Full Sail Partners Blog | Jeff Robers

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Client Connections - Create Unique Client Experiences

Posted by Jeff Robers on May 19, 2016

Is your business focused around your clients? While some readers may be quick to answer ‘yes’, and others quick to answer ‘no’, the truth likely remains somewhere in-between. Foster more meaningful client connections by understanding client expectations or concerns. Watch the video below to see how your firm can create a unique client experience to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Putting Yourself on a Shelf: Marketing Services Based Businesses

Posted by Jeff Robers on August 28, 2014

Consumers. Buyers. Clients. Users. Customers. You want ‘em, you need ‘em! and it doesn’t matter what kind of business you own.  Or does it? Marketing services based businesses can be a tricky task. 

Identifying and marketing to your consumers

is both formulaic and highly individual,

because what you’re marketing makes all the difference.

In other words, if you’re a product based firm or a services based firm, your marketing efforts will certainly have some similarities but marketing to each of these audiences will also have their own needs.

Let’s first start with definitions.  

marketing services based businesses

Product based firm – you’re an organization with a solid, tangible product to offer its customers:  you can package it and put it on a “shelf.” Marketing is pretty easy – you might even say it’s “textbook” (taught in every marketing class across the country).

Services based firm – an organization that has people as its primary offering, i.e. a process or an expertise.  And since you can’t package people or put a process on a shelf, you have to market differently. 

A bit of both – Sometimes you’re some sort of hybrid between a products business and services firm.  Maybe you sell a product and offer services to back up that product.  Maybe you offer services with some ancillary products.  Whatever your mix of products and services, your marketing efforts will have to vary depending on your target market for each.

Who says it best?

So let’s get down to business and start marketing.   

When you’re marketing a product, you let your product speak for itself, tell its own story of how buying the product will solve the customers’ problems.  You can do things like show your product in action - think cars careening down the highway or a newly cleaned floor.

With marketing services based businesses, it’s a bit different.  Yet still much the same.

Like products, services solve problems.  Marketing your services business will still show problems being solved but as told by the current clients of your services: as the old adage says, people buy from people.  Think of a company like “Angie’s List” which sells services of professionals as told by the users of those services.  With services, your biggest marketing tool is your clients.  In services, you can’t parade your product for your potential customers, but you can show those who have successfully used your services. 

Client Feedback Tool. The key to marketing services based businesses.

But how do you know the stories of your clients?  You ask them.  And in the services world, your best friend is client surveys, specifically, a Client Feedback Tool which companies like Full Sail Partners use to periodically and regularly gather information from clients about engagements.

Sometimes customers need a voice (other than just talking with a project manager) through which to offer their feedback.  A Client Feedback Tool offers survey questions which your clients can use to offer their thoughts on the engagement:  these can either be constructive points as to areas for improvement or compliments on the engagement which are really helping their work lives.  And, with the right marketing professional, both can be used to your services business’ advantage, because once you know how your customers are feeling, you can take action.  In marketing, no news is not necessarily good news; the more information you are armed with, the better marketing can do its job.

Never underestimate the value of retention

Marketing your services business is a bit different but can be better once you find your audience because of one word – RETENTION.  If you have happy customers, not only can they contribute to your marketing efforts, but keeping these same happy customers is the real boon to your bottom line.  According to Forbes.com “Five Customer Retention Tips for Entrepreneurs” 

For those who feel that customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping a company grow a healthy bottom line, here are a few statistics you might be interested in. According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. And if those numbers don’t impress you, Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. Still not sold on customer retention? One final statistic provided by Lee Resource Inc. should give you plenty to think about: Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.   

When it comes to marketing services based businesses, happy clients are your secret weapon

Marketing your services business requires some tweaks to your marketing that differ slightly from product businesses.  Your chief marketing tool is your current customers as they proselytize your message.  Not only are they reaching new customers, but if they are happy enough to share your good work, it looks like you will have a long-term relationship making your bottom line even that much happier. 

Yes, it may be a bit daunting to come up with different marketing styles for your potentially varied target audiences. To accomplish this, check out the Client Feedback Tool - a tool designed to help you target your marketing efforts.


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Project Accounting: One, one deliverable met … ah, ah, ah! (Lightening flash)

Posted by Jeff Robers on April 30, 2014

Project AccountingLike the beloved Sesame Street Count Von Count character, your project accounting should be just as obsessive about tracking numbers – project management numbers that is.  Many companies are very good about ensuring that their general accounting functions (things like their A/P and A/R balances, for example) are consistently maintained and reported to those who need this data.  But when it comes to project accounting, too many companies fall short.  

But first – what is project accounting?

Let’s start by comparing it to standard accounting, which most of us know.  Standard accounting manages the financials using a company’s organizational structure – how divisions or departments are tracking (like their G&A, labor, etc.) compared to their budgeted amounts on a periodic basis.  For those who embrace their arithmomania (a compulsive love of counting) and for those companies where growth is a key component of their future, there is another layer which is a must.  Project accounting looks closely at the projects a company has undertaken most of which regularly cross departments and might last months or even years. 

Let’s say, for example, company X wants to undergo a new green initiative in their office.  Our standard accounting will keep good track of costs for things like the smart electronics to manage lighting and HVAC or the newly hired “Green Officer.”  What standard accounting doesn’t do is manage the costs for the actual project, i.e. how much did it cost you to achieve your final goal.  Things like:

  • The project manager’s time to create and manage the project plan: the work breakdown structure and project hierarchies.
  • Were deadlines met?  If not, what the cost of missing those deadlines?  If so, how did meeting those deadlines translate into cost savings?
  • How is percentage of completion managed and tracked to budget?
  • What long or short-term investments will need to be managed on an on-going basis once this project is complete? 

But let’s take this a step further.  Let’s say you need to perform a customer project – you’re going to implement that same green initiative in your customer’s office.  You probably have access to someone who is really good at estimating the costs of a project, so you have this first step covered.  You may not, though, have a good system for tracking those project costs to the actual costs which means for the entire project, you’re working with blinders and hoping that at end of the project, you’re not bankrupt.  That’s where a good project accounting system will save you.  Forbes.com contributor, Bill Connerly’s piece, “Businesses Lose Money From Bad Accounting,” says he’s surprised at “how many businesses do not know the profitability of each customer or project or order they have. For instance, a sign company could not tell … how much it cost them for a particular job they undertook. Their financial statements told them whether the entire business made money in the month” or not but there was no accounting in place to determine to which project the gain or loss was attributed.

Now, SOLUTIONS, please.

When you’re a small company doing your best to manage your business day-to-day, a smaller accounting solution, like Quick Books, serves your needs … for a while.  J. Carlton Collins, CPA details those limitations in his piece “Practical Advice for Companies That Have Outgrown QuickBooks” (http://www.iyoungland.com/_pdfs/outgrown_quickbooks.pdf)

QuickBooks has two basic limitations:

• Limited accounting system features

• Limited database performance 

If you run a smaller operation, these product characteristics are actually appealing … If your organization is rapidly expanding, however, you will eventually outgrow the QuickBooks feature set and database performance … growing companies often find they need more sophisticated features that aren’t offered by QuickBooks.

And therein lies the rub.  Growth.

For companies who have “growth” as part of their future – and “growth” can be defined any number of ways like increase in revenues, employees or customers, higher profits, greater market share, etc. – they will outgrow these types of small accounting solutions and have to take the leap to accounting sophistication by finding a solution that manages both their standard accounting as well as their project accounting.  

But before you take that leap alone, let’s get you a partner.  As much as we all love Count Von Count, you should look to a partner who is just as obsessive about numbers, but without the funny accent.  Your friends at Full Sail Partners are just what the Count ordered.  Take, for example, this piece by Mark Lovstrom with Full Sail.  He writes that growth is a KPI which should be analyzed with “a project KPI dashboard [that] can examine some simple indicators [to] allow a project manager to gauge which project(s) need more attention.”  He goes on to list those items which should be closely examined in order to manage your project costs.  Things like:

  • Accounts Receivable
  • Unbilled Labor
  • Estimated to Complete (ETC) and/or Estimate at Completion (EAC) 

In the end, we are all working toward success for our business.  And to most of us, success means growth which then means managing every minute and every dollar – through project accounting – to achieve your success.  Click to view this webinar by Full Sail Partners to learn more about how your particular style of growth can be achieved. 

Count Von Count and all his Sesame Street friends will be proud of how much your project accounting has allowed your business to grow!

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