Pursuing sustainable and profitable business growth is arguably the key objective of any professional services firm. Two recent industry studies identified a number of characteristics shared by many high-growth companies, and that your company can also adopt to help it grow in the coming years.
What is a high-growth firm?
Before we look at their characteristics are, let’s look at what a high-growth firm is:
In the first of the studies we reviewed, Salesforce’s Small and Medium Business Trends Report (4th Edition), the report indicated the biggest challenges the leaders of these companies are:
- Acquiring new customers (48%)
- Planning for the long-term (28%)
- Retaining existing customers (26%)
- Financial management (25%)
Additional findings from Hinge Marketing’s High Growth Study 2021 also identified these issues:
- The need for new skills in strategy, business development, and marketing.
- Marketplace uncertainty.
- Increasing competition both from new competitors and larger firms.
- Changes in the ways buyers buy professional services.
- Downward pressure on pricing.
High-growth or not, if your business is facing similar challenges, you’re clearly not alone!
6 characteristics of high-growth firms your professional services SME need to adopt
What are the characteristics and behaviors of high-growth consulting firms your company can implement? Across both studies, businesses in the high-growth sector consistently show they:
- Conduct systematic, structured research into their target markets and customer/client needs, leveraging that data into their content strategies.
- Target companies offering specialized services or particular business issues in specific industries.
- Have a strong focus on business innovation, investing significantly in marketing (and marketing partnerships) using a variety of tactics and strategies.
- Productize their service offerings – enabling the company to develop recurring revenue streams.
- Target new markets
- Invest in the training and development of their staff in areas such as strategy, data analytics, and research.
Takeaways for professional services firms
No one will argue that growing a professional services firm is getting any easier, so how do you, in this environment?
According to the Hinge Marketing study, the key to growing a successful consulting business is about having visible expertise – and making it the cornerstone of your business growth strategy.
This is an important point to acknowledge, as industry and subject expertise has become one of the most common ways of evaluating firms, increasing 56% since 2018.
Feeling stuck on determining the right strategy for your business?
Action point: Make your company the “Visible Expert” in your niche.
A visible expert is an industry specialist (person or company) that is well-known and highly regarded in the marketplace.
Easily found online, they are often asked to provide insights and points of view to media, and to speak at leading conferences and events.
So, whether your firm is in law, accounting, IT, or any other kind of consulting, to grow your professional services business, displaying expertise in your niche is more critical than ever.
Hinge also identified that focusing your strategies on becoming “The Visible Expert” within your target market is a primary business growth driver.
The importance of positioning your firm as the visible expert is critical, as numerous studies have shown that:
- Expertise and specialized skills are core decision drivers in the choice of a professional service provider
- Business buyers will pay a premium to work with experts
3 strategies to help your firm become a “Visible Expert”
In this video, Listen Innovate Grow’s business strategist, Michael Haynes, looks at three of the strategies you can implement to display your company’s expertise in its niche, we’ll then take a closer look at these below.
In short, the 3 strategies used to become the visible expert and driving sales and business growth are:
- Content creation
- Content promotion
- Business services innovation
1. Create useful, insightful & informative content
“Give buyers what they want”
High growth firms continually develop content which informs, educates, and advises business buyers on how to solve their problems and meet their key priorities and objectives. Content is created to match:
- The priorities and requirements of each of the individuals in the buying group involved in purchase decisions. (Learn who the B2B purchasing decision-makers are)
- Where the buying group participants are at in their buying journey (e.g. awareness, consideration, decision-making)
- The format the decision-makers prefer: think videos, infographics, and podcasts. These are all becoming increasingly popular among B2B buyers.
Remember that each decision-maker often looks at 3-5 sources of information. Therefore, it is imperative that you identify both:
- All the participants involved in the decision whether (or not) to use your firm;
- The information sources they use as part of their evaluation and decision-making.
2. Promote and distribute your content where your audience is
“Be where your buyers are”
However, it is not enough to create great content.
It is also critical that your content is promoted, and seen where business buyers seek information and advice. In other words, your content can be found:
- At in-person or virtual events business buyers attend
- In what they read
- Where they listen to for insights and guidance
With the massive increase of both information and events occurring online, gaining the attention of your target buyers is more challenging than ever.
Professional service buyers tend to use both traditional and online sources for information and advice. High-growth firms must make their content visible where buyers go for information, both online and offline.
- Speak at relevant conferences, trade shows, and industry and professional association events
- Consider hosting your own events such as breakfasts, forums, and workshops
- Provide information, advice, and education pertaining to key challenges and trends your audience must address.
- Consider conducting your own research on trends and developments in your target industries and how to address them as the theme for hosting your own event.
Make sure your content is highly visible online where your target audiences seek information and advice.
Ways of promoting and distributing your content online include:
- Blogs, podcasts, and webinars
- Industry and professional association websites, who will often accept guest articles and blogs
- Work with influencers or micro-influencers within your target industries
- Using Social Media by:
- Posting on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
- Publishing with relevant LinkedIn Groups
- Presenting content/conducting interviews using LinkedIn Live and Facebook Live
Also, consider using services such as Adsy to identify opportunities to publish on blogs and podcasts that have relevant and large audiences.
Need help to determine the right strategy for your business?
3. Identify innovations in your service provisions
“Help them succeed”
A key component of being a “Visible Expert” is being a trusted advisor. Now more than ever, service business buyers are looking for providers that can offer partnerships to help them achieve their goals.
- Providing insights to new opportunities, problems, and threats
- Help them to distill and make sense of the many sources of information they must review
- Work with them to develop action plans to help move their businesses towards their key goals and objectives
In order to achieve this, develop new services to enable your firm to meet a broader set of business customer needs. Potential offerings could include providing the following:
- Reporting and analytics
- Mastermind groups
- Implementation support
Your company can combine its products and services and offer them as “bundles” or “packages”. These could then be offered through different service levels or options (e.g. “Do It for Me” versus “Do It With Me”).
Also, consider partnering with other complementary product and service providers to develop and/ or co-market your comprehensive packages.
Remember, when you are enhancing or expanding your service offerings it should be driven by your buyers’ needs. And it is critical you LISTEN to your business customers to ensure your firm has a thorough understanding of what they may be.
If you’re serious about growing your professional services firm this year, and we’ve inspired you to take action in this article, get together with your management team to discuss and assess the following. Maybe you already have the key to setting your company on a path to high-growth too!
- What structured approaches, if any, does your company have in place to understand its target markets and business customers?
- Are (and how) the learnings being used in your product, marketing, and overall business growth strategies?
- What kinds of marketing partnerships could your firm potentially undertake?
- Is there any opportunity to productize any of your current service offerings or develop new ones?
About Michael Haynes
B2B Customer Acquisition & Growth Strategy Consultant
For over 20 years, Michael has worked with professional services businesses and large corporates alike across Australia and Canada, developing and implementing business growth strategies and programs.
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Updated: 8 March, 2021