Marketing professional services with business principles | Sunday Observer

Marketing professional services with business principles

If you’re a lawyer, engineer, doctor, architect, technician, accountant, fashion designer or any other independent professional who sells a specialised skill, you probably find the business end of your trade a chore.

After all, you didn’t spend years in college, university or apprenticeship to learn how to build a business, manage customers or to market your knowledge for commercial success. You would rather pursue loftier goals - such as arguing cases in court or designing award-winning buildings or healing the sick.

This is because of your natural tendency to focus solely on the practice of your skill and neglect the business aspects of your practice. Professionals are so preoccupied with practice and most often think of money ignoring the long term sustainability of customers.

Business skills have never been more important for doctors, lawyers and other professionals, who face more competition today than ever before and with cost of operations continuously increasing.

It isn’t enough merely to be a good professional anymore; you have to be a good businessman. To give your business skills a checkup, given below are simple business principles that professionals can use when managing a practice for right returns.

It’s so fundamental for any professional to understand the concept of business model as the foundation to build a sustainable business. From an operational perspective, the business model is simply a working description that includes the general details about the operations of a business.

The components that are contained within a business model will address all functions of a business, including such factors as the expenses, revenues, operating strategies, work culture, and sales and marketing principles, and procedures.

Generally speaking, anything that has to do with the day-to-day functionality of the profession can be a part of the business model. From financial perspective, a business model is nothing but a representation of how an organisation makes or plans to make money.

The purpose of the business model is to - communicate the value proposition of the service offered to the client define and identify the target audience who are my preferred clients; decide on the communication and distribution channels to reach clients; allocate the key resources needed to make the business model possible; determine revenue streams generated through the business model; identify the cost structure resulting from the business model; formulate the competitive strategy; and differentiation to create competitive advantages. After the model is in place, professionals need to focus on day-to-day operational management. In this, there are a few fundamental requirements which need to be managed effectively to achieve the desired outcome.

Awareness creation

Professionals used to think that “If I’m good in my specialty, clients will find me wherever I am.” Maybe that was true in the 1980s but not anymore in this fiercely competitive environment.

No individual professional has a constant flow of new customers who are willing to pay the right price. One way to bring in new profitable business, of course, is to advertise.

Look for opportunities to publicize yourself by giving speeches, writing for professional journals or lending your expertise to local journalists who cover your field. Being quoted in a newspaper or featured on TV can really help your business grow.

Customer satisfaction

Sadly most professionals in Sri Lanka think “everyone understands that I’m busy and expected to have to wait for me”. It is annoyances like being kept waiting that drive clients away in a market where there is a choice.

The No. 1 complaint among Sri Lankan patients is that the doctors are not on time and that they suffer from poor on-time performance. Unexpected developments are no excuse for poor time management - if the foreign doctors can, why can’t the local doctors.

Whenever a delay is unavoidable, have your assistants communicate with the clients who are scheduled to see you later -- at work and at home -- to tell them you’re running behind schedule. Even if they miss the call and wind up waiting anyway, they will appreciate your effort.

People strategy

Show your staff that their work is critical then they will want to help you in every way they can. More likely the reverse is true: your staff feels overworked, underpaid and undervalued.

Professional practices are particularly susceptible to this problem because, unlike in other small businesses, most entry-level employees are cut off forever by their lack of training from achieving the highest level of pay. Make a serious effort to talk to your staff and identify problems that you can work on together.

This will improve their loyalty to you, morale and efficiency. In terms of compensation and rewards, “We’re all hard workers here.

The fair thing is for each of us to take home what we bring in.” But they soon realise that the take-what-you-make system failed to generate team spirit. “It creates a feeling of ‘your client, my client’, rather than ‘the firm’s client’. Remember, professional competence will always be the foundation of your reputation. But it’s the way you run your business that will determine, in the end, your financial success.

“Your customers already think you’re competent or they wouldn’t call for an appointment in the first place. It’s the little things you do that keep them coming back.’’