Small Business

Advisory Board: Prospecting

Written by Murad.Hemmadi

Welcome to Advisory Board, a weekly department in which a panel of experts—made up of entrepreneurs and professionals—answer questions you have about how to run your business better.

This week, a reader asks:

“€‹My professional services firm is stagnating. The clients I brought with me when I left my former employer a few years ago are still with us, but my partners and I aren’t attracting much new business. How can we find prospects for our services without spending too much time and money?”

Here’s what the experts have to say.

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“Having been in the professional services industry for nearly 30 years I think I can say with confidence that the difference between achieving long term success and short term success as a professional service provide  is simply the willingness and ability of the owners to execute the business development and selling process effectively. Quite often staff consultants, accountants and so on overvalue their technical competence as the key to success in their own consulting business when in fact technical competence is merely the cost of entry. It’s really no more complicated than managing and executing the sales process.

“If your business is stagnating then you haven’t been keeping the funnel full of new opportunities and systematically moving them through. Good sales process execution is about relationship development, and finding sources of potential new relationships depends on your industry. Relationships are not developed though advertising or spending a lot of money. They are developed with personal involvement and hustle.”

Charlie Reid, Charlie Reid & Associates, Kingston, Ont.

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“Professional service firms thrive through repeat business and referrals primarily so the best place to start is to look for other opportunities within existing clients, then ask them if they know anyone that they think you can help. After that, start going to networking events that your potential clients like to attend. The third way is to find out who you know that knows people you know through LinkedIn and ask for an introduction.”

Mike Desjardins, Driver, Virtus, Vancouver

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Biz dev is a full-time job for someone, and there are many low-cost solutions. A multi-pronged strategy is best and I recommend you keep them all active at all times: referrals; your business network; your local BIA; family; friends; social channels; networking; and grass-roots postering. Asking your existing clients to spread the word is also a great tool.

—Christine Faulhaber, President and CEO, Faulhaber Communications, Toronto

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“First off, what constitutes “spending too much time or money”? Golly! If you see client acquisition as costing too much of either, you’re doing it wrong. Every investment in generating leads and closing new clients must be approached as an ROI play.

“Our work in professional services marketing has invariably included creating an online presence for these clients that has positioned them as thought leaders, and promoting them via targeted search marketing. The key is content. As marketing maven Seth Godin says, the only marketing left is content marketing. In practice, that content should include your stellar case studies, your views on where your industry is headed, and how your firm is at the forefront of that evolution.

“Another major content opportunity to explore is client testimonials. If your customers are willing to sing your praises, that goes a long way toward encouraging prospects to consider you more seriously.

“Pumping this marketing content into the iInternet and online world and supporting it with search marketing is measurable and scalable. You won’t spend too much—you’ll invest wisely.

Wayne S. Roberts, President and Chief Creative Officer, Blade Creative Branding, Toronto

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Do you have a question you’d like answered? Email us and we’ll put it to the experts. Have any advice to add to this list? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

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