In last week’s blog, Jennifer Wilson shared the first – and often forgotten - step to strategically market your firm – positioning.  Positioning your firm ensures that your leadership team agrees upon how you want to be thought of and remembered in your market and is unified around your firm’s mission, vision, values, core competencies, competitive differentiators, and market positioning.

The next step in marketing your firm strategically is to assess and redefine (or reaffirm) your firm’s product and service offerings and identify the priority in which you will market them.

Many times, firms are content to simply offer products and services that they’ve offered for years – and often a few that clients have asked them to deliver or those that were the “pet project” of a particular partner in the firm.  Unfortunately, this can result in a long list of services that may or may not be profitable and/or strategic to your firm.  Instead, it is important to regularly evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for all of your firm’s products and services (and those you are considering) by conducting a SWOT analysis on them every year with your leadership team.

When examining each product and service initiative, consider the following elements and determine if they are strengths or weaknesses:

•      Revenue and profitability of the service
•      Number of staff who can sell and deliver that product or service
•      Number of new clients you have added this year
•      Ratio of new business to existing business
•      Number of satisfied clients who are using the service
•      Efficiency and quality of your processes and technology in this area

If you are debating about whether an attribute is a strength or a weakness - as it may appear to have “some of each” - it belongs in the weakness column because it has a degree of weakness.

Opportunities to list on your SWOTs may be a growing market inside and/or outside your existing client base, a competitor that is not as focused in this service area, or an employee with background that can be applied.  Threats to consider may be an extensive list of competitors with good market presence, the economy, or activities occurring within your community or the profession that may make selling or delivering the product or service difficult.

Once you’ve conducted honest SWOT analyses for each initiative, refine the list by considering which should be placed on your firm’s marketing “front burner” (not very many!) and which should be placed on the “back burner” for the time being.  Those to invest in now will likely have a long list of strengths and opportunities in comparison to their weaknesses and threats.  I like to conduct the (not very scientific) squint test on a completed SWOT.  If the page looks to be weighted heavily right (where the weaknesses and threats reside) when you squint your eyes at it, that service line is an investment area that will take a considerable effort to make successful; if the page looks heavy on the left, you have a lot to work with!

Conducting this exercise each year in your strategic planning process will help you prioritize your marketing dollars and activities and choose to market and invest in the products and services that have the best chance for success.

Are you diligent about assessing your firm’s product and service mix each year?  What tools or reports do you use to facilitate the decision to front-burner or back-burner certain services?  Who makes the decision?  Please post a comment to share your ideas and get feedback from our readers!