“The worst thing I can be is the same as everyone else. I hate that.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger…
Senior level talent, unprecedented flexibility, and one-on-one attention are three reasons smart virtual firms have fast become the B2B customer’s top choice. How do you transform your virtual firm into a top pick? How do you choose the right partners and manage large projects? Heathere Kenan-Evans and Katie Coates Ageson shared this and more at PRSA’s 2010 global conference session, “Beyond Solo Consulting: How to Effectively Build and Work with Project Teams, Subcontractors, and Staff.” Below is my summary of their inspiring advice.
Know the value of your virtual firm and be able to share it.
Virtual firms are often owned and run by seasoned professionals. This fact alone enables them to stand above and beyond large agencies as they provide clients with unprecedented flexibility and creativity. Rather than pass off important work to junior level employees, virtual firms handle projects themselves. Think of the exemplary results which come from a team of only senior level professionals. Virtual firms who offer comprehensive services often team up with other firms who overlap and/or compliment them. The result: Each team member is personally and professionally invested in project outcomes providing outstanding creativity, knowledge, experience, and flexibility. Never apologize for being virtual; instead, learn to eloquently share the benefits your clients receive when they choose your virtual firm instead of a big agency burdened with lots of overhead.
Develop successful partnerships.
Partnering with other virtual firms is a smart way to diversify your service offerings. One way to meet potential partners is to join alliances like PRSA’s Independent Practitioner’s Alliance. Think about what was required of you before you were hired. Look for other firms or senior level contractors whose skills overlap and/or compliment yours. Once you’ve reviewed a potential partner’s background, bring him/her in to complete a small segment of one project. Find out how he/she handled career difficulties or turning points. Evaluate the integrity of potential partners and make sure they share your values. A good partnership is symbiotic – accept nothing less for optimal success.
Manage your team.
Price your services for the region you’re in. For example, your business may be located in Lancaster and your client in Philadelphia. Charge your client the standard rate typical for Philadelphia. Set written expectations and manage priorities. Establish how often team members will report progress to one another and the team leader. Every team member (including the client) should know his/her defined role. Have a method in place so each team member can track and report work. Share progress and results with your client throughout the life of the project (Powerpoint presentations are a proven, understandable way to do this.) Use contracts and non-compete agreements and expect everyone to manage their time and show results. When collaborating with seasoned professionals, team management is not painful because each person is accustomed to holding himself accountable and takes pride in a job well done.
Market your firm.
Heathere Kenan-Evans and Katie Coates Ageson only had a few minutes remaining in their session to discuss marketing your virtual firm. Here I share their advice as well as add some of my own. Productize your services with educational workshops and give your audience quality, self-created materials they can use like a DVD or a book. Make smart use of SEO employing it on all digital material. Be sure to have an attractive, user friendly website and blog. Write blog articles weekly and add pages to your website monthly in order to generate top of mind awareness. Send out an interesting, useful e-newsletter. Participate in social media and build a community, share your brand, and manage your brand’s reputation.