Entrepreneurs starting or scaling a professional services business must realize that this type of business is different from a retail store, manufacturing company, or e-commerce store.
Rather than selling a tangible product directly to the end user, it involves marketing a defined set of skills based on personal experience and expertise.
The buyer cannot physically touch or feel that service, but must rely on conscience, reputation, and trust before selecting a company for accounting, coaching, financial services, IT consulting, legal work, and / or healthcare.
Our firm is currently in its 17th year. We offer developmental optometry services to clients, not just in our Glen Carbon, Illinois home base area, but to others across the country. Over the years, we have tried various marketing strategies to grow the practice. Fortunately, we have developed a winning combination that resulted in an extremely large increase in both patient volume and net profits. Here are some lessons learned, which can be applied to anyone looking to start or grow a professional services business.
1. It’s okay to be a small fish in a big pond.
When we started, we were in a very small rural area. We were the big fish in a small pond. Unfortunately, it was a very small pond. While patients were visiting us from the surrounding cities, there were simply not enough to sustain our practice. This caused a move to a larger area, about an hour away. It was also a suburb of a major metropolitan area. Although the competition was greater, we were able to carve out our own niche and attract dozens of new patients. Moving to an area where there were more potential clients became the foundation of our spectacular growth.
2. Make and differentiate your company.
Google any business in any service category. Determining how one company differs from the next is challenging. That is why professional services companies need to develop a marketing strategy that separates their business from the competition. In our case, we were one of the first developmental optometry companies to use YouTube. It helped us educate the public on a variety of eye-related issues that weren’t really being addressed. He also helped establish our firm as experts in the field. Since this medium is very popular and relatively inexpensive to use, we were able to create a large number of videos and reach a large number of potential customers in the most efficient way. Today we have hundreds of videos on YouTube and a strong presence on various forms of social media. It has allowed us to reach potential patients not only in the US but also internationally.
3. Work together with other professionals in your industry.
Since our firm is one of the few developmental optometry practices in the nation, we are often called by other ophthalmologists in remote locations for consultation about their patients. Some are even found in Europe and South America. This consultative approach is also valid for professionals in other industries. Attorneys who specialize in one area of law can often serve as a referral source for those in other areas of practice. The same is true for a financial planner who wants to connect with an insurance professional or real estate broker who can serve as a referral source for a mortgage lender. Developing relationships with those in complementary businesses can be a real boost to your company’s growth.
4. Hire a business consultant or advisor.
Few of us in professional services are trained in strategic business growth. It is not what we do. In order to grow our practice, we hired a business consultant who has started and operated many businesses large and small. The consultant helped us establish many standard operating procedures, helped us build a more functioning team, and helped create benchmarks for growth. He has paid himself many times. Service companies can scale faster and more efficiently by partnering with someone who has done it all before.
5. Consider new ideas for practice growth.
Those in professional services should research and analyze different ways to grow their businesses. In our case, we started consulting with other ophthalmologists who wanted to learn Developmental Optometry or wanted to add it as a service offering. The consulting piece has added to our income stream and increased profits. You can study industry trends and determine the right type of additional specialty services that best suit your practice, personality, and business goals.