Episode 139 – How to Use the Post Project Review to Scale Your Firm – Member Case by Nicole Merrill

Listening to clients intentionally is a core competency for service firms attempting to scale. There are 5 listening techniques appropriate for a boutique service firm. They are: 1- client advisory board, 2- post project reviews, 3- client satisfaction program, 4- win loss program, and 5- conferences. In this session, we take a deep dive on #2 post project reviews. Learn what they are, why they are required, the benefits they produce, and how and when to perform them.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serv Podcast, a 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 processor firm. My name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’m going to be your host. Today on in this episode, we’re going to talk about one of the listening techniques. We discussed five listening techniques in the book, The Boutique. And one of those is called a Post Project Review. We’re going to talk about what it is, why you should be doing them, when you should be doing them, who should own it, how many should be done, etc., etc.. And we’ve got a great member role model with us. Her name is Nicole Merrill and she’s a CEO of Vecteris. Nicole, it’s good to see you. And you introduce yourself and your firm, please. 

Nicole Merrill [00:01:05] Absolutely. Thank you for having me here. It’s nice to be here. Vector is works with B2B professional services companies to build products that allow them to grow without adding more headcount. It’s an important area that a lot of our organizations are struggling with. So most organizations run right to the technology, you know, the app they want to build or the elements they want to build, whatever it might be, and they run into trouble. So we help those organizations by addressing the three major challenges they face leadership, vision and alignment, product mindset and skill set, and finally developing their own product innovation process. And that’s all specific to the B2B professional services space. So and my own background is in over 20 years of designing and executing the go to market strategies for those kinds of services and products. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:57] Okay, great. So let’s start with the basics. What is your definition of a post project review? 

Nicole Merrill [00:02:06] So for us, we like to use the post product review process. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:11] Yep. 

Nicole Merrill [00:02:12] Yes. Project Review Fork for a couple of different things. We see it as an opportunity to debrief and give people our clients an opportunity to ask more questions. Look for clarity. We also see it as a time where we can get feedback on the work that we’ve done for them and also a really a wonderful opportunity to explore new opportunities. How else could we be working together? So. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:42] Okay, fantastic. And the mechanics of it, how do you do them at the terrace? 

Nicole Merrill [00:02:49] So within our consulting practice, typically we’ll do a couple of things. We have a survey that gets sent out to all the participants in the project, and then we also will schedule time with the project sponsor to really get to talk through with them. Sorry. Things are about making noises here so that we get a chance to talk through with them. The. Her opportunities there, the victories that they saw coming out of the project. So there is a interview guide that we actually use to kind of walk us through that. So that’s with our consultant, with our customers. We actually also do an internal project review where everyone from the project comes together and we also do the same victories, opportunities for development for us internally. We look for the things that we want to productize, that we want to use again and again because they work so well in that particular project and look for ways that we can work to better together. So there’s kind of three layers to our post project work actually. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:57] And when you do it internally. Um hmm. What are some things that you commonly find? One of the outputs of that. 

Nicole Merrill [00:04:09] One of them is definitely to look for the opportunities that we can do more work with someone potentially, if we haven’t already identified them. It’s a way to give the team an opportunity to give each other like kudos and great feedback on Hey, you really helped me out when you did this. So it’s a good kind of team building opportunity for them. It also gives us the opportunity to look for places where we can repeat and just, you know, get better and faster and more efficient as an organization. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:37] Yeah, exactly. Okay. And is there like, who owns it inside the company? Is it the person who own the project? Is it somebody else who owns the Post Project Review? 

Nicole Merrill [00:04:50] That’s a great question. So we actually have a leader in project management who is the person who kind of owns the set up of every project and then the debrief of every project. So she makes sure that we send out that survey. She makes sure that we’re scheduling that session with the project sponsor, and she makes sure that we actually have our internal debrief. So she schedules all that. She runs us through the agenda. And then she makes sure that those pieces that we want to make sure we’re repeating end up in the right place, because she is also the person who owns our playbook. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:23] Essentially, yeah. You know, the repeating concept is one that’s worth highlighting the way that we did it in my old firm and we use different terminology, but it’s essentially the same thing. What we did was we pulled out the original scope and and then we compared the original scope with what actually happened in the project. And if we were out of scope and therefore not as profitable as we needed to be, we would analyze why, you know, if the profit margin on that project was higher than normal, we analyzed why. So it’s always a good kind of closed loop process to, you know, to go back to, you know, what were the original assumptions and what actually happened. So, okay, So we talked about what it is, why members should be doing them. Who owns it in the firm? When is it done? 

Nicole Merrill [00:06:09] We usually do it within a few days of actually wrapping up the project. So we try to do it very, very quickly as much as we can. So someone’s on vacation will wait, but typically we’re doing it within days. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:21] And the theory there is there’s more time passes, the less fresh our memories are. 

Nicole Merrill [00:06:26] You forget. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You forget what was important or you’ve lost sometimes. Well, even if it’s a particularly long project, we’ll actually fit in something mid-stream because we don’t want to miss the things that maybe happened early in the project that could have that we will have forgotten by the end. So it’s not necessarily only at the end that we’re doing these kinds of conversations. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:47] Okay. And do you do them after every project, or is there a certain project size that gets this extra attention? 

Nicole Merrill [00:06:55] No, for us, we do it after every single project. There’s really no project that we wouldn’t do it after. It’s it’s an integral part of kind of how we do business. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:07] Okay. And and the results that are gathered from this. Mm hmm. Are they use across the entire organization or is it just within client delivery? 

Nicole Merrill [00:07:20] The entire organization. So, you know, I mentioned early on that in our consulting practice, we do these post project reviews, but it’s really driven how we’ve developed our organization as a whole. So we’ve moved as an organization more and more into a subscription based advisory solution. And part of that was because we wanted our business model to to grow in that direction. But through these kinds of conversations is where we got that. Why, for our customers, like, why is this more important for our customers to be more in this advisory solution kind of approach? You know, we learned through having these discussions that essentially what companies were doing was almost outsourcing their strategy, and it was really important that they keep that strategy internal. And it became very, very clear as we were having some of those post project conversations that being able to work with and partner more with customers is really important and that it really kind of gave us the the why behind we were making a more a big business model shift. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:26] Yep. And as you do these post-graduate reviews and you guys are doing them after every project, which is, which is quite a lot, does it help you get a better understanding as to really who your ideal client is and therefore who you might target from a sales and marketing perspective? 

Nicole Merrill [00:08:46] Yes, I would say it does. It definitely helps us identify what are the. The things that are a bit different between each of the organizations so that we can be looking for those right companies when we see them, and also help us eliminate the ones that aren’t the right fit long term. Yeah, help us better understand the problems that they’re facing and so that when we’re upfront selling, where we’re positioning it better so that the people who really need us, they can self-identify as well. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:17] You know, in my journey from time to time, we would have a set of projects that didn’t go so well, and then we would analyze those to see what was common amongst them and they would say, Listen, you know, when you’re in the services business, you become what you sell and who you serve. So if you’re having a problem with a certain type of project and you keep selling them that project, life is going to be miserable because you going to keep putting yourself into those difficult situations. And I know it’s difficult to walk away from revenue, but not every dollar is worth the same. Some dollars are more attractive than other dollars and there’s real opportunity cost there. So I just wanted to work into the conversation on how critical it is to pull forward the post project reviews into the sales and marketing process so that what you’re bringing into the firm, other types of clients and types of projects that you want to work on because that will lead to success because again, ultimately we become what we sell and who we serve. 

Nicole Merrill [00:10:16] Now, couldn’t agree more. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:17] If you were starting a firm today and you weren’t doing this and you didn’t even know maybe what it was, would some listening to this will fall into that category and you were paralyzed because you don’t even know how to take the first couple of steps. You know, how would you get going on this? 

Nicole Merrill [00:10:34] On the process of how to do a post project review. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:37] Correct. 

Nicole Merrill [00:10:38] I’d probably chat at first. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:42] I think we’re all doing that these days. 

Nicole Merrill [00:10:44] Yeah, 100%. I don’t think. I don’t think it has to be fancy. Yeah, we, we started with a like start, stop, continue kind of framework. So we just were able to kind of help people think about all the key areas that we wanted feedback on. We’ve kind of moved into a slightly more elegant framework, which is victories, opportunities and shifts. So what are the things that really organizations felt were there where they really saw value? Where were the areas where we had maybe we had a miss that we could have filled the gap on and still maybe could fill the gap on. And then shifts in the shifts is where we get into conversations of how we do work together in the future, because it’s how their organization is shifting because of this. And we really get a nice opportunity to get expansion from those kinds of questions so it doesn’t have to be fancy. I think you can start super easy and just have a conversation with people. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:41] Yeah, I agree. You know, one thing that I might put on top of that maybe at the intermediate step, not the expert stuff, but once you pass the beginning step is to really embrace this concept of project profitability. Sometimes we measure margins in the aggregate at the firm level, and that can be a little deceiving if you’re measuring profitability at the project level. And the post project review would be the way that which you did that you start to get really granular. You know, so for example, if you were I don’t know if there were four phases to a project and phase two was 200% of scope, like what the heck happened? You know, if if Bob, who was assigned to the project, you know, had these three deliverables and he was two weeks late on each one, like what was going on with Bob, did we staff the project correctly? And then when you when you start doing it that way, you really get good and understanding scope and then you can pull that forward into the sales process so that when you put a proposal on the table for a client, maybe you can move away from hourly billing and you can move into something like a fixed, better or flat fee because you really have great understanding as to what the work is, you know, what the level of effort is going to need to be in order to pull it off. So just something to think about there for for the members. All right. Well, listen, we’re at our time here, but for members of collective 54 that are listening, I want you to pay attention to the meeting invite that will come out for the private member Q&A session, which we’ll have with Nicole. And you’ll be able to double click into this and a lot more detail and ask her her direct questions and learn a lot about the Post project review. For those that are listening, that are nonmembers. Obviously, I encourage you to become a member and you can do that. A collective 54 Adcom fill out a form and some will get in contact with you. And if want to learn about the other techniques that we advocate for, pick up a copy of our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional Services Firm. But Nicole, you and your team have been long time supporters of Collective 54. You’ve made just a tremendous contribution to the community and you did so again here today. So on behalf of all the members, thank you so much for being here. 

Nicole Merrill [00:13:51] And I was delighted. Thank you so much. All right. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:55] Okay. Until next time, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale and exit your firm.

Episode  122 – How to Discover Why You Are Losing Deals, and What to Do About It – Member Case by Brady Jensen 

Win/Loss reviews are a powerful way to improve your sales results. Yet, most members are not doing them because they incorrectly think they are hard to do and require lots of time.

On this episode, Brady Jensen, Chief Executive Officer at Aggregate Insights, an expert in win/loss reviews will give members the method, tools, and templates to allow them to do this correctly, quickly, and cheaply.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serv podcast, a podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated entirely to serving the needs, the unique needs of boutique pro serv firms. My name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’ll be your host today. And on today’s episode, we’re going to talk about win-loss reviews, what they are, why you should do them, how to do them, how to systematize them, etc. And we’ve got a great guest with us today. His name is Brady Jensen. And Brady really is an expert. And that’s, in fact, this is what his firm does for a living. And he’s going to share a bit of his wisdom with us. So, Brady, welcome to the show. It’s good to see you. Would you please introduce yourself to the audience? 

Brady Jensen [00:01:10] Sure. And thanks for having me, Greg. Yeah. So my name is Brady Jensen. I’m the founder of a company called Aggregate Insights. The way that we think about what we do for companies is we help them look before they leap. Folks oftentimes make decisions about how they’re going to operate, their strategies, their tactics, without considering what they don’t know about their market. So we help companies get a window into their market by helping them understand what their buyers want, what folks who have decided to either purchase or not purchase their solution. I think as well as generally understanding the market, the players, the positions, and messages taken by others in the market as well. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:03] Okay, fantastic. So we’ll talk about win-loss reviews, a subject I know is near and dear to your heart. So let’s start with the basics. So what is a win-loss review? 

Brady Jensen [00:02:14] A win-loss review, from my perspective, is all about taking count on what has actually transpired in your sales processes. So you may be a singular person selling at a firm. Maybe you’ve got a sales team no matter how small or large you are. There’s information that prospects want you to know, and there’s information that they don’t want you to know. And that really perpetuates all the way up to the decision that’s being made. And in many cases, also any sort of postmortem calls you may have with these folks that you’ve built or you build a relationship and reputation with them over time. And people also just don’t like to deliver bad news. So this is all about. Thinking about why you win. Why you lose. What the decisions that go your way look like. What the decisions that don’t go your way look like. To help you understand everything from what’s happening competitively in your market to “Is my message landing with my ICP?”.

Greg Alexander [00:03:19] Okay. And since you’re a member of Collective 54, you know about our membership. So why should a member of Collective 54 care about win-loss reviews and invest the time and effort in conducting them? 

Brady Jensen [00:03:35] I think it’s one of those things where. You can fool yourself into thinking that you’re really busy because you’re taking actions in ways that you think will move the business forward. And it’s often very hard in a fast-growth environment to take stock of what’s happening. Are you actually investing the resources, energy, time into putting yourself out there in the market in the right way? Or are you encountering all these headwinds when they when they’re completely unnecessary? If you do make the conscious decision to look back and understand why you’re either winning or losing and the direct result of that should be if you’re doing it right, is a direct lift in your overall win rate as well as shortening sales cycles. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:32] Yeah. Okay. Very good. And let’s talk about the how, how do you do them? So one thing you’ve educated me on is there’s a certain way to ask questions that make these things productive. Tell us a little bit about, you know, how win-loss interviews take place. 

Brady Jensen [00:04:49] Yeah. So there are a number of theories on how to conduct these best from my perspective after a lot of. Attempts at-bat to do these. We’ve landed on a process that looks somewhat like a jobs to be done. Interview. Clayton Christiansen Harvard, I believe, came up with this way to really think about what the jobs are that an individual or an organization are trying to do that they’ve hired any product to do for them. So we actually use that a modified version of that to talk to our customer because we think it’s just as important to understand what is that first thought that made you think we need to solve some problem? How did you go about evaluating when you were actively looking and considering options? The purchase decision? Obviously you get down to the brass tacks of everything from – Why did you decide to look now? Was there a point that it was clear to you that this solution was either for you or not for you? Understanding everything from outside parties like like references that may also play a part in whether a decision happens or not. So the front part of our guides on this really focus on that type of information. Then we start to understand more around product perception, the competition, and ending with some open-ended questions that allow folks to sharea advice or feedback to the team on items that we didn’t even ask a question about. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:45] And when is it best to conduct a win-loss interview or interviews, and how often should they be done? 

Brady Jensen [00:06:53] Yeah. So from my perspective, you’ve the, the, the sooner the better. Right. People’s memories tend to fail them over time. And even the way they remember certain events may shift over time. I tell clients all the time that what we are seeking is not the truth, but the perception of the truth from your buyer. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:19] Yeah. 

Brady Jensen [00:07:20] It’s very hard to one man’s truth isn’t all that helpful, especially when you’re using your internal truth to decide what it means and the perception of your buyer. Perception is what buyers have to go off of when they make decisions that they make. So how often we tend to do them from a client perspective, we have clients who are doing them every, every quarter. That’s what our recommended recommendation is as far as cadence is concerned. If you have the deal flow to be able to do it ten, 15, 20 interviews a quarter if you can, if you don’t have that deal flow, I think a good number to shoot for is a best case. If you go after three losses, you’ll probably get one out of every three that’s willing to have that conversation with you. So sometimes you’re restricted just by the number of overall deals that you’re going through in a given quarter. But that’s normally what we recommend is a quarterly cadence where each quarter we do an analysis on what we’ve seen as well. Combine that with the information that we have learned over time about them to be able to create some historical context as well. So yeah, every quarter up to, you know, we have even larger clients that are probably up 15 to 20 a quarter. There’s some time or cost constraints to doing these, but that tends to give you a pretty good view. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:02] Yeah, okay. Sometimes our members, when I advise this and I think it’s a best practice, I’m not sure how somebody can run the firm without it, to be honest. They say, well, we have a really hard time getting people to talk to us because we haven’t lost a deal per se. It’s just been delayed. It’s the project that went away. But the reality is a project never happens many, many times. So. So what’s your response to that? Maybe not a loss, but something that just kind of is in perpetual delay? 

Brady Jensen [00:09:34] Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. We actually catch oftentimes catch prospects in this environment where all of a sudden a conversation with us actually causes them to reengage. Right. It’s delayed. There’s not a whole lot of clarity as to what the next step is. Recognizing that a deal that is near zero at the moment is not going to automatically spring back to life. A lot of times, having that conversation with them may modify it slightly to be a little less direct about the ultimate decision versus where their head is at. But it is surprising how many folks who will tell us, yeah, we’re still considering it’s still a great opportunity to engage with those folks. And surprisingly, they’re there. They’re quite willing to have those conversations, even if you think, “Oh, well, they think we’re still in the sales cycle”. First off, they probably don’t think you’re still on the sales cycle. They’ve pushed you off for six months or whatever. But even if they have, we’ve had real success getting those folks to engage with us. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:45] You know, and sometimes I hear from members that they don’t do this because they tried and they couldn’t get anybody on the phone. And normally that’s because that’s not what they do for a living and they don’t know how to get somebody on the phone. But the people that are attempting to do this and they’re getting stuck around responses. What recommendations do you have for them? 

Brady Jensen [00:11:06] Well, I would say treat it like a continuation of your sale. Right. Like when we reach out to folks, you’re probably not going to get a great response from that first message or response rate from that first message. It’s all about having some consistency. Continuing to follow up with them. I will say first, we spent a lot of time trying to get these done for no cost at all. You will spend more time and effort trying to get these folks on the on the line for a free call as it would cost you to give them some sort of minor compensation. In many cases, that’s a donation to their favorite charity. In some cases, their favorite charity might be themselves. That’s fine. But as far as that goes, we’ve found that some especially for the losses, the wins, the wins in most cases don’t require any. Right. They have a relationship with you now, but the other folks have decided not to have the relationship. And in most cases, you’ll burn through a lot of time and effort trying to do it the cheap way versus saying, you know what, let’s find an opportunity to provide them some sort of honorarium or donation to charity. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:29] And let’s say somebody is going to do it and they get to these, you know, five, ten, 15, whatever it is, a quarter, what do they do with the output? 

Brady Jensen [00:12:38] I think it’s all about what can you actually bring to life. So there are different schools of thought when it comes to win-loss. I think a lot of programs that I’ve seen sort of end at the here’s the data stage. From my perspective, whether your internal external to the organization, your goal is to connect the dots across these different experiences and find the combinations of data that start to tell a clear story. That is true. All right. We’re not trying to come up with things out of thin air, but it is about connecting those dots and formulating a clear point of view of. Here are the things that are spiking that we’ve never really heard before. Here’s the things that we continue to hear. What does all of this mean? Right. Establish a point of view and then it clear why it matters or those sorts of things. And then it becomes pretty clear at that point, just understanding from a strategic level to then assign out work to responsible parties and win lost. In many cases, it’s going to touch product leaders. It’s going to touch sales leaders, can touch marketing leaders, and making sure that you have all of those folks on your side and playing ball with you is important because ultimately getting anything done in this stuff, I don’t think it’s all that helpful to say, okay, here’s the sales reps, here’s all we learned about why you won or lost last quarter. Right? They’re not at the, they’re not at the pay grade to make the types of sweeping changes that would really move the needle in any significant way. So it’s all about sort of that buy-in as well. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:30] Awesome. All right. Well, listen, we’re at a time window here, but I’m really looking forward to the private Q&A session We’ll have with the members one of our upcoming member sessions on Friday. And I’m sure they’re going to have a million questions for you, because I think this is something that people need to do. There’s a perception that it’s a ton of work. You’re going to share some templates and tools and things like that to make it easier. So really grateful for you sharing your wisdom with us today. Thank you so much. 

Brady Jensen [00:14:59] Sure thing. Thanks for having me. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:01] All right. So for those that are listening here, let me give you a few calls to action. Some members attend this session with Brady. Will get those invites out to you. If you’re not a member and you’re listening right now and you want to meet cool people like Brady, think about joining. You can fill out a contact us form on the website and one of our reps will get in contact with you if you want some more information, more content. I should say two things I pointed to. First is our book, The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Pro Search firm can find that on Amazon. Or if you’re if reading isn’t your thing and you like videos and podcasts and charts and things like that, consider subscribing to Collective 54 Insights. And that is our weekly newsletter. And we push out three pieces of fresh content every week. Okay, Thanks for listening. And until next time, we wish you the best of luck as you try to grow a scale and someday exit your professional services firm. 

Episode 113 – How a Regional IT Services Firm is Leveraging a Client Advisory Board – Member Case by Luke Johnson

Boutique professional service firms need to listen to their clients intentionally. One effective way to do that is a client advisory board.  On this episode, Luke Johnson, CEO & Co-owner at Katalyst shares how he launched a client advisory board recently. Luke shares the early benefits, some mistakes to avoid, and how, exactly, he runs his.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serv podcast with Collective 54, a podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated entirely to the needs of leaders of thriving boutique serve firms. My name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’ll be your host today. On on this episode, we’re going to talk about the Client Advisory Board and why it’s an important tool for all of the professional services firms. And we’ve got a great role model with us today, someone who’s recently implemented this. He’s a collective 54 member. His name is Luke Johnson. Luke, great to see you. Please introduce yourself to the audience. 

Luke Johnson [00:01:00] Hey, Greg, great to see you as well. As you said, I’ve been a member for I think almost a year and a half, and we put a client advisory board in place at the beginning of 2022. It’s been great. I am the CEO and one of the owners of Catalyst out of North Carolina. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:24] And what does Catalyst do? 

Luke Johnson [00:01:27] We are a boutique services firm, Greg, focusing in the technology space and we enable our clients to go faster, further and safer. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:38] Okay. And I tell you, like a MSP, it’s outsourcer type firm. I get that. Okay. You are. 

Luke Johnson [00:01:45] Exactly correct. All right. A lot of cybersecurity work for us as well in that space. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:49] Okay, Awesome. Okay. Well, let’s start with the basics. So would you provide a definition of what a client advisory board is? 

Luke Johnson [00:01:59] Sure. To us. It is a board that we lean on. It is currently comprised of all active clients, although I don’t think it would have to be ours today. It’s someone that we lean on to get advice around what we’re doing as a business and figuring out if that’s relevant to them as well as a board that we lean on to better understand the real everyday challenges in our clients. So I think the distinction I would draw very clearly is this is a board that serves us far more than it does the clients directly. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:37] Yeah, fantastic. You know, we advise our members to stand up a client advisory board for a very basic reason, which is we want to be outward in in everything we do. We want to be listening to our clients as much as possible. And the knowledge we can gain from our clients is extensive. Affects everything from how you market and sell to the types of services that you bring out to the problems you go after is just a really great tool. Look, what I’d love to hear from you is that there was a time in your company’s history where you did not have a client advisory board and you recently installed one in 2022 at the time of this recording. It’s January of 23, so that’s a really fresh use case. So what what prompted the need? 

Luke Johnson [00:03:18] I think it was a few things, Greg. We always struggle with enough very direct feedback from our clients. A lot of times we get a lot of indirect feedback and we’re doing our best to guess what is needed and we put it in place. So we were looking for a mechanism to get more direct feedback. I think also it was a way to draw closer to a specific group of clients, and most of the clients on this board are some of our largest and most meaningful. Not all, but but good, good mix up there. So it’s a way to get really close with those folks and improve the relationships. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:58] Okay, so let’s talk about those folks. One of the challenges of standing up a client advisory board is to figure out who to invite to participate on the board. So how many clients do you have on it and what was your selection criteria? 

Luke Johnson [00:04:14] So we we have seven active members today because we started. Yeah, thank you. We started a little smaller. I think I reached out to maybe nine or ten in the beginning and we started with six. I’ve asked the board if they felt like the number was right. If we could grow it a little bit, we decided we could grow it a little bit. So we added somebody else. And I’m not sure there was a great science around the criteria, but what I did is spend some time looking at years worth of business with a variety of clients, and I tried to make sure that I picked certainly some from the Top End. So folks that have done the most business with us. But I also wanted to accurately represent our client base as a whole. So I sort of looked to that bottom side as well, and maybe not somebody who’d only transacted business with us once, but smaller clients as well. So it’s it’s a real representative group of the clients we are dealing with every day. I also did interject a little bit of personality in there in the sense of some some clients I know really well, some I don’t know really well, But I tried to pick people that I thought would be great, interact with us and share really, really candid feedback. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:31] Awesome. So obviously you had a good pitch because just about everybody you invited said yes, which is an indication you have great relationships with your clients, which is fantastic. But what was the pitch? I mean, why did they agree to be on your client advisory board? 

Luke Johnson [00:05:45] I was really candid, Greg, with them and basically said, I feel a little selfish in asking, but this is for our benefit. I believe that that indirectly benefits you because if we tune our services to be in line with what you need, it should benefit you as well. But we want to pick your brain about what we’re doing. Is it the right thing? Is it in alignment with what you need? We want you to be candid with how we’re doing. If there’s things that we’re not doing well, we want you to call it out and we want to talk about it very directly. And another piece of it is we really pick their brain about competitors as well. And we like to know what are they doing that you like? And. And that may help us as well. So we kept it. We kept it pretty simple. And and that seemed to work well with everybody. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:36] You know, it always this is a great confirmation point, because sometimes when I advise members to stand up a client advisory board, they say, well, none of my clients are going to want to be on it. And I said, You’d be surprised. People generally like to help, and it’s flattering when you get asked to be on a client advisory board. And this is a testament that people are willing to help. Obviously, you’re an important vendor for these clients and they’re probably saying to themselves, If I can help Luke’s firm improve the benefits, may I get higher quality service and new service offerings, etc.. So I would encourage all the listeners to not be bashful there. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised as to who agrees. All right. Let’s talk about the mechanics a little bit. So is it in-person, virtual? How often do you meet and what’s a typical agenda like? 

Luke Johnson [00:07:20] You know, we we’ve kept that simple as well and tried to kind of roll with the times that we’re in. At one point in time, the geography that we dealt with was tighter than it is today. It’s, you know, we have clients all over the place now, so we do it in a in a format very similar to this. Zoom or a WebEx is is how we meet. We meet once per quarter. It is a one hour long meeting and it is a fast moving session. That is probably one of the greatest challenges, is naturally some people like to talk more than others. So you want to make sure you give everybody a chance to say what they need to say. Or maybe you need to prompt a few people along a bit. But we Greg, could sit in that session for 4 hours and it would be wonderful. But we’re being really respectful of these folks time. I mean, they’re really extremely busy people and we’re just grateful to have that one hour from them. So we try and put the agenda out there in advance. We follow the magic a bit on the call, so it’s not terribly structured, but at the same time we try to make sure everybody’s got a chance to give the input that we’re looking for from them. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:33] You know, it’s an interesting tradeoff. So when I had my firm, we had a client advisory board, we did it in person, but it was only twice a year and it was an all day session. The benefit to that, obviously for us was great because we were really able to go deep. And as you mentioned, you could go on and on in these things because the insight is so fantastic. But the challenge we have with that is we add spotty attendance. Sometimes people last minute would cancel on us because it was a big ask. So the tradeoff here is if you do it like Luke is doing it, which is only an hour once a quarter, so you do it more often four times as opposed to two. But each session is shorter in length and it’s virtual instead of in person. You’re probably going to get better attendance. Do you have attendance problems? Is everybody showing up? 

Luke Johnson [00:09:16] We have an excellent attendance, I think one session and let’s see, I think we’re four sessions deep now. In one session, somebody had a last minute emergency that they had to they had to cancel on. But outside of that, now we have we have great attendance. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:32] Okay. And is there any prep work that happens beforehand or you just get on there and wait? 

Luke Johnson [00:09:38] We know we do prep prep with the leadership team. We really try and figure out what is it that we want to take away from this and we try and put an agenda together. We’ll send them generally about two weeks in advance. Here’s the three things we’d love you to answer, you know, on this call. And we’re going to kind of go around the room and ask everybody to give us the input. We may have some dialog around it, and then we’ll invite them, you know, to participate in any other agenda items. Most of the time they don’t. I think people are really respectful and saying, Hey, this is your session. You tell us what you want from us, but we always invite that as well and we give them a couple reminders along the way. So when we get to the session, we’re ready to we’re ready to roll. Right. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:24] And what do you do with the output? So you’re getting all this insight. Then you get off the call and you’re like, holy cow, you know, I just got the keys to the castle. What happens next? 

Luke Johnson [00:10:34] Well, the leadership team and I have figured out we need to clear our calendars immediately following that meeting because there’s so much dialog that happens with us when we leave that session. It’s so great. So we usually try and combine all of our notes. All of us are taking notes throughout. It’s kind of depending on who’s talking and that sort of thing. So we combine them, we put them in a directory where we have them that we can reference back. Our sales leader specifically always takes those notes and shares them with his sales organization and obviously not in an incorrect way, but just more of a guy. As we just left seven companies, good brand representation of the cattle business as a whole. Here’s what’s going on with them. Here’s some of the trends that we see. So we try and get that out within our organization as well. We’re a in a shop, so generally speaking, it seems things that happen in that session usually lead to things that we put on our issues list as well. And a lot of time, the long, long term issues list. So we’re looking to solve or create some new offering based on something that came out of there. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:46] That’s a great follow up action. Many of our members are EOC members and sometimes they struggle with selecting the right rocks. Rocks are 90 day sprints recommended by EOC, but EOC is generic in nature, meaning it’s not focused on a single industry. So, you know, it gives you that is great tool in how to run your business, you know, and pick a rock as an example, a priority. But, you know, if you don’t know what those priorities are, can be really challenging and you can pick the wrong rocks and waste time. So something like a climate advisory board, you know, fantastic rocks, so to speak, reveal themselves. Directly from the clients. It’s a fantastic tool for that. You know, you mentioned your team. So who are you leading this or is it a group of people that are leading it from your team? 

Luke Johnson [00:12:31] Yeah, I, I generally lead it. I have two leaders that participate in it with me. So I have our services leader and our sales leader both who join. And they’re they’re a big part, heavily interactive with all these clients as well. But in the boards a lot of times some topic that’ll come up, they’ll be more suited to address or talk to you in that session. So we all participate. But generally I’m the one that sets the agenda and I run that by them and get their input and sometimes they’ll disagree with what I say. You know, maybe the gentleman that leads sales is saying, Hey, we’re really seeing a lot of this right now. I’d love to talk to them about that. And so it’s a very interactive process with the team. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:12] Okay. So it’s fairly new for you, but not so new. I think You said you ran. You’ve run four of these so far. So based on your early experiments. Any any landmines you want to tell members to avoid stepping on? 

Luke Johnson [00:13:28] I think that. There’s a few. Maybe. Be diligent if you can. And picking the right folks. And again, I’m not sure that there’s a perfect science to that. But do you think about the interactions you have with these people and you really need people who are willing to engage. And that’s probably the most important thing. And they have to be fine with candor. It’s not a great place. You don’t want somebody to feel like they need to be polite in there. Just tell you what you’re doing. Well, not doing well, what the competition’s doing well, not doing well, etc.. I think the other thing is set expectations upfront that you may be a bit of a project manager in the session in that you’ve got to give everybody a chance to speak. So you’re not trying to be rude, but if somebody talks a little too much, you may cut them off just so someone else can can talk. So set those expectations upfront so no one gets their feelings hurt by accident if you have to cut somebody off. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:30] Yeah, well, fantastic advice. Well, listen, we’re out of time, but thanks for making a contribution to the collective today. I’m really looking forward to the private member Q&A, which will happen on an upcoming Friday. But Luke, you’re a great member. You’re always contributing to the collective. So thanks for being here today. 

Luke Johnson [00:14:48] Greg. Thanks for having me. Fun, fun topic to talk about. Great day. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:52] Thank you. Very good. All right. I’m going to give audience members a couple of calls to action, if you will. So first, if you’re a member of Collective 54 and you’re inspired by Luke’s story and you want to get a client advisory board going yourself, we’ve got some tools for you. One is called the Service Offering Development Roadmap. And in that it talks about how to listen to clients. And one of the templates there is a client advisory board. And then also if you’re a member and you’re trying to find your successor, trying to replicate yourself and others and maybe remove the founder bottleneck, this is standing up. A client advisory board is a fantastic development exercise for high potential employees. So you might download a copy of the High potential Employee Development plan, which you can find on the portal as well. If you’re not a member of Collective 54, you should be if you’re listening to this. So how do you find out? Join me. So I go to collective 54 dot com and a couple of things there. You can either fill out a contact us form and talk to somebody about applying for membership or if you’re not ready to join and just want to further educate yourself. I recommend that you subscribe to collective 54 insights and you can find that it collective 54 insights dot com as well. Okay with that, thanks for listening and I look forward to our next session. Take care.

Episode104 – How a Mid-Western Social Media Agency Reached Scale Quickly By Launching New Services In A Crowded Market – Member Case with Beth Trejo

Generating new revenue from existing clients is critical to scaling a boutique professional services firm. This requires developing new services based on the needs of your clients. On this episode, Beth Trejo, CEO and Founder of Chatterkick, takes us on a journey of launching a new service line. Beth shares how she identified the client need, validated the opportunity and launched the new service model.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serv Podcast with Collected 54 podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated entirely to helping you grow, scale and maybe someday exit your professional services firm. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’ll be your host today. And on this episode, we’re going to talk about the need to launch additional services when you’re trying to scale your firm. And we’ll discuss why that’s important. And what I hope to accomplish today is to share some things at work, share some things that don’t work, and maybe help you avoid some mistakes when you are brave enough to launch new services. We’ve got a fantastic role model with us, Beth Trejo. She’s a member of Collective 54, has been for a long time, has been on this show before. And it’s great to have her back. And Beth, if you wouldn’t mind, please introduce yourself and your firm to the audience. 

Beth Trejo [00:01:19] Yeah, well, thank you for having me. I always enjoy this conversation. My name is Beth Trejo. I am the CEO and founder of Chatter Kik. We are a social first digital agency. And yeah, we’ve been in business for about ten years and our goal is really to help brands leverage that human connection behind their logos to drive growth and relevancy. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:44] Okay. And what’s a kind of an ideal client for you? Someone that is right in your sweet spot? 

Beth Trejo [00:01:50] Yeah. So the brands that we’re working with now are typically those that are either in B2B professional services or have multiple business units and complexities. Social media isn’t just one thing. It’s so many things these days. And so when brands need a higher level of sophistication or strategy in terms of what they’re doing on social, that’s when chatter comes in. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:13] Okay, fantastic. So the reason why we wanted to have you on this show on this topic is because from what I understand, you recently launched a new service offering, and you learned a lot in that process. And I thought maybe I could maybe facilitate a conversation and and pull your wisdom out of you. So my first question would be regarding this new service is how did you first identify the opportunity for it? 

Beth Trejo [00:02:43] Yeah. So we’ve launched a couple of new service lines this year, and one of them that we can chat about today is really our employer branding, executive social. And so this is something, you know, we’ve been running social media for businesses and even individuals for the last ten years. But what has happened in the space is that it’s become a lot more complicated to run social media. You need someone who can do analytics. You need someone who can do visual creative elements, video editing, engagement writing. It just doesn’t live with one individual anymore. So as we grew, we’ve added more people to surround our clients. And therefore the value that we’re providing our clients have gotten larger. But also, from a business perspective, our costs have gotten a lot larger because now we have to put four people around each account. And so if I was running, let’s say your LinkedIn account, Greg, it would be pretty expensive to have us do that because we have all the people involved. And so one of the big needs that we’ve noticed and we’ve done this a lot in the health care or professional services space where relationships really do drive so much of the business is we saw these individuals, especially executives, are, again, those people that are very like thought of as a leader in real life and an influencer in real life. And they needed somebody to help them keep the consistency and the presence out there on, let’s say, LinkedIn. But they just didn’t really have a lot of places to turn. Their marketing team didn’t want to run it, they didn’t really feel comfortable. And other agencies don’t usually do a lot of the personal brand management that isn’t just a whole bunch of bots on LinkedIn. And so we found kind of that opportunity zone to say not being done currently and we already have the skill sets. Now we just have to reengineer how we do it on our end. So it doesn’t the price doesn’t become a barrier to success. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:46] Okay. And did you spot this because you’re working with your current clients and you recognize this need? Or did you see this opportunity outside of your current clients and kind of the broader marketplace? 

Beth Trejo [00:05:00] You know, we saw it with some of our current clients, specifically the physician group, because, you know, people want to connect with their doctors and their providers. And it was so evident. And even though the price. The point was when we would be like, you know, that doesn’t fit with chatter cake anymore. Like, this doesn’t work. But we still saw those accounts being successful. Both the employees like to work on them as well as the physicians were like, This is all I need. I don’t need to get it overcomplicated. I don’t don’t care about the reports at this point. And so we saw like indications of that. But then from a market perspective, we saw a lot of just people turning to like people are just sick of dealing with logos. They want real people and they’re craving this at the B2C level, which isn’t always the norm. Right? Like you didn’t always need to know who the president of your toothpaste company was, but people are really craving that connection and purpose and vision and values on across the board. So that’s really where we saw, okay, opportunity, we’ve done this before. We knew that it worked, it was profitable, but we just really didn’t define it and put it together into a service line until this year. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:07] Very good. You know, the product world, let’s say a software company, there’s a very well thought out way to experiment with a new product. For example, the minimum viable product, agile, rapid iteration, lean, you know, it’s very well won territory, but it’s not as well-worn in the service space. And sometimes I see members making make a mistake and that is they go and they overengineered this massive solution before they even have a single client for it. And then they take it out to market and all their assumptions get blown up in the first 30 days. And then they’ve got to go through another engineering process. And and I really want to help members that are brave enough to launch new services as part of their scale strategy. Avoid that mistake. So when you were thinking about this particular opportunity, because it’s a wonderful use case, how did you make sure you didn’t over engineer it to start? 

Beth Trejo [00:07:04] Yeah, well, first I made those mistakes so many times in the past how I used to do new service like was I pitch it, I’d make something up that I thought would be a valuable and that we could do. But I wouldn’t do a lot of testing. I would just pitch it, we’d sell it, and then I’d figure it out in the background. Okay, well, that was fine for a while, but that’s exhausting to your team. It can be completely chaotic at times, and it really wasn’t. It didn’t define it in the way that we needed to, to scale it. And so how we did this differently and really the thing that I think I’m the most proud of is that we kind of isolated it. We took it away from our normal work space. We didn’t have it live with our other teams that have done it. And some of us, we kind of let it live in this little incubator with a specific type of team member that could kind of handle a high level strategy as well as like a tactical deployment. So it was just a really good fit of that individual. And then we tested it. We figured out what’s working, what’s not working, what’s costing us, where are we saving money? Where is this going? And we’ve been able to move faster because it were just a handful of us working on that, as opposed to when I used to do it, when I did it wrong, I kind of involved too many people, too many things at once. All knew no definition, no operations. And it just it didn’t feel good, especially in the back end. So that was something that has really been helpful how we did it this time. And we’ve done this for several other new service line deployments this year. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:33] That is really interesting, is having a separate group, the world that I came from in my early career was a technology world product company, and we literally had a launch group and it was a set of product marketing and sales and service people. That’s all they did, was launched, had come out with a new offering and they owned it for like a year or two. And then and then once they got the reference ability and they worked out all the kinks, then it went over to the main group and then they took it over. And then the product roadmap dropped and none. Another new thing, I was in this group, into the launch group, and so it went and it worked extremely well. And it’s really interesting to apply that to a service firm, as you have done. That’s fascinating. Sometimes members are afraid to launch new services because they don’t know how to scope it. And they they pitch it, they get a gig, and they’re all excited because it’s a new revenue source and they end up losing money on it because they underestimated, sometimes dramatically, what it actually takes to deliver the service. So. So how did you did you run a pilot? Did you like how did you figure all that out? 

Beth Trejo [00:09:37] Yeah. I mean, I think those are the type of conversations that you’re that if you give yourself a little more time, which is what again, I would try to go so fast, didn’t want to a missed opportunity. But if you give yourself a little bit more time, you can reiterate on that, you know, and you know, probably took us a year or so to kind of get, okay, this is where we think it’s at least the baseline price, right? Like in the beginning, you’re I’m not trying to like get too big and crazy, but like you don’t want to lose money on something, right? Right. So like, what are the baseline resources that I need to use to do a good job and you know, and then what are the. No one’s that I’m going to have to figure out. Can I re-engineer the process? Can I use new software and tools? Can I put different levels of team members involved in this? Is this an executive role or is this something that I could train and teach someone at an entry level? And so those were kind of the bigger items that we figured it out and it really did about. I thought it was gonna take about six months and it really did take about 8 to 9 months to kind of get some of the kinks worked out from an operations perspective. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:42] And then how did you take it to market? I mean, did you go to a happy client and say, I got this new thing? Will you be my guinea pig? Or did you take it out to the broad market? Like, what was the launch plan? 

Beth Trejo [00:10:52] Yeah, so it really relied on strategic partnerships. I think that those in the professional service world, those are so key and to diversify your strategic partnerships in some regards, but that allows you to kind of build this stuff with trusted partners and not do it all alone. And that’s really been really helpful for us. We’re lucky because we kind of have a marketing background, so we have, you know, some of that talent on our team. But regardless, the more you start spending, even if it’s a new service line, the lower that you you have from a profit perspective. So it’s kind of one of those things that we’re we’re going a little bit slower on that. On the other side, we’ve done we launched a new service line this year, which is tic tac scaling. Tic TAC has been really challenging for agencies because it’s so much video content. And so one of the things that I’ve really learned on doing some of this is only sell what you can do. Well, yeah, because if I’m selling, you know, 250 videos a month, like that’s just unreasonable for even clients to approve all that content. So how can we still be successful for them but not maybe overdo it, right? Or like or or not make it so completely out of reach that it’s not a good customer experience. So there’s definitely been a lot of learnings all around this year for chatting. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:14] So you mentioned strategic partnerships. Most of our members are underweighted as it relates to strategic partnerships and it’s a big miss in the context of what we’re talking about today launching this new product. Give me an example of two of a strategic partner. 

Beth Trejo [00:12:32] Well, I mean, I think Collective 54 is a perfect example. But the other thing that I think is so valuable is how can you track the differences of your strategic partners? So is there a software company that every client that you want to have pairs with that software company, is there a, you know, another service provider like in that in the health care space, when we were working with providers, it was like the reimbursement companies, right? Because they needed high reviews across the board for customer satisfaction. And so is there an alignment that you can have with some of those engagement companies from a health care standpoint? So it’s just trying to get creative and not just thinking like, who’s going to get me leads, but whose audiences are already built that I can just add value to. And all of a sudden now I have access to hundreds of opportunities instead of one, two, three, four. That’s a lot more work. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:33] Yeah, a really interesting well thought out approach. You have certainly mastered this and it was a big contribution made today. I’m really looking forward to the Friday Q&A member session. When that comes up. Our members are going to have a lot of questions about this, but we’re running out of time. I appreciate you being here and thanks for contributing. 

Beth Trejo [00:13:52] Yes, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:55] All right. So if you’re a founder and leader of a boutique professional services firm and you want to meet great people like Beth, consider joining Collective 54, apply for membership at collective 54 dot.com, but not quite ready to join yet. You just want to educate yourself on this topic and others. Check out Collective 54 Insights. You can find that on the website. You got a podcast, a blog, a book, some benchmarking data, etc. All kinds of interesting things to keep yourself educated. So thanks for listening and I look forward to our next episode.

Episode 73 – How a 63-Year-Old Ad Agency Stays Relevant by Launching New Service Offerings – Member Case with Marc Cooper

As professional services firms scale, developing new service offerings is critical to staying relevant with your clients. In this episode, we hear from Marc Cooper, President and Partner at Junction59, to learn how his firm uncovers new client needs and develops new service offerings as part of a business scaling strategy.


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 the founder. My name’s Greg Alexander, and I’m also your host today. And on this episode, I’m going to talk to Mark Cooper, and we’re going to talk about designing new services. So, Marc, welcome to the show. 

Marc Cooper [00:00:47] Thanks for having me today. 

Greg Alexander [00:00:49] Would you mind properly introducing yourself to the audience, please? 

Marc Cooper [00:00:53] Absolutely. I’m Marc Cooper, and I’m the president of Junction 59. We’re a Canadian integrated ad agency based out of Toronto. We like to say that we work at the intersection of people and points of view where ideas meet to make a better tomorrow. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:10] Okay, very good. And what types of clients do you serve, Marc? 

Marc Cooper [00:01:15] So we’ve a broad range of clients actually that reflect, I would say, the Canadian landscape. But for the most part, we divide up into three different categories: B2B clients and B2C clients who are interested in reaching their clients throughout the journey. So a lot of direct marketing and journey marketing. And then not-for-profit  clients. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:41] Okay. 

Marc Cooper [00:01:42] All about fundraising. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:43] Very good. Okay. So the topic today is about designing new service lines as a way to scale your firm in the common-sense explanation. It’s pretty basic. And it says if you have one thing to sell and deliver, scaling a business  is going to be hard. So at some point in the journey, you know, firms invest in additional service lines so that they can go back to their happy client base with new things to talk to them about and potentially earn expansion revenue. 

So let me start with kind of a 30,000-foot  question, which is, how many service lines do you have today? And how has that evolved since the founding of the firm many years ago? 

Marc Cooper [00:02:25] Well, it’s an interesting question because in a marketing and communications business, you know, you could bucket all of our services under marketing communications and say we have one service. Yeah, but of course, you know, as the industry has evolved and different platforms have come to life, you know, there are lots of agencies that specialize just in digital, just in traditional print or television or out of home. 

And then across that, you’ve got some that have a strategy and some that don’t. So if you start to look at all of the different service offerings that we have at a much more sort of focused level, I would say we have upwards of 30 to 40 different services that we’re able to offer. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:14] And you’ve been around for how long? 

Marc Cooper [00:03:17] We’ve been in business since 1959, which is where the 59 and Junction  59 comes from. 

Business Scaling Strategy: How to Identify the Need for Additional Services

Greg Alexander [00:03:21] No kidding. My goodness. Well, okay, so 30 to 40 different offerings, I guess, unique services. And I understand bundled together into a solution that you might sell a client. 

So since your firm has been around so long and developed so many services, what advice would you give those listening that might have one or two things that they sell and deliver? How would they go about identifying the need for additional services? And then how would they go about developing those into something that could be sold and executed against? 

Marc Cooper [00:03:56] Sure. Well, we have a number of different ways that we do it. One of them is quarterly business reviews. At the end of every quarter, we sit down, and we look at the work we’ve done for a client over that past quarter. Then we look at the work that their competitors might have in the market, and we look for opportunities, including any trends that are happening in the marketplace with their customers. 

Then we sit down and talk to the client about what we’ve done, you know, all under the guise of how could we get better at what we’re doing for them, but also to point out opportunities where they might do things a little different when going to talk to their customers. And it’s usually at that point that a service offering that we have that we may not have been offering to them comes up in discussion. 

And I think for us, over the years, what would happen is the same service offerings were coming up over and over again with particular clients. You know, we do group our clients into like-minded  sort of buckets across those three buckets we serve. So it’s not surprising to learn that, you know, a high-tech company and a telecommunications company might start to see the need to do a particular type of marketing. 

And when we didn’t offer those services, we would always find a partner we could work with to offer them a service. But as they came up over and over again, we decided it was time to bring those services in-house and offer those services directly to our clients. So it created a whole new service offering. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:33] Interesting. So the quarterly business review, the QBR, so that’s done between your team and the client. And it’s a review. It’s always a best practice to do such a thing, and it naturally comes up during those QBRs  where the client would express new needs. Is it my understanding that correctly? 

Marc Cooper [00:05:52] That’s right, yeah. Or we would suggest new needs based on what we see their competitors or the market doing. 

How to Develop Additional Services Internally When Scaling a Business?

Greg Alexander [00:06:00] Okay, very good. Now, let’s say that you spot a trend, you know, and you’re hearing the same thing enough times where you say, “Jesus, there’s something here.” At first, you service that need by partnering with others, and that makes total sense. But then it’s a substantial enough business that it might be worth investing in that capability in-house. 

Let’s for the purposes of education today, let’s assume we’re at that point. So you’ve made the decision to bring this service in-house, and you’re going to develop it internally. How do you do it? 

Marc Cooper [00:06:33] Well, you know, being an entrepreneur, there’s always that leap of faith. Right. But you go out, and you’re hiring  for the role. And honestly, instead of working with the third-party  service provider that you were bringing in, you work with your internal team. 

Our clients tend to care more about the partners in the agency that are delivering their service than they do about the individuals that are actually working on all the different components. So they gladly accept a new name on a call or in a meeting that’s going to be helping to build out their solution. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:18] Yep. And the focus at that point of the new service line that you’ve developed, is it to bring it to the existing client base and therefore expand the revenue stream from the current clients? Or are you also taking it out to new pursuits? 

Marc Cooper [00:07:35] Yeah, I think it’s like everything we do, right. About 70% of the business is servicing the existing clients. But then you’re always thinking, you know, maybe you hit that break-even  point where it makes sense to bring them in and sell them off to your existing clients. 

But now how do you make that incremental revenue and use  it as a way to go out, reach new clients and new prospects, you know. Ss maybe a new foot in the door to build a bigger relationship with those new clients is always sort of top of mind. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:04] What I love about this approach is it’s outward in, you know, you’re listening to the client and then responding. Sometimes, owners of professional service firm boutiques that are trying to scale, they do the opposite. 

You know, they’re educating themselves in their domain, and they get excited about the new hot thing. And they put forward all this effort to hire some people and design methodologies and automate with tech, etc. And then they go, and they take it to their customers, and it doesn’t sell. And they can’t understand why. I’ve made that mistake myself in the past, and it’s painful when it happens. Have you been able to avoid that, or from time to time, does that happen to you as well? 

Marc Cooper [00:08:44] No, I think like everybody we’re human that we think we know better and we try a few things. But I would say the majority of the time, it’s because we’re listening to our clients. We’ve heard them ask for something, and we do it. Yeah, you know, but every once in a while, you try to also be ahead of the curve. And if you’re going to be ahead of the curve, that’s when you have to try 

I think an experiment. Maybe even if you haven’t heard as many clients say they want something. Yeah. But you know, most of the time, it’s listening to your clients and delivering on what they’re looking for. Okay. Biggest payoff. 

Tactics for Developing New Service Lines for Your Professional Services Firm

1. Client Advisory Board

Greg Alexander [00:09:22] You know, there are  a few other tactics that members are using to develop new service lines, to listen to the clients, to see what the need is. We talked about your example of the quarterly business review. Another one that I’m seeing gaining traction is the Client Advisory Board. 

And just to simply explain that you collect a few clients of yours, you meet with them maybe twice a year for a day and a half or so. And in this particular case, a client is saying, you know, here are the challenges that I’m having in my business right now, now and in the future. And they’re giving feedback into kind of what your roadmap may or may not be. What are your thoughts on a client advisory board? 

Marc Cooper [00:10:00] You know, I love the idea, and it’s something that we’ve talked a little bit about but haven’t really pursued as much as we should. But, you know, one of the things that we do like to do is bring clients together for social events. 

And when you see each, you know, your clients actually interacting with each other and talking about what they’ve learned, you know, outside what’s necessary of the agency relationship, you can see that there’s something really powerful happening there where those clients are sharing their own experiences with each other. So to tap into that and get them to focus on how we could get better delivering against their needs, I think it would be well worth exploring even deeper. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:46] Yeah, it’s something that I’ve done in my past and in what I would suggest is it’s a way to formalize it. You know, the informal way of getting clients together and socializing is very beneficial for sure. And I’m glad you’re doing that. This would be the next logical step. You know, you would formalize it. 

What I always liked about it is, you know, it’s one of the only times where the client’s presenting to you. So imagine yourself in a conference room, and you’re sitting there, and the clients walk you through their deck, which is a really, really cool thing. Okay. 

2. Client Satisfaction Reviews

Greg Alexander [00:11:12] Another thing that we hear is client satisfaction reviews, or sometimes people use NPS as an example, and there’s a way to structure those survey tools to collect ideas for new service lines. Do you do any type of client satisfaction reporting? 

Marc Cooper [00:11:31] So we have a scorecard that we make available to clients after every project and now after every significant project. We have a lot of projects as an ad agency where we might be changing an offer in a banner ad, and we don’t necessarily seek big feedback on that. But on the more significant projects we seek feedback, and the feedback is really a lot of it’s about process and creativity, making sure we’re bringing the right ideas to the table. 

So there are a few times, especially when it comes down to were we being proactive for their business, where we bring in the latest and greatest ideas to the table. That’s where some of those new service opportunities pop up when they think they indicate maybe that, you know, we did a seven out of ten on something. 

It  inspires a conversation, but we don’t have a formal spot to actually ask, was there anything else that we could have delivered that we didn’t or anything like that? And I think as I’ve been researching this more, I think that’s an area where I want to spend more time. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:39] You know, it’s a pretty easy fix. You know, you add a sentence or two or a question or two to a survey and send it out. And and when I’ve used that before in the past, it was, it was the origination of some really good ideas. And what I love about it, it’s easy to execute. So that’s a good idea for the audience to kick around. 

3. Win-Loss Reviews

Greg Alexander [00:12:56] Okay. Kind of a kissing cousin to that would be win-loss  reviews. And what this is is that for new pursuits, you mentioned 30% of your business comes from new clients. You know, after the sales campaign for those that you’ve won and for those of you lost. You know, some type of feedback mechanism with the prospect that went through the sales campaign to understand why you won and why you lost. And sometimes, that can be a fantastic way to identify new opportunities for service line extension. Have you experimented with that at all? 

Marc Cooper [00:13:24] Yeah, we have. You know, every time we do a pitch, especially in a formal RFP, we ask for a debrief afterwards, win or lose, and we sit down. Sometimes it’s with the procurement manager. Sometimes it’s with one of the review panel. But we’re always looking to figure out why did we win and why did we lose. 

There was one instance where we actually won a very large client. They’ve been with us now for 12 years. Fantastic relationship. And we discovered that we won for a reason we had never anticipated. It was because, during our pitch presentation, we put an emphasis on the great quality we put into the production of the end product. 

And we’re a creative agency, but we still talked a little bit about the production that goes into the end product, and that was what differentiated us from the others in that particular pitch. So since then, we’ve been actually able to monetize the fact that we have better standards or put a bigger emphasis on the production there. And so it actually helped us make that a bit more of a service offering than just a table stake  that we thought it was. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:41] That’s a great story. I appreciate you sharing that. That’s a real pragmatic implementation of that technique, and it’s working really well for you. So now inspire many others to do the same. Okay. 

4. Conferences

Greg Alexander [00:14:51] And the last idea I want to get your opinion on is, I guess before the pandemic, we would all go to some conferences. There’s lots of industry conferences, and I always found those very interesting to go to stimulate creativity or new things. 

We could bring up everything from just the agenda to see what the topics are, because normally whoever’s putting on the conference surveyed the audience to see what should be discussed. I also liked walking the trade show floor to see what all the other vendors are doing. Did you use conferences as a way to stimulate ideas for new services? 

Marc Cooper [00:15:25] Yeah, we still do to a certain extent in the virtual conferences. You know what we like to do. I mean, we attend all the marketing and advertising conferences that we should that are, you know, in the marketing and advertising field. But we also like to attend conferences that are in our clients’ industry. 

Yeah, a lot of them have an industry association that  put on an annual conference. So not only do we attend, but where we can, we try to present, we try to get a speaking role, whether it’s on the main stage or in a side room. And it gives us an opportunity to explain to our clients that not only do we care about their business, we care about their industry. And we want to learn as much as we can so that we can be a true extension of their team. And while we’re doing that, of course, we open ourselves up to a whole new audience because we come across as experts within that particular niche. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:23] It’s a great idea. I mean, it’s such a subtle thing, but if you’re going like in your case as a marketing agency, if you go into just the shows for agencies, it’s a little bit of, you know, everybody talking about the same thing, right? It’s a little of an echo chamber. 

But if you go to the conferences of your clients, it’s now a step beyond that, and you’re hearing how other people in that industry might need your services. And that can be a great source of inspiration for new service lines. Awesome. 

Marc Cooper [00:16:54] Absolutely. We also have in the past acted as judges for those industry associations when they have their own marketing awards. And so that opens us up to other, you know, our clients and their competitors even at those associations ceremonies. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:13] That’s a great idea for sure. Plus, it has lots of credibility. If you’re judging American Idol, you know, you’ve become a celebrity, right? Alight, Marc. Well, listen fantastic input today. Thank you very much for that. If the audience members would like to get a hold of you to continue the conversation, what’s the best, best way to reach you. 

Marc Cooper [00:17:33] If they can head over to Junction59.com,and there’s a lot of information there about us and including all my contact information. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:42] Okay, fantastic. And for those listening, if you want to learn more about this subject, how to develop new service lines, how to develop a business scaling strategy, and many others, you can pick up a copy of our book called “The Boutique: How to Start, Scale, and Sell A Professional Services Firm,” which I’m proud to say just became an Amazon number one bestseller in our little niche. 

And then also, if you’re interested in meeting great people like Marc, you might consider joining our mastermind community. And you can find us at Collective54.com. But Marc, thanks again. It was great to say hello to you and to listen to how you’re implementing this particular business scaling technique. 

Marc Cooper [00:18:18] Great. Thanks for having me on today, Greg. Really appreciate it.