The Role of Research in Enhancing the Client Experience
Regardless of how well you think you know your clients at any given time, chances are, you still have questions about their behavior and what it means for the future of your business. Questions like:
What are my buyers considering before they choose to engage?
What is it about my firm that my clients most value?
How can I talk about our services in a way that differentiates us from the competition?
While you may be able to make a few educated guesses as to how your clients might respond to these questions, the only way to know the information you need to drive your business forward is by conducting the research. In fact, the frequency of research has a fairly dramatic alignment to overall growth and profitability. Recent research from Hinge discovered that professional services firms that conduct frequent research saw more than 33 percent growth and 20 percent profitability — up from only 20 percent growth and 14 percent profitability for firms that conduct occasional research.
So, what does this mean? Well, it all comes back to enhancing the client experience. By researching to know your clients better, your firm can offer the type of engaging client experience that buyers have come to expect. However, it’s about more than simply researching for research’s sake — the approach and method matter if you expect to produce actionable insights.
3 Types of Research to Enhance the Client Experience
There are three types of research that work best when conducted together to fully enhance the client experience. All three types of research can help your firm stay relevant at different stages of the client experience. And all three can be equally important to determine what keeps your buyers up at night — and what your firm can do to help.
Brand research is a foundational tool that helps you understand how your brand is perceived and how your visibility varies at different stages of the client journey. Through effective brand research, you can gain a better understanding of your target audience, identify the true competitive advantage that sets your firm apart, and focus your efforts so your messaging aligns with your clients’ key issues. As a bonus – if you extend this research to internal teams, you can identify the biggest gaps between internal and external brand perception to concentrate training efforts.
Market research ensures you are making strategic decisions based on market realities — not assumptions. The answers market research provide can give your firm a better understanding of trends and opportunities, which can allow for more effective growth planning. By better targeting specific messaging and statistics that support that messaging, you can make the most of the opportunities that come our way.
Researching individual projects can help you learn from each client experience to know what trends can be identified and adjusted. Not only does post-project research provide an immediate tactical benefit for retention, but it can also validate specific practices, while also addressing performance issues proactively.
If tackling these three types of research seem intimidating, don’t worry — you aren’t alone. However, with the potential for substantial results, prioritizing research is well worth the effort. Still on the fence? Just ask FreemanWhite.
Putting It In Practice: An Architecture Firm Tackles Branding Problems
FreemanWhite is a 100-year-old architecture firm that specializes in designing healthcare facilities. They approached Hinge with two key problems: 1) their emergency room practice was overshadowing the rest of their firm, and 2) they needed to attract top talent to keep their business thriving.
Through research, we learned the importance of positioning their firm as a leading designer of complex healthcare facilities. After identifying powerful differentiators related to proprietary data, integrated business intelligence, and holistic healthcare focus - we created a robust content marketing program — including a redesigned website — that would expose their firm to new audiences. Within the first four months, FreemanWhite saw a 150 percent increase in web traffic and a 375 percent increase in social media visitors.
Thanks to their work with Hinge, FreemanWhite was in a strong position to provide expertise during the 2014 Ebola outbreak through contributing pieces to the Centers for Disease Control blog and Becker’s Hospital Review. This and other national media exposure led to 29 new inquiries from hospitals they previously had no connection to.
Each step of the rebranding process and content marketing strategy was informed by research, allowing for informed, clear steps that brought results.
Utilizing Research at Your Firm
With the clear benefits to both client experience and growth, it’s no wonder that firms that embrace rigorous research see such dramatic results. By utilizing the three different types of research to further different aspects of the client experience and meet various client experience goals, you can ensure your firm is offering unparalleled service defined by informed decisions and consistent, targeted messaging.
About the Author: Karl Feldman is a Partner at Hinge. He guides leading architecture, engineering, and construction clients through the complexities of research, marketing strategy, brand building, and web site development. Karl regularly blogs and speaks about professional services marketing and strategy.