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Firms battle in tight market

Firms battle in tight market

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES firms face four significant changes to the way they run their business and approach client relationships, according to an international law firm culture expert. Speaking at…

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES firms face four significant changes to the way they run their business and approach client relationships, according to an international law firm culture expert.

Speaking at the APSMA 2005 Conference last week, H. Edward Wesemann, a principal with Edge International, said professional service providers would find themselves making a “huge leap” from marketing to business development; focusing on dominance rather than positioning; concentrating on firm branding as opposed to individual branding; and competing for a shrinking pool of clients.

From the traditional marketing activity of getting clients to call them, firms had shifted to selling themselves and asking for business. The success of the marketing department had been largely based on activities in the past, it would now be measured on outcomes.

Also, there would be a change in what the firms were trying to accomplish, from market positioning to market dominance. Wesemann said firms had a major advantage in that they could “choose the marketplace”.

“If you are dominant in one marketplace the world regards you as a boutique firm. If you are dominant in two or three areas, the marketplace will infer dominance in areas where you don’t actually have it.”

Firm branding, as opposed to the branding of individuals within the firm, was something that law firms had not been very good at, Wesemann said. Recognition that individual branding had occurred and would continue to occur had led to branding measures that shaped the firm’s brand as a collection of individual brands.

A major development in the marketplace had been the consolidation of not only the professional services firms, but more significantly, of their clients. As a result, the marketing function would spend much of its time protecting the firm’s existing clients.

It followed that with so few clients, the only way to source new ones would be to steal someone else’s, Wesemann said. Also, the marketing department would have to act as “analysts that connect the dots” and determine how information could benefit the firm.

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