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This year’s PM Forum conference focused on professional services firms and their relationships with clients. There were plenty of workshops and networking opportunities for delegates but in these two blogs we’ll focus on the opening session (part 1) and the closing Q&A(part 2)

Effective Client Advisor Relationships 2012 Survey

At the heart of the day was a new survey – Effective Client Advisor Relationships 2012. Commissioned by PMF, sponsored by the Financial Times and carried out by Meridian West. The survey starts with the premise that CEOs are primarily responsible for instructions for 90% of complex work and 48% of routine work and goes on to examine the mis-match between client expectations of advisors and what advisors are actually delivering or planning to deliver. Key findings were:

  • 75% of clients say they expect advisers to know more about an organizations strategy and 67% expect more knowledge of industry sectors and trends
  • 74% of CEOs expect more value added extras from advisers
  • 54% of clients are looking for better management of the advisory firm
  • There was a strong emphasis on the need for face to face contact with fee earners and Managing Partners
  • And (perhaps not surprisingly) there is a general demand from clients to do “more with less”

Digging into the detail of the survey, Simon Lord (FT), Ben Kent (Meridian West) and Richard Chaplin (MPF) highlighted the importance firms developing a commercial skill set to sit alongside technical expertise; becoming true business advisors rather than providers of technical knowledge. Although the points about business and sector knowledge were well made, there was a point where it did sound a little like CEOs wanted to pass the risk of decision making onto their advisors. The full survey can be downloaded here and it’s a worth a read.

The View of a CEO

So what would a CEO make of these findings? Andy Raynor, ex-CEO of RSM Tenon was asked for his view and gave an outstanding response.

Here’s a quick summary of his views:

  • Firms need to shift from a “what we do” (i.e. service-led) mentality  to a “this is our market, we understand it and can help you develop” mentality
  • Firms need to show clients they will make a difference – when you understand the market you get greater buy in
  • Price led business is weak. Personality and delivery led business is more profitable.
  • A good customer experience of a business wins more business – this means easy access, clear information, clear pricing, pushing new ideas to existing clients.
  • Differentiate – what gives you the edge
  • Communicate internally as well as externally – so that everyone within the firm is pushing the same message

For most marketers, there’s nothing new here but Andy made the points clearly and concisely and as a final aside suggested that firms could learn from the advertising sector. Use Account Managers (business rather than technical experts) to talk to clients – then let them pull in expertise from across the firm to deliver results.

Great response, well delivered.

The PM Forum Conference is well worth a visit – please visit their website and  follow the discussion on Twitter #PMFConf


This post was written by Mike Fieldhouse, Managing Director of realityhouse, a digital marketing agency serving the professional services sector.  You can find out more about Mike’s work on, following him on Twitter @reality_mike or connect with him on LinkedIn