By Jean Marie Caragher
Melody Marketer was invited on a Zoom call with her firm’s director of advisory services, Dave.
“Hi, Melody,” says Dave. “Great to see you. I’m excited to share with you the details of a new service we created for our technology clients. We need your help with promoting it.”
Sound familiar? Rather than using Melody’s marketing expertise to help develop the new service, she was called in after the fact for promotional purposes.
How can marketers take a lead role in new service development from the beginning? Here are three examples to learn from.
Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery Services
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us both challenges and opportunities. One opportunity is developing and packaging new services to help clients. Lou Grassi, managing partner, held a firm-wide virtual meeting to rally his team. He asked for volunteers who wanted to do more. Enthusiasm, commitment to learning and providing value were required.
Sarah Cirelli, marketing practice leader, is one of those who showed up to the optional meetings and gained a seat at the table. After several Zoom overnights of brainstorming and meetings Grassi’s Crisis Response Recovery services was launched in mid-March.
Grassi conducted 100 webinars, attracting 3,000 attendees. The firm helped over 400 companies apply for emergency funding. Technology and human resources consulting projects were generated.
Grassi received lots of questions coming into the hotline from small businesses – not ideal clients for the firm. They arranged Small Business Support Saturday on May 2, which included Zoom rooms by topic. More than 350 small business owners and nonprofit leaders received support and guidance for free.
Cirelli is most proud of their SWAT Workbook. Standing for Special Weapons and Tactics, SWAT is an automated tool that holds all their Crisis Response & Recovery services marketing data, including every person who attended a webinar, called into the hotline, the questions they asked, the industry they operated in, and where they were in the lead generation process was rolled into a dashboard.
Grassi’s Crisis Response & Recovery services has generated thousands of leads. “I’ve seen a level of teamwork and camaraderie I’ve never seen before,” says Cirelli. “It didn’t matter the time of day or what needed to be done, everyone showed up. It was fun.”
“Our marketing team is stronger having gone through this as opposed to working day-to-day together,” Cirelli continues. “Our entire marketing team stepped up and took responsibility. We were challenged to come up with a new way of doing things. Being involved in the strategy gave marketing a chance to shine.”
“If you can’t see the path to getting a seat at the table,” says Cirelli, “most often the shortest path is to step up and prove you deserve it.”
In January 2019, BeachFleischman PC and GMLCPA PLLC, an outsourced client accounting and advisory services firm, formed a joint venture to launch a virtual firm, MOD Ventures, LLC. MOD Ventures combines GMLCPA with the client accounting services department of BeachFleischman to form a company that serves entrepreneurial and small-to-mid-sized business clients remotely all over the U.S. and internationally.
“I wanted to try a new business model,” explains Eric Majchrzak, shareholder and chief strategy officer of BeachFleischman. “MOD Ventures is all virtual, all home-based with QuickBooks Online as the hub. All services are priced in advance, using three options.”
Majchrzak wrote the business plan for MOD Ventures, presented it to the firm’s shareholders, and gained the buy-in. It took 4-6 months from conception to launch.
What are the benefits of including marketers in new service development? “Marketers are ambassadors from the client perspective,” explains Majchrzak, “anticipating the needs of prospects and customers. Marketers bring a different point of view and are not internally focused. For example, Does it make sense for the client?”
Majchrzak believes marketers need to be a part of developing the strategy and marketing plans for new services and businesses. “Marketers need to ask for the responsibility – fully or in part,” he says. “You are already in the driver’s seat to help on the front end, the execution, and growing it.”
“When you are launching something new, try to anticipate as much as you can,” says Majchrzak, “so you know how to report, how to handle situations, and how to know if it’s working or not.”
“Have your ears to the ground,” Majchrzak continues. “Marketers can be the ‘dot connectors’ between levels, departments, and offices. Be the eyes and ears and connect the dots.”
Geffen Mesher launched its Client Accounting Services (CAS) practice in Spring 2019 and it was gaining traction among clients with whom the firm already had very close relationships. When Katrina Scotto di Carlo joined the firm as marketing director in September 2019, leadership was already considering expanding the CAS practice and utilizing marketing to do so.
Scotto di Carlo started by building a Value Proposition Canvas, which you can pick up for free on this website. Once she understood the value proposition, they profiled all the potential target markets for the service and selected one as the “beachhead”, a whittled down target market with specific characteristics that (1) make it more winnable and (2) a proper stepping stone to further market saturation. With this research done, she built the brand guide and client experience map with her two assistants helping with development of both. She used both of these tools to inform the website design as well as the marketing automation backend.
Forward/Slash is the first branded division in Geffen Mesher’s history. Scotto di Carlo recommended they spin CAS off as Forward/Slash. “The brand of our 87-year-old accounting firm could not easily transition into the forward-thinking identity that we needed with this practice area,” she explains. “Forward/Slash is a new form of accounting that utilizes artificial intelligence. We needed a younger, fresh identity that easily communicated these qualities to prospective clients.”
It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 was the biggest challenge in creating and launching Forward/Slash. “It was a perfect storm where Forward/Slash was built to help businesses going through the exact stress that COVID-19 was inflicting upon them,” explains Scotto di Carlo, “so we wanted to launch asap. I appreciate how much independence the firm gave me in decision-making and execution because this made the process much smoother than it could have been. Without that trust, the challenges may have been formidable.” Scotto di Carlo believes marketing today is a unique competency with an extremely sophisticated toolset for new service development. “A seasoned marketing professional builds the infrastructure for client acquisition and retention,” she explains, “giving us an understanding of the client journey that is unparalleled in the firm. I’m very grateful to be at a firm that understands that value and graciously shares insight with marketing so we can grow in our understanding of clients.”
It is clear that marketers need to play a lead role in new service development to achieve the greatest chance for success. If you have not yet earned this role, listen, be the ‘dot connector’, ask for the responsibility, and demonstrate what you can bring to the table.
This article was originally published in the August 2020 AAM Minute.