An elite environmental services consulting firm sought help to build out marketing and business development to double their profits over the next several years.
The obvious way to expand, and the one widely adopted their industry, was to add a compliance and remediation practice to the firm’s litigation support and engineering practices. Firm leadership rejected this strategy, feeling strongly that mixing cost-sensitive and highly-technical services would dilute both profitability and the firm’s culture. Growth would have to come from their existing markets.
In a business where final deliverables require a deep technical analysis based on solid science, the firm’s current positioning rested on the quality of written communications and attentiveness to detail. This failed to provide a credible and compelling reason to select their firm above others. Other firms could and did make similar claims which were difficult for potential clients to verify.
I persuaded the firm’s Executive Staff to re-think the firm’s value and marketing. We agreed on a comprehensive strategic marketing plan outlining positioning, focus, activities, priorities, and sequencing for the next 18-24 months.
Interviews with more than a dozen clients revealed the true differentiator was not, as the conventional wisdom would have it, the quality of the report and the technical knowledge behind it. A number of clients remarked that this firm was unique in how it delivered its recommendations. It delivered a single report integrating the needs of three separate levels of internal management.
Competing firms typically wrote their reports in a jargon-filled, academic style inaccessible to senior executives without technical degrees. The need for rock-solid science gave way to broader business issues as recommendations effecting millions of dollars in assets progressed up the client’s hierarchy. The firm’s single report provided a hat-trick: saving time, money, and resources.
The firm’s new Strategic Marketing Plan re-thought the firm’s marketing strategy, goals and tactics. Answering, “Why do your clients select your firm over other, often excellent, choices?” provided the confidence needed to concentrate the firm’s limited resources.
The firm’s leadership was surprised to find three major impacts where they expected only one.
1. Repositioning itself, in terms of how it worked rather than merely what it produced, created a compelling brand that made it easy to identify and align around the highest value marketing and business development activities. The difference between strategic and opportunistic clients became obvious. The firm’s marketing blurred the lines between marketing and sales to integrate perfectly with the Sandler Sales principles.
Two other benefits quickly surfaced that the Managing Director credited to the Plan.
2. Knowing exactly why their clients selected their firm was a boon to the staff that did much of the day-to-day technical analysis and report writing.
3. Attracting the industry’s brightest to work for a small, less known firm had always been a challenge. Clarity around how the firm delivered value made it easier to attract employees who matched the firm’s values.