Jessica Sofia Mitrani, “Headpieces for Peace”, French Institute Alliance Française, New York via: Domus
Effectively communicating value to clients is rarely easy. Most professional service firms are able to provide an expansive list of capabilities. Naturally this flows into marketing strategy, where messaging bursts at the seams with more information than clients can handle. It is important to realize that more offerings do not necessarily translate to offering more. Instead, clients must understand precisely what your value proposition means to them. In which case the quality of a message must supersede its breadth. In order to do this, firms must use a defined set of components to inform the way in which they market their practice.
Three overarching tenets can be used to clearly communicate the value of offerings and establish a more impactful practice. The following may seem obvious, but reminding teams to use them as the driving force behind strategy will establish a two-way channel of interaction between firm and client.
It is no surprise that when clients approach professional service firms they are looking for alleviation from the issues that impede their business performance. Addressing this in marketing strategy involves understanding clients’ struggles and pain points. Interviewing and observing is the best way to obtain this insight. Map their journeys to understand where they experience friction. The findings may be disruptive, as they may reveal how little you know about what your client experiences. But areas of opportunity will certainly surface as well, which will ignite a more relevant perspective for your practice. Integrate these findings into messaging and clearly explain why these solutions will matter to clients as their business grows. Crafting strategy that responds directly to their struggles ensures that solutions are offered to them within context. And when offerings become familiar to clients, they are more inclined to integrate these offerings into their business practices.
By default, professional service firms tend to assume they are confined to providing conventional solutions, largely because they are quick, easy, and they avoid the possibility of negative feedback from clients. Though there are opportunities to provide more impactful solutions by uncovering latent needs. David Kelley, founder of IDEO, suggests beginning this process by reframing a question or brief. For instance, when Cisco sought out to improve their high-end TelePresence system, they reframed the question, “How can we improve videoconferencing?” as “How can we provide a viable alternative to air travel?” This can be achieved by focusing on why you provide your product or service, instead of what product or service you provide. Clients look to partner with firms that will deliver unique solutions. When marketing your services, show clients how you intend to spur creative thinking and inspire them deliver more useful streams of value to their targeted demographic.
Providing consistent service and reliable client support certainly builds trust. But from a marketing perspective, building trust involves developing a strong internal network that supports a clear objective. Develop a point-of-view for your practice and plant it deep within the essence of your brand and the culture of your company. Provide resources that help employees understand how the organization arrived at this position. Give everyone the opportunity to be well-versed in this point-of-view and able to authentically speak about it. This creates an army of advocates, which goes far beyond any traditional method of communication. Creating person-to-person endorsements is what builds trust, and trust is what keeps clients engaged.
Mutual respect is crucial between the firm and clients. Clients need to understand why they should engage with a professional service firm and it is the firm’s responsibility to clearly communicate the value of this engagement. This three-point strategy provides you with loose guidelines for delivering a clear value proposition, which gives clients a reason to not only engage with your organization, but engage over an extended period of time.
Josef Wundsam, Still life, 1847. Vienna. Via Dorotheum. Gouache on paper.