What problems are professional services companies facing when it comes to growth and how to address them?
The global professional services market is conservatively worth $6,000bn (2022) and puts the skills and experience of millions of professionals at the disposal of organisations around the world. (1)
The main types of professional services include design, research, promotional and consulting, legal and accounting services, plus a range of scientific, technical and technological services.
In this article, we take a deeper look at five of the problems facing professional services companies when it comes to growth and how they might navigate them a little easier..
1. Building teams and attracting talent
There is no doubt that in the more advanced economies there is a fight for talent (2). Employers aren’t just going up against their competition for talent, they are fighting the benefits of self employment.
Professional services need to reconsider what the recruitment experience and package even looks like as millions of professionals emerge from long periods of lockdown and home working. In many cases, they have proven themselves very productive, adaptable and want to preserve their new freedoms.
Salary packages, development opportunities and wellbeing are essential to attracting and retaining top talent
The solution: Invest in your employer brand. This means taking your values and creating and publicising a dedicated people plan; recruitment brands live and breathe company values in a way that makes your company a highly desirable place to work. The story underpinning a recruitment brand is a marketing communications construct as it plays into the strategy and vision for the business.
2. Complexity of projects and procurements
The professional services industry is growing fast. (3)
With growth comes complexity. Complexity in the specification of projects, complexity in the time and effort it takes to win contracts and complexity in the logistical management and delivery of projects.
Projects may be overseas, or multi-site, involving a mix of subcontractors and other partners.
And professional services procurement is set against a backdrop of delivering projects faster, more efficiently and within tighter budgets, whilst still offering an improvement over an incumbent.
Complexity makes planning more challenging too. This can put your business’ bottom line at risk – especially if unplanned changes and demands for increased resource come later in the project.
The solution: Be clear on what you’re good at and who you do your best work for. This is again a market strategy task. Understand what made previous projects successful and what you learned from challenges that arose over time.
3. Data drives growth
In today’s noisy information-overloaded digital environment, clients expect “personalised” information and services, which needs real-time, accurate and high quality data. (4)
Dashboards that support externally focused activities such as marketing and business development and operational intelligence, strategic insight and indeed, client servicing.
Companies that prioritise data will ultimately invest in board level Chief Data Officers (CDOs) who will require support in creating systems that can provide the data needed to make better decisions and ways to interpret it.
The solution: Start your data management efforts in the marketing department by focusing in on your customer acquisition efforts. Having visibility of sales and marketing data is already a relatively easy aspect to implement as it is a well served segment. For data-starved professional service companies, it can be an area of low-hanging fruit before exploring other areas like finance, HR and operations..
4. Keeping up with technology
Customer expectations of outsourced professional services are rising and this is partly due to advances in technology. The prevalence and sophistication of mobile technology has allowed stakeholders to become used to instantly accessing information on-the-go. They want that convenience to extend to their projects meaning elements like real time reporting on the go can win or lose a contract.
This makes for huge infrastructure decisions and investment to win and retain clients.
And in addition, clients want a better customer experience built on transparency and accessibility. Workday estimates one-third of professional services firms now expect that 75% of their revenue will come from digital in the next three years. (5)
The solution: Constantly review customer experience and always seek to improve. Assessing existing customer needs, reviewing the market and anticipating future needs – such as real-time project metrics, dashboards, intranets, cloud based resources and adaptable billing models – all lock in clients for longer.
5. Attracting qualified leads.
In an increasingly online world, trade shows, advertising and cold calling are less effective in creating engagement.
Professional services marketers need to be more structured in their thinking, developing content and communications that arouse, attract, engage, and inform prospects so they take action.
This means being in the right place at the right time when they are asking questions and conducting research.
Carefully created marketing strategies that talk to the needs of your prospective customer involves providing some information, help or guidance – free or in exchange for their contact details – so as to start a more meaningful and “sales-qualified” conversation.
It’s about building trust, assuring them of competence and capability before starting a messy and disjointed sales conversation.
The solution: Be there (and where) when they need you. Companies outsourcing professional services are often themselves looking to win enterprise level contracts or become a preferred supplier – so creating the right content that targets the right people and the right problem becomes critical.
But when you meet the specification and land the contract, it is work that pays back many times over. Creating content (like this post) is just one example of writing for your customer – and writing something that resonates with them.
Are you a professional services business that is finding growth a challenge? Are you set up to make the most of all opportunities that come your way?