Out of the pandemic-driven fear and confusion of 2021, a “new normal” has emerged. As a society, we have changed how we live our lives, how we educate our children, and how businesses reach clients. There was good news. The uncertainty that shook the professional services marketplace cooled as firms began to regain their footing. And there was bad news. A growing shortage of top talent, and fears over rising costs for compensation, have businesses scrambling to recruit and retain exceptional employees. Still, some B2B services firms grew four times faster and were twice more likely to be highly profitable than their slower-growing peers in 2021. These High Growth firms grew at a median rate of 34.5%, exceeding pre-pandemic rates.
Hinge Research Institute’s High Growth Study 2022 explores how they did it and what it means for you.
Firm Growth in 2022
This year’s study is the largest and most sophisticated study of its kind. 1,150 firms participated, representing accounting, architecture/engineering/construction, consulting, government contracting, legal, and technology services. They have $216 billion in combined revenue, with more than 191 million employees.
For the purposes of this study, High Growth firms are defined as having a compound annual growth rate of 20% or greater over a three-year assessment period. One in three firms in our sample earned that distinction.
A Strategy for Success: Rapid Evolution
How did some firms manage the significant growth in 2021? Today’s High Growth firms are embracing major change in almost every aspect of their operations.
These firms focus their attention on workflow and process automation, value pricing, and digital transformation. They also share an interest in learning more about the customer experience—all of which help lower costs and optimize results.
It’s not too late for your firm to do the same. Here’s where you should focus your efforts.
1. Find an edge in top talent
While some pressures eased in 2021, the competition for top talent only intensified. Yet, High Growth firms have access to more highly skilled talent than their No Growth competitors. And it shows.
How? These firms are more likely to turn to agencies and freelancers to support the efforts of their existing staff. These contractors provide High Growth firms with critical skills such as website improvements, graphic design, SEO, and video production.
If your firm is struggling to recruit top talent, retaining outside experts is a more flexible alternative to hiring. At the same time, consider investing in skills training for existing employees as your firm’s roadmap evolves.
2. Rely on technology for speed and optimization
High Growth firms leverage a wide range of technologies for core business strategies. They are more sophisticated and frequent users of marketing and business development technologies, utilizing CRMs (e.g., Salesforce, HubSpot) 50% more than No Growth firms.
You can embrace this automation at your firm. Investing in a robust CRM is a great first step and the single greatest advantage for your firm. Be sure to track marketing and business development performance to improve results. And use multiple metrics to optimize your processes.
This information will help your firm make better decisions for the future.
3. Deploy advanced marketing techniques to drive revenue
Marketing budgets are similar among High Growth and No Growth firms⏤but High Growth firms are outperforming their peers. The breadth of strategies you use, which ones you prioritize, and how you deploy them, really do make a difference to revenue growth.
In our study we found that No Growth firms often overlook these impactful techniques:
- Keyword research/search engine optimization (SEO)
- Conducting and publishing original research
- Networking on social media
Creating content and brand differentiation are top priorities for High Growth firm’s marketing efforts. These firms use a variety of techniques, including websites, social media, webinars, and videos to reach clients and prospects. They also discovered that SEO, marketing technology, and automation consistently impact their bottom line.
The key to success: Create a stream of authentic content that differentiates your firm from your competitors. This thought leadership content will showcase your expertise and relevance to clients—and it has the added benefit of enticing prospective employees to look closely at your firm during their job searches.
4. Invest in digital marketing techniques and SEO to increase visibility
Even before the pandemic, savvy marketers noticed a discernible shift in buyers’ behaviors. Gone were the days when relationships alone drove the decision to sign with a firm. Now, B2B buyers conduct extensive online research before reaching out to a company.
With digital marketing, a firm can target audiences quickly and cost-effectively. Digital marketing (websites, social media, webinars, video) often generates a greater return on investment because it’s easier to measure metrics and interactivity with prospects and clients. It’s also a leaner methodology than traditional marketing, so it’s easier to pivot to more creative solutions when necessary.
Search engine optimization is the best way to ensure potential clients see your content. It translates into a greater proportion of digital leads, which cost less to generate and usually prove to be more profitable.
A mature SEO strategy clearly pays off in multiple ways. But how you do it really matters. Retain or acquire the talent you need to do it correctly. If you can’t hire, try outsourcing to seasoned experts. Either way, ensure that whoever you hire or partner with understands your industry and that they can implement advanced techniques like high-level SEO strategies.
What’s Next? Be Bold
Uncertainty and rapid change have not gone away. But within our new normal, there is an opportunity for innovation and growth.
All professional service firms have concerns for the future. But High Growth firms are focusing on workflow and process automation, big data and analytics, value pricing, cybersecurity, innovation, and employee engagement. Their goal? Deliver value to their clients while continually improving operations.
Your firm can develop a roadmap to grow faster and be more profitable. But focus matters. Find the strategies, processes, technology, and talent that meet your needs and get results.
To learn more, download the Executive Summary here.
About the author Lee W. Frederiksen:
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading research-based branding, and marketing firm for professional services.
Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow. For more details, go to https://hingemarketing.com/about-hinge