I belong to a networking group that exchanges ideas and know-how at breakfast meetings every two weeks. Our mandate is to learn something new at each meeting and this is as important as referring business. Two of the last three meetings have involved business planning and when asked if we have a business plan I automatically said I had one because that is what people expected to hear. But the truth is I don’t have a business plan. There, I said it and my head did not explode.
The truth is I don’t think having a business plan is as important for a “fee for service” company as having a marketing plan. So while I may not have a formal business plan written out, as a marketing guy I do have a Marketing Plan that I update every year as I think the marketing of my services is the only thing I can really control.
In updating this year’s marketing plan I am focusing on the following questions?
- How can using my services to benefit my clients; do I save them time, relieve them of pain, increase their revenue, improve their customer service or simply put money in their bank account?
- What experience can I draw on from the past that applies to the market conditions in 2008?
- How can I ensure I can deliver solutions in a timely manner?
- What systems can I put in place to ensure that I am exceeding my clients’ expectations?
- How will I communicate with them to ensure they are receiving what they are anticipating?
- What can I do to create raving fans that are eager to refer new business to me?
- How do I ensure my clients are getting value for their money rather than focusing on the fees?
Do professional service firms need a business plan?
Not in the way that a manufacturer or distributor would as the number of options for planning growth for a consulting firm are far less than for most businesses. The key things that people who sell their time plan for are:
- Where they will offer their services
- What market segments will they serve
- What services they will offer
- What will they charge for their services
- What are the staffing requirements
When it comes to financial planning the calculation is pretty simple; x number of people billing at x dollars per hour for x number of hours.
So what should professional service firms consider in their marketing planning?
- Evaluate the industries you specialize in and determine what effect the current market conditions are having on their business. What additional services can you then offer that will help them weather their specific storms?
- Re-evaluate your fee structure to ensure you are maximizing your margins.
- Ensure that every person in your organization understands the mandate and values of the company.
- Consider new ways to deliver the same services.
- Look for new market segments that you can market too.
The bottom line is that in the absence of a plan of any sort you will not know how you got to where you are and how to sustain it the next year.
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