Portfolio: Managing the Client Portfolio
Portfolio, the third element of the Client Management Model™, highlights:
• the importance and value to the firm of reviewing the Client base;
• analysing sources of fees before deploying limited resources to manage all Clients;
• selecting and managing Clients according to their strategic and potential lifetime value to the firm;
• strategic Client management - how to grow business with existing Clients through greater analysis of their business drivers and requirements, and greater understanding of their structure;
• the importance of sharing of Client data across the firm;
• benefits of comparing the firm's development plans for different Clients;
• managing your Client portfolio;
• the challenges of organising for, and managing, international Clients.
• What typifies the Clients you serve?
• Are you serving the right Clients?
• What is a strategic Client?
• What is the role of a strategic Client manager?
• How well do you manage international Clients?
• What metrics should you use?
The Evolving Commercial Model
As professional services firms grow in size, skills and handle different types of Client, strategic decisions are usually necessary about the direction, structure and scope of its operations. Some firms decide to specialise in one specific area, for example, a law firm may focus on mergers and acquisitions or patents, while an accounting firm may have a strong advisory practice. Others grow their skills base across disciplines to offer a broader range to Clients or decide to expand geographically regardless of the services offered.
It is only relatively recently, compared with their consumer and services counterparts, that professional services firms have taken on a more commercial approach to running their organisations and communicating their offerings. This is partly due to the increased level of competition as the market for professional services has matured. While gross profit per partner is an important measure of a firm's performance, many firms have not yet considered the introduction of marketing and sales functions to bring more focus to growing the business profitably and seeking new markets. Client service is considered important by most firms, yet the recent Client Care Survey research reveals that few real measures of Client satisfaction are actually in place.
The commercial function of marketing is often misunderstood by many professional services firms. At a recent networking event, one firm's managing partner admitted that initially marketing was 'a group of fairly expensive people producing pretty brochures'. Selling is often considered taboo in such organisations. Some fee earners clearly believe that Clients will select their firm just because of its reputation. It is also relatively recently that brands and branding have started to emerge and develop within the increasingly more competitive professional services arena to differentiate between firms.
When marketing is truly effective, it brings a professional, strategic, approach of determining Client requirements and then satisfying them profitably through competitively differentiated solutions. Professional marketing people are usually excellent communicators and are trained to understand this and the importance of securing profitable sources and streams of income. They possess the skills to analyse fee income by Client type, service, region, office and sector. This analysis often reveals the strengths and weaknesses of a firm's current operations and provides insights into its possible marketing strategy. Professional marketers also know the power of effective communications directed at the right audiences through the appropriate channels. When marketing is operating effectively, it pervades the firm so that everyone feels Client-oriented. True marketers are not usually satisfied until Clients are part of the firm's DNA, as revealed by employee engagement surveys and, most importantly, from Client feedback.
In professional services firms, the sales function is usually referred to as business development (BD) or Client service (CS). The marketing team devises strategies and targets specific Clients to 'open doors' for the BD team, usually through the generation of enquiries. The BD/CS team then follows up leads and introduces Clients to the firm, and to the relevant partners, with the aim of closing on an instruction. The commercial function usually has a team responsible for creating responses to high-value bids. When marketing is really effective, it makes the subsequent BD process easier.
The most effective commercial model has marketing, BD and bid teams working in harmony - a powerful force available and appropriately resourced to pursue and capture new Clients and to grow existing ones. As firms become more sophisticated, their approach to marketing and BD is likely to create more specific roles. The aim is to develop a portfolio of loyal Clients who consider the firm as its trusted business adviser.