Episode 136 – Why Podcasting Should be Part of a Professional Service Firms Marketing Mix – Member Case by Tom Schwab

Podcasting is a perfect marketing channel for boutique professional service firms. It allows a firm to authentically connect with its target market at scale cost effectively. Yet, many members are not taking advantage of this tool. This session will teach members how to leverage the podcasting channel to grow their firms.

TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast, the podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community focused on the unique needs of the boutique process of firm space. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’m going to be your host today. On this episode, we’re going to talk about podcasting and its role that it might play in your marketing mix as you look to grow your firm. And we have a collective 54 member role model with us who’s an expert in this area. His name is Tom Schwab. He’s with Interview Valet Time. It’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to everybody. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:00] Greg, I am thrilled to be here. You know, I run the agency interview valet. And my my viewpoint is that today every pro serves business problem is obscurity, right? There’s thousands, tens of thousands of people you could help. They just don’t know you exist. And I think instead of breaking through the noise, it’s much more powerful to get in on the conversation that people are already listening to. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:25] All right. So so give us kind of a State of the Union on podcasting. I’m not sure our membership community, you know, has a full appreciation for how prevalent it is, how it’s growing, etc.. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:37] Yeah. And everybody thinks there’s, you know, millions and millions of podcasts. While that’s true, less than 450,000 have gone live in the last 30 days. So there’s always room for great podcasts out there. The other thing is that not everyone is listening to podcasts. If you look at the current data, it says 51% of the U.S. adult population listens to podcasts, right? And they’re above average income. They’re above average education. These are people that are early adopters, that are looking for answers. They’re looking to make their life better right there. There’s still probably a third of the people out there that are so proud They haven’t read a book in since high school. They’re probably not listening to podcasts. Right? The people that are listening to podcasts are looking for answers, looking for ideas. Look at looking for people that can help them. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:33] I mean, if half the American adult population is listening to podcasts, I mean, that’s that’s a huge audience. So, I mean, relative to the other forms of media, it’s pretty new, although it is maturing. Why do you think it’s grown so much? 

Tom Schwab [00:02:49] It’s now, what, almost 20 years old, right? So it it’s you know, it’s going to stick around for a while. But I think it’s really because of the intimacy and also the authenticity. Right. We’re so tired of this little, you know, sound world. And while there’s a place for that to really learn, to really understand, something is going to take more of a longer conversation and it’s more authentic. Right? And we look at things that are on television that is highly edited, and we really just sort of want to see what what really happened behind the scenes. And in some ways, almost like a voyeur is a bright. You and I would be having the same conversation if we were sitting at a coffee shop or a bar. Right. The only difference is that there’s microphones and the whole world gets to listen in. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:44] Yeah, it’s really interesting. I like the concept of intimacy because if you think about our audience boutique process firms, I mean, they’re boutiques by design, which means they serve. You know, I like to say the riches are in the niches. So anything that you can do to build a more intimate or authentic relationship with the target audience and the client base is much preferred over maybe kind of mass communication techniques. So. So tell us why, in your opinion, podcasting should be part of the marketing mix specifically for the boutique processor firm? 

Tom Schwab [00:04:14] Yeah, I think it’s really because there’s this idea of you’re one funnel away and I don’t believe that, right. The best things in life don’t come through funnels, They come through conversations and there’s a great book called Clicks and How Digital Marketing is Ruining Your Business. And I love how Bill Troy says Big fish don’t swim through funnels and whales don’t click right. The people that are hiring processor firms aren’t going to hire you because you did a dance on Tik. If anything, that’s a reason for them not to hire you, right? So they want this discussion. They want to know who they are working with. And at the end of the day, none of us need more leads, right? We need more profits. We need profits come through great customers, right? So the idea of going out there and being able to communicate at length is really magnetic marketing, where it will attract the right people and retell the wrong ones. The other. The thing I love about this channel is that it becomes so easy to create and then so easy to reproduce and repurpose. Right. I’ve written a lot of blogs in my life. Most of them feel like homework assignments, right? But we can have this conversation and then take the take the audio and get a transcript, have somebody clean it up and make a blog. We can take video clips from it, audio clips so you can get a month’s worth of content out of one podcast interview. Yeah. So to my my sense, it’s it’s easy to create, it’s inexpensive to create, and it’s so powerful that you can use it in your marketing and even in your sales, right? You can for somebody who gets on a sales call, you can say, Hey, our founder did this interview. Right? And I think it’d be interesting to, you know, how they’re going to listen to 45 minutes of the founder before they even jump on a sales call. That that becomes a warmed up lead. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:10] Yeah, I agree. So there’s there’s two approaches. Should they be done mutually exclusive? Should they be complementary to one another? And the two I’m referring to is sort of collective 54 members start their own podcast or should they seek to be a guest on somebody else’s podcast? What’s your opinion on that? 

Tom Schwab [00:06:29] Well, I’ve always got opinions on everything, but I look at it, it’s like, should you be an Uber driver or an Uber passenger? Right. Say same platform, but what are your goals? Right. If you want to nurture your current clients and your current leads, then host your own podcast. And Greg, this is a great example, right? Because you take this content, we we dig into it each week in the community. Right. So it’s really for people that already know about it or part of it. Well, if you want to go out and find new leads, new customers, you know, if you build it, they will come. Doesn’t work. You really need to tap in where they’re already listening to. So I’d say be a host. If you want to nurture your current leads and customers, be a guest. If you want to go out and get new customers, new leads, new exposure, new backlinks. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:25] Yeah. I mean, so that’s I mean, and I should tell everybody that collective 54 is a client of Tom’s, and we do both. I mean, obviously here we are, here we are hosting our own podcast. And you’re right, it’s that is for our members primarily. And we are able to, you know, put role models in front of them through the podcast every week. And our members love that. But when Tom books me as a guest on another show, that’s an audience that doesn’t know who I am and I get exposure, you know, to that group. And then through that they find their way to collective 54. So I think, you know, being a guest on someone else’s show is a great acquisition technique, and hosting your own show is a great retention technique. At least that’s how I see it. I think that’s a good way to frame it. So, Tom, tell the audience a little bit about your services. And I’m giving you permission here not to be modest and humble, but, you know, your expertise is taking people like me and getting them on other people’s shows, which it’s hard to get on other people’s shows. I don’t know how people do it without somebody like you. So why don’t you tell us how it works? 

Tom Schwab [00:08:31] Yeah. So we’ve been doing this for nine years now and we have a team of 30 in Europe and North America and. When we first started out, it was almost like guest blogging, right? My background is inbound marketing and engineering, and I looked at it and said, Well, I guess blogs aren’t working anymore more. Could we? The equivalent of guest blog on podcast. And so we started with that. And Greg, the first three years, we built up the systems, the processes, and I went, I tell people about it. I’d get my elevator pitch and they’d go, What’s the podcast? Well, that changed about 2019, and people started to see the power of those. And so now, now one of our clients said, I love working with you because you let me be the guest and you take care of the rest. And I’m like, Oh, that’s good. Copy were taken that. But we’re working with thought leaders, right? Coaches, consultants, leading brands, not fiction, nonfiction authors to get them out there on the right podcast and really, you know, let them be Sinatra. And we do all the supporting work with that. So not only finding the podcasts, but prepping them for every podcast, giving in the best tools and processes for each podcast, and then also the feedback, right? I’m an engineer by degree, so, you know, in God, we trust everyone else bring data. So we license a whole lot of databases. And I think without that it’s more podcast guessing than podcast guesting, because at the end of the day, nobody comes to us and says, I want to be on a podcast, right? That’s that’s an ego thing. Now there’s always an overarching goal of I want to grow my business. Yeah, being on podcast. So that’s really what we focus on. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:24] Okay, so some of our members and I’d say quite a few are what I would describe as a brilliant domain expert. Whatever their domain is, I don’t know. Maybe they’re, you know, a brilliant creative director in a marketing agency, or maybe they’re an absolute brilliant technologist in cybersecurity or something like that. And that’s is what allowed them to get their firms to the point that they’re at. But they’re they’re not great at sales and marketing and they don’t like it. And they sometimes suffer from what’s known as the imposter syndrome. You know, they maybe don’t recognize how brilliant they really are. So putting themselves out there on a podcast can be very intimidating to that group, which is a shame because the world needs to hear what they have to say. So you mentioned that you coach them and you prep them before they get on a call. So how do you help somebody like that maybe overcome their fear and kind of hold their hand? So it’s a great experience for them. 

Tom Schwab [00:11:25] Yeah. And I think I’m going to correct you there. I think all of them are brilliant, right? They’ve all brilliance in different ways. And one of the phrase you hear me talk about a lot is what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others. Right? So that expertise that you have there that everyone knows that. And there was a friend of mine that actually helped me with this because I started out I had that imposter syndrome. I’m like, I’m not the expert, Right? I don’t think there’s anything as the expert, but there is a expert. And he said, you know, the legal definition of a of an expert is someone by their training, their education or their experience knows more than the average person. Trust me, as long as hard hours as you put in your business, in the industry, you have expertise there that others don’t have and that your clients are paying you for. And so I think to frame it that way, for people to also work through their one sheet to say these are the topics that you can bring expertise to, let’s focus on these. Right? Nobody’s going to ask you a question. You know, if you’re not in finance, they’re not going to ask you, Well, what do you think about the Fed’s move? I don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise. Yeah, right. So they want to bring you on. They they want to make you look good with that. So I really think it’s focusing that that light on where they can they can add expertise. The other thing is I love it when people come and they’re like, Yeah, I don’t like sales, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like promoting myself. Perfect, right? Because the worst thing to do on a podcast interview is to make it an infomercial. Yeah. And, you know, Rand Fishkin, who wrote the book Lost and Found Her, I love how he put out there. He said the best way to sell something today is not to sell anything, but to earn the respect, awareness and trust of those who might buy. And I would say, you know, on a podcast, it’s those who are ready to buy, right? If they listened to you for 30 or 45 minutes, they’re going to turn you up or turn you off. That’s fine, right? But if you’re the answer to. FRAYER You don’t have to sell them, right? You have to just tell them what you do, how you do it, and it will attract it to it. And, you know, the data shows that we’ve have for nine years that the leads from podcaster interviews tend to close faster for a higher initial engagement and less churn. Yeah, and it sort of makes sense. It’s not cold traffic. It’s it’s a warm referral. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:04] I mean, that’s the experience that I’ve had for sure, and that’s why I’m so committed to the podcasting piece of our marketing mix. All right. Well, listen, we’re out of our time here, but for the members that are listening to this, I want to encourage you all to attend the private member only Q&A session, which we’ll have with Tom that will allow you to ask your direct questions to Tom and he’ll answer those. That meeting invite will come out shortly, but look for that and please attend. If you’re not a member and you think you might want to join, go to collective 54 dot com. You can fill out a contact us form and one of our reps will get in contact with you. And if you’re interested in topics like this and you want to learn about other things, I would point you in the direction of our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional Services Firm. But with that, Tom, I mean, I appreciate you and all that you do. Thanks for being a great contributing member to Collective 54. You give a lot as well as take. So thanks for that spirit and thanks for being part of our tribe. 

Tom Schwab [00:15:02] I thank you for putting it all together. It’s such a great community and like I said before, what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others, and there’s just brilliance in there. And when people share that, it’s amazing the magic and synergy that happens. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:17] Okay, great.

The Unseen Consequence of Neglecting Sales & Marketing: A Wake-Up Call for Custom Software Development Firms

The Unseen Consequence of Neglecting Sales & Marketing: A Wake-Up Call for Custom Software Development Firms

The year is 2023, and the global economy, relentlessly stirred by fluctuating trends and financial pressures, has dealt a heavy blow to professional service firms—particularly the custom software development houses. These firms, once lavishly blessed with burgeoning budgets, have come face-to-face with the painful aftermath of their own negligence: systemic underinvestment in sales and marketing.

Over the past decade, buoyed by an era of abundance, boutique professional service firms effortlessly navigated the path to their financial targets. This period of corporate wealth, coupled with the world’s relentless march toward digital transformation, catalyzed an unprecedented demand for custom software solutions. But beneath this seemingly golden age lurked a dangerous assumption held by these firms’ technical geniuses: the belief that their good work alone would suffice to attract prospects and keep the pipeline humming. The dogma that “good work sells itself” and that clients would automatically broadcast their satisfaction was almost religious in its conviction.

Herein lies the crux of their arrogance: “Who needs to be good at sales and marketing when there’s a perpetual stream of opportunities?” This flawed assumption has proven perilously short-sighted in 2023. Firms that were once profitable and expanding are now facing contracting revenues, slimmer margins, operational losses, and even layoffs.

Unsurprisingly, these once-cocky founders believe they can abruptly flip a switch and rectify this situation by merely getting “good” at sales and marketing. But a harsh truth awaits them: Excellence in business development is not achieved overnight. It takes years to build a robust sales and marketing foundation—just as it takes years to hone software engineering skills.

So, what is the founder of a boutique professional service firm, particularly in the software development space, to do? Swallowing a sizeable slice of humble pie seems to be in order. They must heed the wisdom of Warren Buffet: “Only when the tide goes out do you learn who has been swimming naked.” The tide has gone out and these founders have been swimming naked. They must commit to a multi-year investment of time and resources to cultivate world-class capabilities in business development. Failing to do so will condemn them to a vicious boom-bust cycle dictated by the economy’s natural expansion and recession rhythms.

Building an enduring boutique professional service firm—one that thrives in times of prosperity and recession alike—requires the ability to consistently and predictably win new business and garner expansion revenue from existing clients. This moment signifies a stark division between the strong and weak leaders.

The weak leader, in the face of adversity, retrenches and relies on the good fortune of a recovering economy to rebound. But such a leader will never construct a great firm; they will merely float with the macro environment’s ebbs and flows.

In contrast, the strong leader invests heavily in a robust business development function during challenging times. These leaders are driven by an intolerance for their future lying outside their control. They aim to build resilient, enduring firms that can weather stormy times as well as they can bask in glorious periods.

Which type of leader are you? A true entrepreneur who bets on himself during times of uncertainty, or a small business owner masquerading as an entrepreneur afraid to do what is required?

Now is the time for a call to action. For many of these founders, a decade-long stretch of prosperity means they have never navigated a recession before. These uncharted waters leave them clueless and desperate. The solution? Join the Collective 54 mastermind community. Surround yourself with seasoned role models, mentors, coaches, and peers who have weathered these storms before and can guide you forward. Here is an example of a member of our community from the software development sector that should inspire you. By joining, you can surround yourself with remarkable peers like this. 

Failing to heed this advice and continue underestimating the importance of a robust sales and marketing foundation could mean the difference between merely surviving or thriving in the demanding world of custom software development. As the economic tides recede, don’t be left exposed. Take control, equip your firm for the long haul, and build an enduring legacy. 

Which approach do you believe is more effective for boutique professional service firms?

Cast your vote and join the conversation. The insights we glean from this poll will help illuminate the path forward for software development firms and other professional service providers alike. Let’s use this opportunity to learn from each other, adapt, and grow stronger in the face of adversity.

Episode 102 – How A Young and Small Firm Became Monday.com’s #1 North American Partner in Less than 3 Years – Member Case with Noah Berk

Marketing and selling professional services as you grow and scale your firm is one of the most popular topics at Collective 54. You must focus on attracting new clients while generating additional revenue from existing clients. On this episode, Noah Berk the Co-Founder of OBO shares how he has mastered his go-to-market strategy to accelerate revenue growth.

TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast with Collective 54, a podcast with founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated exclusively and entirely to the boutique professional services space. And for those that are looking to grow, scale and maybe someday exit. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the lucky guy who founded this place, and I’ll be your host today. And on this episode, we’re going to talk about leverage, all kinds of leverage, financial leverage, operating leverage, and how to use process and people and technology to increase the leverage ratio that you have in running your professional services firm. And we’ve got a fantastic role model, Noah Burke. And Noah is a member of Collective 54 and he’s got a lot to share with us on this topic. That’s why he was selected for this. So, Noah, great to see you. Please introduce yourself to the audience. 

Noah Burke [00:01:18] Thanks for having me here. Greg My name is Noah Burke. I’m one of the co-founders of OBO. We specialize in digitizing sales, marketing, service and operations for clients using CoSport, Salesforce one, an icon working with everyone from young venture backed companies to Fortune 500 firms. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:37] Okay, got it. Okay. So this topic of leverage, let me let me set it up a little bit. So. Couple of people hanging shingle. Start a firm. They know something that the rest of the world either doesn’t know it, doesn’t know it as well as them. And they shake the trees and they generate some referrals and they get their first set of clients. And every time they’re doing something, they’re doing it for the first time, which means it takes forever and it costs a lot and it’s lots of mistakes. And then over time the firm matures, the quality of the client improves. You start hiring some people, you start training them, and you wake up one day and you say, You know, I want more than a lifestyle business. I’ve already proven to myself that I don’t need a job to work for the man. I can work for myself and make a living. But now that I’ve cleared that hurdle, you know, I want to build a real firm, not a lifestyle business. And what that means is I need leverage. I need to create ways of doing things so everything isn’t dependent on me. Other people can do what I can do as well as I can do it. And therefore it frees me up to do other things to make money. That’s what the leverage is. And in the professional services space is actually a ratio for this. It’s called surprisingly the leverage ratio. And what it basically says is for every senior person, typically a partner at our world of boutiques, very often, if not almost always an owner, how many people can they keep busy? So for example, let’s say one person and I have ten people that I’m keeping busy. You know, my book of business is keeping ten people busy. I have a leverage ratio of 10 to 1. And how you create that is the key to to scaling your firm. And there’s lots of ways of doing that. So no, let me let me throw it over to you at 30,000 feet. Given that definition of leverage, how have you created leverage at Obio? 

Noah Burke [00:03:50] Well, I think it’s similar to what we do for our clients. I like to think of as a force multiplier and to create leverage in a couple of different ways. One is accountability and efficiency inside of the organization itself. So is having the systems in place to measure work, assign work and distribute work to individuals? Two, It’s also the type of people we have. So you just mentioned, you know, obviously senior people with perhaps junior people. So in our organization, we have senior people and then we also have junior individuals. And we spend a lot of time through what we call our residency program, training individuals to be able to take on the type of work necessary. And this particular residency program that we have. What’s really great about it is that they go through about four months of training and this is actually classroom training several hours a day. They go through real world examples, they take on assignments, and eventually at the end when they graduate from the residency program, they get assigned to a team that has more experienced individuals on that team. So they’re able to leverage those resources once they get on the team. Is how do you organize work in an effective way that your team is is billable and that you’re fully utilizing the team at any given time? That means now you need to have systems in place that you can actually measure work, that you can hold individuals accountable, but also see how work is getting done. So you can start creating systems and processes in place that make things easier to do. So I think you had mentioned earlier that when you’re just a two person shop, it’s it’s kind of simple, but when you have 45 people, it gets a little more complicated because you can’t do it all yourself. So you have to have people who you trust in a position who can do the work and assign the work and be able to follow through on what they do. And in this particular case, in our organizations around process, as much as training, as much as the team structure. So we work more in a team environment. Over here at OBS, there’s always a junior person, senior people who are working together. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:50] So the thing that kills leverage and let’s go there first and boutique process firms is two things. Number one, you have senior people who in theory cost more doing work that junior people could do. So therefore that work is expensive or more expensive needs to be. And that crushes margins and that ruins leverage and gives you a bad leverage ratio. And that happens all the time. Then you have the opposite of that. You have junior people doing senior work and they don’t have the experience for it. And the client gets upset because quality, depth and you end up losing revenue and that’s just as bad. You know, if we if we simplify it to that and I know it’s way more complicated than that, but if we simplify to that for a 15 minute podcast, what does OBO do in the first instance? How do you make sure that senior more expensive people aren’t chewing up their hours on kind of commodity stuff? 

Noah Burke [00:06:52] Well, I think it comes down. We understand what work is, quote unquote commodity. We also understand what work is senior. Sometimes what we don’t necessarily want to do is miss an opportunity to train or teach our junior employees. So sometimes we do eat. Some of that time when a junior employee is working on the senior employee lesson integration project or a particular migration project that they’re learning in that particular experience where we may not actually be billing for their time. We’re really going for the senior person time and the junior person is participating with that individual on it. But I think. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:32] I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I actually do that, and I’m sure you do too. That’s why you’re doing it. I view that as an investment. Like to me, that’s what it is. That’s a positive strategy, not a negative strategy. So let’s stay on that for a moment. Is there ever a situation where that senior person is doing junior work? Not for the purpose of developing an apprentice. They’re doing it anyways. 

Noah Burke [00:07:54] Yeah. I mean, in any professional service organization, sometimes that can creep into the mix where they may be doing work that really they shouldn’t be necessarily doing themselves. They’re doing it simply because it’s either easier. The transfer knowledge is going to take a while and they’d rather just get it done right. And so they’re just going to do it. I think in any organization it’s human nature to be like, Well, I know how to do this, so let me just go ahead and do it. Yep. Versus well, let me spend a little bit of extra time here, not necessarily billing the client for the time, but working with the junior employee to help them get up to speed. And we try and really through our four month residency program, get the team members up to speed on what is that, quote, commodity work. So we’re trying to teach them how to learn, try and teach them how to fend for themselves and where to get information and knowledge and how to grow themselves. Because you can keep showing them and showing them and showing them, but eventually they have to be able to figure out things. On their own. So we hire for a certain degree of curiosity. Everyone in our organization will be curious. They have to want to learn. They have to want to absorb new information. They also have to be okay with the unknown. So the unexpected, especially when you’re new inside organization. Almost everything is new and you’re not comfortable with those situations and experiences. It’s very difficult to rise and grow inside a company like ourselves. So it is part of the culture of the organization to have people who want to learn and want to grow. And you are constantly looking for what else can I do to further my own career? And the senior people gravitate towards them. Because if you’re going to teach someone, you want to teach someone who has a thirst for knowledge. I mean, yes, quote part of your job. But it’s easier. The other person is really receptive to what you’re sharing with them. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:38] Now, a four month residency program, that’s a big investment. And I love it. 

Noah Burke [00:09:42] Because. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:43] Yeah, and most of the process firms at scale have some version of that. It’s a grow your own approach. Now the people that are in the residence program during those four months, are they completely on the bench. No bill ability at all. 

Noah Burke [00:09:58] On a yeah. On the bench and availability. Wow. So it is it’s an incredible investment that we made our program. Just give me an idea of the number of applicants. We’ll get anywhere between 800 to 1000 applicants for four open positions. Sure. And even then, sometimes even higher four. That’s how exclusive it is to get in. So we’re looking for people who have the right attitude, who have that desire to learn and who’ve excelled somewhere else. Hmm. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:28] Interesting. 

Noah Burke [00:10:29] And in in our space, it’s really difficult to find talent who while we’re in the technology space, we did have technology deployments where we’re HubSpot elite partners for money dot com North American Partners of the year we’re Salesforce partners. And it’s not just how do you implement and how do you take a task, but how do you think through process? How do you align people, process and technology? And that’s very difficult to find. It’s easy to find a pure dev, we’ll say is maybe easy to find a pure analyst. You can just say people. It’s hard to find people who can think through not just what the requirements of an individual are, but how that process should work and flow. And then how will that be translated to technology and how do we implement? And we have special specialists in and organization. So we have individuals who are more project manager roles versus individuals or individual contributors, all equally valued inside the organization. And individuals can pick their path. But more often than not, they have to have some customer facing ability. And that’s a really difficult skill set. It’s something you learn and you have it. And then you also need that type of fortitude as well. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:40] Yeah. Now, when we have the Fri member Q&A, I guarantee you all the questions are going to come around this residency program probably. Yeah, because it’s very unique. And so let’s give them a little taste. So maybe think like, I don’t know, a table of contents where you would spell out to me one of the chapters of this program or the components of this program at a high level. 

Noah Burke [00:12:04] So depending upon where and what particular path we’re looking for, so sometimes we have needs for more project managers versus individual contributors or how we gear the program. So I took my business partner, Rob, my co-founder, about nine months just to develop the curriculum. So the full curriculum that each week, every day they’re working on different items. There’s guest speakers coming in within the organization or lectures and it’s geared towards the different applications we work. And so you’re not necessarily and the reason why is four months is partly thinking through it. You know, we work with several different technologies and most of our clients have two or more of them. I mean, HubSpot and Salesforce, maybe they have Salesforce on Monday, they have HubSpot on Monday. And so they have to be able to understand how these technologies work, what’s the principles behind them? What is a deployment look like? What are the needs of the organization? So it kind of walks them through what is a sales organization, what’s a marketing organization? What’s a customer service organization? How does operations and project management work? What does that flow look like in the customer journey process? What are the needs of the different individuals and each side, each of those individual departments? So as you can kind of start building on top of one another, it becomes a it’s an entire education that they’re getting into the space. By the time they get on team, they can generally handle about 50% of the use cases that are thrown at them. But one of the beautiful parts of the power structure, there’s always someone on there who can help them. They get stuck. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:42] Your clients, do they know that you put your people through this process? 

Noah Burke [00:13:47] Sometimes I do talk about it. It’s very exclusive. We have incredibly high retention rate inside the organization. Both. I think that’s due to our culture, our training, our development and also the people that we tend to hire are just brilliant. I mean, we have brilliant team members over here. And they like the level and the type of work we do there, like how we structure our work. They like how they get to structure their days and how they get to work on these individual items. And there’s it’s always new. Yeah. For what they’re. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:17] Solving. I mean, if I was a prospect and I was considering you and, you know, 20 other firms that claim they do what you do and you explain to me that process, I’d be like, Damn. I mean, I would view that as a real differentiator and probably pay a premium for it because I would the implied quality lift that comes with that is is very real. How about your technology partners, the Mondays, HubSpot to Salesforce? Do they know that you put this program together? 

Noah Burke [00:14:44] Yes. Yes. So we’re one of hotspots. Half percent of partners worldwide. We’ve built a reputation inside the community as being the go to company for think of their biggest engagements, their most complicated engagements, simply because we built a reputation that not only can we get done what we need to get done, but we got the team to be able to do it and reposition ourselves as a really technology company for implementations. Whereas most of our competition in that particular space isn’t the same thing applies on Monday. Same thing applies to Salesforce. Salesforce the idea of companies like us is more, I’d say, readily known. Whereas in Hotspot on Monday less so. But the needs and requirements are expanding and our clients are now our clients. Our partners are aware of our talent. They know what we’re investing and we’re making enormous investments. And so our people, the training, development, getting them up to speed, we’re also one of the very few companies to have enough pipeline of talent to actually handle the work coming to us. Very few companies simply have the skill sets and have the it’s almost like an aptitude inside the organization. And I give a lot of credit to my my co-founder and his background being very tactical, process oriented and like to be problem solvers. So it’s definitely helped us considerably with our partnerships with all three of them because they are aware that we do and we make these investments. And it’s also important for them to know that their partners are making these investments. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:18] Yeah, and I would imagine that’s why they’re throwing you work because they know you’re going to get it done. I mean, that’s how you win the award. North American Partner of the year. I would imagine. 

Noah Burke [00:16:29] We pretty much our entire businesses via referral. Yeah. From from partners from travel our clients as we call them, people finding us through inbound you know, is a real it’s an awesome thing to have just all these opportunities coming our way, but that also means we have to deliver every single time because our partners revenue is based on how good are we at what we do and our partners leverage us to help and close more business. So we’re also known as closers. In that sense, when a client generally comes to us and they’re trying to sell them on working with that individual partner, we actually end up becoming a benefit to have on their call. And so it’s in our training, our team and just how we do work is, is a critical component of our success. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:19] Yeah. I mean, if I was a sales rep for one of those tech providers and I was trying to convince somebody to buy my software package and all the licenses that come with it, I would bring you guys on that call because the the prospect is probably wondering, like, am I going to be able to pull this off? And then they meet you. And there’s a great sense of comfort and it gets them over their fear. 

Noah Burke [00:17:42] All the time. Yeah, all the time. And there’s not very many of us that can do what we do. And so they when they when they get the opportunity, they do. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:53] Yeah. Okay. Listen, is is you have it is exactly how you have it. You want to create leverage in your business. You want to scale, you want to increase margins. This is how you do it. I mean, this one example and no problem has got 25 others of this residency program is how leverage is built directly into the business. I mean, just think about the recruiting number. A thousand people apply for four spots. You know, we’ve got a lot of members and collective 54 that their biggest problem is they don’t have enough people. And here you are, you know, turning away, you know, hundreds of people. You don’t have that problem. And that’s what leverage is all about and that’s how you scale an organization. So, no, I could talk to you forever. I can’t wait for the Friday Q&A with the members, but we got to cut it short here. But thanks for being here today and sharing a little bit of your story with us. 

Noah Burke [00:18:41] You got it. Thanks for having me. 

Greg Alexander [00:18:43] All right. All right. Well, if you’re not a member and you think you might want to be because you get a chance to meet folks like Noah and be in a community of real peers, go to collective 54 dot com. You can fill out an application for membership and we’ll take that seriously, if not quite ready to apply. But you want to consume some more content and educate yourself. Again Collected 54 dot com. Subscribe to C54 insights. You’ll get you get a weekly podcast like this one, you get a blog, you get access to our bestselling book and you’ll get some, some charts which visually represent some benchmarking data that I think you’ll find interesting. So check that out. Okay. So thanks for listening and I look forward to our next episode.

Episode 65 – The Go-To-Market: How to Market and Sell Like a Pro – Member Case with Dan Bernoske

Founders of boutique professional services firms can increase their rate of growth by professionalizing their marketing and sales approach. On this episode, we will discuss how by interviewing Dan Bernoske of Cortado Group.



TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Boutique with Collective 54, a podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that don’t know us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community to help you grow, scale and exit your firm bigger and faster. I’m Greg Alexander, the founder of the place. And today I’m going to be your host. And joining me is a long time friend and member, Dan Bernoske. And today we’re going to talk about sales and marketing and go to market for your professional services firm. So, Dan, good to see you. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:00:49] Good to see you, too. Good morning. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:00:51] If you would not mind, could you introduce yourself and your firm to the group? 

Dan Bernoske [00:00:57] Sure. Yeah, I am. Dan Bernoske, the founder of the Cortado Group and we are a boutique consultancy serving companies that are owned by private equity firms. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:09] OK, very good. So, Dan, today we’re going to talk about sales and marketing specific to boutique professional services firms, in other words, how you take your services to market. And given that this is what you do for your clients. I would imagine you’re an expert and doing it for yourself. So I’m going to ask you a few questions, and they’re meant to just kind of stimulate thought and get the conversation going. So the first thing I want to talk to you about is that you have a close rate of 65 percent, which is incredible. And that number says and means a lot of things, and I’m not sure our membership is tracking close rate as diligently as they should and when they do track it and they have the number how to interpret the number. So first, tell the audience how you got to 65 percent and then interpret that number for us. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:02:04] Well, I mean, the first thing is targeting the right, the right companies. It’s starting out with the ideal customer profile or client profile keeps us super super laser focused on calling on the right accounts. That’s probably the biggest contributor. And then, Greg, you know, buyer personas. OK, so there’s one thing to get into the right company, but a whole other thing to be talking the right person, the decision maker. So those two things combined contributed to that. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:37] Yup. And what I love about that is that, you know, people like yourself that are running these high growth boutique professional services firms. We’re resource constrained. There’s only so many hours and day, so only so many people on the teams, only so many, so much money in the bank account. So if we’re wasting our resources by not being as targeted as Dan is or are is, I guess is the way you would say that, then you know, you’re closer. It’s going to be 20, 30 percent. And sometimes people think that’s good. It’s not good because what that means, let’s say closer rates 30 percent. That means you’re losing seven out of 10 times. So think about all the effort associated in those pursuits and you’re losing seven out of 10 times. It’s just eliminate that and you’re going to recapture all those resources. Now, I advocate Dan, that the close rate should be 50 percent, and I would I would suggest that 65 is too high, which sounds almost counterintuitive. Like why? I mean, maybe closer. It should be 100 percent. But when I hit 65 percent, I think maybe you’re not in enough deals or, you know, charging enough for your services. So what do you think about the 65 percent number and how do you interpret that? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:03:47] This is so glad you brought it up, and that is a huge debate for us around one of the points of pricing. So are we pricing ourselves? We’re trying to weigh the balance of not pricing ourselves out of our target market. I mean, I’m going toward the small and mid-market company. So weighing that balance, so I suspect maybe we’re price people too low and then we may be, you know, the other thing driving is maybe our ICP is a little too tight. So to your point that if we’re not getting into enough deals, are we constricting ourselves from other opportunities if we’re just not seeing. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:04:25] Yeah, and you’re right, and that’s how you interpret that number, so there is such a thing as a close rate being too good because again, that might be restricting your market opportunity. So the most important thing is what we’re learning from this is to really be super crystal clear on two things that Dan is teaching us today. Number one, who the ideal client profile is. And I know right now everybody’s rolling their eyes in the back of the head because they say, I hear this from Greg all the time. Yet many of us still don’t have that done correctly, and that’s a dynamic document, not a static document. It changes over time as your firm evolves. And then secondly, once you pick the clients who want to go after, who’s the individual or group of people in those accounts that you want to sell to? And Dan, in your case, you’re selling sales and marketing effectiveness improvement. So are you selling to the CMO or the head of sales or who are you selling to? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:05:18] Yeah. If we were up in the enterprise, that’s exactly where we would be great. But we sell to companies. So our ICP the ideal client profile 10 to 500 million in size earned by private equity. So we’re selling to we’re selling to the private equity operating partners and the CEO level like that’s that’s really our sweet spot. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:05:40] OK, so let’s apply this concept of buyer personas to to those two particular individuals and operating partner in a shop and a CEO of a portico. So first, there might be some folks listening that don’t know what a buyer persona is. So give us a quick definition of that. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:05:56] Well, think of it as a fictitious representation of your buyer. And what does that mean? That means I’m going to know how are they motivated to do their job right? What are the obstacles standing in their way of doing their job? How are our success measured? There’s a whole bunch of things that go into that, but you need to get this psychographic profile of your buyer. So you really understand how they think and how they act. Yeah. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:06:20] OK, perfect. All right. So let’s start with the first one. The CEO of the Port Co. So maybe give us two or three things that you know about that buyer persona as an illustration or an example of what what should be on a buyer persona? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:06:37] Well, first of all, they have their piggybacks, so we know that they’re going to want to exit in three to five years. So that maximum exit valuation, huge objective. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:06:48] OK, so let’s stop there, because that’s a great one. So you know that this CEO is the CEO of a portico owned by PE, which means are selling in three to five years. So his motivation is to get to that successful exit, correct? Oh, absolutely. Okay. So then when are positioning your services just to connect the dots here for the audience? You’re connecting it to that priority, that goal. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:07:13] Absolutely. You know, it’s going to resonate with it’s going to mean something. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:07:17] So so how do you do that? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:07:20] Well, we do that like how we actually execute has on multiple levels, but let’s just take the the proposal. Yeah. Is that what you mean? Yes, exactly. Yes. Yeah. I mean, if you think about how we frame up our solution, it has to really satisfy that, that objective for him. So all of our solutions have to point in that direction. So for example, yeah, we’re going to help improve the revenue on your company. But what we’d like to do is show a case study that demonstrates the fact that in three to five years, the lift that we’re going to provide today is actually going to lead to a two or three x multiple on their on their exit, for example. So always, always tying everything back to that, that objective there. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:08:06] That’s a great example. I mean, that’s a that’s a built in cost justification for your project. You know, you’re putting you put a proposal on the table and then instead of just leaving it in isolation, you connected to this objective. And you say, if we’re successful with this project, here’s what it means to you in dollars and cents expressed as a multiple and even though correct? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:08:26] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. You know, kind of get to go on a rabbit hole here. But it highlights the fact that when we think about go to market, I think there’s a long overlooked tool and that is the proposal is actually your most important piece of marketing and sales material. I’ve got a website, fabulous research reports, but the rubber meets the road on this proposal. So all the more reason why it has to speak to that percent of that objective? 

 

Greg Alexander [00:08:57] Yeah, yeah. And sometimes these proposals are kind of template sized or they don’t put the firm’s best foot forward at times, which I agree with you. The proposal is often overlooked, and that’s a good piece of advice for the members is to take a fresh look at their proposal and make sure it’s connecting to the motivations expressed in your buyer persona and within your ideal client profile. OK, let’s go to the next big thing as it relates to go to market strategy for a boutique professional services firm, there’s three things we talked about. One which is to close rate. We had an interesting conversation around your remarkable 65 percent. The next is average deal size. So if I’m winning five out of 10 deals and they’re worth 50 grand, that’s a lot different than winning five to 10 deals. And they’re at five and a grand. So how are you optimizing for deal size? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:09:51] Oh, man, that that is a that’s a tough one, because what what I’m what I’m finding is, well, it boils down to willingness to pay. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:10:02] What does that mean? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:10:04] Well, what what is the perceived value of your solution to the buyer and what are they willing to pay? Yeah. So you know what, what, how much of their money is going to come out of their pocket into mine? Yeah. So that’s I think you’ve got some great sale pricing experts in the collective that could probably speak to that one. Yeah. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:10:27] So what what Dan’s referring to, there is a way to optimize for deal sizes is that you put a proposal on the table. You’re going after mission critical, urgent problem. And if the problem is not solved, there’s a real cost. Or if the problem is solved, there’s a real reward. And quantifying those in hard dollars creates a perceived value. Let’s just say, I don’t know, it’s $5 million as an example. So then the conversation is what percentage of that gain that you deliver to the client is a client willing to share with you 10 percent, 20 percent and then you back into your price there. And that’s how you optimize for a deal size. And then you’re in the management consulting industry. That’s your sector and you specialize in sales and marketing. So I’m assuming that your model is one where you want to have, relatively speaking, a small number of clients, but you want each one of those clients to spend a lot. Is that correct? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:11:21] Absolutely. Over them, over served clients. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:11:25] So therefore, you’re staying away from clients who. You know, might need an act of God to spend 25 grand. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:11:35] Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. But you know, what’s interesting, though, in terms of deal size is that we’ve also found that this size client, they do buy and bite size chunks. So there’s another lever I really pay attention to, and that is what’s the customer lifetime value that you are given the size of 500 out of the 10 to five hundred million dollars. They’re not going to buy that $1 million deal. But they will buy maybe the equivalent of that over time. Right. And that’s when you really have to think about is what how is it that they buy? It’s huge. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:12:14] So that’s interesting. So lifetime value is a great concept. I’m glad you introduced it. You can get to the same dollar amount and that example a million bucks, but instead of one deal, maybe it’s for $250000 deals. So that raises another interesting question regarding go to market. And that is expansion revenue from existing clients vs. new revenue from new logos. So do you have a a different sales approach when trying to grow an existing client than you do opening up a new one? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:12:44] We we do the reason why is because you’re embedded with the client. So the behavior is a lot different in your interactions with them. They’re you’re kind of uncovering needs as you’re as you’re going along. And so therefore the the reception on their side is much more open minded so that that approach is very different than going in on a new logo. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:13:06] Sometimes I hear sorry, sometimes I hear from clients. However, if their consulting company is always looking for the next deal while they’re working on the current project, it can be a turnoff. How do you how do you handle that? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:13:20] Yeah, that is a that’s a big balance. But we’re not selling. It’s always framed up around making sure that they’ve got a problem that needs to be solved. I just very, very much in problem focused, always, always not solutions focused. I can actually, Greg, you know, I come out of a product background, which I’ve applied to my approach for building our solutions. And there’s a great saying in that space that says, don’t be in love with the solution, be in love with the problem. So the more that I enforce that with my people. So seek out that problem. It actually doesn’t feel like selling. It really feels like trying to help out the buyer persona as much as possible. That that’s a really small point, but it does make a difference. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:14:07] Yeah, that does make a big difference. It’s a big point, actually, not a small point. I’m glad you mentioned it. Just one more question regarding expansion sales from existing accounts. Let’s say I’m a delivery person on your team. I’m not held accountable to growing revenue and I get deployed on a project and I going to get done in 90 days and I’m on a project plan and I get to issue X amount of deliverables. And then, are you also asking me to be a salesperson or am I just focused on that project? Like, who’s doing the expansion selling? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:14:45] So right now, it’s the partners who are we’re small enough where each partner can have a set of of clients that they’re overseeing. So we’re really trying to push that over to them. The job of that of the consultant is to find the evidence and bring it back to us. I see. And just enlighten us because, you know, the other important is what you brought up a great point. I want them focused on delivering good work because good work actually is. The other big piece that sells you more is if you just do a good job that’s that gets you there. But also the partner will have the overall strategic viewpoint of how that that evidence actually fits into the bigger story. So that’s the approach that we always 

 

Greg Alexander [00:15:27] I think that’s a great division of labor. So the delivery team does have an eye towards growing revenue, but they’re not held accountable to the sell. They kick over the evidence to the partner and then the partners get enough skill and probably enough savvy to to re approach the client and say, Hey, my team has uncovered this additional problem. I want to talk to you about it, that type of thing. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:15:52] Absolutely. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:15:53] Yeah. And that’s working well for you. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:15:55] It works real well. Yeah. And also think about the delivery. They’re good at delivery. That’s going to be they’re very good at selling. Yeah. So get everybody focused on their skill set. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:16:07] Okay. So then the third kind of leg of the stool as it relates to go to market excellence in selling professional services is the length of the sales cycle and that rounds out the other two, which is the average deal size and the clothes rate. One thing that kills boutique owners is the sales cycles are just too long. Back to my earlier comments around pursuit cost, you know, and if it takes forever to sell a deal, I mean, it’s just a constant, right? Now you’ve got two markets, you’ve got a channel, the PE space, and I’m assuming that takes a little bit longer. And then you’ve got your portfolio company, the portfolio company of the firm, which I’m assuming takes a little bit longer. But is that true? Are those two different lengths of sale cycle? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:16:51] Yeah, 100 percent. Very different. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:16:54] How long is the PE sales cycle? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:16:58] Is nine to 12 months. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:17:00] Wow. And you’re willing to hang in there that long. How come? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:17:04] Yeah, it is. Because once you’re in, I mean, basically, it’s a hunting license and you do a good job in the first portfolio company, earn their trust and then you become a part of their toolkit. I see. So that that Greg, I mean, saves a lot of a lot of selling time alone. So it’s worth getting in. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:17:22] So you get it. You spent a year to get into a shop, but they might own 20 companies, so that’s worth it. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:17:28] Yeah. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:17:29] Okay. Very cool. And then the portfolio company, what’s the sale cycle there? 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:17:33] Well, quite a bit shorter, around 30 to 45 days. Got it for those. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:17:38] Yep, interesting. So listeners, what that’s known as is a sell through model as opposed to a sell to model. And you might learn from Dan and say to yourself, Do I have any partners that I can sell through that if I establish a relationship with, they could grant me access to a much broader prospect base. And it’s a very interesting approach and probably a topic for another day. All right, my man. Listen, we’re out of time here, but that was a great session. I appreciate you dropping your wisdom with us. If you don’t mind, explain to the audience how to get a hold of you if they have some follow up questions. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:18:19] Sure, cortadogroup.com, cortadogroup.com online or yeah, just fill out a form. Reach out to me and we’ll go from there. 

 

Greg Alexander [00:18:32] All right, awesome. All right. And for those listeners that might want to learn more about this topic and others, you can check out a book. It just became an Amazon number one bestseller in our category. Yeah, I’m really happy about that. It’s called the boutique how to start, scale and sell the professional services firm, and again, you can find it on Amazon and other retailers. And if you liked this, then you want to meet other great people like Dan, consider joining our mastermind community. You can find that at Collective54.com. Dan, thanks a bunch. Take care. 

 

Dan Bernoske [00:19:04] Thank you, Greg. I appreciate it. 

Episode 38: The Boutique: How to Market and Sell Like a Pro

Founders of boutiques can increase their rate of growth by professionalizing their marketing and sales approach. On this episode, learn the fundamental building blocks to professionalize your firm’s sales and marketing skills.


TRANSCRIPT

Sean Magennis [00:00:15] Welcome to The Boutique with Capital 54, a podcast for owners of professional services firms. My goal with the show is to help you grow scale and sell your firm at the right time for the right price and on the right terms. I’m Sean Magennis, CEO of Capital 54 and your host. On this episode, I will make the case that founders of boutiques can increase their rate of growth by professionalizing their marketing and sales approach. I’ll try to prove this theory by interviewing Greg Alexander, Capital 54’s chief investment officer. Greg founded Sales Benchmark Index in 2006 and went on to become one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of sales and marketing effectiveness. Today, he will offer you the fundamental building blocks to professionalize your sales and marketing efforts. Greg, good to see you. Welcome.

Greg Alexander [00:01:20] Hey, Sean. So in prep for this show, I did a little homework on myself. So the year 2020 was my twenty seventh year carrying a quota, so to speak. And I have made my number 25 out of 27 years, which is 92 percent of the time. I missed in the year 2000 while I was at EMC in the dotcom bubble burst and I missed it in 2020 while at Capital 54 because the global pandemic destroyed the economy. I mention this not to brag in any way. When I saw the title of the show, How to Market and Sell Like a Pro, I felt compelled to check myself to see if I am indeed a pro. And I’m a proud I’m very proud of that 92 percent success rate over almost three decades. But more importantly, gosh, I learned a lot and I’ll share that with you guys today.

Sean Magennis [00:02:09] And you’re still doing it, Greg, which I admire tremendously. So, yes, it’s these lessons from the battlefield that I want you to share with the audience. But first, why is it that you think so many of our listeners struggle in this area?

Greg Alexander [00:02:23] Yeah, well, most CEOs and founders of boutiques are not natural marketers or salespeople. They are experts. Many are giants in their field. In some cases, some are on TV. The best seller list, the speaking circuit. However, when I look at their panels, I’m shocked to see how little revenue they bring in. I asked myself, how can this be? Well, these brilliant experts would rather go to the dentist and make a sales call. They simply do not know how to go to market with their services. And their personal networks only generate so many referrals so they they never grow past the point of a nice little lifestyle business.

Sean Magennis [00:03:01] Greg, this is so accurate. I mean, we’re living this, you know, today with so many of our collective 54 members. I see it every day. What I find frustrating is many of these brilliant boutique CEOs, they know this. They want to fix it. They just don’t know how to. What advice do you have for these folks?

Greg Alexander [00:03:21] So these CEOs need to be great at two things. Number one, they need to attract new clients. And number two, they need to generate additional revenue from existing clients. And when I say great, I mean it. They need to develop these as fundamental core competencies on par with their domain expertize.

Sean Magennis [00:03:42] Agreed. So these are the two fundamental building blocks and the standard to deliver to is great, not good, but these are a little abstract for me. So can you unpack this a little more?

Greg Alexander [00:03:55] How much time do we have?

Sean Magennis [00:03:57] Let’s say about 10 minutes.

Greg Alexander [00:03:58] OK, here are the Cliff Notes. I will start with the seven building blocks of a great sales model. So number one prospecting process. This is a consistent way for business developers to find opportunities. Number two, buyer journey map. This is an outline of how a prospect buys your type of service. Number three, sales methodology. This is a step by step method to convert opportunities into clients. Number four, channel optimization. This is how the right services will be sold to the right clients at the right time. Number five, incentive system. This is a compensation mechanism that motivates every employee to generate revenue. Number six, training program. This is a program to increase the effectiveness of each employee when pursuing sales opportunities. And lastly, number seven, coverage model. This is a headcount allocation plan to ensure that the target market is properly covered. Well, that was quick. Listeners should ask themselves, do they have these seven building blocks in place? Are you ready for the marketing Cliff Notes?

Sean Magennis [00:05:09] Yes, go for it.

Greg Alexander [00:05:11] OK, so here are the marketing Cliff Notes. There are nine building blocks of a great marketing model, number one brand strategy. This is an inspiring story uniquely relevant to your target clients. Number two, value proposition messaging. This explains to a client how they move from the problematic status quo to an opportunity filled future by hiring your firm. Number three, positioning statements. This articulates why your firm is better than the alternatives. Number four, campaign strategy. This is hyper targeted marketing campaigns that hit the sweet spot of your market. Number five, content strategy. This allows you to earn brand preference by satisfying the information needs of your target clients. Number six is budget. This is dollars and non billable hours assigned to specific accounts to stimulate demand. Number seven is agency. This is a trusted service partner who can help you execute all of this and has two more. Number eight is lead generation. This is a method to attract the right clients to your firm and the right quantity. And lastly, number nine is clients marketing. This is a method for delivery staff to locate new opportunities inside the current client base. So listeners should gut check themselves against these nine basics. I went through that really quickly that I communicate clearly.

Sean Magennis [00:06:43] Yes. Greg, you did this worked out this worked out well. Listeners think of these as two checklists to run yourself through to see if you are marketing and selling like a pro. If you do not have these items, you are behaving like an amateur. And this may be the reason revenue growth is not where you want it.

Greg Alexander [00:07:04] You know, one last thing, Sean, I want to mention, if I may remember, that marketing and selling services is entirely different than products. So why is this? Well, products are sold and consumed and services are bought and experience, and that’s a big difference. So, for instance, I watch the halftime show on Super Bowl. It featured the artist called The Weekend. I went to Spotify, listen to his music music and I bought it. I never met the weekend. It was sold to me. I consumed it. In contrast, I recently needed to update my estate plan, I hired an attorney, we met, we worked together to produce the new estate plan. The service and the person delivering it cannot be separated. The service is experience, not consumed. The attorney did not sell it, but rather helped me buy it through a great experience. The point is to not make the rookie mistake of trying to use best practices to market and sell products in the professional services industry. They just don’t work.

Sean Magennis [00:08:06] That’s great practical advice. Greg, thank you. And now a word from our sponsor, Collective 54, Collective 54 is a membership organization for owners of professional services firms. Members joined to work with their industry peers to grow scale and someday sell their firms at the right time for the right price and on the right terms. Let us meet one of the collective 54 members.

Kris Sugatan [00:08:38] Hello, my name is Kris Sugatan. I own Sugatan.IO. We are founders of E Commerce Brands all over the world. These clients turn to us for help with scaling their brands by acquiring new customers profitably. We solve this problem by creating video and graphic ads that convince the viewer to buy your product. If you need help with acquiring a new customer profitably, reach out to me at [email protected] That’s [email protected].

[00:09:15] If you are trying to grow scale or sell your firm and feel you would benefit from being a part of a community of peers, visit collective54.com. OK, there was a lot to absorb, this takes us to the end of the episode, let’s try to help you, the listener, apply this. We end each show with a tool. We do so because this allows a listener to apply the lessons to his or her firm. Our preferred tool is a checklist and our style of checklist is a yes-no questionnaire. We aim to keep it simple by asking only 10 questions. In this instance, if you answer yes to eight or more of these questions, your marketing and selling strategy is working for you. If you answer no too many times your marketing and selling strategy is more than likely getting in the way of your attempts to scale. Let’s begin.

Sean Magennis [00:10:21] Number one, is it obvious to prospects who you serve and how you serve them? Number two, is it obvious to prospects why you are the best at what you do?

Greg Alexander [00:10:36] So this goes to both value proposition and positioning statements.

Sean Magennis [00:10:40] Number three, are you in front of enough prospects to hit your revenue targets?

Greg Alexander [00:10:45] Lead generation.

Sean Magennis [00:10:47] Number four, do you understand how clients decide to hire someone like you?

Greg Alexander [00:10:53] How they buy versus how you sell.

Sean Magennis [00:10:56] Number five, can you consistently win more than 50 percent of the time?

Greg Alexander [00:11:01] Now, some listen again and say that’s too high of a bar to clear. And I would call B.S. on that. If you close rates beyond 50 percent, you’re pitching the wrong clients.

Sean Magennis [00:11:09] Right. So if you’re targeting is right, if it’s working properly, generation, psychographic, demographic, you’re going to exceed that 50. Number six, are you extending your reach through multiple marketing channels?

Greg Alexander [00:11:22] And here’s what’s unique about a boutique. You don’t have brand recognition. Nobody knows who you are. So you got to get the word out.

Greg Alexander [00:11:28] Right.

Sean Magennis [00:11:28] Yep. Bingo. Number seven, but you and your team motivated to bring in more revenue?

Greg Alexander [00:11:35] Put your money where your mouth is.

Sean Magennis [00:11:36] Incentivize. Number eight, are you and your team highly trained to win new business? Sharpening that saw. Number nine, are you covering your market sufficiently?

Greg Alexander [00:11:49] Often overlooked, but coverage is a big issue.

Sean Magennis [00:11:52] And number 10, do you have an agency capable of multiplying your efforts?

Greg Alexander [00:11:58] Don’t go it alone here? Listen, you don’t clean your own teeth, go to a dentist. So when it comes to marketing, in particular, find an agency and hire them.

Sean Magennis [00:12:05] I love that, Greg. And we have many great agencies in Collective 54. So in summary, I bet you the listener is an expert in your field, a true giant who knows more about your domain than just about anybody. I’m here to tell you that is not enough. If no one knows about your brilliance, what good is it? The world is filled with bankrupt ideas. Master your go to market, elevate your marketing and sales capability to professional grade. Earn what you were worth. If you enjoyed the show and want to learn more, pick up a copy of Greg Alexander’s book titled The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional Services Firm. I’m Sean Magennis. Greg, thank you. And thank you, our audience, for listening.