Full Sail Partners Blog | Building Business

Posts about Building Business:

Define Your Personas to Guide Marketing Strategies

Posted by Lindsay Diven on September 08, 2021

Professional services firms don’t just make a product that one consumer is going to purchase. The services that the firms sell are complex and involve different decision makers who have different needs and goals. Successful firms don’t just know who those decision makers are, but rather, develop personas that guide their marketing strategies.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing for A/E/C firms series logo

This article will dive deeper into what personas are, how to develop personas, and how they are used to help create marketing strategies This is the second article in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series.

What is a Persona?

According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a fictional, generalized representation of an ideal client. The persona helps firms understand their clients and prospective clients better making it easier for them to develop content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.

Personas are based on insight gathered from existing clients and market research done by marketing, business development or outside resources. Due to the nature of project-based firms who pursue projects with multiple decision-makers, most firms will have multiple personas.

How to Create Personas

The first step in creating a persona is asking specific questions about current and ideal clients to find out as much as possible about who they are and how they interact with your firm. This can be completed through research, surveys, and interviews by a mix of clients, prospects, and those outside the CRM who might align with the target audience.

Potential methods for gathering information needed to develop personas are:

  • Look through the contacts database (CRM) to uncover trends about how certain clients find and consume marketing content.
  • Use form fields that capture persona information when creating website forms. For example, if the persona varies based agency role, ask each lead for information about their role at their agency on the website form.
  • Ask for feedback from the business development team about the leads and contacts they’re interacting with the most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of contacts served by the firm?
  • Ask for feedback from project managers and other project delivery teams. What generalizations can they make about the different types of client contacts they work with?
  • Interview clients and prospective clients to discover what they like about the services the firm offers.

Some example questions to ask during the information gathering phase:

  • What is their profession?
  • What does a typical day in their life look like?
  • Where do they go for information?
  • How do they prefer to obtain services?
  • What is important to them when choosing a firm?
  • What do they value most?
  • What are their goals?

Use this information to identify patterns and commonalities. Then the persona can begin to be recorded (written down!). This can include information such as:

  • Basic demographic information – Age? Income? Location? Gender identity?
  • Background – Job? Career path? Family? Lifestyle?
  • Identifiers – Communication preferences? Social media platforms?
  • Challenges – What does this person struggle in relation to meeting goals? What serves as a roadblock for this person’s success?
  • What can we do – To help this persona achieve their goals? To help this persona overcome their challenges?
  • Goals – Primary/secondary goals? Personal vs. professional goals? Role-related vs. company goals?

Once the persona is created share it with marketing, business development, executives, and operations to ensure the entire firm has the same view of the ideal client.

How are Personas Used to Guide Marketing Strategies?

Personas allow firms to personalize or target marketing for different segments. For example, instead of sending a monthly newsletter to all contacts in a CRM system, firms can segment by personas and tailor the newsletter content according to what is known about each persona.

Let’s say a firm called ACME Engineering has personas that include facilities directors, permitting coordinators, and prime architects. These personas have different specific needs, behaviors, and concerns, as one would assume. Sending a monthly newsletter that contains the same content to the entire list, wouldn’t be as well received as if ACME Engineering changed the newsletter content slightly that each project feature or blog article was written specifically with that persona in mind.

Other uses for personas for marketing include:

  • Building effective content marketing strategies by focusing on keyword research efforts.
  • Identifying and prioritizing the most relevant promotional activities.
  • Timing marketing campaigns for peak engagement rates.
  • Publishing content and advertisements on the channels (email, social media, etc.) most frequented by personas.
  • Personalizing marketing automation efforts.
  • Refining copywriting to reflect improved SEO strategies.

When the personas are used correctly, personas allow firms to produce highly targeted content that leads to better responses from new and repeat clients. And there is data to prove this. According to research from Single Grain, companies who used personas saw:

  • Websites were 2-5 times more effective.
  • Personalized emails had a 14% higher click-through rate (CRT).
  • Conversion rates* were 10% higher.

Using Personas Throughout the Firm

While this article focuses on the persona for marketing’s use, once the personas are defined, they can be used throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Business Development – Personas are valuable to anyone in the firm who is client facing. From crafting one-on-one message and building rapport to understanding the persona on a deeper level allows the business developer to be better prepared to address the client’s concerns.
  • Project Delivery – Just because the firm won the project, the firm shouldn’t stop building the relationship with the client. Because of this, involve project management team members in the persona development process so that it can be tailored to the project delivery process in your firm.

Persona is the Foundation for Driving Revenue Growth

Having a deep understanding of the personas is the foundation for building a digital marketing strategy. It’s critical to driving content creation, seeking out new clients and prospects, building relationships, delivering the projects, and really anything that relates to client acquisition and retention.

This is the second article in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. In this series, marketers and principals will learn how to develop a digital marketing program that is right for their firm. Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

New call-to-action

*Conversion rates can mean that someone took an action on a call to action. This can be filling out a form, clicking a link, etc.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing: What is Digital Marketing

Posted by Lindsay Diven on August 18, 2021

This article is the first in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. This series will walk A/E/C firms through how to develop a digital marketing program that will raise brand awareness, capture new leads, and increase revenue.

But, before the series covers the nuts and bolts of how to do this, let’s define digital marketing, its history and how it can benefit A/E/C firms.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing logo version 2

Digital Marketing Defined

Digital marketing is defined as any marketing that uses electronic devices to convey promotional messages and measure its impact. Typically, these marketing practices include marketing campaigns that appear on computers, phones, tablets, or other electronic devices. It takes many forms including videos, emails, and social media posts. Additionally, it includes organic content and paid content such as display ads. Digital marketing is often compared to “traditional marketing” like magazine ads, billboards, and direct mail.

The History of Digital Marketing

The term Digital Marketing was first coined in the 1990s when customer relationship management (CRM) software became a significant factor in marketing technology. Then in 1994, the first clickable banner ad went live for the “You Will” campaign by AT&T. Over the first four months of it going live, 44% of all people who saw it clicked on the ad.

In the 2000s, with increased internet usage and the birth of the iPhone, customers began to search products and make decisions about their needs online first, instead of consulting a salesperson. This encouraged marketers to find new ways to integrate digital technology into market development.

Digital marketing took another step forward in 2007 when marketing automation was developed. Marketing automation is the process by which software is used to automate conventional marketing processes. With this new technology, marketers could launch multichannel marketing campaigns based on the customers specific activities.

After that, social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter made consumers even more dependent on digital applications in their daily lives. Now customers and potential customers expect a seamless user experience across different channels when searching for a firm’s information.

Digital Marketing Campaign Types

Digital marketing can consist of both online and non-internet channels and strategies. Common online digital marketing channels and strategies consist of:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Content marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Display advertising
  • Pay per click advertising (PPC)

Off-line or non-internet digital channels and strategies consist of:

  • Television
  • Text message campaigns (SMS and MMS)
  • Virtual displays or electronic billboards such as at conferences or events
  • Custom apps
  • Cold calling

The Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series will go more in-depth on several of these digital marketing strategies. Click on the image below to be alerted when a new article in the series is available.

Goals for Digital Marketing

We live in a digital age, and millions of people spend most of their time on digital platforms including their computers and phones. Marketing is all about connecting with targeted contacts in the right place, at the right time, and if the contacts are plentiful online, then that’s where the best marketing strategies should be implemented.

One goal of digital marketing is to raise brand awareness. Recent trends show businesses and digital marketers are prioritizing brand awareness, focusing more of their digital marketing efforts on cultivating brand recognition and recall than in previous years. This is evidenced by a 2019 Content Marketing Institute study, which found that 81% of digital marketers have worked on enhancing brand recognition over the past year. Another Content Marketing Institute survey revealed 89% of B2B marketers now believe improving brand awareness to be more important than efforts directed at increasing sales.

Another goal for digital marketing is lead nurturing. Many A/E/C firms work with the same clients for many different projects. Because of this high rate of repeat work, the marketing goals aren’t to raise awareness to new leads, but rather, keep the firm top of mind with existing clients. Also, the sales cycle in the A/E/C industry can be long, stretching out several months, if not years. Therefore, a firm might want to stay in front of those leads between projects.

Most likely, the goals for the digital marketing program will consist of a combination of both of these for different markets and clients.

Benefits of Digital Marketing for A/E/C Firms

The agency Hinge Research conducts original research for digital and thought leadership marketing specific to the A/E/C Industry. In their 2020 study of high growth A/E/C firms, they found high growth firms are dedicating almost 27% of their revenue to marketing, and are generating 50% of new leads from digital sources.

Other benefits of developing a digital marketing program for A/E/C firms include:

  • Cost effectiveness – Compared to traditional marketing strategies such as print advertising, conference sponsorship or attendance, digital marketing is relatively low cost. Some of the digital marketing strategies only cost the time to produce the materials and the technical knowledge. Others involved purchasing relatively low-cost software and online advertising like display ads or PPC.
  • High return on investment – Because of its relatively low cost to generate new leads that could result in thousands of new firm revenue, the return on investment is very high for digital marketing. And with the proper marketing technology in place to track and attribute the marketing campaigns appropriately, it’s relatively easy to track.
  • Easier to measure – Compared to traditional marketing strategies like a print ad or conference sponsorship, with a digital campaign you can know almost immediately how it’s performing. For example, an email marketing campaign’s performance can be known within hours or the next day. The opens and clicks are a good indicator of its performance, and marketers can use that knowledge to adjust accordingly.
  • Easy to adjust – Because the performance of the digital marketing effort is known quickly, marketers will have that knowledge and can adjust other campaigns with that knowledge.
  • Easy to share – Digital marketing channels like social media posts and email campaigns can be shared with a click of a button. This helps firms create a multiplier affect and amplifies the content.
  • Precise targeting – Traditional marketing is one to many and everyone. For example, an engineering firm places a print ad in an industry publication. The engineering firm hopes that a few people who like what they see in that ad would take a positive action. Marketing over digital platforms allows for targeted campaigning. The engineering firm can now place a display ad where that ad is presented to potential contacts based on their preferences or initial action.
  • Further reach – Digital marketing gives small firms, which make up most of the A/E/C industry, the opportunity to expand their reach. Using the benefits above of low cost, precise targeting, etc. every firm that deploys a digital marketing program can play on the same field as the mega firms. A small architecture firm in Iowa can be the worldwide leader in theater acoustical engineering through digital marketing campaigns and reach theaters in Moscow or Brisbane, for example.

Propelling Forward

The A/E/C industry has often been slow compared to other industries when adopting new marketing trends. But in 2020 with the global pandemic, A/E/C firms were propelled to rapidly make changes to their marketing programs, including shifting resources to digital marketing. Knowing this, Full Sail Partners has developed the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. In this series, marketers and principals will learn how to develop a digital marketing program that is right for their firm. Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

New call-to-action

6 Marketing Trends That A/E/C Firms Shouldn’t Ignore in 2021

Posted by Lindsay Diven on July 14, 2021

As 2021 comes through its halfway point, it’s a good time to take pause to see what marketing trends are emerging for A/E/C firms. One thing that 2020 did for A/E/C marketing was accelerate the strategies marketers have wanted to bring from other industries. Highlighted here are six marketing trends A/E/C firms shouldn’t ignore in 2021.

modern AEC digital marketing trends

1. Increased Leads from Online Sources

High growth A/E/C firms generate half their leads from online sources according to a Hinge Research study. They looked across the entire industry and found that 50% of new business leads were generated from digital sources including website, email, social media, and digital advertising.

The report goes on to say that a third of high growth A/E/C firms report having mature marketing and sales software automation strategies in place, which make their digital lead generation more efficient.

This can’t be ignored. Marketers should be leading these marketing efforts and making sure the backend systems are in place to track and attribute the leads appropriately.

2. Hybrid Asynchronous Events Will Flourish

2020 was the year of Zoom meetings and virtual events. While there will continue to be a place for these types of events, they will become more hybrid. An example of this was the SMPS Southeastern Regional Conference. About 150 people attended the in-person live event in Nashville, TN while another 100 attended the virtual event during the same time.

Marketers will be tasked with finding ways to engage with their prospects with this type of event through multiple means. Often times, this is showing up in the chats of the video replays during the virtual portion while someone else attends the in-person event. Or, savvy marketers will create their own virtual experience dovetailing the organized hybrid events. Think about how private, in-person client dinners the night before a traditional conference can be transformed into a virtual experience.

3. The Emergence of Community Marketing

Speaking of hybrid events…the large industry event where all firm clients are in one place might be gone for a long time, if not for good. Most, if not all, annual conferences went virtual in 2020. But these large annual conference hosts are finding other ways to support their industries. Rather, the organizers are developing smaller, intimate, and more topical gatherings – both online and in-person.

Take for example, CXps. This once annual conference has transformed into a multi-day online experience with six, smaller regional events.

Marketers can help their subject matter experts by preparing them to be active contributors and bring practical value to the more intimate gatherings.

4. What’s Old is New Again – Email Marketing

While we might be tired of getting emails, the data doesn’t lie. Email marketing isn’t dead and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. According to Full Sail Partners’ own research, 20% of respondents increased their email marketing efforts and another 8% started email marketing during the past year. And, a HubSpot study found that roughly 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months.

This is probably the easiest marketing strategy to begin for A/E/C marketers. Many firms have a database full of contacts and prospects through the normal course of doing project work and regular sales and marketing interactions. And, many A/E/C firms already send out a holiday card or other types of email promotions. Email marketing is a no-brainer then for distributing the content the firm is already creating and publishing to blogs and social media.

5. Content Repurposing

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is to get good content from their technical staff, and many of these strategies rely on value-packed content. Quality content is essential to drive traffic to a firm’s website, to engage on social media, and to send in email marketing. Repurposing content is the proactive process of reusing all or a part of an old piece of content to expand its reach. It’s really about doing more with less content. And, target audiences have different learning methods. Some like to listen or watch while others like to read. Repurposing the same piece of content ensures that all preferences are being met while needing less original content from technical staff.

For example, take one long blog article and repurpose it into a few short YouTube videos, an audio file, several social media graphics, or a slide deck that can be shared on LinkedIn. A series of blog articles can be packaged into a whitepaper that visitors to a firm’s website can download after entering their email address.

6. Increased Investment in Martech

All of the previous trends have one thing in common – the need for integrated, marketing technology (martech) solutions. This new technology is not only critical for the deployment of these strategies, but for the tracking and proper attribution to the appropriate strategy. And, it’s not just the purchase of the software but adequate training for both the marketers and the end users to understand the importance of using the software correctly. When marketers get the software and the usage correct, then they can start tracking and reporting. This step is critical for both marketers and firm leadership. Marketers can quickly determine what’s working and what’s not and adjust, and firm leadership can see what their return is on the marketing investment.

Stay Abreast of Marketing Trends

While 2020 was a year no one wants to revisit, it did accelerate many trends that A/E/C marketers have been trying to implement for years as noted in the 42nd Deltek Clarity report. This tipping point will change marketing in the A/E/C industry like nothing else. While only six marketing trends have been presented here, it’s not exhaustive. Though every A/E/C firm is unique, all should stay abreast of these current marketing trends for 2021 and those moving forward.

Image button to hear from email marketing experts

42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Study Finds Business Development Embraced New Strategies

Posted by Ryan Felkel on July 07, 2021

Overall, the majority of respondents to the Deltek A&E Clarity study shared an optimistic view about opportunities and growth potential in coming years. Conversely, the long-term effects of the global pandemic did shock the industry with handshakes and face-to-face meetings becoming collateral casualties. As a result, the loss of these interpersonal connections was far greater and impactful than many could have imagined, and this sudden mandate and frankly need to socially distance inevitably left its mark on the way people interact and nurture relationships. As a result, this year’s Deltek A&E Clarity results are that much more significant as they shed light onto the future of A&E business development tactics that firms have embraced and will likely continue to utilize well into the future.

Deltek Clarity Report logo

Top Three Business Development Challenges

Finding time to nurture client relationships seems to be a list leader year after year for the A&E industry. However, the number of respondents that listed this as a top challenge grew five percent from prior years. Increased competition is second on the list with 22% of respondents putting this as their top BD challenge. While the third top challenge was identifying new prospects, with 15% of respondents listing this as their top challenge.

Interestingly enough, 14% of respondents indicated that their firm’s business development model has dedicated BD staff, 39% have a seller/doer model, and the remainder a combination of both. Even more, firms reporting having a formal business development process declined from previous years. Identifying the exact correlation on how these different BD models and lack of processes impacts these top BD challenges is difficult to measure, however there is with some certainty a direct relationship.  

Bidding to Winning

This year’s Deltek A&E Clarity study found that more firms are employing a formal go/no go process with an increase to 75.7% with 51% stating they use a formal process for all opportunities. For firms not using a formal go/no go process, 25% are considering implementing one in the future.

For small and medium A&E firms, proposal win rates decreased by nearly two percent from last year while large firms had an increase of almost two and a half percent. On the contrary, firms of all sizes saw an increase to their capture rate with a cumulative increase of three and half percent. These differences between win rate and capture rate can be attributed to the type of work firms are pursuing and the use of a more strategic go/no go process.    

Deltek Clarity on A&E Marketing Techniques

Respondents to the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study indicated that they predict traditional marketing techniques like in-person trade shows and exhibits, and public relations initiatives will see a sharp decline in utilization with a transition to more modern techniques. Specifically, firms stated they will increase the use of client-specific marketing, social media, thought leadership and content marketing as the core to their overall marketing strategy. This is not to say that trade shows will be abandoned, but these will likely become more virtual and/or hybrid versions which can reduce their benefit and importance to A&E firms. Overall, it’s encouraging that A&E firms want to adopt more modern marketing techniques, but their willingness to make significant investments into these changes has yet to be seen.  

Deltek Clarity on the Future Outlook and Forecast of A&E Industry

Small firms expressed a bullish outlook when reporting on their revenue growth forecast while medium and large firms expected to experience gains in the coming years. When asked to look further out to nine years, respondents expected to see growth of five to six percent in most years indicating there is still some level of uncertainty in the market, but still being sanguine there will be an upward trend in the years to come. Generally, A&E firms are optimistic about the markets they serve and believe they will be able to increase their position within them.

Significant Deltek Clarity Business Development Findings

In summary, the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study found that firms are going to need to continue to rely on passive sources for new opportunities which will require nurturing existing client relationships to win more work from them and to gain referrals as well. Firms will also need to embrace business intelligence tools and strategic business development models and processes to remain competitive. Additionally, the pursuit process itself has changed and became more virtual and digitized. As a whole, A&E firms have recognized the need to revolutionize their business development strategies if they want to remain relevant and viable in the future.

Understanding the full business development findings of the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity study truly requires comparing the results to one’s own firm. Make sure to download your free copy and use the Clarity Scorecard to benchmark your firm.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

Preview: Email Marketing Trends for Professional Services Firms Survey Results

Posted by Lindsay Diven on June 23, 2021

In May 2021, Full Sail Partners conducted its first-ever email marketing trends survey. We wanted to gain insight as to how many firms have fully embraced email marketing as a proactive marketing strategy. And, if the effects of the worldwide pandemic, when many face-to-face meetings and conferences have been canceled, adjusted firms’ email marketing strategy and results.

Email Marketing

General B2B Statistics

Before the results from the Full Sail Partners’ survey are previewed, let’s take a look at some other statistics focused on email marketing and business to business (B2B) marketing strategies.

  • Billions of emails are sent every day. 306 billion to be exact. And, according to The Radicatti Group, that number is expected to reach 361 billion by the end of 2024.
  • Email helps you reach your clients as fast as possible. With the popularity of social media, you might think it has overtaken email as the fastest way to reach new and current clients. But the truth is that 21% of opened emails are opened within the very first hour of delivery.
  • In the annual research conducted by Content Marketing Institute in 2020:
    • 85% of B2B organizations use email marketing software to assist with content marketing
    • 81% of B2B organizations use email newsletters as part of their marketing strategy
    • 87% of B2B organizations use email to distribute their content
    • 90% of B2B organizations used email engagement as the top metric to measure content performance
  • That same research also found that email is the most reliable channel for nurturing leads to sales throughout the funnel.

Email Marketing Trends Survey Results Preview

So how do the responses from our email marketing trends survey compare to some of the national trends? Full Sail Partners invited our clients, prospects, and partners to complete the survey. The invitation was sent via email and shared on our social media channels.

Survey Demographics

The survey responses were from firms that provided mostly either engineering (41%) or construction (28%) services. Half of the responses were from firms that had either 1-50 (36%) or 51-100 (25%) employees. The other half of the responses broke down into the following: 101-500 (29%), 501-1000 (2%), and 1001+ (8%) employees.

Full Sail Partners is a Premier Partner for Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint. So, one of the questions asked if the firms responding were users of either software. Of the responses, 40% are either a Deltek Vision or Vantagepoint user, 58% were not users, and 2% said other. The one “other” response indicated that they are currently using another CRM software system.

Overall Firm Marketing Strategies

Before we asked about email marketing strategies, we asked respondents what marketing channels their firm currently uses. They could respond with multiple answers. The top three marketing channels included website, social media, and email. This seems to be consistent to the other independent research noted above.

Email Survey Image 1

Today’s Email Marketing Strategy

The survey also wanted to gauge how professional services firms are using email marketing today. We asked questions including goal/purpose for email marketing, frequency, type of email campaigns, and how the firms track success of their email marketing efforts. These were asked in a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions.

The biggest goal/purpose for email marketing is for brand awareness (41%) with lead nurturing well behind at 26% of the responses.

Email Survey Image 2

The main types of email marketing campaigns sent by the respondents included regular newsletters (33%), highlight emails (23%), and promotional emails (23%).

When asked for a brief overview of the firm’s email marketing strategy, objective responses ranged from simple holiday greetings to organized targeted campaigns. Some of the consistent qualitative response themes include:

  • Holiday greetings
  • Announcements such as new hire, employee promotions, new office, or office move
  • Sharing content produced by the firm like blog articles
  • Teaming and bid opportunity alerts to contractor and subcontractor lists
  • Event invitations around either webinars or attending conferences/tradeshows

Email Survey Image 3

When asked how frequently email campaigns are sent, nearly half of respondents send their email campaigns quarterly (46%) with another 21% sending monthly. Some of the other responses included bi-weekly sends as well as sending depending on specific promotions.

Email Survey Image 4

Email Marketing Changes Due to Pandemic

Another reason for conducting this survey was to gauge how email marketing strategies and engagement have changed, if at all, during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many face-to-face meetings and conferences have been canceled or transformed into virtual events. Staying in front of clients and prospects is critical for maintaining relationships for professional services firms. And, email marketing may be one way the pandemic has affected this.

First, we wanted to know if the firms’ email marketing strategy changed during the pandemic. Nearly half of the responses said their email marketing strategy DID NOT change (45%) while 20% indicated that they did increase the amount of email marketing efforts during the pandemic. Interesting is that 23% of the responses were not doing any email marketing before the pandemic and still haven’t started.

Email Survey Image 5

Next, we wanted to gauge the results of the firms’ email marketing efforts during this past year, regardless of any changes to their email marketing strategy. According to the responses of this survey, the majority said that everything has stayed about the same (38%). However, 18% did say that their email engagement has increased.

Email Survey Image 6

What’s Next

This is just a preview of the email marketing trends for professional services firms’ survey results. More results and recommendations will be shared on the June 30, 2021 webinar. During that webinar, Full Sail Partners along with a very special guest will be talking about:

  • Why email marketing is a must-have for professional services firms,
  • What’s working right now for B2B firms,
  • How to get started in email marketing,
  • Resources available from Full Sail Partners and SubjectLine.com

To register for this free webinar, click the image below.

Image button to hear from email marketing experts

Read This Before Deciding to Attend a Virtual Conference

Posted by Ryan Felkel on April 07, 2021

Handshakes, large group lunches, and late nights mingling with strangers that will likely become longtime professional connections and even friends are highlights of attending professional conferences. Ahhhh just remembering those days…excuse me while I reminisce on my past experiences that made attending in-person conferences fun and exciting and not just educational. While I’m sure many of us can relate and probably add to the list of things we love about in-person conferences, many of those perks have disappeared with conferences being forced to move to a virtual or hybrid approach.

Now, reflecting upon my recent experience with the new virtual/hybrid format for conferences, I can say for certain that participating in a virtual conference is a different experience in comparison to the traditional in-person conferences most of us are accustomed to attending. However, by understanding the benefits of attending a virtual conference and applying some best practices, you can ensure your virtual participation is a success.

Man Standing in front of virtual audience

 

The Advantages to Attending Virtual Conferences

We all have a list of things we loath and find extremely annoying. For me, I like traveling to places that require air transportation, but the whole routine of going to the airport, arriving early, waiting in long TSA lines, and walking all over the place just to find a restroom seems to put a damper on the entire trip. The list can go on when you think about the ups and downs of staying in a hotel. So, while there are perks to traveling, nothing beats staying in the comfort of your own home with your family.

By eliminating travel, virtual conferences also provide other benefits. Instead of wasting time hustling around the airport and wandering around hotels, you can spend more time on your actual work which we all know doesn’t complete itself while you’re attending a conference. Even more, since there are no associated travel expenses with virtual conferences, the company would be more willing to approve them over in-person events.

Prepare Yourself for the Virtual Conference

Attending a conference in-person or virtually, you should always take time prior to the conference to review conference schedules, register for educational sessions and other activities, and learn about resources that are available to attendees. Additionally, review the format of the conference as it seems to vary from conference to conference. Last year alone, I attended or participated in numerous virtual conferences. Some were 2 to 3 all-day events and others were a series of half-day events. Others even included ongoing monthly meetings to encourage continued conversations about topics presented at the conference itself. So, make sure you are familiar with the conference format and able to commit time to attending and participating.

Most importantly, update your work calendar. I recommend blocking out your calendar for the entire time you plan on attending the conference. I even take it one-step further by adding the sessions I plan on attending to my calendar with related links included in the body of the appointment. 

Be Seen by Being Present

You may ask, “If it’s virtual, how am I going to be seen?” Great question! First, let your professional network know you are attending by posting to LinkedIn. A simple message with a link to the conference letting people know what you are excited to learn about is a great way to be seen virtually.

During the conference, avoid distractions by closing your email and messaging tools and treat the conference like you are there in-person. If you typically take notes with pen and paper at in-person conferences, do the same while at your desk. Furthermore, virtual conferences that are worth attending will have a great communication platform for attendees and presenters. So, don’t be shy! Be seen by asking engaging questions during sessions, tour the virtual sponsor expo hall and chat with vendors, and participate in conference events and contest like dance-offs, trivia games, or other fun activities. In other words, find ways to network and be camera ready.

Do Your Homework

The conference might be over, but your opportunities to learn and network have just begun! One of my favorite things to do after a conference is send out LinkedIn connection invites to my new contacts. Additionally, I include a note with the connection invite that mentions how we met and a highlight of something we discussed. This is a convenient way to keep track of how you have met people in your LinkedIn network.

It’s also a great idea to follow up with your favorite speakers by sending them a LinkedIn message or an email. Let them know what you liked about their presentation and how it impacted you personally. Then include a question you did not ask during the live session or one you thought of afterwards. Believe it or not, speakers generally and truly enjoy receiving messages from audience members like you.

So, get out there…virtually that is…and attend professional conferences to continue to build your skills and network!

New Call-to-action

2020 Trends in the Professional Services Industry

Posted by Jennifer Renfroe on January 15, 2020

Looking for Trends

Firms in the professional services industry must adapt to compete in today’s world. Through acquisitions and other partnerships, many professional services firms have been entering into new markets. These firms now have the need to offer a wider range of services to a larger client base. Additionally, many firms have increased their global presence which affects the way client needs have been handled in the past. Let’s check out the top trends for professional services firms as they deal with evolving client expectations and staying competitive.

On-demand Workforce

As new demands arise with the increasing service offerings by professional services firms to more clients, an on-demand workforce is necessary. This workforce can include contractors, part time staff and temporary workers in addition to full timers to meet staffing needs. Firm leaders will need to learn how to manage this future workforce and cultivate a culture that will be attractive to top talent with the key skill sets to render firm services.

More Flexible Service Rendering

Competition for the professional services industry has increased with rapid globalization. Clients expect professional services firms to support them and deliver high quality services from anywhere in the world. With location not being the priority, client demands can be met with operational and staffing flexibility. It is very important to stay abreast of who would be competent and available for doing the needed work.

Perception as Advisors

Professional services firms are changing the way they price services. There has been a shift from the traditional per-hour revenue model to a more value-oriented model. With value-based pricing, professional services firms are setting their prices primarily on perceived or estimated value of the service to the customer rather than historical prices. This value-based pricing encourages the relationship of a professional services firm being an advisor rather than just a service provider.

Leveraging Automation

With technology changing at such a fast pace, professional services firms are increasing their offerings with the use of automation. Using automation allows firms to simplify complicated and/or difficult processes saving a lot of time while delivering quality services. Automation also makes it easier to find the source of problems and provides the ability to remedy them quickly. Additionally, automation can help reduce errors and eliminate repetitive tasks.

Staying Competitive in Today’s World

Professional services firms must stay competitive in the global world of today. In order to do so, they must keep a pulse on their evolving client needs. Even more, they must be ready to provide a flexible workforce rendering quality services as fast as possible to wherever needed. The use of automation is a necessity for success. Furthermore, professional services firms must focus on satisfying their client expectations to ensure their services continue to be utilized.

Thinking Out Cloud

Start the New Year with These Resolutions

Posted by Full Sail Partners on January 08, 2020

Checklist

Usually when you think of a New Year’s resolution, you think about a habit or trait that you find undesirable and want to improve upon to achieve a personal goal. However, a New Year’s resolution can apply to more than an individual. For business leaders, the start of a new year is the perfect time to make changes within their organization that they believe will increase the overall performance and success of the company. These changes are typically new initiatives for certain roles and departments.

So, what are the best initiatives for your firm to tackle for the new year? Fortunately, the team of Full Sail Partners’ consultants works with a wide variety of professional services clients and have been able to glean unique insight about the common challenges’ firms have experienced over the previous year. Based on these challenges, here is a list of New Year’s resolutions your professional firm may consider adopting.

Top New Year’s Resolutions for Professional Services Firms     

In no particular order, here are the New Year’s resolutions your professional services firm may consider enacting:

  • Clean up your favorite personal and global reports and searches
  • Find a business intelligence solution that can provide your firm with actionable insights
  • Set up a reminder one month prior to year-end for project and department managers to validate unbilled services
  • Ensure you are taking advantage of all the formatting options for Invoice Templates and review them to make sure that all are up to date with addresses, images, etc. 
  • Consider using Resource Planning for more than project budgeting for things like revenue projections and calculating earned value management
  • Embrace client feedback to improve relationships and create more repeat business
  • Make sure that Opportunities are only associated with one Regular Project Record and one Promo Project Record
  • Review your database for duplicate records and records that require updating
  • Have billable employees update their timesheets on a more frequent and consistent basis
  • Begin preparing to upgrade from Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint using this webinar series

Start the New Year off Right!

With the start of a new year, it’s common to reflect on the previous year to identify areas and things that went well and to evaluate what could have been done better. Looking forward, firm leaders need to pinpoint ways to improve future performance by establishing specific initiatives which are best for the firm’s needs. Therefore, start this year off right and implement change that will guarantee your and your firm’s future success!

Reach Full Sail Partners

What is a CRM System and Why Your Firm Needs one?

Posted by Full Sail Partners on December 18, 2019

CRM Solutions

A CRM system, or Customer Relationship Management system, is a technology tool that allows you to track important details about your customers. Firms need to know which product or service the customer currently has and want the ability to monitor the customer’s buying journey and needs. A CRM system also helps support the firm’s overall goals and strategies within each department. Let’s take a better look at what a CRM system can do for your firm.

Create More Revenue with a CRM

Sales teams use a CRM to conduct research as well as find new leads for future opportunities. A CRM system offers an abundance of information that can increase productivity when it comes to generating new sales. The CRM system can be used to track client communications which enables sales representatives to build stronger relationships with their customers and create new streams of revenue that grow firm profits. Furthermore, a CRM system can provide interactive analytical tools that give the sales force an accurate insight into a customer’s interests and needs. Sales representatives can then have more productive conversations with their leads and continue to develop personal relationships.

Along with building stronger relationships, a CRM solution can help a firm figure out the most effective sales practices and use that information to better their sales team. Staying abreast of proven processes will keep your sales team up to date on the fastest and most effective way to move a lead to a sale. 

Work More Efficiently

Similar to sales, marketing can benefit tremendously from the use of a CRM system. First off, the relationship between the marketing team and sales team is crucial to ensure customer needs are being met. With everyone actively using a CRM system for customer information, sales and marketing results can be seen across the board. Communication between sales and marketing will improve since both teams will have access to the most relevant data.

A CRM system can also be used to track marketing campaign success. The marketing team can evaluate how effective different marketing campaigns were including the costs which can help determine the best use of marketing department funds. With this available data, the marketing team can additionally change certain parts of the campaigns and maybe personalize some better for certain customers.

Improve the Customer Experience

Making sure customers are satisfied with their experience with your firm is very important. The customer service team relies on being able to measure things such as customer retention, satisfaction, and what is and is not working. This data can be tracked using a CRM system. If a customer did not have a good experience, the cause of the problem can be determined, and customer service can figure out what needs to be done in the future to prevent that situation from happening again. This information can then be relayed back to the sales and marketing teams so they can fix the issue on their side.

Why a CRM System is Right for Your Firm!

To be successful in any business, working smarter and most efficiently is very important. A CRM system can provide your firm with the metrics and relevant data to see how well your firm is meeting customer needs. Additionally, a CRM system offers the most accurate and up to date information allowing all department teams to work together seamlessly and effectively. Are you ready to take advantage of a CRM system?

Grow Revenue with a CRM  

Streamline Your Business Processes with Deltek Vantagepoint

Posted by Full Sail Partners on October 23, 2019

Deltek Vantagepoint-1

Deltek strives to continually improve its products to ensure clients are best able to utilize the software.  To make it easier for you and your employees to take full advantage of Deltek Vantagepoint, changes have been made to the accounting, screen designer, billing, security, and project lifecycle features. These features are now effortless to use so let’s take a look at some and see how they help with efficiency.

Accounting and Billing

Improvements have been made to reduce error in the accounting and billing processes. The changes include features such as retaining last sessions information, a maximize button giving you more information, adding columns to transaction tabs, and much more. You no longer must select the modify tool to edit timesheet comments, and an all new Fees Tab works with billing phase grid. The transaction center also got an update allowing the transaction entry process to go smoother with billing. The settings that come along with accounting and billing have also been organized in a more logical way making it easier to navigate the system.

Security

Security is a big deal when it comes to client business information. Making sure that Deltek Vantagepoint provides maximum safety for data and information is a major concern so the security browser and module has been enhanced. Enhancements include role security in the browser, additive security model, fields secured on server for protection, and more navigation menu access rights. With the update, there are extra steps you can take to guarantee safety such as deleting security roles that are no longer being used. For more tips on how to maximize Deltek Vantagepoint check out this webinar.

Project Lifecycle

Project lifecycle is something you always want to monitor, and there are many benefits that Deltek Vantagepoint offers to create seamless transitions from different projects. This includes entire project lifecycle reporting, structural opportunities, and one record to track the entire project lifecycle. Similar to security, there are certain steps you can take to optimize opportunity convergence. You can now link any opportunities and project records that represent the same project making sure that each project is only linked to one opportunity. For more information check out this webinar.

CRM and Proposals

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) helps sales staff stay organized. Recently, clients and vendors have been combined into the Firm hub which allows you to track activities, contacts, address changes, etc. all in one place. The qualified statuses of contacts can also be checked to see progress and figure out what needs to be done to create a new customer. Additionally, Vantagepoint has a new drag and drop proposal builder. You can actually see what your proposal looks like as you build it. To see more that Deltek Vantagepoint can do with CRM and proposals check out this webinar.

Preparing for Deltek Vantagepoint

This new solution is based on Vision with reimagined features and capabilities that can help you streamline your business processes. When you are you ready to get started, we are here to help! For further details about what Deltek Vantagepoint has to offer, click on the on the link below to access our entire webinar series about Vantagepoint.

Deltek Vantagepoint