Business Development is a broad field with multiple areas
within it. Depending
on the person or
organization, business development can have many definitions. For the purpose of this article, we will define
business development as the combination of your firm’s sales & marketing
efforts. Coordinating these areas of
your firm is crucial to deepening relationships with current clients and
developing business with new clients.
Now, more than ever, firms have access to technology and web-based
services that allow you to streamline and maximize your business development
areas while not draining unnecessary resources from the firm.
Why is building
business through smart use of technology important to your firm?
Pre-recession, there was plenty of business to go
around. At times, firms couldn’t hire
fast enough to accommodate the growing need for their services. However, once the recession hit, clients
became more price-sensitive and fee pressures intensified. Nowadays, finding new clients and growing the
firm is more difficult. At the same
time, how business is developed has evolved since pre-recession. Every day, new
technology services are being launched that help professional services firms
better engage with prospects and clients while becoming more cost
effective. How firm’s filter through all
of the possibilities and leverage technology to build business is becoming key
to the success of firms.
In this two-part series, we will focus on leveraging technology
in 8 areas of business development:
- Client Referrals & Testimonials
- Branding & Design
- Social Media
- Customer Relationship Management
- Online Payments
- Website Builders
- Project Management
- Email Marketing
For the purposes of this article (Part 1), we will focus on
the first 3 areas.
Who are your firms’ best sales people? Your clients!
Think of your clients as an extension of your sales & marketing
team. The relationships they have with
their colleagues and peers are opportunities for your firm to grow your client
base. The most important thing to
remember when developing your client referral plan is that you must ask for the
referral. It is great when one of your
"raving fan” clients brings you a new customer, however, we shouldn’t rely on
them to do so. Calling clients and
meeting up with them at conferences is still an effective method for asking for
referrals. However, there is a web-based
service that helps facilitate asking for referrals and tracking the results.
A great tool for increasing client referrals is Net
Promoter. According to NetPromoter.com,
"NetPromoter is both a loyalty metric and a discipline for using customer
feedback to fuel profitable growth in your business.” NetPromoter is more than
a customer satisfaction program it is also an operating model from which you
can follow to begin increasing customer satisfaction thus increasing client
Another great way to leverage your "raving fan” clients is
to use inexpensive video technologies to capture client testimonials and post
them on your website and social networks. This can be achieved by either
recording the testimonial in person at a conference or an event that both of
you are attending. Or, you can use Skype and a video recording plug-in to
record the testimonial from the comfort of your desks.
Skype is a software application that allows users to make
voice and video calls over the Internet.
Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to
both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a
nominal fee using a debit-based user account system.
A Skype video recorder which creates complete
video productions directly from Skype calls.
You can record video and audio and edit the videos for your needs.
Branding & Design
Branding and design can be the most intimidating and
resource draining areas of business development. Projects such as these have a tendency become
delayed and over budget. Branding and
design effects lead generation and is vitally important to the image of the
firm so this area can’t be ignored. No
longer do firms need to employee
a full-time graphic designer or pay a premium for a contracted graphic
designer. With advances in technology,
accessing the "crowd” has never been easier and is perfect for getting branding
and design work done in a timely and cost-effective manner. This method is known as "crowdsourcing”.
"Crowdsourcing” is commonly defined as "the act of taking
tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing
them to a group of people or community, through an "open call” to a large group
of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.”
There are a number of "crowdsourcing” platforms with a specific focus on
graphic design. Once you submit your
project, not only will you be able to view multiple design entries, the
built-in process will ensure your projects stay within budget and on-time.
The "crowdsourcing” platforms below are all very similar,
is different. Each platform has a built-in process that
will guide your firm through each stage ensuring you end up with exactly what
you are looking for or your money back.
Crowdspring lets you decide how much your project will
cost. However, depending on the project,
they charge a listing ranging from $200 - $600 plus a 15% commission. Crowdspring works best for design and writing
projects. You will be able to choose the
best design or writing from 100+ entries.
The more you pay, the more options you will receive.
Depending on the type of project, 99Designs will charge you
a listing fee ranging from $95 - $495.
99Designs will then take a percentage of that and pay the winning
designer the rest. 99Designs works best
for design projects such as graphics, logos, business cards and stationary.
ELance is slightly different than Crowdspring and
99Designs. There is no listing fee. With Elance, you are able to post your
project and designers from around the world will bid on the project letting you
know how much/little they are willing to complete the project for. Elance works best for larger projects that
need a dedicated designer, developer, program, writer, etc. You will work with them from the beginning to
Although social media has been around for years, too much
focus has been given to marketing and not enough focus on how to leverage it
for sales. With the improvements in
social media over the last couple years, the idea of cold-calling is dead. By using the tools available on Facebook,
LinkedIn and Twitter, all of your "cold calls” can become "warm calls”.
Think of LinkedIn as a rolodex on steroids. LinkedIn is all web-based and self-managed by
those who have profiles. You are able to
view someone’s current position, work history, education, bio and connections. This is a gold-mine for any sales team that
is looking to build relationships with new prospects.
Say you’re interested in contacting Jones & Company, LLC
about your firm’s new service. Just log
into LinkedIn and search for employees of Jones & Company, LLC. Review their profiles and find some
commonality you have with them; whether it’s education, experience, or the same
professional contact. Using LinkedIn’s
"introduction feature”, you can request that one of your connections introduce
you to the employee at Jones & Company, LLC. An introduction through LinkedIn is much warmer
than a cold call or email. Plus, the
context of LinkedIn is all about professional contacts so no one should be
caught off-guard when you are requesting to be introduced.
A new tool that will help you see your LinkedIn connections,
how they are grouped, and how they are connected is called "InMaps”. This is great for seeing how all your
connections are related and can help when searching for commonalities with
On Twitter, you can directly message those that are
following you. This is a great tactic for requesting to schedule that phone
call or to touch base at an upcoming conference. So what do you do if you want to send someone
a message that isn’t following you? That’s where the "@reply” comes into
play. Reply to someone’s tweet and it
will be sent to their email. It’s an
easy way to start a dialog and is less obtrusive than a cold email or call.
Creating a local business or company page for your firm is a
great way increase interaction with your clients and prospects. You are able to
post updates, photos, questions, videos, links and more to help strengthen the
relationship with those that "Like” your firm on Facebook. To create a page for your firm, visit the "Create
a Page” page on Facebook.
There is no shortage of web-based technologies to improve
your firm’s business development efforts.
I would recommend focusing on one tactic at a time. This will increase your success with
implementing improvements and will create a "flywheel” effect of success. In next month’s Boomer Bulletin, I will
discuss the remaining 5 areas of business development.