The Importance of Leveraging Alumni Relationships

Here we define alumni as people who used to be employed by the firm and have now moved on. Employees can leave a firm for many reasons, for example:

• restructuring;

• offer of a better job elsewhere;

• another family member has an opportunity abroad;

• setting up a new business;

• career development;

• health issues;

• retirement;

• to take up voluntary work.

All of these past employees are alumni of the firm; many move into similar roles in another firm, while some go into industry rather than continue in the professional service sector. There is considerable 'churn' in the professional service sector, so the key factor for any firm is to have a process and mechanism for keeping in touch with their alumni, recognising the sensitivities that go with such contact. After all, many alumni could become loyal Clients if they were well-disposed towards the firm that they left; other alumni may be the source of valuable referrals.

So clearly alumni are a potential source of fee revenue. Many alumni take up senior positions and non-executive directorships. For example, let us suppose that you have identified 5,000 alumni. If you were able to convert just five per cent into Clients, through targeted communications and events, imagine the financial benefits for your firm. We can analyse and segment our alumni database so that we are sensitive to their likely interests and requirements. As an example, we are likely to treat those alumni who left due to restructuring differently from those who have retired. Contact with alumni can take many forms, for example:

• Dedicated alumni area in a firm's website.

• Events.

• Webinars.

• Training days.

• Technical updates.

• Online forums.

• Industry discussion panels.

• Newsletters.

• Referral requests.

• Speaking opportunities.

• Supporting bids to prospective Clients.

For an example of a plan to leverage alumni, see the case study later in this chapter.

EXAMPLE OF A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PLAN

Objectives for the Coming Year

• Generate £3m of leads from target prospective Clients resulting in at least £ I m of new business.

Achieve at least 60% Net Promoter Score for Client satisfaction. Current level is 50%.

• Increase the current 20% conversion rate from meetings to fees to 25%.

• Increase % cross-selling meetings from current 30% to 40%.

• Develop Strategic Client Plans for at least 80% of our 50 top tier Clients.

• Develop Client plans for 30% of our 100 mid-tier Clients.

• Use our sector credentials to penetrate selected growth sectors of logistics and technology.

• Develop awareness of our firm in the public sector to achieve at least 20% increase in recognition over last year.

• Increase our business with international Clients by 10%.

• Invite alumni to all events throughout the year and aim to develop at least 10 new Clients.

In 2014 our overall aim will be to retain and grow our existing Client portfolio. We will continue to pursue a Client-centric mind-set across the firm and focus on developing stronger, multi-level relationships with our Clients. In particular we will map all 50 top tier Clients' decision making units to ensure that we can build relationships at many levels within our top Clients. Given Client satisfaction feedback from 2013, we need to demonstrate a better understanding of our Clients' businesses. We will therefore devote more field visit time to arranging for partners to attend strategic business meetings with current Clients. We will also raise awareness of our service line offerings and propositions in those Clients where only one service line is currently sold.

Clients First

To ensure that we become more Client-centric, we will work with the marketing and internal communications teams to implement a programme which features Client stories, case studies and examples of where our teams made a difference to Clients. We will continue to add information on our successes to the central database of Client testimonials. Our Client Panel will meet monthly to discuss our Client satisfaction results and strategic Client plans progress. The group will now include partners from each service line and growth sector leaders.

Sales Pipeline

Our new business pipeline currently has 200 prospective, researched Client targets from which we plan to generate fee income in excess of our £lm target. These targets will have scheduled meetings, the outcomes of which will be monitored for conversations, strategic discussions, progressions and conversions. All such activity will be recorded within a week of the meeting on our CRM system by members of the business development team. Any significant changes will be flagged immediately to the appropriate partners for action.

External Communications, Campaigns and Events

We have briefed our public relations agency so that they can generate suitable material and media coverage in our two growth sectors. These activities will support specific marketing campaigns events targeted at prospective Clients. The attendees will be encouraged to interact with current Clients and alumni at these events so that they can understand more about our culture and how our firm does business. A new series of activities will aim to raise awareness of our firm in the public sector.

International Clients

2013 was a successful year with Clients operating beyond our shores. We would anticipate a further £250,000 of new business in 2014 from these Clients. In particular, we will pursue Clients that have cross-boundary issues requiring solutions, liaising with the relevant global account manager.

Client Satisfaction

In 2013 our Net Promoter Score was 50%, resulting from 60% Promoters and 10% Detractors. We will aim to reduce the Detractor component by following up all such Clients scoring between 0 and 6 on the Net Promoter question, with a goal of achieving a reduction in Detractors to 5% and an increase in Promoters to at least 65% over the next year. This would increase the NPS to 60%.

Challenges for the Year Ahead

Strategic Client management - we need to increase the focus on producing realistic action plans for our 50 top tier Clients and start to develop such plans for mid-tier Clients. To do this in the coming year we will provide an ongoing series of practical workshops where attendees bring their Client data for discussion and sharing with colleagues to generate new ideas. By the end of a workshop each mid-tier Client team will have produced a draft Client plan.

Reward - we will provide financial incentives across the business development team once a level of 85% of new business is generated.

Service line training - we will continue or monthly briefings that cover our service line offerings, how these are communicated, key messages and points of differentiation.

Campaign briefings - our marketing campaigns helped us to raise brand awareness last year by 5% among prospective Clients, and also positioned us favourably in our growth sectors. We will continue our regular campaign briefings to ensure that our business development team and partners are all 'on message'. We would expect to generate over 500 prospect meetings from leads generated through these campaigns.

Sponsorship - we will continue our sponsorship of the national business awards in the technology sector and will seek for a similar high profile opportunity in the logistics sector. We will also continue to support a worthy national cause this year.

CLIENT SERVICES AT KNIGHT FRANK

Philip Gardner is Head of Client Services at Knight Frank, leaders in the commercial and residential property market. Previously head of BD in a Dubai property firm, he joined Knight Frank five years ago as Business Generation Co-ordinator. He is now responsible to the three heads of the residential business for a business generation team of 10 UK based Client Managers that are organised by service line; Country, London and Lettings. This team develops business with existing Clients and seeks to re-establish contact with Clients that Knight Frank have lost touch with. His team is due to be expanded to include Applicant Management. In addition to managing his team Philip also has an advisory and training role that spans the firm and also advises on IT support.

'We prefer to use the term Client Services rather than Business Development in our firm as we wish to downplay the selling aspect of the role. Knight Frank is dominated by its commercial and residential service lines and Philip's team spans the whole of the residential business thus acting as co-ordinators when cross-selling opportunities arise both in commercial and residential service lines. There are plans to explore further opportunities with the firm's commercial Clients using a similar model in the near future. Key Clients include private Clients dealing with assets usually worth £lm+ and private banks including Barclays Wealth, Julius Baer, UBS, which are managed by a regional team that covers the UK.'

Client feedback is sought after each transaction using e-mail and a standard form. This is the only formal mechanism Knight Frank uses to understand the level of Client satisfaction. Philip admits that the firm has so many Clients that it is not possible to stay in touch with all of them on a regular basis. 'We have built up a large, loyal Client base that come to us when they need advice or have a potential transaction to be managed, and they know that they can count on us for excellent service.'

'All of the Knight Frank Client-facing teams are fee earners and have targets and performance measures. Remuneration is linked directly to Client fee income and each person is accountable for their Clients, so the firm doesn't have a specific Client care function. The firm has three CRM systems on the residential side of the business, one transactional system for sales, one for lettings and the other a contact management system.'

 
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