramount to working with the right consultants.
Armed with this valuable information, we changed our strategy, our approach to clients, focused on the three industries we enjoy and aspired to not only being a trusted advisor to our clients but also a true partner to key industry associations. Our new mantra was to understand the industry language, terminology, methodologies and specific concepts. This then not only becomes evident to clients when engaging with them but gives them the confidence you will add value to them and their organisations right from the start of an engagement.
The proof is in the pudding. Over 90 per cent of our work now comes from repeat work and referrals. We are lucky to now tender for two out of ten opportunities and our client satisfaction scores have trended upwards since this shift.
Industry specialisation is the key criteria when selecting service providers! Go deep rather than wide by choosing the industries you want to specialise in. Your clients and marketing investment will thank you for it.