How Do Professional Services Firms Scale Expertise?
Most professional services organizations deliver their expertise through one-to-one customized interactions. When these organizations decide to grow through productization, they need to learn how to deliver expertise at scale.
A large part of professional services’ value proposition to clients is their expertise. Expertise developed through experience, education and proprietary research that helps clients address thorny problems. Firms typically deliver the expertise 1:1 or 1:few.
But, when professional services firms choose to grow, they either need to hire more experts or they need to “productize” their expertise. Expertise can be productized when it both 1) addresses the problems of many customers at once and 2) is delivered in a way that helps clients take action. You can find this sweet spot by thinking creatively about how your firm’s unique expertise could be framed for maximum impact. In this post, I share how to understand the product potential of existing expertise by:
- Mining existing expertise to find unique intellectual property
- Framing expertise to be actionable
Mine Existing Expertise to Find Unique Intellectual Property
To begin scaling expertise, inventory your organization’s unique intellectual property—ideas, frameworks, processes, or data—that reflects your firm’s unique expertise.
For example, when the leadership development from Linkage was transitioning to offer more scalable products, CEO Jennifer McCollum first looked at their unique intellectual property and data sets to identify opportunities for product development. Jennifer recalls that “We created a productization strategy by looking at what differentiated us in a crowded industry. We had unique IP around the attributes of effective leaders, and we also had data on how best to advance women leaders. So, we built our products around these two areas because we had expertise, a unique perspective, and proprietary data to support it.”
Ask these questions to help:
- When working with clients, where does your firm really differentiate? Is it your in-depth knowledge of a specific target market? Unique methodology? Intelligence about a specific area?
- What activities do you do now that are standardized, replicable, transferable but also different from what your competitors do?
- What unique datasets and proprietary data do you have or could collect?
Shape Expertise into an Actionable Framework
For a new product to succeed, it must be compelling enough that a significant segment of the market will prefer the product in preference to services. An actionable framework packages and productizes expertise for users in a way that is memorable and applicable to their problem. This drives them to use your product to solve their urgent and expensive problem. Actionable frameworks:
- Help users assess their current state
- Articulate the ideal end state
- Provide a roadmap for how users can get from the current state to the ideal state
Collage Group, a consumer research firm, has developed more scalable products alongside their customized research services by packaging their IP into a unique framework that helps their clients act. The consumer research firm noted that a significant portion of advertising misses the mark with today’s increasingly diverse America. In response, they created a framework that aims to improve corporate marketers’ “cultural fluency” through a proprietary means of measuring cultural variation across demographic groups with respect to consumer insight by category, ad, and brands. The cultural fluency framework is the backbone of a product that assesses and ranks brands and ads and scores against the factors that drive the cultural fluency of marketing efforts by segment.
The idea is to motivate competition among category competitors to be culturally fluent—and certainly not to be last in the ranking. With the addition of the ranking component, the product went from “nice to have” to “need to have,” as defined by measures of a brand’s cultural fluency. Subscribing brands discover gaps in their cultural fluency and then use related Collage content or consulting services to improve it. The model works not only because it uses insights to address a widespread customer problem: it works because it helps users improve cultural fluency by discovering gaps and solving them with proprietary expertise.
Collage Group’s framework is actionable because it:
- Helps users assess their current state (e.g. ads that are missing the mark)
- Articulates the ideal end state (e.g. a strong connection with a diverse audience)
- Provides a roadmap for how users can get from the current state to the ideal state (e.g. discover gaps in cultural fluency and remediate them with proprietary expertise)
At Vecteris, we specialize in helping B2B services companies successfully turn their expertise into scalable products. Our New Product Exploration and Design service ensures your new products are unique and help clients take action. Our service includes:
- Assessing the competitive landscape
- Identifying urgent and expensive customer problems by customer segments
- Ideation workshop(s)
- Testing concepts, pricing, and packaging
Please contact me to walk you through our different offerings!