Key Client Selection and Management
Once it has been decided how Clients might be classified, it is important to establish a process for their ongoing selection and management. From analysis of our Client base, we can decide how best to manage our Client portfolio as outlined earlier. It is clear that a firm cannot give the same time and resources to every Client, so some form of selection and prioritisation is necessary to provide focus on those Clients that are likely to be the most lucrative to the firm over the longer term. Many firms devise criteria to select which Clients require this focus. They then assign priorities and use a weighting to 'score' Clients.
These selection criteria include the following.
• Strategic alignment.
• Overall importance to the firm.
• Sector focus.
• Growth prospects and potential.
• Stage in the Client lifecycle.
• Client loyalty and advocacy levels.
• Cultural fit.
• Revenue objectives overall.
• Current and projected revenues.
• Cross-selling potential.
• Frequency of fee generation.
• Fee penetration.
• Share of Client spend.
• Lifetime value.
• Level of repeat business.
• High referral value.
• Size in terms of turnover.
• Regional importance to the firm.
• Prestigious, e.g. well-known.
• Market leader.
• Corporate responsibility profile.
• International reputation.
Table 3.1 shows how to use the strategy factors to compare different Clients. To make this effective, it is important to bring together a small team for each Client that can assign scores against each factor based on their Client knowledge. This would typically include the Client Relationship Manager, BD and any Practice Team member. This exercise can then be extended to include the other classification factors.
Table 3.1 Evaluating the Strategic Fit of Two Clients
So, in this example, Client A has the better strategic fit. When repeated for all Clients being considered, resources can then be allocated accordingly. It may also be decided to service certain Clients in different ways depending on their fit with the firm's strategy and their potential.
ESTABLISHING AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING OPERATION IN PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
A national professional services firm with around 100 partners was structured along 10 service lines, each with a practice head reporting to the managing partner. A marketing department had been set up primarily to produce sales collateral and run events. As income had remained stagnant for a period of several years, the board decided to call in a consultant to advise how the firm could grow. The consultant discovered that each service line was run autonomously, with little collaboration or communication between them about Client management or development. There was also very little analysis of sources of business. Events were held regularly and activities were created, but without much attention to follow up and return on investment. Partners held on to their Clients and were clearly reluctant to share knowledge and relationships.
Determining the Top Value Clients
Following discussions with the management team, the consultant organised a number of workshops involving a mix of service line heads and managers. Preparatory work involved some basic analysis of income. During the workshop sessions, each service line head was asked to name their top ten Clients by income. These were listed on flip charts and displayed around the walls of the room. It became evident that many Clients appeared on several lists.
What was more revealing was that some of the participants admitted that they were unaware of these 'shared' Clients! The delegates were then asked to classify Clients by sector. This gave another view of the business and highlighted relative sector strength. Another exercise mapped the contacts at each Client; this again surprised the audience. It became clear to the group that there was little co-ordination of Client contacting.
Managing Common Clients across Service Lines
Over the ensuing weeks the consultant called together groups of service line heads to discuss how they could manage the 'common' Clients that had been identified. Around 70 Clients were selected for further review. It was agreed that each Client would have a partner assigned who would be responsible for managing the overall relationship between the Client and the firm. This change would be communicated to, and discussed with, the Client. Each 'relationship partner' would be required to develop a service plan for Clients in his portfolio, based on input from each practice head, even if there was no income currently in that service line. This service plan would eventually form part of the ongoing strategic dialogue with the Client.
Introducing Professional Marketing
The consultant then suggested that each service line should have marketing support at manager level, led by a senior marketing manager who would report to the board. This investment was agreed and four professional marketing managers were appointed to cover the 10 practice areas. The marketing team created positioning and differentiation statements for each service line and produced strategies and plans aimed at specific target audiences.
This structure remained in place for around two years, during which time the firm's revenue had clearly grown through the cross-selling opportunities that were identified by the marketing team working with relationship partners and service line heads. The inertia that was associated with the earlier ways of working had disappeared.
Following further analysis of the firm's business by sector, it became evident to the senior marketing manager that there were certain sectors that were growing; these were food, retail, technology and transport. The board agreed to the recruitment of a sector marketing manager whose role was to create campaigns relevant to each growth sector. Over time this role was extended to include other emerging sectors and the larger value sectors were assigned a sector marketing manager. Sectors were then targeted for business development.
A Client satisfaction programme was established, starting with the firm's top 70 Clients. This revealed further business development opportunities which were followed up. The service line marketing managers were given new roles to oversee strategic marketing channels and to create a positioning and package of service lines for each channel.
In the five years since the intervention of the consultant, the firm's income grew on average by 8 per cent, year-on-year.