Drive Growth Through on Trend Business Development Messaging

By Derek Begue, PRA Global

The article will address the relevance of applying some focus on key international issues while interacting with clients. It will shed insight into how an individual firm can participate in that moment to increase firm reputation to clients, find new activities to grow billable hours, and discover referral opportunities. We will review specific examples related to the Trade Disputes originating from USA policy, Brexit, and Recent elections.

Brexit, extreme weather, trade disputes, new and changing free trade agreements, automotive industry restructuring, and GDPR: businesses today have more external stressors than we have seen in a decade happening all at once. In the middle market, defined as business from $50 million to $1 billion in turn over, where management teams are lean and financial capital is precious, these factors not only hamper growth but can halt it altogether. CEOs in this segment are increasingly relying on key service provider relationships to help navigate these issues, often going beyond the traditional scope of the client service provider contract. The firms that embrace this role of “subject matter expert” and “advisor” are the ones outpacing competition. CPA Practice Advisor agrees saying, “The current uncertain global climate must be considered to formulate a plan that addresses the potential hurdles they [clients] could face.” Given this fact it is important to consider how to become a trusted, subject matter expert service provider relied on by clients to proactively tackle these external stressors.

So, how do GGI Member firms turn this into an advantage to further grow revenue from current market share and capture new clients? Firms should use the uncertainity of the moment to provide further value to clients and communicate that dedication through multiple platforms and activities. Some activities to consider are below:

  • Client Meetings: Add key topics to address on the agenda for any business update review meetings with current clients
  • Content Marketing of On-Trend Topics: white papers, one pager, case studies etc.
  • Seminar/Webinar: Reviewing best practices for preparation, risk mitigation, and other business objectives associated with the relevant business issues
  • Leverage Core Capability: Access new clients by partnering with firms that do not have your core competency

There is a lot of noise competing for business executive’s attention. Many business leaders already have too many meetings and demands on their time to meet with current service providers. To influence both current and existing clients you have to reach them on multiple platforms whether in person, via-phone, on e-mail, or social media. 61% of consumers are influenced by custom content according to Dragon Search Marketing. If your current clients are constantly looking to your firm and your firms’ content for information, you have a stronger case for growing that relationship. Additionally, year-over-year growth in site traffic is 7.8 times higher for content marketing leaders rather than followers. Not only will relevant and leading content help find new business with current clients but will also provide new opportunities. New prospective clients will have content forwarded or shared from executive to executive.

72% of SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) organizations say they switched CPA firms because the firm provided only reactive service rather than proactive advice, according to a The Sleeter Group survey. Firms aspiring to grow need to foster a competitive edge. The utilization of On-topic and On-trend focus of international issues applied to business development efforts should be considered a key tactic in developing that edge. This will position firms to capture more market share. The GGI Network member firms have a built-in advantage of having access to resources across the globe with a variety of core competencies that can be called upon to support client needs. With some effort and coordination firms can build content and thought leadership from other geographies, other industries, or other functional areas thereby addressing the aforementioned external stressors.

Once established, a firm’s reputation with a client as a partner to turn to for a given focus will continue to benefit into the future. Three topics have weighed heavy on the business community in some parts of the last 24 months; trade disputes, GDPR and Brexit. In a 2018 survey from Censuswide and Tipalti that discussed specific global issues 61 percent of respondents were found to still be concerned about the impact of Brexit. 69 percent of respondents are concerned about trade disputes between the U.S. and China, and 71 percent are concerned about the renegotiation of international trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These are not one project or one-year opportunities. These three issues are prime examples that illustrate how to leverage the moment to create opportunity.

Trade Disputes – First it was Aluminum and Steel Tariffs imposed by the United States followed by a series of trade actions felt mostly between the USA and China. A Reuters article characterized the trade dispute as a “…bonanza for supply chain consultants.” Supply chain consultants were not the only group of service providers to benefit. Law firms well versed in supporting clients regarding customs and trade regulatory issues also saw an uptick in services particularly in the dispute and exemption review process related to Section 232 tariffs. In order to take advantage of the urgency of this topic firms needed to be top of mind and front of the line once executive teams began handing out engagements. That means trusted advisors that were discussing these issues with clients and providing helpful content were well positioned while other firms were left out.

GDPR – Rarely is there such an extensive and pervasive new regulation with such high stakes regarding compliance. With the application of the regulation across nearly one third of the global economy and stipulations related to foreign entities operating or interacting with the Eurozone and therefore exposed to GDPR, most global businesses need a roadmap to compliance. Many businesses, particularly non-European businesses, lacked knowledge of the impact and were unaware of the repercussions of GDPR. This represented a great opportunity for service providers to proactively engage with clients to provide expert advice to protect them from risk. The potential results are increased business for the service provider and value to the client, as well as a mutual deepeing of the business relationship to the benefit of all parties.

Brexit – The ultimate uncertainty. If business involves any UK related activities or not, the potential impacts from the many possible scenarios resulting from Brexit are immense. Changes in taxes, legal requirements, supply chain, and even labor availability all demonstrate the myriad of opportunities to both build on your trusted advisor relationship with clients and create new billable services in the process. Brexit offered firms the opportunity to continuously update clients and prospect regarding the changes as the Brexit discussions progressed. As each industry and business would have something different at stake, there is no straight forward approach needed support. By having a content strategy such as having a “Brexit Hotline”, clients and prospects are provided with rapid responses on key regulatory changes that create an extremely challenging business environment. The opportunity to advise these firms on how to approach these challenges strengthens your position as a strategic partner and opens doors to new business activity.

These three particular issues had far reaching interest and impact yet manifested differently amongst businesses. Service providers also had to take advantage of these topics in different ways. Trade disputes allowed for firms with a specific expertise to take advantage of highly urgent and potential strong impact to client’s profits. GDPR provided an opportunity for firms to foster stronger client relationships. Brexit, with its multitude of scenarios, uncertainity, and varied analysis of impact was met with firms constantly updating clients with fresh content, updates on changes, or new problems. All three examples showed that firms can participate in the moment to increase firm reputation to clients, find new activities to grow billable hours, and discover referral opportunities. While the three topics discussed have grabbed most of the headlines many other issues may be impacting specific industries or business functions. In the same survey from Censuswide and Tipalti, 88 percent of respondents think their organization is unqualified to successfully address necessary aspects of global expansion. 88 percent of businesses require support to just prepare for global expansion. Middle Market CEO’s need trusted service providers. GGI member firms that embrace that role, develop themselves as expert advisors, and help navigate the multitude of issues facing their clients will be positioned to win now and into the future.

Derek Begue

Derek Begue

PRA Global, Grand Rapids (MI), USA
T: +1 616 710 4530
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PRA Global is an international business development firm that expands clients into new markets through its unique capabilities and assets. Their business model allows clients to mitigate risk and minimise investment, all while achieving global objectives.

Derek Begue is Vice President Business Development and heads all of PRA’s global sales and marketing efforts. He is directly responsible for overseeing PRA’s global revenue generation and new client acquisition activities. With educational and real-life experience from his time living and travelling in Taiwan and China, his unique set of skills and background in East Asia has played a critical role in supporting many PRA clients since 2013.

Published: April 2019 l Photo: ink drop -

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